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English whisky tipped for success

Published:  23 July, 2008

England's first single-malt whisky would be as good as those north of the border - but there may be few Scots willing to admit it, predicts the UK's foremost whisky retailer.

Stuart Smith, of Royal Mile Whiskies in Edinburgh, said that with master distiller Iain Henderson overseeing the launch of St George's in Norfolk - England's first whisky distillery - connoisseurs could be assured of a quality product.

"He is such a legend in the trade, you know anything he puts his hand to will be done properly," said Smith, who said the dram would garner great interest from Henderson's Scottish peers.

"Real whisky lovers will try anything but you know a Scot will be ultra critical of one from England. There will always be the sense that, regardless of how good it is, its not Scotch."

Henderson, who has made malts for Laphroaig and Chivas and has a lifetime achievement award for services to the whisky industry, left Edradour in Perthshire for the job in Sassenach territory.

Smith said like the successful establishment of the Penderyn Distillery in Wales, St George's was great news for the industry.

"As long as the raw spirit is top quality, there's no reason people won't be behind it, though I do see it as more of a niche product, perhaps doing well abroad."

The English Whisky Company's distillery has produced 250 casks of spirit which, once aged in oak for the required three years, will go on sale in 2009. Henderson said England's first single malt would be light-bodied with a toffee sweetness.