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Adnam's Copper House

By Dominic Roskrow

I didn't expect this. The Copper House Distillery stands proudly above the centre of Suffolk seaside town Southwold in all its gleaming glory.

I had expected a small micro-distilling operation in a back room as an addendum to Adnam Brewery's central job of producing some of the world's best beers. Instead there's a column still which stretches up three floors and a brand new pot still. There are rectifiers and gleaming storage tanks - we're talking state off the art mini distillery, much of it manufactured in Lithuania.

down in the cellar 14 months old whisky spirit is maturing

Best of all, though, between them company chairman Jonathan Adnams and master distiller John McCarthy have been spending their free time thinking outside the box - and they've set about making a range of stunning spirits - much of it breaking new ground.

The distillery started with two vodkas and two gins - so far so normal - but one of them aroused the curiosity - a vodka made with malted barley, distilled in copper and matured for a period in oak casks. The list also includes English apple brandy made with Suffolk apples, a red absinthe which goes lilac with water and tastes great, and a Broadside eau de view de beer - Broadside bitter (with hops) distilled and matured in oak.

But the real fun comes down in the cellar, where 14 months old whisky spirit is maturing.

"We have used as much natural products as we can as we wanted to have the best ingredients from grain to glass," says Adnams over a pint of the best low alcohol beer I've ever had - it tasted like beer -in one of the town's cosy brewery taps.

"We wanted to do things properly and so we don't cut any corners. Our beers are known for their full-flavoured taste and our approach to spirits was no different. Some people will hate the taste but that's not a problem because we want them to have big flavours and offer something different."

The Copper House Distillery is the third distillery in England to start producing spirit - Lake Distillery will be the fourth later this year - and the spirit is fascinating. I am offered three.

The first is the distillery's standard single malt. It's 14 months old and it's extraordinary. There are none of the sappy notes you associate with immature spirit, suggesting the mild East coast air is rounding the spirit off faster than further North. It is indeed big flavoured, with liqueur like fruits and a large dollop of earthy spiciness. Number two is a rye whisky made with 100 per cent rye. It's lively and spicy, a zesty, zippy cocky spirit with a menthol note to it. It's a very difficult skill to master malting rye and a 100 per cent rye whisky reflects McCarthy's confidence as a distiller. "Don't bet on it," he says modestly. "There have been plenty of mistakes and disasters along the way."

The best of the the three is a three grain whisky made up of 60 per cent wheat, 35 per cent malted barley and five per cent oats stored in medium toasted virgin American barrels. You could drink it now. There's lemon here, lots of sweet candy and vanilla, but a soft and rounded cereal heart. This is going to be one to watch.

I'm amazed what's going on in the world of new world whisky right now - and this distillery is another gem in a growing world crown. Can't wait to see where these whiskies go in the next year.