Irish Whiskey is growing up – Musings on Bacardi’s proposed takeover of Teeling

The proposed Bacardi takeover of Teeling Whiskey Distillery in Dublin marks the future global growth of Irish Whiskey.

No longer seen as a minor backwater of whiskey – Ireland is now poised to become a threat to the dominance of Scotch in the world of whiskey.

The monies, marketing & reach this requires is beyond what a relatively small Irish Distillery can cope with & abilities only a multinational player can provide.

I welcome this latest development as an inevitable consequence of the growing demand & attractiveness of Irish Whiskey.

I also welcome this development as it provides added competition to the almost monopolistic like presence Jameson has previously played in the category.

Jameson – it must be noted – has been owned by French based multinational Pernod-Ricard since 1988 & often appears to be above any form of criticism within Irish Whiskey circles.

Teeling’s takeover follows in the footsteps of Paddy’s going to US based multinational Sazerac, Tullamore to Scottish based Grants, Kilbeggan to Beam & later Japanese conglomerate Suntory, with Roe already owned by giant Diageo & Bushmills by tequila company Jose Cuervo.

You either want Irish Whiskey to be a growing global player – or to be a small, elitist & pricey backwater for a select band of aficionados.

I’m for playing globally.

Sláinte

All photos author’s own.

Business Post article on Teeling takeover here.

Spirits Business history of Jameson here.

Grappa Riserva, 40%

Popping into a Lidl in Lucca, Italy was a bit of an eye opener.

Apart from being familiar with many of the brands there were also differences.

Smaller bread & cereal displays contrasted with larger cheese & meats. The central isles were still in situ but the costs of the spirits?

Splendido!

The old familiar Queen Margot Scotch – €5.99.

She’s €22.09 in Ireland.

I was also pleased to find at least 4 varieties of Grappa for sale at similar prices.

Too good to resist!

Grappa Riserva made my basket.

Invecchiata Oltre 18 Mesi it says on the label – which translates as aged in wood. Hence the golden hue.

Quite a soft sweet fruity nose with overtones of caramelly wood.

Very easy palate with decent depth.

Entertaining nuttiness & soft tannic spice on the rear with a welcoming warmth.

Even with Grappa Lidl can produce a very attractively priced spirit that’s easy, approachable & enjoyable to consume.

Pity it’s not available in Ireland!

Saluti!

Trentin Grappa shares a business address with Bertagnolli Distilleria here.

My Queen Margot blog here.

La Medida, Mezcal Artesanal Joven, 40%

I enjoy exploring Mezcal.

Rather than use 1 type of agave for distillation like Tequila – Mezcal uses up to 40 different varietals offering a far wider flavour spectrum.

Mezcal Artesanal must also prepare that agave – agave angustifolia for La Medida – in earthen or stone pits giving a smoky element to the product – which attracts me.

There’s a stack of information on the back label – but how it tastes is paramount to me – so I poured a glass.

The earthy agave notes are quite soft & subtle, augmented by a gentle smokiness which enticed.

Smooth oily mouthfeel slowly develops an engaging dry vegetal smoke giving a warm embrace to the proceedings.

Leaves with a dry prickly pepper fading away.

La Medida is a well balanced offering showcasing a complex interplay between the vegetal agave notes & those fabulous smoky vibes.

Very engaging!

Sláinte

For an explanation of Mezcal rules read here.

La Medida website here.

Clanlands, Sam Heughan & Graham McTavish

I knew nothing about either of these characters before picking up this book other than one of them – Sam – was an actor in a successful series & had recently released a whisky.

Image courtesy Master Of Malt

The whisky in question – Sassenach – has already won awards & appears to be popular – but has attracted a degree of criticism from those in whisky circles.

Image courtesy Twitter

I just don’t get it.

Any celebrity putting their name to a whisky – or in this instance actively taking part in the blending & marketing – helps to open up & expand the whisky market to a new layer of customers & consumers.

Given that the whisky community is predominately male Sassenach appears – at least to Sam Heughan’s Twitter page – to have attracted a large female audience. This is to be welcomed.

Rather than being open & expansive many in the establishment sitting in clubs, societies & bloggers often come across as exclusive & closed to new methods & means of enlarging the whisky community.

There are double standards at play too as many of these self-styled ‘defenders of the dram’ often promote themselves as celebrities within their fiercely territorial domains.

Celebrity spirit or not – the actual taste of the whisky is my primary concern. I do recognise celebrity status does bring enhanced brand recognition with perhaps easier routes to market usually leading to increased sales – depending on the celebrity involved.

I’ve not managed to taste Sassenach – it doesn’t appear to be available in Ireland – but I do find the name attractive & the packaging certainly makes it stand out too!

