Distillers consider English whisky’s global rank
Producers seeking a geographical indication (GI) for English whisky have come together to consider the spirit’s place in the world whisky landscape.
By Alice Brooker
On 14 February, 16 distillers came together to submit a proposal for a GI for English whisky to the UK government.
This newly formed group, known as the English Whisky Guild (EWG), presented the GI to the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).
Written by Tagore Ramoutar, director of the EWG and non-executive director of The Oxford Artisan Distillery, the proposal seeks to establish protection for the English whisky industry.
One major consideration is the perception of English whisky compared to older whisky categories.
“There was a desire to ensure that English whisky was viewed and understood as the same quality as other emerging markets,” Ramoutar commented.
“We recognised this new region sandwiched between the two biggest regions: Scotch and Irish whisk(e)y.
“If we weren’t careful, it would be very easy to undermine their standards and also not have a recognisable English dram industry itself. They are historically bigger and older.”
In writing the proposal, Ramoutar was aware of the growth of new world whiskies as well.
“There has been a growth in the last 20 to 40 years of new world whisky producing areas, such as the Japanese. Lots of interesting things are happening in Australia and Denmark – we are a new world whisky producing area in this regard.”
World whisky: breaking down barriers
Andrew Nelstrop, owner of The English Whisky Company, also considered other world whiskies when looking to the future of his firm’s namesake spirit.
“The global belief that Scotch is the only whisky was broken quite a long time ago by Japan, with their Yamazaki whisky,” he said.
“Overnight it broke down barriers of the belief that whisky had to come from Scotland. Since then, the world makes amazing whiskies – from Sweden, to America, to Japan, and obviously Scotland and Ireland. I don’t think English whisky can take credit for breaking down the barrier of Scotch only.”
Yet, despite affirming that English whisky as a category is “without question seen on the same level” as other drams, the spirit still does not have the privileges enjoyed by other nations’ producers.
Without a GI, the liquid is vulnerable to fraudsters claiming bottles are sourced, produced and packaged in England when they are not.
“We have to stop the imported, blended whisky being labelled up as English,” Nelstrop stated.
“All our neighbours have stopped it. You can’t get all sorts of random whiskies, bottle them up and call it Scotch, just because you bottled it in Scotland. They’d have you in court so fast your head wouldn’t spin. The same applies to every other country.
“It’s only because we’re a new industry,” he concludes.