Sir Edward’s Smoky, Blend, 40%

Sir Edward has spent so much time in his adopted French estate he has imbued a rich dark mahogany colour.

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Sir Edward’s Smoky c/othewhiskeynut

The heavy sweet caramel overtones suggest it is not natural.

Sir Edward also seems to have given up the cigars – or perhaps even the Gauloises – as despite saying Smoky on the attractively designed label – I could only pick out the merest hint of peat to give some character to this otherwise inoffensively smooth yet basically bland blended offering.

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Peat so light it’s hard to find. c/othewhiskeynut

I was slightly disappointed – but at only €12 for a 1 litre bottle – and a very well presented bottle at that – the fact Sir Edward is actually pleasantly palatable is probably a plus.

Sláinte.

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Innis & Gunn, Oak Aged Beer, Rum Finish, 6.8%

Suitably dark.

Suitably brown.

Suitably heavy.

The rich flavoursome nose promises delight.

The taste delivers.

A great heavy ale with a touch of sweetness from the rum casks.

What else do you expect from Innis & Gunn?

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Oak aged 57 days c/othewhiskeynut

Barrel aged for 57 days.

Unlike whiskey.

The maturation is short.

But the boosted flavour results are similar.

Slàinte.

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Bushmills Steamship Bourbon Cask, Single Malt, 40%

It’s always a pleasure to fly away somewhere.

Especially when Dublin is the departing airport with it’s marvelous display of Irish Whiskey – and other countries whiskies too.

A bonus is to try out some of the latest new releases and travel retail exclusives.

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Bushmills Distillery c/othewhiskeynut

By good fortune Bushmills were showcasing their Steamship Collection – including the latest and what seems to be the last bottling of the trilogy.

Named after the SS Bushmills steamhip which supplied the thirsty American market back in the late 1800’s – the trio are all triple distilled single malts presented at 40%.

The first Sherry Cask release didn’t seem to be well received at the time. I felt it lacked a flavour punch myself – but was otherwise a decent sherry bomb style of whiskey and despite initial criticism – seems to be selling well.

The Port Cask release was much more suited to my tastes. Rich sweet dark cherry notes. Nice!

I would have predicted the Port Cask to be my favourite – but then I tried the Bourbon Cask.

The enticingly fruity warm vanilla & caramel notes associated with re-charred casks instantly won me over. There was added depth & flavour to this expression. A lovely warm glow enveloped my palate.

The results of re-charring the casks may not be to everyone’s tastes – but the boosted notes certainly work on me.

Were Bushmills saving the best till last?

Yummy.

Sláinte.

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12 Acres Single Malt Lager, 4.2%

Now we all know what the term Single Malt means when it comes to whiskey – don’t we?

The Scottish Whisky Association rules of 2009 define it as;

2.3 Single Malt Scotch Whisky means a Scotch Whisky produced from only water and malted barley at a single distillery by batch distillation in pot stills.

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Single Malt Lager c/othewhiskeynut

So what does it mean when it comes to beer?

Well – it isn’t defined – but 12 Acres Brewing Co. in Laois have come up with their own interpretation.

A lager brewed with 100% malted barley grown on one farm. Namely their own.

So what does it taste like?

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Ground to glass lager c/othewhiskeynut

Well I must confess to not being a big lager fan – too much mass produced tasteless uniformity for my liking – but 12 Acres are offering something a bit bolder.

It’s heavier, maltier and more fuller bodied than what I expected.

The earthy notes of County Laois can be experienced with every drop.

Not one to be thrown down the hatch on a session – rather one to sip & savour on a warm summer’s evening – of which we’ve had a few lately.

A worthy addition to the craft beer canon.

Sláinte.

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Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky, 45%

Whiskey fan walks into a bar.

Spots a bottle of Japanese whisky and decides to see what all the fuss is about.

Mmmmmmmm!

This tastes good!

A rich warm & inviting nose with surprising depth for a grain whisky.

There’s a smoothness & clarity followed through by some lovely glowing heat.

This is very enjoyable indeed.

