My end of year ramblings by Andrew Nelstrop of the English Whisky Company


Well what a year…

It is that time of year again when I am asked to write a few lines about the year that was 2018…oh and what a year.

At the beginning of the year Jim Murray voted “The Norfolk – Parched” best single malt whisky in Europe (the 4th time we have won the accolade). A lovely start to 2018 – well done the distillers David and Steve.

This exciting win was closely followed by Breckland Lodge, the lovely hotel owned by my wife’s family, burning to the ground, caused by a little over zealous use of a blow torch by one of the roofing contractors. The devastation was complete. Standing watching the flames with nearly 100 staff, who of course had very real concerns for their future was a moment I shall never forget.

In March it snowed and then it snowed some more. I learned a lot about staff loyalty over those few days. On day 2 of the snow, the first waitress to arrive had walked 3 hard miles to get to work; it is moments like that that you realise what a great crew you have working for you. Excitingly the big Land Rover was put into action ferrying staff around for a couple of days after this, so the walk didn’t have to be repeated.

In April, the youngest member of the family, Alfred, turned two. His birthday is on April 1st and there are times one feels he is trying hard to ensure we remember he was born on April Fools day – he is already proving to be the joker in the family! A note to all – don’t wait until your forties to have children, I swear I’m too old for the job some days! J

May saw the Royal wedding, which seemed to cheer the nation up quite a bit and we got to release one of our rare Royal bottlings. Once again it sold out rather quickly. I am always tempted to do more but get reined in by our distiller, who rightly thinks it is better that a limited edition is very limited. Whilst the big 5 drinks companies seem happy to have 50,000 bottles in a limited edition, we think a tenth of this is probably closer to the public’s perception of limited. Your thoughts on a postcard please.

June is a good month at the distillery, the lawn between the distillery and the restaurant is filled up with visitors most days and the 10 acres of walks down to the river start to get used in earnest. It is lovely to see so many visitors using the place. My mother’s retirement project is the development of these acres into an interesting and pleasant place to play. With this in mind, more sculptures have been installed, lots of new trees have been planted and more areas are now mowed to allow picnic space etc. Whilst we don’t allow dogs in the restaurant, we do allow them on the lawns and river walk and in the outside seating areas.

July always seems to be a quiet month in the world of whisky, so time is spent planning new projects – and this year’s was the building of Warehouse 4. Space for another 4000 casks of whisky.. All a bit of a rush to see if we can get a grant out of Europe before the door is shut permanently. The design looks good and the planning department seem enthusiastic – phew.

August resulted in one of my more surreal moments. I visited Stringfellows to discuss our whisky, having met the owner a few weeks earlier. Rather too sensibly I visited before opening time. So, sitting in the famous gold throne drinking a mug of tea with Scott Stringfellow and his lovely mum I got to watch the first act of the night. I am not sure drinking tea with someone’s mum is how everyone experiences Stringfellow, especially as I didn’t know where to look most of the time. A night I shall not forget.

September and it is back to work in earnest with export markets growing and an extraordinary growth in enthusiasm for our Nog and PX. I already know we aren’t going to have enough to make it to Christmas – this is a nice problem. It is also the anniversary of The Kitchen, our distillery restaurant. We celebrated by handing over the kitchen to the famous chef Richard Bainbridge and his crew who cooked a superb meal for our members and other guests. Richard did an amazing job resulting in a great night for all.

October: We sadly have to say goodbye to Julian, who has commendably run the new shop and restaurant since it was built. We wish him well in his new role and welcome Lee to take over and hopefully do the job so well, I feel redundant. Mike our head of Sales has done a great job this year and this month we see orders going to most corners of the globe, as well as increasing sales in the UK. Please do email us if your local wine / booze shop doesn’t stock our whisky. We will try to make it happen.

November: Wow – Christmas has started already. Web orders quietly ramp up and by the middle of November you are all proving to be very loyal customers – thank you. Most days we have 2 people just packing orders. The Christmas decorations go up and the nights draw in. I like this time of year as I get to light the fire in the evenings and mow the lawn less often. Breckland Lodge re-opened this month, completely re-built and lovelier than ever, what a relief; definitely worth a visit if you need somewhere to stay or eat locally.

December – here we are again, kids only have a few days left of school and the online orders are slowing down. Christmas parties are happening in the restaurant and there is a sense of relief and jubilation that the year has gone by without too many snags. Oh and you won’t believe it but the Jim Murray voted The Norfolk – Farmers best single malt whisky in Europe for 2019. The 5th time we have won!

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for supporting us and to wish you a Merry Christmas.


Andrew Nelstrop


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