It would be odd to experience snow in Vietnam, but snow has arrived in Ireland, and it certainly wouldn’t be a rare occurrence at Diageo’s Scottish whisky distilleries who provide the main base ingredient for this Vietnamese bottling.
My blog on a Brazilian Whisky of the same name & similar composition here uncovered this Vietnamese Wall Street offering. Fortunately by an opportunistic twist of fate my South East Asian correspondent obligingly brought back a half bottle for me to sample.
Much appreciated Mr G!
Just like the Brazilian Wall St, the Vietnamese Wall St uses imported Scotch whisky mixed with locally produced spirits to obtain an expression that has both the allure of premium quality whisky – yet at an affordable price.
This strategy means Diageo can get some of it’s product into the country but lessens the high import tax which would make the price prohibitive for the mass market. It also retains some degree of aspiration for a superior foreign product – regardless if it’s actually superior or not – yet mixed with locally made distillate – probably of the rice variety.
There is still a culture of home made beer & spirits making in Vietnam as highlighted in a report here. This ‘traditional’ rice based distillate is facing the threat of growing globalisation as younger folks aspire to more recognisable brands – as in this Wall St blended spirit.
I couldn’t find anything on the internet as regards what constitutes a Vietnamese whisky or not – so my assumption is the situation is very much like how Ireland & Scotland would have been before the coming of definition rules & codes of practice laws.
Certainly makes it exciting!
And no – I had no fears in sampling this bottle – Diageo have given it their seal of approval after all.
So what did I find?
Well to begin with I found the bottle design – a neat little WS logo with clear & simple information labels back & front – visually attractive. Those labels also announced caramel was added – something missing on many Irish & Scottish bottles. There was also no tamper-proof plastic cap to hamper me pouring the spirit into a suitable glass.
On the nose I found a soft warm muted caramel aroma which was inviting.
Initially a rather soft mouth feel morphed into a straight – but not unpleasant – alcoholic kick somewhat devoid of any real character or flavour before it faded away to a short ending.
Overall I found it a rather simple easy drinking clear & crisp strong alcoholic beverage with caramel being the only hint of taste.
In a back to back with the Brazilian Wall St I actually preferred the no nonsense honest approach of the Vietnamese Wall St.
The irony for both is there is absolutely no bourbon influence in either expression.
Aspirations, expectations & associations over and above actual reality seem to be a marketing ploy in both countries.
When over in Scotland earlier this year I popped into a few bars to see what whiskies were on offer.
The very attractive Ship Tavern – which appropriately sits only a stones throw from the picturesque harbour in the fishing village of Anstruther on the East Neuk of Fife – didn’t disappoint.
A pleasing variety of Scottish blends & single malts adorned the shelves – as well as a sprinkling of Irish blends,
Being in Fife – which has a few new distilleries waiting for their own spirit to mature – I was keen to sample a sourced blend for the local Eden Mill distillery near St Andrews.
And being in Scotland – you have to have a bit of tartan!
The Art Of The Blend is a trio – a 4th bottle was released later – of very attractively presented blended Scottish whiskies from unnamed sources that Eden Mill are using to showcase & practice their maturing and blending skills on.
No 1 is a bourbon cask matured blend of malts & grain. It didn’t really do much for me. A fairly soft, sweet standard entry level offering with subtle tones. Approachable I suppose.
No 2 was far more entertaining. Mainly as smoke had been introduced with the use of ex-Ardbeg casks in it’s maturation. This raised the whole character of the blend with distinctive peaty notes I enjoy very much that balanced the sweeter tones.
No 3 offered an even more powerful peat influence and was the most attractive – at least on paper – expression I was keen to taste. Clearly this corresponded with many other whiskey drinkers thoughts as the bartender informed me the bottle they did have sold out almost immediately!
Whilst chatting – I asked how the Irish whiskey was going down.
Now there were only 3 offerings on the shelf from the Emerald Isle – the ubiquitous Jameson Original – which effectively is the brand on which the entire rise of the modern Irish whiskey revival started with – The Pogues Irish Whiskey by up and coming West Cork Distillers in partnership with Halewood Wine & Spirits and West Cork’s Bourbon Cask.
‘Och The Pogues is a great wee dram, canny get enough o’ the stuff.’
If that’s not a testament to the resounding success of the new breed of Irish whiskey companies, blenders, bottlers & distilleries – I don’t know what is.
Whiskey Live Dublin continues to grow every year. Not only in numbers attending this marvelous showcase of Irish Whiskey – but also the amount of exhibitors on display.