The Japanese can certainly put together a decent package – often using unusual methods to gain a unique and interesting product.

But as Babymetal sing in their song – which is also an unusual amalgam – Catch Me If You Can.

Japanese Whisky is hot property.

Get it while you can.

I’m glad I did.

Sláinte.

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Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, 5.9%

There has been a profusion of barrel aged beers on the market lately.

I welcome this development.

It adds a new flavour profile to both the beer industry – as well as the returning beer barrels being used to flavour new whiskeys.

The Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale wouldn’t be the best example according to my tastes.

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Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale c/othewhiskeynut

The bourbon effect is somewhat muted – perhaps not long enough in the barrel? – and the fizz is more suitable for a lager rather than the heavy ale style I enjoy.

There is no mention of who collaborated to bring about this ale.

Alltech are the importers into Europe and although they posses both breweries and distilleries in Kentucky – they haven’t put their name on the product. Yet a trip to their website here does show it as one of their own.

I picked a bottle up in my local SuperValu.

Handy when doing the shopping.

The ale reminds me of an old song.

It just lacks the flavour punch I crave.

Sláinte.

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Irish Reserve, 4 Year Old, Blend, 40%

You have to hand it to Aldi and their whiskey.

Last Year’s Xmas Special Irish Reserve 26 Year Old set the internet alight with whiskey fans scouring both Ireland and the UK to find a bottle of the gorgeous liquid.

They’ve followed this up with another Irish Reserve bottling – albeit a much more down to earth 4 year old at only €19.

It may not have the kudos of the 26 – but I had to give it a go.

The bottle comes in an attractive green colour topped with a red screw cap. The label is very similar to the 26 year old.

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Irish Reserve 4yo in a Tuath glass. c/othewhiskeynut

There is very little information given. It’s an Irish whiskey and it’s 4 years old. That’s all it really needs to say. If you want more information – expect to pay more.

What it doesn’t say is probably more revealing.

It doesn’t say it’s a blend, nor non chill filtered nor if added caramel is used – so presume it’s all three of these. At only €19 – what else are you looking for?

The nose is suitably mellow. A hint of sweet corn initially – that grainy clarity  – before those familiar vanilla & caramel notes from ex-bourbon cask maturation kick in.

The taste is grand. Smooth, sweet, no real bite at only 40%, yet a pleasant mouthfeel & soft notes from the 4 years in wooden barrels.

The finish didn’t last too long – but left a lovely warmth on the palate.

There’s no complexity or depth here.

It is what it is.

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The bare minimum. c/othewhiskeynut

An easy drinking straight forward honest to goodness 4 year old bourbon cask matured Irish whiskey.

I’d happily drink this bottle as an everyday sipper – unlike some other single malts from similar shelves.

Good on Aldi and the team behind this whiskey.

It sets the benchmark for what a no frills Irish whiskey should be.

It provides a standard to compare other – usually higher priced – bottles against. To check whether if you know the distillery of origin or not, whether it’s chill filtered or not & whether added caramel is used or not you can taste the difference.

For the money I enjoyed it a lot.

It even made me smile.

Isn’t that what drinking whiskey is all about?

Sláinte.

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Slieve Foy 8 Year Old Single Malt, 40%

Supermarket Single Malts come in many varieties.

There can be the bargain basement headline grabbing Glen Marnochs & Ben Brackens.

There can be the annually anticipated Lidl/Aldi Xmas Specials which can be of high age statement, low cost and surprisingly great quality to boot.

And then there is Marks & Spencer’s Single Malt.

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M&S Supermarket Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

M&S always go the extra mile.

To begin with they name the distillery that produced the malt – Cooley – even although it’s not a legal requirement. They also inform the discerning drinker caramel colouring is added – also not a legal requirement. And they package the liquid in a very attractive bottle providing a piece of prose about the rich folk lore contained within the local area the whiskey is from – as well as a clever back label that evokes the mountainous landscape of the region.

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Slieve Foy & Tuath Glass c/othewhiskeynut

And what a stunning region it is too.

