“‘Twas Christmas Eve, and all through the house…”
Kidding! I’ve sort of grown out of the “all blog posts near holidays must be themed” phase and into the grumpy curmudgeon blogger phase. There comes a point in a blogger’s “career” (said with a straight face) when he or she realizes that the same “Top 10 Gifts” article from last year will suffice this year by simply removing the year from the title. I did, however, want to review something special as tomorrow is Christmas after all. So, I dug through the nether regions of my whisky cabinet where I keep the “Open Someday for a Special Occasion” bottles and found this gem. I haven’t reviewed one of St. George’s single malts since Lot 10 back in 2011. Back when it was $50 a bottle. The Alameda-based distillery – which is basically my “home team” as far as proximity to a major distillery goes – has gained their confidence and now charges $100 for this annual lot of always-different and always-special single malt.
The “Lot” bottlings are released annually around October of each year, and conveniently the lot number corresponds to the year of release. Yes, yes, that means I’m a full year behind on this one, and no, you will not be able to find it in stores. You can try to snag the 18, though, if there’s any left. You can be sure that the quality will be consistent, even though the barrel makeup changes somewhat every year. St. George uses two-row barley and blends different roast levels (like a beer brewer would). They also smoke a portion of unroasted barley with beech and alder wood, although I would not call the whisky “smoked” at all, flavor-wise.
The 2017 “Lot 17” bottling was composed of barrels of St. George single malt aged 6 to 8 years, and matured or finished in an assortment of casks including ex-bourbon casks from the company’s sourced Breaking & Entering bourbon and dessert wine American and French oak casks. The malt is bottled at 43% ABV.
Nose: Intensely, meltingly sweet and perfumed. It smells exactly like pear drops. A slight herbal quality (anise, clove, and pine sap), is balanced against elegant fruit and crystallized sugar. A rest in the glass brings tart berries. This is the kind of malt that one could easily spend an evening analyzing for new aromas.
Palate: Thin body. Kirschwasser, cocoa powder, and a cornucopia of candied fruits. Delectable.
Finish: Of medium length. Cherry liqueur again, plus lemon verbena, black tea, bittersweet cocoa, and faint green tobacco. Finishes abruptly without evolving.
With Water: A few drops of water seem to dull the aroma, and brings nothing new to the palate. Don’t bother with water here.
Overall: A distinct and utter pleasure. St. George is adept at using a canvas of familiar-but-mysteriously-different malt and painting a masterpiece of fruits and flowers and sweets through the use of various casks. While it has a number of scotch-like attributes, it ends up tasting undeniably of St. George, and distinctly non-Scottish. I cannot get over how perfumed the aroma is, with a fruit-and-flowers intensity that I rarely encounter in a whisky of any nationality.
St. George “Lot” releases continue to increase in quality and, alas, in price. I will mark this a “Must Try”, although that applies generally to any St. George single malt release. If you’ve already experienced a previous lot, this one is simply Recommended (with reservations, due to the high price). Grudgingly, though, I must admit that this malt is worth the price tag.
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).
Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!