With so many independent bottlers out there, it’s sometimes not clear what some of them can bring that distilleries themselves can’t. But the inaugural releases from the Heart Cut, a new company from well-known industry figure Georgie Bell, shows how to carve out a unique niche with fabulous and unusual whiskies. 

You might know Georgie Bell

Bell is a familiar face to whisky lovers having worked as a brand ambassador for Bacardi representing distilleries including Aberfeldy, Diageo working with Mortlach, and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Overall she’s spent 15 years in Scotch whisky, “my whole life,” she said when we met last month.

The venue could not have been better: Dram Bar in Soho, a recently-opened bar from another well-known whisky face, Martin ‘Simo’ Simpson, formerly of Milroy’s of Soho.  The perfect setting to try some highly individual whiskies from Bell’s new venture, the Heart Cut.

Georgie Bell from the Heart Cut

The dynamic duo: Georgie Bell and Fabrizio Leoni

Introducing the Heart Cut

In partnership with her husband, former bartender Fabrizio Leoni, she launched the Heart Cut in 2023. At the same time she had twins so it’s been a busy year to say the least. 

The initial releases show the diversity of the world whisky scene at the moment with expressions from England, Denmark, Finland, the US, and Israel. There’s nothing from Scotland. “It’s not that we hate Scotch”, Bell clarified. They’re just looking to do something a little different and there’s already plenty of bottlers who specialise in Scotch whisky.

Guidance for curious whisky drinker

According to Bell, the Heart Cut aims to put the spotlight on some not so well-known distilleries and provide an accessible way into a potentially confusing category. The idea is to provide: “guidance for the curious whisky drinker”, “we want people to buy from us and then from the distillery”, she continued. 

The 50cl bottles are beautifully packaged, every one is a collaboration between the Heart Cut and the distilleries in question. The tasting notes are simple with none of the ‘recently-foraged manuka honey’ or ‘first press Italian ristretto’ you get in some tasting notes. They’re all high ABV but not cask strength which Bell describes as “not approachable.”

There’s some distinctive and rather wonderful whiskies here. The  connection is that “all of them say something about provenance”, Bell explained. She’s not going to stop at whisky. In the future there will be other cask-aged spirits in the pipeline which she’s keeping schtum about. Whatever they are, they won’t be boring. 

The HEart Cut Whiskies

Tasting The Heart Cut whiskies

#01 Stauning Distillery 50cl 

From Stauning in Denmark, a distillery that’s a great favourite with the team here at Master of Malt. This is a five year old single malt with a twist because the barley was dried using smoke from heather rather than peat. It was finished in a Madeira cask, bottled at 52% ABV with 371 bottles available. 

This is a bold, idiosyncratic whisky that won’t be for everyone. It definitely walks the line but the smokiness is well balanced by the sweetness from the Madeira cask. 

Tasting notes

Nose: Yup, it’s really smoky, but not in a peaty way. It’s more like pastrami! A very good thing. 

Palate: Strong wood smoke with an almost smoked fish note, think kippers. Then there’s a sweetness which balances out the more bitter notes. 

Finish: Big bonfires and toffee. 

#02 East London Liquor Co. 50cl 

Bell used to live in Wapping in East London so knows ELLC really well. This is a rye whisky distilled in 2019 with 55% rye 45% malted barley and matured in a Hackney Brewery Chocolate Stout cask. It was bottled in 2023 with 344 bottles available at 49,9% ABV. 

This was altogether harmonious dram with the spicy rye blending seamlessly with the chocolate notes from the cask. 

Tasting notes

Nose: Aromatic spices, menthol, and chocolate.

Palate: Bitter dark chocolate with sweeter dark cherry black forest gateau-type flavours.

Finish: Nutty texture with lingering spices. 

#03 Kyrö Distillery 50cl 

A four year old 100% malt rye whisky from Kyrö Distillery, Finland, matured in a new American Oak cask. Bottled at 52% ABV with 361 available.

It’s probably the most conventional whisky in the line-up. If you like the Finnish-rye style from  Kyrö , which I do, then you will love this. 

Tasting notes

Nose: Dr. Pepper, malt loaf and cinnamon buns.

Palate: Spicy ginger and clove notes with sweeter honey notes and bitter Seville marmalade.

Finish: Spicy with a caramel sweetness. 

#04 M&H Distillery 50cl 

A single malt whisky from M&H Distillery in Tel Aviv. It undergoes a full four year maturation in pomegranate wine casks – a local speciality in Israel. These casks then spent some of their life in the intense heat of the Dead Sea region where the angel’s share is a massive 9% a year so though this is only four years old, it’s been through some tough times. 

This was my favourite of the Heart Cut whiskies – fabulously individual but also really drinkable and versatile. 

Tasting notes

Nose: Who’s got a big red cherry nose? This whisky’s got a big red cherry nose – there’s cherry pie and dried cherries plus dates and salted caramel dates.

Palate: Take a sip and there’s a cherry pit nuttiness, like maraschino liqueur. This is intensely flavoured. There’s some mouth-drying tannin balanced by the sweetness of pomegranates.

Finish: Umami nuttiness. 

#05 FEW Spirits 50cl 

Rye Whiskey from FEW Spirits, Chicago, matured for three years before finishing for a further three years in a Sauternes Cask. 50% ABV, 441 bottles available. 

This is a massively fruity rye whiskey, a world away from what most people would think of as a rye. Yes, there’s spice but it’s the fruit that leads. 

Tasting notes 

Nose: Big aromatic nose, liquorice, peach and pineapple. You can really smell the cask influence. 

Palate:  Lovely sweetness here, stone fruit, citrus, spicy, with great balance

Finish: Honey and pineapple. 

#06 Cotswolds Distillery 50cl 

We’ve tasted a lot of whiskies from the Cotswolds, most of which make use of STR (shaved, toasted and recharred) casks but this five year old single malt is something quite different. It’s wholly matured in a new American oak cask and bottled at 54.3% ABV with 362 bottles available.

This takes the smooth Cotswolds character and amps it up a few notches. 

Tasting notes 

Nose: Strong cereal nose, bready and woody with sweet apple fruit.

Palate: Banana bread, very distinctive taste of banana bread. A little water brings out peaches. 

Finish: Black pepper and baking spices.

Westward 5 Year Old 2018 #7 50cl

An American single malt whiskey from Westward. Distilled in 2018, the whiskey spent five years in a new American oak cask that was opened in 2023 to release a total of 396 bottles at 50% ABV.

Pure pleasure here and so nice to taste Westward with a bit more age on it and at a higher ABV. It really suits the distillery. 

Tasting notes 

Nose: Toffee, floral notes with a little passion fruit

Palate: Sweet fruit, big fruit here, toffee

Finish: Fruity, spicy and long.