St. George's is the first English whisky distillery to be built and producing whisky for almost 200 years. The distillery is located in the heart of East Anglia, close to the town of Roudham in Norfolk. The English Whisky Company was founded in 2005 by Andrew and James Nelstrop and construction of the new facilities began shortly after. The first spirit came off the stills in November 2006 under the guidance of the legendary master distiller Iain Henderson, who had previously managed Laphroaig on the island of Islay. As whisky cannot legally be named 'whisky' until it has been matured for three years, the first full release date is pencilled in for December this year. However, if you visit the distillery and take a tour then you will get to try some of the new or partially matured spirit as part of this. The first full release of whisky will be very limited so when we got the chance to try a sample at the recent Whisky Live event in London, we had to take it.
All St. George's spirit is matured in bourbon casks that have previously been used at the Jim Beam distillery in Kentucky, USA. They currently are producing and maturing both a peated and unpeated version of their whisky. The sample we tried has been matured for 18 months and the colour is a pale lemon. The nose is very promising and is full of juicy, crisp fruit (think of pears and apples). Pears and pear drops are common aromas that can indicate young spirit and they mellow and mingle with other flavours, as the spirit draws more influence from its cask over time. On the palate, this is young and bold with those juicy fruits combining with some vanilla, caramel and an interesting spicy note (imagine white pepper). As the alcohol strength is high (62.5% ABV), we decided to try it with water. It was described to us as "becoming like a good Glenlivet" with water and while I am not quite sure about that, it certainly was very clean, enjoyable and became creamier in the mouth. The finish was quite long for a young spirit with loads of buttery vanilla. This really has great potential and we can't wait to see what that first release will be like. It is clear that the spirit has quality and it is not raw or blasting your nose and palate with alcohol, as many young or new spirits do.