This book however was in my local library – so I gave it a read.

The pair of actors engage in a laddish romp round Scotland dishing out historical titbits, name dropping, thespian tales, hearty food & plenty of whisky!

Like the whisky it opens up Scotland to a new audience – perhaps for the first time – attracted possibly by the dynamic duo on the book’s cover.

Blending popular culture, celebrity status & whisky together is a sure-fire way to broaden the appeal of the golden liquid & ensures it reaches new fans.

I don’t have a problem with celebrity spirits.

Sláinte

Sassenach is available from Master Of Malt here.

Sassenach Spirits website here.

Header image courtesy Sassenach Twitter here.

Sam Heughan’s Twitter here.

Method And Madness, Rye & Malt, 46%

After falling in love with Shortcross Rye And Malt I thought I’d order up a sample of Method And Madness Rye & Malt from Tiny Tipple for a comparison.

Image courtesy Celtic Whiskey Shop

Reassuringly pale in colour.

Where’s the rye on the nose? It’s rather timid & tame.

Mild & malty mouthfeel.

It’s only on the finish a rich peppery spice develops showcasing the rye that’s in there.

After Shortcross I must admit to finding Method And Madness a bit of a letdown.

Despite a 60/40 rye/barley mix there was a distinct lack of warmth from this whiskey.

Too much of the method & not enough madness for me.

Sláinte

Method And Madness Rye & Malt website here.

My Shortcross blog here.

Tiny Tipple website here.

Renegade Rum, Dunfermline Column Still & Pot Still Pre Cask Rums, 50%

Mark Reynier has made a big play of terroir in the whiskey trade with his Waterford Distillery.

Renegade Distillery in Grenada shaping up to do the same with rum.

I did purchase one of his whiskies.

Waterford Bannow 1.2 c/othewhiskeynut

Can’t say all the transparency, honesty & information won me over.

All I tasted was quite a young, feisty & very fresh whiskey that needed more time in the barrel.

Haven’t bought another.

I am curious enough however to try out a couple of his rums – the Dunfermline Column & Pot Still varieties.

Renegade use the term ‘pre cask’ – but essentially it’s unaged or white rum in normal parlance.

Unaged rum is a category I really enjoy.

The combination of raw ingredients, fermentation times & distilling techniques can produce exceedingly aromatic & richly tasting spirits that can captivate the senses.

My expectation is the Pot Still variety will be the more flavourful version – but it all depends on the skill of the distiller – so complying with custom I start with the Column Still.

Image courtesy Celtic Whiskey Shop

Renegade Rum Dunfermline Column Still, Pre-Cask, 50%

A lovely sweet pungency of sugar cane with a touch of sourness peeking through.

Smooth mouthfeel slowly grows in heat with more fruitiness coming through – but not much else.

Fades rather quickly with a serving of prickliness rounding off the show.

Image courtesy Celtic Whiskey Shop

Renegade Rum Dunfermline Pot Still, Pre-Cask, 50%

There’s an ever so slightly warmer embrace of pungent fruitiness from the pot still.

Definitely an oiliness on the palate of this one!

It’s just an overall fuller & fatter tasting experience for me & leaves with a warmer – even rounder – embrace.

Thoughts

I think Mr Reynier is onto a roll with his distilleries.

Attracting a loyal gathering of fans to snap up his offerings & extoll the virtues of terroir to all & sundry.

No doubt he’ll convince some whiskey drinkers into rum imbibing – which is no bad thing.

Both of these rums are enjoyable & engaging to sip, sample & explore the differences between column & pot still distillation & what they bring to the palate.

I’m just not convinced a single estate, pre-cask single variety trumps a well blended offering from multiple countries, columns & pots, sugar cane & molasses that can be produced time & again at an affordable price.

The art of blending is something Mr Reynier has written out of his agenda.

Sláinte

Waterford Distillery website here.

Renegade Rum website here.

My blog on Waterford Whiskey here.

The samples were purchased via Tiny Tipple here.

Johnnie Fox’s & Henry Downes & Co No 9 Irish Whiskey, Blends, 40%

Johnnie Fox’s is a well known pub which does a roaring tourist attraction trade in the mountains just outside of Dublin.

They released a whiskey a few years ago & this is my 1st time to try it.

I’d never heard of Henry Downes before – so had to look them up. Turns out they are also a bar – situated in Waterford City – but originally started out as spirits merchants.

Nice to see some traditions last with this release!

Obviously these are both sourced whiskeys from unnamed Irish distilleries – so what did I find?

Image courtesy apoma.dk

Johnnie Fox’s, Blend, 40%

Pale straw in colour, a fruity little number with hints of darker depth, clean fresh grain palate develops some pleasing spiciness towards the rear finishing with a little spirity kick.

