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Issue 96 - English Spirit

Whisky Magazine Issue 96
June 2011

 

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English Spirit

Gavin D. Smith looks at the lost distillers of Merseyside

When James Nelstrop opened St George's Distillery in Norfolk during 2006 to make ‘English whisky,' there was a widespread belief that this was a new departure. In fact, it was the restoration of whisky distillation in England, as the spirit's production has a heritage ‘south of the border.'
When it comes to making alcoholic drinks we tend to associate the city of Liverpool with Cain's brewery, which dates back to the mid-19th century, but during the Victorian era, Liverpool was also home to two distilleries which produced whisky.
Between them, Vauxhall and Bank Hall distilleries were turning out some 3.5 million gallons of whisky during the late Victorian period, both being located just to the east of the Merseyside city's vast network of docks.
Much of our knowledge of the Liverpudlian distilling duo comes courtesy of the indefatigable Alfred Barnard, who toured them during research for his 1887 tome The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom. Barnard was also shown around whisky distilleries in London and Bristol, of which more in the next issue.
The writer dubbed Liverpool the “'Second City' in the Queen's Empire,” and key to its prosperity was an extensive maritime trading network. Barnard unequivocally declared Liverpool to be “The greatest port in the British Empire.”
Of the two distilleries then making whisky in the city, Vauxhall was the older and larger, having been founded in 1781 by Robert Preston & Co. In 1857 it was acquired by A Walker & Co, who a...

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