Today, we’ve a handful of single malts from the 37+ English distilleries at large [or small] – with Spirit of Birmingham to add to the map below].
At random, first up we head to Oxford.
[The] Oxford Artisan Distillery 3yo  TBWC Batch #1 ‘Home Nations MMXXI’ [189 bts] 49% [50cl] WB78
Whilst the official wax-sealed Drinks By The Dram [5cl] samples state 49% abv on their labels, on the 50cl bottles, it’s 50%.
- N: You can smell straight away that this isn’t whisky from your run-of-the-mill barley strain. Is it even made from barley? Without the stats to hand, initially, I’d suggest we could well be in corn territory. With a perfumed apple/mango/papaya/raisiny plastic-y~waxy-paraffin < putty quality, heck, we could even be in unmalted mash-bill territory. Turns out it’s made with heritage grains that include corn, rye, wheat and malted barley. An interesting grain-funk resides – corn in the main [to my nose] – though given time, that industrial note also leads on to syrupy ginger cake and plenty in-between.
- T&F: It’s certainly different, commendably so. There’s no dominant oak, no manipulative previous flavouring contents, any Mellow Corn antics [I’m a fan], resinous harshness nor abv punch. Perhaps most noticeable, it’s not gin/genever-esque, unlike the Oxford’s ‘Heritage Grains’ bottling [WLPNS] and any number of fresh [experimental] 3yo’s from up-and-coming distilleries worldwide. Being somewhat savoury~> sour, there’s little to speak of after the arrival – descriptors-wise – though as a whole, what remains is present/active throughout. No doubt, a more detailed form will develop in time.
- C: It’s just early days/years for the distillery, but Oxford appears one to watch out for = maverick vibes. On a side note, what’s the £135 price tag for a 50cl bottle all about? Craziness!
Scores 78 points
English Whisky Co. 12yo  TBWC Batch #3 [299 bts] 63.4% [50cl] WB73
Established in 2006, St. George’s Distillery has a significant time lead over those that have since followed, given they [St. George’s] already have a 12yo [potentially a 15/16yo], in comparison to those still waiting for their inaugural spirit to mature. That the distillery name ‘St. George’s’ rarely [never] appears on their bottles, remains confusing. A while back, I decided to file whiskies I’d tasted of theirs under the moniker English Whisky Co., as that is what they use predominantly,….. as well as ‘The English’!?
- N: As well as being more in line with what we think of as [single malt] Scotch, in relation to the young Oxford, this one clearly reflects a greater passing of time. Oak-soaked orchard fruits, however, belie a fairly active ex-bourbon cask policy – the resinous nature of fresh refill oak becoming more amalgamated into the mix but remaining lively. Apples, melons, oranges, sweet lemons… it’s a fruit fest alongside sawdusty raisiny savoury vanilla.
- T: I hadn’t noted the abv, but even neat, incredibly, it’s not a firehouse. Despite being 12 years old, it remains remarkably youthful at heart and smells of its component parts. With water, however, we’ve a mild malty drying sour lemon into slightly fizzy aspirin/grainy~sawdusty cinnamon into clove,…..
- F: ,…. followed by an undefined [coppery-ish~milky-ish, biscuity-ish,… ] fizz, before concluding over malty-ish nettle tea-like barley sugar.
- C: Not my favourite from this distillery, though this one possesses some commendable attributes.
Scores 74 points
Moving into the capital, this distillery [WLP] requires no introduction.
Bimber 2016/2020 Ob. Bimber Klub Ex-bourbon cask #72 58.7% [5cl] WB81.43
- N: A light yeasty lager-like citrusy grey paper/floury/sweet sponge~rock cake mix of a nose, a touch [black] peppery – Lindores-like in that respect.
- T: With more peppery citrusy action, this [lager & lime] fizzy young spirit is [thankfully] only bordering ‘ginsky’. Creamy [worty] on the turn.
- F: Aside from being fairly butyric, of what remains, indicators are good.
- C: In a year  when everyone was going crazy for anything with Bimber in the title, we have a [single cask] mash-faithful young malt that is super competent if rather straightforward [young.. early days,.. yada yada]. Overall, ex-bourbon casks remain the strongest match for the Bimber spirit.
Scores 80 points
[Spirit of Yorkshire] Filey Bay 2017/2021 Ob. Peated Finish Batch #1 46% WB79.50
Though I’ve [loosely] followed the work of Joe Clark at Spirit of Yorkshire [SoY] for a few years now – early samples,… On location [WLP], for example – this is the first official whisky of SoY’s I’ve tried. This one was first matured in 1st fill bourbon casks before a secondary maturation in peated casks.
- N: Sweeter than the first two, more straightforward, clean. Being bourbon-cask forward, we’ve set & runny honey, some candy notes and desirable new oak with an almost leathery fustiness. The phenol element is fairly mild/integrated [with those honey’s] to my nose. Are we talking ex-Caol Ila casks? That’s the style.
- T&F: 46% sits so well on the/my palate. Again, the peat element is well balanced in the mix. With some water, there’s a salivating sawdusty [ikr?] mild lactose-y malty bourbon-y savoury < sweet middle into salivating~waxy barley juice finish.
- C: Faithful form from start to finish. I like.
Scores 81 points
Lastly, we are heading West to Penderyn? ‘That’s not English’, I hear you say. Hear me out. Firstly, I’ve no more English whisky to hand. Secondly, I can’t envisage a Welsh flight anytime soon. Thirdly, I’m keen to follow up on a positive first impression of this one at the Whisky Show 2021 [WLP84]. In terms of maintaining the integrity of the theme, let’s call it ‘close enough’ [like it matters].
Following on from my first impressions of this Welsh malt in a busy whisky festival environment, back home, let’s see how I find things.
- N: I’m sticking with my previous fruity flora & fauna observations – strawberries, elderflower and quince jelly – but now we see the juice of those fruits injected into Garibaldi’s ‘Fly’ biscuits. With that savoury-sweet biscuit-husk complex, let’s also throw one thin green candy string into the mix.
- T: Though less genever-like today [and not even quite bubblegum], the yoghurt reference is loud & clear We are talking of yoghurty flavour elements from ‘Fruits of the Forest’, ‘Peach Melba’ and ‘Wild Cherry’,… as if! Spirit-wise, neat, it’s somewhat metallic and consistently prickly with a mild heat, so water [in the mouth] is the way to go.
- F: Little to speak of aside from the milky malty fruit yoghurt remains and a warm waxy-ish conclusion.
- C: Reminds me somewhat of Penderyn’s  ‘Rich Oak’ [WLP82], as well as their ‘original/classic/madeira/Legend’, though that comparison is formed from a distant memory of enjoying Penderyn back in the early noughties. Price aside, it’s a fun one indeed, if not quite as appealing as I found it last October.
Scores 82 points