Local whisky aficionado and founding director of Ombra osteria, Stephen Sinclair, reviews East London Liquor Company’s three new whiskies – a fudgy rye, clean single malt, and a contemporary take on a Brandy.
East London Liquor Company, local distillery, bar and restaurant in Bow Wharf, is releasing three new whiskies: a second release of their London Rye, first launched last year; their first ever single malt, and a special blend collaboration with Sonoma Distilling Company.
It’s certainly exciting news – the distillery is fanning their East London feathers by bringing back the tradition of whisky-making to the East End. The last known whisky distillery in East London was the nearby Lea Valley Distillery, which closed in 1903. But how do these firewaters actually fare?
I had tried this before and liked it. A familiar nose of fudgey burnt sugar, and then vanilla when you pass the obvious rye alcohol (which is almost reminiscent of a Christmas Baileys) was pleasing, and reminded me of fine long lunches with friends.
There is complexity on the palette but limited perhaps to the sherry flavour from the Peated & Pedro Ximenez cask because there was nothing peaty about this at all. So, you get the brandy/sherry thing going and you are thinking what else? Well, the finish lingers with a pleasant cinnamon and slight floral after-taste like your best memory of a packet of those classic oddfellows.
A drink for a convivial moment, to enjoy with good company. No heavy, meaningful broodiness, or complexity, and no tearful reminiscing of days past. This Rye is akin to some of the fine new Ryes coming out of Brooklyn. Hopeful and good fun. I still like it.
East London Single Malt
This is a whisky that will divide opinion, between those who like clean crisp whisky with none of the complexity associated with the pale coloured malts of Islay, the borders or a couple of fine Speysides – and those who like a damn fine malt.
The nose gets you first, there are hints of sweet vanilla ice cream behind the immediate and obvious alcohol. On the palette, suggestions of honey and beeswax towards something less sweet and slightly hay-like.
The finish does not linger like an aged cask malt, perhaps the bourbon & rye barrels are doing no favours. It has a short lasting slightly metallic and tinny echo. Which makes me think that non-whisky drinkers will love this with ice, a mixer or in a cocktail.
ELx Sonoma blended whisky
This says that it’s a collaborative blend with Sonoma Distilling Company, but there’s no indication of what is being blended. My guess is that there is a brandy-like base with the East London single malt.
There is a kind of cream and calvados aroma that suggests we are in for a bit of celebration and decadence and wants us to be desperate for more. This promise gets a little compromised when I taste the woody – almost fresh pine – bitterness that surprises the palette after a good first impression.
The damp wood bitterness mellows with water or ice and some of the promised fresh apples start to come through, and I wonder if this is best in from a bottle into a big wide brandy glass rather from the clinical sample bottle I was given. The finish is decent, but with a short aftertaste of bitter fruits.
This is the kind of drink that you want to impress people with, and bring out to show off to sophisticated East London friends who like a contemporary take on a traditional Brandy.
East London Liquor Company’s whiskies start at £75. Find out more about these whiskies and where to buy them at the East London Liquor Company website.
About Stephen Sinclair
Sinclair has lived around Victoria Park since 1996, but originally comes from Glasgow, and is a lover of malts from Scotland’s West Coast. He is the founding director of Ombra, the Venetian osteria on the corner of Vyner Street and Cambridge Heath Road, which opened in 2011.
‘There is a liquid light there that glimmers at the gloaming, between islands and the sea,’ waxes Sinclair about whisky. ‘To me whisky embodies this light along with the water and the soil. It sounds pretentious, but this enables an ability to place a whisky by nose and colour alone. A good exercise in the senses.’
Sinclair considers whisky the best drink in the world, and even coined a poem expressing his feelings: ‘I like drinking whisky / I like it more than wine / And if in life I could / I’d drink it all the time’.
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