Slieve Foy Whiskey is named after the majestic mountain of the same name that dominates the landscape of the Carlingford Peninsular. Despite Cooley Distillery not having a visitors centre – that is the role of the pretty Kilbeggan Distillery of the Beam/Suntory group that owns both facilities – a trip to this fabulous part of the country is highly recommended.

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Looking down on Carlingford Lough & Northern Ireland from Slieve Foy’s slopes c/othewhiskeynut

A hearty arduous ascent of Slieve Foy itself is rewarded by jaw dropping views of the clear blue waters of Carlingford Lough below – as well as the rounded tops of the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland in the distance.

You can replenish your energy afterwards by dining out in one of Carlingford towns many bars – not forgetting a drop of the hard stuff!

So what is the whiskey like?

Well – unlike the rugged countryside – Slieve Foy exhibits a soft, sweet malty nose.

A gentle introduction to a very easy approachable – slips down smoothly – bourbon cask matured single malt.

It’s well balanced – the added caramel doesn’t dominate like other offerings – and there are no rough edges to this very pleasant malt.

The whiskey leaves a warm glow at the end – along with a soft spice – much like the open fire in a suitable Carlingford town bar after a strenuous day on the hills.

Cooley built it’s reputation and business producing 3rd party bottlings. Slieve Foy 8 Year Old is a fine representation of that business.

I look forward to many more representations emanating from the Great Northern Distillery – the successor to Cooley after the sale to Beam – as well as West Cork Distillers – who are both in the business of supplying the supermarkets with malt for the masses.

Long may it last.

Sláinte.

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Moon Harbour Pier 1, Premium Blended Whisky, 45.8%

Ooh la la!

I happened to be in Paris during the double bill of Bastille Day and France winning the World Cup!

My particular reason for being there was enhanced by both spectacular events and added to a memorable trip.

It therefore seems apt to pour out yet another French Whisky and give it a whirl.

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Pier 1 in a Tuath glass c/othewhiskeynut

Je donne Moon Harbour Pier 1 Premium Blended Whiskey.

Well I say French Whisky – as it’s actually mainly Scotch which has been shipped out in bulk to Bordeaux where – under the guidance of master blender John McDougall – it is finished in locally sourced sauternes casks before being bottled & presented non chill filtered at 45.8%.

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Parlez vous francais? c/othewhiskeynut

There is nothing unusual in this. It’s a well trodden path for Scotch to send out loads of bulk whisky to many countries around the world where it is blended – often with locally produced spirits – matured, finished & eventually bottled to the recipients requirements before being released – mainly in the home market.

Many a Scottish distilleries output is destined for such bottlings – and it’s a big market.

It also allows an up and coming whisky brand – like Moon Harbour – to test the waters, hone their skills and develop their brand in the absence of a distillery which they may – or may not build at a later stage.

Moon Harbour seem to have plans for their own distillery in Bordeaux – so this blend looks likely to be a stop gap until they have their own whisky to sell.

Could it emulate the successful football team and win in a World Cup Whisky tournament?

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Bastille Whiskey in a Tuath glass c/othewhiskeynut

Well – in a back to back with the Bastille Single Malt – I’m afraid Moon Harbour lost out.

It’s certainly packaged in an attractive bottle however – complete with box – has a ruby red hue and displays deep legs.

There wasn’t all that much going on with the nose though. A soft sweet malty biscuit with a hint of grain.

A bit slow to start. The sauternes sweetness swiftly followed by a spirity robustness – quite a nice contrast really.

It left an enjoyable dry prickly heat at the end – but was somewhat lacking in depth of flavour & character. Perhaps the sauternes finish was just too subtle for my tastes.

If it had been presented without ‘Premium’ on the label and at a lower price I might have been OK with the result.

As it was it promised more than it actually delivered.

I do hope Moon Harbour get the distillery going however. I find it entertaining sampling all whiskies – especially new brands with a local twist – and welcome the diversity created by new distilleries.

It’s why I enjoy whisky, and despite not being a football fan, I did get a buzz of excitement watching the cup final on a sunny afternoon in a Parisian hotel garden with congenial company washed down with a whisky or two.

Sláinte.

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