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Issue 44 - Celtic Cousins - A bit of Cornish spirit

Whisky Magazine Issue 44
November 2004

 

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Celtic Cousins - A bit of Cornish spirit

The Celtic fringe of Britain has a long tradition for some of the world's finest whiskies. Ireland and Scotland have refined their creations over centuries, so why has it taken so long for Cornwall to catch on and produce its first single malt whisky? Jamie Smith finds the answer lies, of all places, at a cider farm

Somewhere in a dark, cobbled cellar not far from Cornwall's craggy north coast something very exciting and, for many, long overdue is taking place.

In a dark, damp cellar, Cornwall's first malt whisky is slowly maturing inside re-charred Speyside bourbon casks. Hidden in the bowels of the Cornish Cyder Farm at Penhallow, near Newquay, these casks were set down in February 2002 and early tests of the raw spirit show promise.

Like most good ideas, the plot to create this special brew – Cornwall's first legitimate malt whisky – was hatched over a pint or two. Those pints were in the hands of two food industry experts: former operations manager of the Cornish Cyder Farm Steve Cadwallader and head brewer at St Austell Brewery Roger Ryman. The two are old colleagues who once worked together for drinks giant Scottish and Newcastle and whose career paths brought them independently to Cornwall.

Between them, a wealth of experience in alcoholic drinks and a wild enthusiasm for the task in hand soon had them wondering if the pot still installed at the cider farm in 2000, for making apple brandy, could be turned to a darker purpose.

The natural setting of Cornwall, well associated with its abundance of clean, fresh, water and an agricultural landscape with picturesque moors (worthy of being pictured on any whisky bottle) were all positive signs. The cider farm has three boreholes of its own, producing all the water necessary for the process. All they needed was a good source of b...

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