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Meet London’s First Whiskey in Over a Century

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Scotch—the whisky produced in Scotland—is arguably the best known and most coveted whisky (with or without an “e”) in the world. Last year, the country of only about 5.4 million people exported the equivalent of more than 1.2 billion bottles of the stuff—accounting for over 20 percent of all U.K. food and drink exports, according to the BBC.

And yet, if you cross south into the much more populous British land of England, you’ll find that English whiskey is almost unheard of. In fact, surprisingly enough, though English whiskey was more common in the 19th century, it’s believed that from 1903 to 2003, no whiskey of consequence was produced in England at all.

That streak has since been broken: Several producers now exist. However, next week, another milestone will be passed as the London Distillery Company releases the first whiskey distilled in the British capital in over a century. Set for release on October 31, The London Distillery Company Rye Whiskey LV-1767 Edition is billed as the first whiskey distilled in London since the Lea Valley Distillery, which was established in 1767, closed its doors for the final time in the early 1900s.

To pay tribute to that history, this new spirit—which is twice distilled from 100 percent rye before spending four years aging in new English oak barrels—is named after that distillery of yesteryear and the date it was established (LV-1767). “It’s a bit of a mystery as to why nobody produced whiskey in London for over a century,” explains Killian O’Sullivan, CEO of The London Distillery Company, which itself opened in 2011, relaunching a brand first founded in 1807.

“Most likely the strength of Irish whiskey first and, later, Scotch whisky squeezed other categories out and when you couple that with the high cost of producing anything in London (not just something capital intensive like whiskey) it just didn’t add up. Doing it on a relatively small scale as a craft distiller gives us the ability to do it without the same capital cost as some of the large players.”

Speaking of small scale, only 251 bottles of this English whiskey (which for the record, unlike Scotland, chooses to use the “e”) are being released—again marking 251 years since the opening of the Lea Valley Distillery. And owning a piece of history isn’t cheap: Each bottle will retail for £251 (or about $325).

Still, Matt McGivern, Head of Distilling and Operations, gives the hard sell that the spirit is worth it. “In new English oak casks the liquid has matured quickly into a beautifully deep and sumptuous drop, with powerful notes from start to finish,” he said.

The 54.3 percent ABV final product purports to offer flavors of cinnamon, stewed peaches, and peppery beeswax. “We’ve allowed a few highly regarded experts to reaffirm our belief that this is a special liquid and to confirm that this product is truly deserving to be called London’s first whiskey in a generation,” McGivern adds.

Rye Whiskey LV-1767 Edition is currently available for pre-order online and is expected to land at other select retailers in November.


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