There are masterclasses held throughout the course of the day which provide access to the distillers, whiskey ambassadors, blenders & bottlers who are driving the current growth in Irish Whiskey. It was to one of those classes that I started my visit to this years show.
Alex Chasko – master distiller with Teeling Whiskey Co. – regaled us with the story behind the current Brabazon series of whiskeys – as well as introducing us to some choice single cask samples.
I was particularly taken by the 2001 Port Single Cask – especially in the newly released Tuath Irish Whiskey glass which was provided to visitors at the event.
After this highly enjoyable introduction – I joined the crowds in the main hall as I tried to sample my ‘hit list’ of whiskeys I’d either missed out on during the year – or were new releases appearing at the show for the first time.
The Glengarriff series from West Cork Distillers were on my list.
I was highly impressed by the Peat Charred Cask single malt. The influence of the peat was clearly evident on both the nose and taste – yet there was a lovely earthy savouriness element to the expression too. Beautiful!
Talking about peat – Echlinville had their Three Crowns Peated on display – very appealing to my tastes. But what surprised me was their yet to be released peated poitin – Bán Barreled & Buried at 47.2% – now that’s a tasty innovation.
Now I’d heard Kilbeggan were showcasing some of their ‘experimental’ casks – as well as the current range of freshly re-branded (and even re-recipied in some cases) favourites too – so naturally I was excited by a 6 year old Rye Pot Still!
Rich rye on the nose & taste followed with some creamy smoothness. Stunning!
Peter Mulryan’s Blackwater Distillery – which is currently under construction in Co. Waterford – chose to reveal their Retronaut 17 year old single malt at the show – a must try.
I can confirm the whiskey is every bit as bold & brassy as the elegantly designed label on the very attractive bottle.
At this stage in the proceedings – with a few samples onboard – chatting away with fellow attendees & stall holders began to divert me away from my ‘hit list’ as I was tempted into trying some surprising expressions.
Brazil is a big whisky drinking country. Not only was it once the 5th biggest export nation for Scottish whisky – it also produces it’s own versions.
After a recent economic crash in Brazil, Scottish Whiskey profits worldwide experienced a dip. You can read all about it in a Scottish Whisky Exports Review here.
Now a significant amount of that export order takes the shape of ‘bulk exports’. Simply put, this is tank loads of Scotch sent abroad where it is decanted, blended, bottled & labelled for the domestic market.
Often this process takes the form of added caramel, added spirits locally produced – referred to as ‘ethyl alcohol’ in a wonderfully informative report with the snappy title ‘Chemical Composition Of Whiskies Produced In Brazil Compared To International Products’ available here – and watered down to the legal minimum of 38%.
As my better half recently visited Brazil, my natural curiosity and intrigue to taste some of this ‘nacionais’ whisky was an opportunity too good to miss – so some bottles made it back to Ireland.
Now calling your whisky ‘Wall Street’ – and coupled with a bourbon looking bottle – sends out messages that run counter to the ‘Maltes Escoceses’ on the label. But this is no fake or phony whisky – this is an official Pernod Ricard Brazil bottle. So could there be some Glenlivet, Scapa or Aberlour in this blend?
The back label is also interesting. It lists a lot of information you don’t normally see on Scottish or Irish labels – ‘corante INS150A’ for example – and if you don’t trust the label – why should you trust the one on Glenlivet, Scapa or Aberlour? It’s the same company after all.
So what does it taste like?
Well my first problem was getting round the tamper proof bottle top. I’ve not encountered this device before and found it infuriating. Unusual methods were resorted to to get a decent pour!
Finally getting the whisky in a glass allowed me to inhale a cloying sweetness combined with a gentle grainy element.
The taste was surprisingly soft – I had been given dire warnings from an amusing vlog below – smooth & yes, sweet. No real strong flavours or character. Reminds me of a more gentle single grain. No sign of malt in this.
The finish was about the only ‘joy’ in this whisky as a pleasant softly warming burn on the palate hinted to the origins of this drink.
Overall it is an inoffensive, approachable easy drinking tipple that lacks any real bite, spirit or flavour that would grab my attention. The added caramel & ethyl alcohol have stripped the ‘Maltes Escoceses’ of any inherent character. It would make an excellent base for cocktails, adding coke, lemonade or ginger & lime to give it a bit more zing.
Having said that – as the average weekly income in Brazil is only about 135 euros – paying 10 euro for Wall Street as opposed to 23 for Jameson & Johnnie Walker Red – or even 91 for Glemnorangie Original – would soon concentrate your mind.
Ye takes yer money & ye makes yer choices.
I’m glad I chose Wall Street – if only to taste what other blogs shy away from.
My thanks to Iris for sourcing this whisky.
