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Product of the week: East London Single Malt whisky

Categories: Product of the week

East London Liquor Company’s brand new ex-bourbon and ex-rye cask aged whisky

This time last year, when East London Liquor Company launched its debut whisky, it sold out within hours. This year, so as to leave fewer devotees bereft, the Bow-based distillers brought in three new brews—including their first ever single malt.

Made with 100 per cent pale malt, “it carries a lot of the character of the distillery with it,” says Ashley Hunka. “The single malt is double pot distilled without any column distillation”—which would increase the alcohol content and in doing so, strip away some of the flavours— “so you get a lot more of the characteristics of the grain coming through.”

The casks used for ageing also have a profound influence on the overall flavour of the whisky. “English whisky is tied to EU whisky laws, which simply means it must be rested for three years in wooden casks,” Ashley explains. “But because we’re not making scotch, we’re not beholden to them being oak, so we’re doing all kinds of different things with our whiskies.” The East London Single Malt is aged in ex-bourbon and ex-rye casks, “so you get some of the characteristics of the bourbon—there’s a peanut butter-y thing going on—and rye, which imparts notes of milk chocolate and fresh hay. The casks also really help with rounding, allowing our base spirit to shine through a little bit more.”

Autumn nights in
Most of the barrels come from a distillery in Sonoma, California. “We import from Sonoma Distilling Company. We have an amazing relationship with Adam Spiegel and the team there,” says Ashley. “Some of the casks from this iteration are from him, but we get them from various suppliers around the world.” Choosing the right casks—and, indeed, nailing the distillery and aging process—is a question of skill and patience. Had they used ex-sherry or peaty whisky casks, say, the results would be entirely different. “Andy Mooney, our whisky distiller, and the team go through and taste as they go along—hard job,” Ashley laughs. “Every month they’re checking to see how it’s tasting, how it’s ageing. Sometimes they’ll decant into other casks or at the end of it, they may decide to blend. It just comes down to flavour. If it doesn’t taste good, we won’t put it out there. But we think this tastes amazing.”

You can enjoy the East London Single Malt neat, of course, “or use it to make the perfect manhattan, replacing the rye or bourbon,” Ashley suggests. In terms of food pairing, “as you can probably imagine from the tasting notes I’ve described, it goes really well with desserts like a chocolate and hazelnut brownie, or equally a squash soup or curry for starter or main”—all the makings of the most comforting of autumn nights in.