Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New releases > St. George's Chapter 11

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 St. George's spirit is made from locally grown Norfolk barley and is matured predominantly in ex-bourbon casks. The distillery has already won many plaudits for its innovation and quality of spirit and whisky produced to date, which are released as a series of Chapters.

Each Chapter signifies a different style of whisky or spirit.  Initially, the first releases were new make or part aged spirit, but now the range is expanding more as the whisky comes of age and reaches the three year minimum mark.  The amount of Chapters is only going to increase, especially given the experimentation with different casks that is happening at the distillery. We have listed a definition of what each Chapter is on a previous blog post - to read this click here.

These two whiskies are the first bottled as Chapter 11, which is made using heavily peated malted barley.  The regular version is bottled at an alcoholic strength of 46% ABV and costs £45, while the Cask Strength version is bottled at 59.7% ABV and costs £65.  Both are un-chillfiltered and were released in July of this year.  They can be purchased from The English Whisky Co. website or selected specialist whisky retailers.

Chapter 11 Heavily Peated - 46% ABV
The colour of this regular bottling is a pale lemon yellow and the nose is youthful and fresh, but full of interesting aromas.  There is initial vanilla and oat cake notes, with plenty of pungent peat which mixes grassy, earthy and mossy notes with iodine.  Other aromas develop with time - zesty lemon, red chilli and warm buttery toast (this last one is particularly pleasant). 

On the palate, this feels creamy and a bit soapy to begin with.  Fresh, tangy and acidic elements soon join in and these include notes of crisp green apple, lemon zest and vibrant chilli-like heat from the youthful spirit.  Underneath are vital, yet subtle, notes of vanilla, honey and oat biscuit.  These are all underpinned by robust mossy peat smoke.  The finish is of decent length and combines sweet honey and vegetal, leafy smokiness well.  This is a very interesting whisky and one that changes dramatically with time in the glass - it was almost unrecognisable after 15 minutes.  It grows on you, increasing with intensity and enjoyment.

Chapter 11 Heavily Peated - 59.7% ABV
This Cask Strength version has a pale lemon yellow colour and the nose is surprisingly light for a whisky of this strength.  However, it is vibrant, clean and fresh with plenty going on.  There is an initial whiff of surgical spirit which evolves in to a lovely vegetal peaty smokiness (think of wet leaves and moss).  There are also aromas of vanilla, lemon zest and olive oil.

The lightness of the nose lulls you in to a false sense of security, as the palate is feisty with plenty of initial hot spice (imagine red chillis and cracked pepper).  It quickly settles down with the saliva in the mouth and a  sweetness hits the tip of your tongue with a blast of gorgeous honey and oak.  Then come further vanilla, creamy coconut, tangy lemon and drying wood spices, reminiscent of cinnamon.  All of the time a warm dense peaty smoke burns away.  The finish is gloriously long with the smokiness, some dry wood spices and a hint of salt all combining well.  The taste of peat smoke can still be detected at least 10 minutes later.

What's the verdict?
Both of these whiskies are good but in different ways.  The regular 46% bottling develops dramatically in to a lovely dram given time and patience in the glass.  It combines creamy and tangy well and has numerous enjoyable characteristics.  The Cask Strength 59.7% bottling is more immediate, impactful and 'in your face' with plenty of feisty elements that settle down and mingle with time. 

Both whiskies are clearly youthful and some may shy away from them because of that.  However, these whiskies (as with most of the St. George's range) show what can be achieved in a relatively short time with quality workmanship and casking.  Long may it continue and we can't wait to see what the next Chapter will be ...

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