I’m declaring one day every July as ‘Dom’s State of the Nation’ day – and it’s the day when I go up to St George’s Distillery, rummage in the warehouses and report back to you just what’s happening in the state of English whisky. I’ve been popping up there about this time for the last few years and for the last three I’ve come away a) stunned and b) having had a better experience than the previous year. And truth be told, this distillery is absolutely on fire right now. Metaphorically you understand.
It’s hard even to know where to start, there’s so much going on, but let’s start with the news. If you’re a whisky club or indeed anyone with a bit of money, then the English Whisky Company is offering 30 litre casks which can be bottled in bespoke bottles with your own logo and design on, and they’re prepared to talk to you about the contents – so you can fill your bottle with your own unique heavily peated malt, dry sherry or rum matured malt, or brassy port whisky. The distillery is doing all sorts of interesting things, too, so the sky’s the limit.
So what’s going on? Not to put too fine a point on it, St George’s has blossomed in to one of the most exciting distilleries on the planet. Tonight I tasted some of the oldest stock in the distillery, put in cask in November 2006, and so shy of six years old. It wasn’t great. Why? Because since then the distillery has learned loads, and under first Scotch whisky making legend Iain Henderson but increasingly under the very gifted David Fitt, who has brought his brewing skills and married them to world class distilling, the distillery has moved on way, way beyond being a ‘me too’ malt distillery.
I suppose I could talk about the official new releases – the Distiller’s Elect – a distillery only bottling that takes a soft syrupy rich and oily whisky with Hihgland notes and combines them with all sorts of toffee, vanilla mocha and earthy spice. I could talk about the Classic Single Malt Whisky bound for America, which has spicy, spiky virgin oak matured whisky at its core. But with a floral, delicate, sweet and easy drinking entry level aspect to it.
But I’d rather not. I’d rather tell you about three killers for the future.
1. A rye dominated multi grain malt. Only a year old, this is amazing. It’s probably less than 50 per cent rye, but it has a delicious hickory and red liquorice note, it sips softly, with a velvety flavour, and then the distinctly fresh but spicy rye bring sup the tail. I’d buy a bottle today but it has two years until it’s whisky. Amazing.
2. Triple distilled chapter six. The distillery isn’t set up to be a triple distilled whisky so it takes the spirit after two distillations and puts it back in to the spirits still. The result is amazing – fresh spearmint and nougat with nuts on the nose, and then a creamy nut dominated curry sauce on the palate, ending with significant curry chilli notes. But all integrated, blended, sweet, nutty, Korma fruity and delectable.
3. And finally the biggest, most industrial heavily peated, sloppy, sooty, sappy steamy sourpuss, sweaty smoky tasting monster the distillery’s has ever created.
There are others to talk about – not least the 2012 Gold release that has NOTHING to do with the Olympics, and a dry sherry delight but I’m in shell shock. I would say I’m speechless, but clearly not. This is awesome, awesome stuff. State of the Nation verdict? A gold medal world class distillery with quality an abundance of world whiskies . The story continues…