few years ago, before The Great Pandemic, I enjoyed attending whiskey
festivals. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to attend Distill America in Madison
this May. It will be the first time since the last in-person Distill America in
2020, literally just before everything shut down around the country.
mention Distill America because that’s where I was introduced to St. George
Spirits, a smaller California distillery founded in 1982 by Jörg Rupf, a German immigrant. Jörg was interested in distilling brandy
made from local fruits using traditional methodologies. Lance Winters came on board in 1996. He was a former nuclear
scientist who had (get this) a single bottle of homemade whiskey in his inventory,
presented it to Jörg, and then Jörg offered Lance a job. A year later,
St. George Spirits distilled its first single malt, and in 2000, they released
the first batch. Ten years later, Jörg
retired, and Lance took over the reins as the head distiller.
The American Single Malt that I tried at Distill America was St. George Baller. I recall enjoying it, but truth be told, my palate is
dead and buried at these kinds of events. And I kind of forgot about it once
COVID became our new normal.
Fast forward to April 2022, when a sample of
St. George Baller winds up on my doorstep. At this point, I’m excited because
my memory of tasting it rushed back at me.
St. George Baller is a single malt whiskey made
in a Scottish tradition but with Japanese highball cocktails in mind. Before
you say, “What the…?” bear with me.
It’ll make sense. It starts with a mash of primarily two-row pale barley and a
bit of lightly roasted barley. That’s sent through the eau de vie pot stills
before finding its way into former Bourbon and French oak wine casks, where it
rested for three years.
The adventure isn’t over because the next
step is to filter the whiskey via maple charcoal and then finish it in
house-made umeshu (a Japanese plum liqueur) casks. The ume fruit was grown
entirely in California.
The finished product is bottled at 47% ABV
(94°), and a 750ml package costs about $69.99. The distribution used to be
California-only but can now be found around the United States. Before I get
started on my review, I want to thank St. George Spirits for a sample of this
whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest rating.
It is time for me to shut up and #DrinkCurious.
neat in my Glencairn glass, St. George Baller presented as the color of yellow
straw. It formed a medium rim that released fat legs that raced back to the
floral perfume intermingled with prune, lychee, and honeysuckle. As I drew the
air past my lips, a tsunami of vanilla flowed across my tongue.
Palate: I found the texture buttery with a medium
body. The front of my palate tasted honey, vanilla, and almond, while the middle
featured malty, fresh-baked bread, lychee, and brine. The back offered flavors
of ginger beer, French oak, and smoke.
Finish: The ginger beer carried through the end of
the finish. Before it fell off, a blend of lychee, brine, and smoke joined a
somewhat tannin-heavy feel.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: St. George Baller tasted like nothing I recalled. Instead of getting familiar notes, this was a brand-new experience, and that isn’t unusual when my only other sampling was while my palate was exhausted. However, that didn’t translate to an unpleasant tasting. Everything meshed seamlessly. St. George Baller is unlike any other American single malt I’ve come across. I believe this one you’ll want to savor, and as such, it earns my Bottle rating. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It
you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.