ST. GEORGE SPIRITS SINGLE MALT WHISKEY
Lot No. SM020 (2020)
MASH BILL – 100% malted barley
PROOF – 86
AGE – blend of 4.5 to 21-year whiskeys
DISTILLERY – St. George Distillery
PRICE – $129
BUY AGAIN? – No, because $$$ not taste, and next year there’ll be another!
Early last year I had my introduction to the St. George Single Malt Whiskey line, courtesy of a bottle trade with an acquaintance. I forget now what I gave him. But for it I received Lot SM017, the 2017 release. The unusual flavors took me straight back to Christmases past, with notes of quince, vanilla, cream, and candied tropical fruits. It was quite a dynamic and surprising experience, conjuring vivid memories.
So this past Fall 2020, I picked up a bottle of the latest release, Lot SM020, and held onto it until Christmas. I opened it that evening as a part of the subdued celebrations my partner and I were having, far from family and friends.
At uncorking, the aromas and flavors were familiar from my experience with the Lot SM017. But this time the nose featured a distinct wet cardboard note—a flavor note I just can’t go for. I was disappointed.
But I stuck with it. Our evening meal was a plate of “Christmas Plaid”—stir-fried red and green bell peppers, white onions, and duck sausage. The St. George provided a sweet counterpart to this savory, salty dish. But I had to look past that wet cardboard on the nose, and it was a distraction.
I kept at the bottle each day thereafter. By the third day, I noticed the cardboard note had dissipated a bit. Two days later it was gone!
So a week after uncorking, on New Year’s Eve, I sat down to do a proper tasting. Here are some notes in brief, tasted about two-thirds of the way into the bottle, using a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – pale golden and brassy yellows with glints of toasty orange
NOSE – fruity dessert wine, tart baked quince, dusty oak, salty vanilla caramel
TASTE – like the nose, fruity, bright and creamy, with the vanilla caramel deepening a notch on swallowing
FINISH – some quincy bitterness, the creamy vanilla caramel, a dash of very fine cinnamon, and now a bit of chocolate
OVERALL – a desserty dram, worthy of holidays, crisp Winter sunsets, or cozy fire hearths
This is now indeed much more like what I experienced last year with the Lot SM017. I’d say this current expression leans a bit darker by comparison. Maybe richer is the better word, since it’s still a very bright dram. The oak influence is definitely more present, and this adds a savory complexity to the abundance of fruit and candy sweets.
Aged in an array of used casks—including Kentucky bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, American and French oak apple brandy, Port, and California Sauternes-style casks—the 100% barley mash reflects an international range of influences. St. George is known for its variety of products, from vodka to liqueurs, gin, whiskey, brandy… For nearly forty years they’ve been experimenting omnivorously, distilling everything from the expected grains to Dungeness crabs, oysters, seaweed, coffee… You name it. Their website provides a great deal of information on each product they make.
This spirit of creativity comes through in their annual Single Malt release. They aren’t stuck on any one age range or type of barrel. They seem to be after as many ways to create a holiday season dram as possible. Even their barley mash is unusual, combining grains roasted at various levels to bring out the two-row barley’s innate nut and cocoa flavors, and throwing in unroasted barley that’s been smoked over beech and alder wood to add further complexity.
At $100 msrp, in today’s fever-pitched whiskey market it’s not a bad price for such carefully cultivated whiskey produced in relatively small batches. But still $100 is $100, so, this is definitely a holiday treat. I didn’t mind paying a bit more than that to do business with a local store I frequent and wish to support.
So I may have landed on an annual holiday season tradition. We’ll see what St. George comes up with next year!