St. George ain’t that saint no more…

When some time ago David from St. George’s distillery (yes, it is in England) told me he had sent me a sample of their heavily peated spirit I instantly thought it was going to be easy. We would sample some, I presumed, talk it over and then slag it right down for being nasty and English. Piece of cake, everyone is happy.

When I popped my autograph on one of those ridiculous electronic pads that couriers carry, which make everything you write look like chimp’s doodling, I took my parcel through to the kitchen and unwrapped it as if it was a Christmas present. Two items inside, a wee bottle with crystal clear liquid in it and a wee note from David, the guy who distilled it, wishing me an enjoyable drink. Nice and casual. That was where my hands started to sweat a little. ‘What if it’s actually good’ I thought?

I poured a wee sample into a glass straight away and nosed it greedily. And instantly I knew we were in trouble. Not only it was smoky and complex (both of which things we desire a fair bit) but also it smelled unlike anything I had tried before. ‘What on Earth do we do with it now?’

The consensus between Chris and me was that a simple Quick Dram post wouldn’t do. It had to be a comparison. But what do you compare unique things to? Are they not unique because they don’t compare to anything?

Luckily the answers were there. It just took digging thoroughly enough through our small arsenal of weird and wonderful samples of all sorts. Ardbeg new make spirit! How good a comparison is that! And how outrageously unfair… We had tried that a wee bit earlier this month with Rachel Barrie, Glenmorangie’s Master Blender, and we knew perfectly well how epic the juice was. We knew St. George’s didn’t stand half a chance. And yet, once more, we were shown how unpredictable spirits are.

*

St. George’s

Nose: It has a signature to it, it is unmistakable. It’s phenolic, smells of tobacco and tar. A lot of peppermint. It is also very metallic, somewhere between aluminum and rust. I wanted to say rusty aluminium but that doesn’t really make sense, does it? With water opens up to sunflower seed, cucumber in brine, light berry sweetness, composting grass, iris flower, touch of caramel and seaweed.

Palate: Perfectly pleasant yet very hard to describe. Warming and spicy, a little oaky (why?), sour, apple core, dried orange peel.

Finish: Smoky and dry.

Overall: The overall complexity and charisma of this spirit blew us away. It shows great potential and we can only hope that the boys from St. George’s do their job in the warehouse as well as they do in the still room. Despite the fact they are English. Now we genuinely can’t wait until Christmas (first release of the 3 yo).

Person: Achilles

*

Ardbeg

Nose: Pear, vanilla, lemon and banana. Smoke is lighter than that of St. George’s, more like wood smoke rather than sharp tobacco, but just as intense. It is also sweeter and becomes even more so with water.

Palate: Intense and peaty. With water creamy and peachy.

Finish: Again intense. Warming and developing. Long.

Overall: Psychosomatic or not, it is unmistakably Ardbeg. I think it shows all the trademarks. And even though rough, it is also good. Good in a bad way. If that makes sense…

Person: Hector

*

Trouble, trouble. A comparison should have a winner and in this case we found it very difficult to choose one. On one hand we had spirit that is metallic to the extreme, smoky like hell, almost baroque in it’s complexity, eclectic in style. On the other hand there was a piece of Balance, spirit of warmth and style. Going back and forth confused us even further as both spirits were simply proving to be excellent. To your undoubted disappointment we have to call it a draw (despite the Iliadic allegory which suggests St. George’s triumph). But to the joy of our friends from the south of the border I must admit: It was one narrow escape for Ardbeg.

Lucas

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