These guys (they make Hangar 1 vodka) are up in Alameda, CA, and they’ve been making this excellent single-malt American whiskey for 10 years now. The Lot 10 bottling, which I got to try tonight at K&L’s Wednesday Whisky tastings, is going fast and will soon be replaced with a new (and slightly different) Lot 11.
St. George makes single Malt from a Sierra Nevada-made wash (beer) which is crafted from malted barley – some beechwood smoked, some roasted to ‘chocolate malt’ level. Aged between 4 and 13 years (average 10 years), Lot 10 is vatted from 17 barrels of single malt. It was aged in a combination of first- and second-fill ex-bourbon casks, with a proportion of sherry and port casks as well. Each lot is different, with a strategic blending using the best combination of components available at the time. The team at St. George tries to aim for “positive inconsistency” (their term) between batches – meaning they maintain a brand style, without adhering necessarily to a static flavor profile. This gives them the latitude to experiment, while still producing a consistently high-quality whiskey.
Nose: Dried mango. Perfumey vanilla and a few assorted botanicals. Juniper berry or pine? Clove and light chocolate or coffee notes. Eclectic, but nuanced and not muddied.
Palate: A wave of chocolate up front, with a creamy mouth feel. A clear, crisp cereal character emerges, showcasing the excellent barley. The various cask influences take second stage to the clarity of the barley flavor. Yum.
Finish: Medium-length, and a bit bourbonny, with more vanilla and caramel, but a whisper of orange peel and – yay! – no bitterness detected. Trails off with dark chocolate.
Overall: Very tasty malt, unlike anything else in style, although it seems similar (to me) to an American rye. The influence of the bourbon casks is clear, but the malt character asserts itself continually. A little fruit, a little spice, and a lot of chocolate make this an intriguing dram with a lot to discover, and no obvious faults. If you’d like to support American craft distillation, pick up a bottle of the lot 10 before it disappears – there are rumors of a price increase with lot 11 (along with new packaging) to offset the scarcity of older stock and keep pace with demand. Of course, the lot 11 will also show more sherry character, as it’s vatted from a larger proportion of ex-sherry casks. Decisions!
St. George, which also makes eaus de vie, absinthe, and other spirits is located in Alameda, CA, and provides tours on Saturday and Sunday (but go on Sunday, as it’s less crowded).