Ask any good mixologist and they’ll tell you — the key to a good cocktail is good ingredients. We wanted to tell you more about what goes into our drinks and the people who make them, so welcome to Behind the Bar.
First up, we visited the English Whisky Company to chat about their whiskies, their distillery, and baking (!).
For those who don’t already know, tell us a little about the English Whisky Company and the story behind the brand?
The English Whisky Co. was a lifetime dream of my father James. He wanted to use barley from the family farm to make his own single malt. Eventually he built the distillery at Roudham which was the 1st registered whisky distillery in England for over a century. The remit was not complicated “To make the very best single malt whisky”; the distillery was built in 2006 with the equipment being built and installed by Forsythe’s, who are the Rolls Royce of distilling equipment supplies. 17 years later we are still producing whisky only, having avoided temptation to jump on the gin bandwagon. Our whiskies are sold all over the world and have won numerous accolades. The distillery itself is open to the public (google English Whisky) and is well worth a visit.
Owning a whisky distillery is a lot of people’s dream, what’s your favourite part of your job? And what do you find most rewarding?
My favourite bits have changed over time – in the early days I was never happier than being in a warehouse moving casks around and sampling whisky. I am not fit enough these days to clamber around to get my drink and find enjoyment these days planning new warehouses and working out how to cope with a 10 fold increase in gas prices!
What’s the biggest misconception people have about whisky and how do you overcome it?
There is still a belief amongst some drinkers that whisky is made in Scotland only. This is slowly changing and will take time and as more mainstream retailers stock whisky made in Japan, Sweden, England, etc – the more this message sinks in.
Where do you take inspiration from when developing new products?
In the world of single malts, our choice of base product is to make a peated or unpeated spirit, from here we can put the whisky into any type of wooden cask we want. These casks are where we really start to create differences between each of our whiskies. In reality, the inspiration doesn’t come when making the whisky but comes a long time before when we are having to source casks. I find that fun dinners work best for me – especially when the host pulls something unusual out of the cupboard, and it dawns on me that this wonderful dessert wine was matured in an oak cask that would be perfect to then mature my whisky in.
If you could pick just one, what’s your favourite product in the EWC range?
The English – Original. This single malt whisky does everything my father set out to achieve. It is a world-class single malt whisky made in England. It doesn’t try too hard and is perfect to share with friends – which is what whisky should be all about.
Home baking has seen a surge in popularity over the past couple of years (looking at you, banana bread), do you have any tips for incorporating whisky into readers’ home bakes?
You are definitely asking the wrong person as my 8-year-old has more baking skills than me. We create an amazing drink called PX which is our single malt mixed with 15yr px sherry – this has lots of easy cooking uses but my two favourites are: 1 – easiest… pour it over ice cream. 2. Unpeel a banana, lay it on foil, and ½ wrap it, pour in PX, and then wrap carefully, place on bbq for a few minutes.
For those who want to play at mixologists themselves, what other cocktails would you recommend trying with your whisky?
I am a fan of sours for 3 reasons – they are easy to make, don’t need many ingredients and taste delicious.