Monday, January 3, 2011

Have just tried > St. George's Chapter 9

200 years of waiting
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. Legendary whisky maker Iain Henderson was employed to oversee production and he has previously managed the famous Laphroaig distillery on the island of Islay, amongst others.

The St. George's spirit is made from locally grown Norfolk barley and is matured predominantly in ex-bourbon casks. They are currently producing and maturing both a peated and unpeated version of their whisky. The Chapter 9 whiskies from The English Whisky Co. are made using peated malted barley and are in the lightly smoky style. All future releases in this style will also carry the Chapter 9 name and they will be released in limited batches. The batch from which we were given a sample was released during the Summer of 2010 and is bottled at three years of age with an alcoholic strength of 46% ABV.

The other 'chapters' in the series are made up of new make spirit or partially aged spirit up to the age of three years (this is not legally allowed to be called 'whisky'), plus a number of three year old single malt whiskies that have been matured in various casks. The plan is to expand the range further as and when more stock reaches a suitable length of maturation. Most of the Chapters are available from the English Whisky Company website, selected specialist retailers or Gordon & MacPhail, who are the main nominated distributor in the UK. A bottle of Chapter 9 should cost £35-40. Supplies of all are limited. We thank David Fitt, the Chief Distiller at St. George’s for giving us this sample and for his time spent talking with us.

Our tasting notes

The colour of this Chapter 9 is a pale straw-like lemon yellow. The nose is light, fresh, vibrant with early aromas of vanilla, honey, and crisp green fruits (think of apple and pear). Then come malty, gristy cereal grains, a hint of green pistachio nuts and a mild, soft sweet smokiness – this feels earthy and mossy, with an element of burnt biscuits or cereals about it. On the palate, this is again fresh and vibrant with some lively alcohol giving a pleasant citrus-like tanginess (imagine lemon zest?) and a touch of white pepper heat and spiciness. This gives way to more delicate notes – something floral and grassy to begin with and then plenty of sweet honey, vanilla and a distinct shortbread-like flavour. The smokiness is there but remains light and almost underwhelming. It again has a burnt bakery/biscuit quality with a hint of damp soil and moss. This smokiness adds depth and dryness to the palate, plus some warmth and balance. The finish is shortish, fresh and a little sharp, but with lovely elements of tangy citrus zest and sweet vanilla and cereals. These are followed by a burning peaty dryness and some very late warming nuttiness (think of hazelnut, walnut and that pistachio again).

What's the verdict?
A delicious whisky that is very lightly peaty and smoky and full of vibrancy. It exhibits some lovely subtlety for a youthful single malt and when you combine these elements, it makes Chapter 9 a good choice as an introduction to the smoky style of whisky. This whisky is clearly well made and matured and the future looks good for The English Whisky Co. if they keep releasing products of this quality and promise.

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