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The ‘World’s Best Single Malt Whisky’ Was Just Crowned and It Isn’t From Scotland

The winners of the World Whisky Awards were recently announced, the annual competition sponsored by Whisky Magazine that has been around for more than 20 years. In what some might consider an upset, the World’s Best Single Malt prize did not go to a Scotch distillery—instead, the top honor went to a single malt from a small English distillery in Norfolk that has only been operating since 2007.

The English whisky category is still small compared to Scotch, but there are a growing number of distilleries making single malts and blends that are getting critical acclaim. Cotswolds is producing gin and whisky in the bucolic countryside of central England, the Lakes Distillery calls a renovated Victorian farm home in Cumbria, and there’s even a distillery on the Isle of Wight making small amounts of whisky. The English Distillery has been making both peated and unpeated single malt for less than 20 years, but it has clearly made an impact upon the whisky world beyond England. When it was founded in 2006 by James Nelstrop, the English Distillery was the first registered distillery in country in more than a century. James passed away in 2014, but his son Andrew now helms the operation with whisky making overseen by master distiller Ian Henderson.

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The English Sherry Cask is a new release that only launched about six months ago, which makes this recent award even more impressive. It’s an unpeated single malt that was aged in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks for its entire maturation period (there is no age statement), bottled at 46 percent ABV, and has no color added and no chill filtration. The barley used in the masbill comes from local farms as well as fields owned by the Nelstrop family, and the entire process from milling to distilling to maturation takes place onsite. “We’re stunned,” said Nelstrop in a statement about the win. “Whilst any whisky maker hopes to win an award, winning the big one is the realization of my father’s sole goal of creating world class single malt whiskies in England, and sharing them with whisky lovers around the world.”

Other World Whisky Award winners include 1792 12 Years Old (Best Bourbon), Ballantine’s 30 Years Old (Best Blended), and Redbreast 21 (Best Pot Still). Unfortunately, The English Distillery Sherry Cask is not available in the U.S. yet, but if you’re visiting England you can pick up a bottle at the distillery to try for yourself.

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