There is no manner of business it seems that shies away from exploiting a royal wedding. Memorable highlights so far are the mixed-up mugs (Harry and Kate), and the “condoms of distinction”, appropriately – in every which sense – purple in colour.
Lone English whisky distiller The English Whisky Co., not wanting to be left out, has clambered onto the bandwagon with gusto, with its William & Kate Commemorative Decanter. I’m sure other whiskies will follow. In fact experts predict that the wedding will boost the British economy by some £600 million (I read this on the internet so it must be true). It’s enough to make a groupie out of even hardened royal cynics like myself…if I were British. I’m not so as things stand I still don’t really give a toss.
Anyhow, back to the whisky then. This bit of news brought the English Whisky Co. onto my radar screen, and, its geographical uniqueness aside, there were a few features of its product offering that piqued my attention.
Firstly, it seems to be overpriced. I realise that distillers such as this one, Penderyn (Welsh), and I guess many of the Continental distillers, don’t have the economies of scale from which the big boys of whisky benefit, but nonetheless I wonder whether they can sustain these price levels if they hope to be anything other than a niched oddity. Compare their Chapter 6, a 3yo Malt selling at £35, to an “equivalent” Scotch Single Malt such as Glen Grant’s Major’s Reserve at £20.95. I might pay for the novelty once, but short of it blowing me away, I doubt that I’d come back for more too often.
Secondly, they’re one of the few distillers that sell new-make and young malt spirit i.e. not yet 3 years old, so not able to qualify as whisky. This is great, even if only for the education. It allows you to compare the stuff that comes off the still with its progressively aged counterparts and thereby get some great insight into the influence of the wood. My concern however is the prominence of the word “whisky” in the brand name, which adorns all their products, whisky or not. Can this not be considered misleading? The Scotch Whisky Association recently censured a Panamanian company called “Scottish Spirits” that sells whisky…in a can! Even though their product does not claim to be Scotch, the SWA has come down on them because of the potential for consumer confusion. Is this not the same thing?
This is by no means a criticism of the English Whisky Co. (like a good Islay malt I like to balance peat with sweet). If they can command the pricing that they do, and if they’ve managed to slip past the SWA then good luck to them. Until and if I experience otherwise I’ll also assume that they make great whisky, and I look forward to making its acquaintance (unlikely in South Africa unfortunately). Most creditably though they’ve brought the lost art of whisky distillation back to England and for that alone they deserve warm regard.