ST. GEORGE SPIRITS SINGLE MALT
Lot No. SM021 (2021)
MASH BILL – 100% malted barley
PROOF – 86
AGE – blend of 4.5 to 10+ year whiskeys
DISTILLERY – St. George Spirits
PRICE – $109
WORTH BUYING? – Heck yes!
This is my third outing with the annual single malt release from St. George Spirits. My intro was Lot 17, the prominent quince notes of which brought back vivid memories of Christmases past. Those memories in turn spurred many thoughts about time and the accident of when we happen to grow up, how the era we were born into shapes our consciousness and world view. The pungent flavors of Lot 17 demonstrated where a flavorful whiskey can take us if we let ourselves go with it.
So the following year, I marked the Christmas holiday with Lot 20. This edition took some time to open up for me. The familiar quince and cream notes were there, but also an off-putting wet cardboard note. I persisted at tasting it each day over the course of a week, and gradually that note evaporated, leaving only the pleasing fruit, caramel, cream and vanilla notes. It did also have a stronger tannic edge than Lot 17. Rather than detracting, however, this added complexity to the softer notes.
So for the third Christmas in a row, I opened another St. George Single Malt. And right from the uncorking pour, I’ve been struck by how utterly well balanced this Lot 21 is. Tasting it repeatedly over the course of a week, unlike its immediate predecessor, Lot 21 has been very consistent.
With each edition of their annual single malt release, St. George experiments with the exact blend of ages and barrel finishes. Here’s what their website says about this edition’s contents:
The youngest barrel in Lot 21 is about four-and-a-half years old, while the oldest single cask is just over 10 years. The blend also includes cask blends with whiskey dating back 22 years. Lot 21 incorporates used Kentucky bourbon barrels, used Tennessee whiskey barrels, American and French oak apple brandy casks, agricole rum casks, and California Sauternes-style casks.
So let’s get into it. These notes were taken a week after uncorking and already nearing halfway through the bottle, tasted in a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – straw, honey, and butter
NOSE – bright baked quince, grapefruit peel, cream, vanilla custard, fresh mountain spring water, a sweet and buttery dessert wine, a light salty sea breeze
TASTE – that crisp bitter grapefruit peel beautifully balanced with the cream and custard aspects
FINISH – more of the above, lingering softly and warmly with a bit of edge from that salty sea breeze
OVERALL – the most perfectly balanced of the three St. George Single Malts I’ve had to date, the grapefruit peel and cream elements combining into a refreshing cocktail
The word I keep coming back to is balance. And it’s specifically the balance between the edgy, bitter aspects and the softer, creamier aspects that strikes me as such a magnificent achievement here. It’s like a good Clyfford Still painting, where rich swaths of color with texture and depth meet the definite edge of distinct lines.
This is a sweet single malt, showing off its brandy, rum, and wine cask finishings with particular enthusiasm and confidence. The bourbon and Tennessee whiskey casks seem content to support their more desserty counterparts. I’m not the biggest fan of exceptionally sweet single malts. But here those cream and custard notes ground the sweetness, and that unusually exquisite grapefruit peel note outlines everything with great clarity. I never thought I’d use “exquisite” to describe a citrus peel note of any kind—especially not grapefruit, which can be particularly bitter.
If this were my intro to the annual St. George Spirits Single Malt release, the barre would be set pretty dang high. I’m actually glad to have already had two editions that, while good, were not so perfect as this Lot 21. This makes the journey very worth taking. Lot 22 will no doubt be a variation on a now familiar theme. And my ability to appreciate its particularities in the ongoing experiment that is this annual release will be enhanced by the coincidental order of these first three.
It does indeed feel akin to following an artist’s series of paintings, exploring techniques of color and line in variation as they search for some ephemeral ideal that may not ever reach final definition. An ongoing journey of curiosity, content to never determine anything once and for all.
So, see yuh again in December 2022, St. George. Until then…