The Casks has left San Francisco and moved to Minneapolis and wouldn’t you know it, early October, there’s snow in the forecast. So with no small amount of wistfulness, I thought it appropriate for the first review from the new locale to be from one of my favorites from the old locale, St. George Spirits Breaking & Entering Bourbon. Before we get to that, though, let’s take a quick look at California Penal Code #459-Burglary:
459. “Every person who enters any house, room, apartment, tenement, shop, warehouse, store, mill, barn, stable, outhouse (outhouse!?) or other building, tent, vessel… with intent to commit grand or petit larceny or any felony is guilty of burglary.”
From a legal standpoint, the term “breaking and entering” isn’t really an official one. If something’s been stolen or burgled (a pretty fantastic little word, by the way), the “entering” part is kind of implied and the “breaking” part is both a little vague and specific at the same time. There is a certain romance to the phrase, however, and that’s kept it in the public lexicon. To create their bourbon, St. George Spirits “broke and entered” several Kentucky distilleries and brought around 80 barrels of five to eight year old bourbon back to its hideout in Alameda, CA. Now, though I think there are some at St. George Spirits who are capable of actual “breaking and entering” (and doing so with great panache, I might add), I’m pretty sure these barrels were obtained on the up and up. Once back in Alameda, they carefully blended together their take on bourbon and released this first round about a year ago. You have to hand it to St. George for their transparency and honesty here. They could have been vague and dodgy about where the booze came from, like so many whiskey brands in the US are, but instead, they’ve been upfront, forthright and have proudly proclaimed themselves “blenders” on this occasion, despite being excellent distillers in their own right.
The Nose: Bourbon-y to be sure, but less sticky-sweet than many current bourbons out there. Rich yet measured notes of baked bananas, chocolate and peanut butter, and grilled corn on the cob with just the right amount of char. Lesser notes of French vanilla ice cream, cinnamon, clove and orange rind. Tucked in the background are hints of corn oil and rye spice – this isn’t what I’d call a heavily-ryed bourbon.
The Palate: A light, orange-tinged caramel-ness to start with more chocolate and nuts coming through before the spice gracefully sweeps in and takes over. A really nice swell of (barely) restrained cinnamon, clove, and vanilla carries the orange along with hints of well-toasted rye bread (more rye on the palate than the nose) and oak. The caramel turns a little burnt towards the end and is joined by more roasted corn.
The Finish: An excellent mouth-watering, please-pour-me-more finish. Fresh popcorn, bright cinnamon, and clove linger with terrific barrel char notes.
Thoughts: If I were a man of far fewer values and less respect for current social mores, I’d have no problem breaking and entering someplace to steal this stuff. I love bourbon, but it’s not usually something I can see drinking every day (maybe every other day), it typically runs a little sweet and hot for me (not a bad thing, just my own preference). This bourbon, however, I could very easily see being an everyday bourbon. It hits all the right bourbon notes but does so in a slightly more refined, restrained way, reigning in the sweetness and smoothing out the spice and oak whilst still retaining a lot of power and flavor. Terrifically well-made booze (I expect nothing less from these St. George hooligans) and worth every penny of its ~$36 price. Highly recommended.
*** For those interested in the etymology of the word Burgled or Burgler, and why wouldn’t you be… (from Online Etymology Dictionary): 1540s, shortened from M.E. burgulator, from Anglo-L. burglator (late 13c.), from O.Fr. burgeor “burglar,” from M.L. burgator “burglar,” from burgare “to break open, commit burglary,” from L. burgus “fortress, castle,” a Gmc. loan-word akin to borough. The intrusive -l- is perhaps from influence of L. latro “thief,” originally “hired servant.” The native word was burgh-breche.