ST. George artisan distillery out of Alameda, CA make a number of different spirits. I have had and like their Malt whiskey in the past. Today, however I am sampling their new 'Breaking and Entering' Bourbon. It is, so they say, made up of as many as 80 bourbons from 5 to 7 years years of age. They vat these bourbons to achieve the taste they want and then offer it for sale at about $40. The spirit is a light amber color and is 86 proof.
The nose is soft, with some vanilla, oak, a bit of char, a hint of rye, some light fruit such as white grapes, and a wee skosh of something akin to nutmeg. It is an interesting and entertaining nose, one which promises a softly sweet whiskey balanced against some wood.
The taste has some nice upfront sweetness that utilizes the vanilla (controlled by an oaky dryness) and the light fruity tastes as the nose promised. However, the rye asserts itself at midpalate with a blaze of hot spice that hangs on until the back of the mouth and promotes a pretty long finish.
This bourbon apparently did not aim at richness from the barrel (and 5 to 7 years of age does not often provide a lot of that), but rather at a smooth delicacy spiked with a midpalate jolt of rye spice. The finish is quite worthy and is drier than I would have expected. I compared it to Jack Daniel's Single Barrel, which in itself is quite a compliment. Jack Daniel's Single Barrel, which costs less than $10 a bottle more, is clearly superior to my palate because it offers more barrel richness while still retaining the much desired 'delicacy'.
ST. George has produced a very good bourbon, one that I like. But in its price range, the ST George guys (to their credit) are going up against a truly great (my opinion, of course) American whiskey in Jack Daniel's Single Barrel. Its 94 proof (and presumed special barrel selection) makes it superior to both this ST George as well as ALL the other Jack Daniel's offerings.
If the ST George were offered at about half it price, it would be a good buy. But, just maybe, an aritsan whiskey maker cannot afford to sell this whiskey at what I consider its real market value. What this says to me is that artisan whiskey makers need to remain in the market by making niche whiskies that do not compete directly with established (and in this case, excellent) products.
May I reiterate, I strongly support 'artisan' distillers and have zero regrets that I purchased this product. It is good whiskey. Maybe for reasons that do not present to me, ST George needed to offer this product to their non bourbon drinking customers as something different, knowing that bourbon drinkers would not be the primary customers here. As an overall strategy, maybe this makes some sense. If that be the case, I wish them success because there is a lot to be said for this product, albeit unlikely that it will sell well among bourbon lovers (except those with a curiosity like mine).
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas