Today is St. George's Day and here in England we celebrate our national day and all things English. So we thought we would honour the day with some of the much publicised English whisky. St. George is the patron saint of England (and other places including the Catalunya region of Spain, where he is called St. Jordi) and all celebrate on the 23rd April. Part of the national celebrations included the revival of the Parade of St. George through the City of London. This is the first time that such a pageant, including St. George dressed in all his regalia (pictured, above), has happened since 1585.
The first English whisky
St. George's is the first whisky distillery to be built and produce whisky in England for almost 200 years. The distillery is located in the heart of East Anglia, close to the town of Roudham in Norfolk (about 2 hours north east of London). The distillery is operated by The English Whisky Company, which was founded in 2005 by Andrew and James Nelstrop. The construction of the new facilities began shortly afterwards and the first spirit came off the stills in November 2006. The legendary master distiller Iain Henderson was employed to oversee production and he has previously managed Laphroaig on the island of Islay.
A new chapter
St. George's spirit is made from locally grown Norfolk barley and is matured in ex-bourbon casks. They are currently producing and maturing both a peated and unpeated version of their whisky. This Chapter 6 is the latest release from the St. George's and is bottled at three years of age with an alcoholic strength of 46% ABV. It is one of the first official 'whisky' releases from the distillery, as whisky legally has to have been matured for a minimum time of three years. The English Whisky Company have been bottling new make spirit and partially aged spirit (they are not allowed to call these whisky!) and these form the other parts of the Chapter series. All are available from the English Whisky Company website, selected specialist retailers or Gordon & MacPhail and should cost £35-40.
Our tasting notes
St. George's Chapter 6 is pale lemon in colour and the nose gives off a pleasant scent that improves with time. Initially, it feels very fresh and zingy with plenty of tart citrus (think of lemon zest) and alcohol spirit present. With time, it evolves and numerous other elements come to the fore. The freshness remains and there is a lovely combination of vanilla, dried grass (imagine hay), fresh green pears and apples and caramel honeycomb (think of that hard stuff that you get in confectionary and fairgrounds). On the palate, there is again plenty of freshness with the same zingy citrus note and spirit from the nose combining well with the fresh green fruits (those pears and apples again, joined by some melon). The palate grows with time with distinct dried grass and cereal grain characters coming through, as does some further sweet vanilla, toffee and a hint of hot, spicy peppercorns. The combination is enjoyable. The finish is short, sharp and intense with more dried grass and cereals present. The pepperiness from the palate is a pleasant addition also.
What's the verdict?
This St. George's Chapter 6 is a lovely refreshing whisky. OK, it is very young and does demonstrate the characteristics associated with youthful whiskies (the alcohol spirit and fresh green fruits especially). What this whisky does is to be good at its current age, while also showing enough complexity and promise to make you want to try further aged releases - what will it be like as a 10 years old, for example? It is definitely worth a try, if you get the chance and is a very good dram. We thank Lizzie and Sarah at The English Whisky Company for the chance to try this sample.
Happy St. George's Day!