An attractive blend to entice you into the Johnnie Fox’s establishment!

Image courtesy Whiskey.Auction

Henry Downes No 9, Blend, 40%

Whatever happened to the other 8?

A slightly darker shade of pale straw, soft malty nose with hints of wet leather, sweet biscuity palate finishing with a dry peppery spice & slight frisson of excitement.

Grand.

Thoughts

For me Johnnie Fox’s came over as a fresher & livelier style of whiskey which instantly appealed to me.

Can’t help thinking Henry Downes was beginning to suffer from being too long in the bottle & might have been more enjoyable when originally released.

Happy however to have tasted a couple of early pioneers who paved the way for the positive explosion of Irish Whiskey brands entering the market today.

Sláinte

Johnnie Fox’s website here.

Henry Downes bar information courtesy Publication website here.

Samples purchased from Drams Delivered here.

Tequila, Terroir & Geographical Indicators

A recent post highlighting an Australian Agave Project caught my attention lately.

Courtesy Twitter Post

Being a fan of Tequila & Mezcal – both Geographical Indicator protected terms specific to Mexico – I was intrigued to hear of an Australian company growing agave with the intention of releasing an agave spirit.

Whilst researching for my Whisky In Africa blog I also happened to come across a distillery in South Africa already marketing a Karoo Agave drink.

Courtesy Twitter Post

Both of these companies immediately attracted my attention.

Neither of them can use the terms ‘Tequila’ or ‘Mezcal’ – but that is essentially what they are making.

Using agave plants – which can be grown outside of Mexico – to make the spirits using similar techniques the results would make for a very interesting tasting.

Would you be able to discern the difference between the 3 drinks?

I’d certainly love to try them!

What about you?

Sláinte

Explanation of what a Geographical Indicator is from World Intellectual Property Organisation website here.

Act Of Treason website here.

Leonista Agave website here.

Whisky In Africa blog here.

Header image courtesy Australian Agave Project.

Whisky In Africa

Africa is often seen as a growing & untapped market for western based whisky companies to expand into.

Of far more interest to me is the emergence of an indigenous whisky industry within the continent itself to cater for it’s own citizens.

Three Ships c/othewhiskeynut

Bain’s/Three Ships Whisky from South Africa might be the only brand available in Ireland – and very nice it was too when I found it in Dick Mac’s – but a quick internet search reveals a few others.

Qualito Craft Distillery – also in South Africa – have a Limpopo Reserve Whisky.

Image courtesy Qualito

Rather than try to imitate Scotch – Limpopo Whisky proudly displays it’s origins in the name.

Helden Whisky are due to release a whisky that I’d love to try – African Bonfire Whisky.

Image courtesy Helden Distillery

I just love smoky flavours & the inclusion of African influences gives a degree of terroir to the table.

Further North in Nigeria there is a large market for whisky.

I’ve tried a few of their local brands over the years but mostly they appear to use imported Indian Whisky.

Eastern Distillers seem to have bucked that trend however with Whisky Elegamon.

Image courtesy Eastern Distillers

Have yet to try it out.

A country I didn’t expect to find a whisky distillery in was Ethiopia.

Image courtesy National Alcohol & Liquor Factory

An anecdotal conversation recently suggested there is a new distillery being set up – but an internet search revealed a Black Deer Whisky already being marketed in Addis Ababa on behalf of the National Alcohol & Liquor Factory.

If you’re looking some distillery tours Tripadvisor list numerous sites within South Africa offering, whisky, gin, rum & vodka to suit all tastes.

Now if I won the lotto – I’d be very tempted to explore the exciting flavours & scenery on show!

Irish Whiskey targets Africa for growth article here.

Bain’s/Three Ships Distillery website here.

Qualito Craft Distillery website here.

Helden Distillery website here.

Eastern Distillers website here.

National Alcohol & Liquor Company website here.

Trip Advisor South African Distillery tours here.

Langs Banana Jamaican Rum, 37.5%

The rum world appears to be far more willing to embrace new flavours, styles & experimentation than that of whiskey.

Langs Banana Jamaican Rum is one of many flavoured rums to have hit the market lately – and it’s a growing market too!

Langs Rum is part of the diverse range of drinks offered by the Ian MacLeod Distillers empire.

The nose was very sweet & well – banana-y!

The sweetness followed through into a smooth & oily mouthfeel with the banana being complimented by hints of Jamaican funk & a welcome soft tingling spice on the rear.

Makes for a very easy & highly entertaining tipple.

Sláinte

Langs Rum website here.

Spirits Business report on Rum sales outselling Whisky here.

Ian MacLeod Distillers website here.

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