It has come to my attention there is a Wall Street Whisky in Vietnam of similar style to the Brazilian one. Diageo seem to own the Vietnam one according to a blog here.
One of the highlights of my whiskey year is being able to participate in the annual Irish Whiskey Awards blind tasting sessions.
There are no labels, no brands and no preconceived ideas of what particular expressions you like. Just row upon row of identical bottles filled with varying colours of the brown stuff for you to sample & score.
The only markings are the codes to donate which category the whiskey is in and it’s number.
I managed to make 2 out of the 3 judging sessions that were held in Dublin back in late August, early September. Only after the Awards Ceremony itself in October are the names of the actual expressions revealed – and it has thrown up some interesting results!
Confession No 1. I’m not a trained whiskey taster.
Simply by being a member of the Celtic Whiskey Club or Irish Whiskey Society you get an invite to the sessions. By taking part you very quickly learn to spot which expressions you enjoy – or those that you enjoy less – and mark them accordingly.
Whiskey tasting for me is very subjective. It’s about what I like and enjoy. I’m not judging to spot a winner or to stock a bar – it’s just down to me and my palate.
Now the only ‘control’ at the session is a gentleman who happens to score diametrically opposite to me – his top scorers are my bottom markers, and vice versa. This pattern has remained consistent for the last 3 years. Which is reassuring.
The first days judging consisted of Irish Blended Whiskey under 60 euro and blends 60 euro plus. It proved to be a very packed field.
Confession No 2. Despite only sipping a small sample, using the spittoon & drinking copious water in-between – I got rather tipsy towards the end.
The session ended up being a bit of a ‘speed tasting’ event simply to get through all of the whiskey! I did recover after however with a hearty meal & a calming cup of tea.
I had a clear winner in the blends under 60 – Hyde No. 6 Special Reserve.
Now I know there has been a bit of controversy with this brand as to whether they are simply bottlers or a distillery – but they currently source their spirit from a third party and from my experience in trying out a few of their expressions – they do a good job in finishing the product.
There were a further 7 expressions up to 2 points behind this top scorer & interestingly for me – all of them were from new entrants into the Irish whiskey scene. Whether they be actual distilleries or bottlers, the careful selection of casks to mature the whiskey in combined with skilled blending clearly appealed to my tastes.
Obviously my tastes are a little bit leftfield as the actual winner on the night – Jameson Black Barrel – didn’t grab me.
In the blends 60 and over I had a tie situation with 2 clear winners. Now usually I would re-evaluate the scores with a head-to-head tasting but,
Confession No 3. I just didn’t have the capacity for anymore whiskey!
The winners were JJ Corry The Gael,
and Pearse Coopers Select.
Again I picked out the next generation of Irish whiskey entrants and was not in line with the winner on the night – although JJ Corry did get a Gold Award.
The second judging session found me in better form. I had a meal during the tasting which meant I had the capacity to re-appraise any tie situation – which happened to occur in the first Irish Single Grain category.
My eventual winner in this enlarged field over previous years was Hyde 1916 Single Grain.
I’m not surprised by this choice – this whiskey grabbed me on first tasting it soon after it was released.
The whiskey that just missed out happened to be the recently re-recipied Kilbeggan Single Grain. And it goes without saying I didn’t pick the actual winner – Glendalough Triple Barrel.
Now the 14 entrants into the Irish Single Pot Still category represent to many the creme de la creme of Irish distilling. Midleton distillery dominates this field with their Redbreast, Powers, Spots & Midleton releases.
So what did I pick as my winner?
Dingle Single Pot Still. The only non Midleton product in the field – & I pick it out.
My only tasting notes are a brief ‘different’.
And that to me is the excitement of what the new Irish whiskey companies are bringing to the market – difference.
Having said that – this was also a tied category which required a head-to-head duel. The one that just missed out happened to be the Midleton Dair Ghaelach Bluebell Forest release. Now that’s another whiskey showing something different by being matured in Irish Oak barrels.
So would the final Cask Strength category give me a full house of winners from the new breed of up and coming Irish whiskey companies?
Now this release is also a single cask – but I don’t know which one I tasted. It’s also a sourced whiskey for John Teeling’s new venture in Dundalk – the Great Northern Distillery – whilst his own new make spirit matures.
So there you have it.
I may not be able to pick out the actual winners on the evening.
But I have an uncanny knack of picking out what’s new & exciting in the Irish whiskey scene!
Interestingly all of my winners are non chill filtered, all produced for or by new Irish whiskey companies and as far as I can ascertain – none have added caramel.
In a blind tasting situation all you are going on is ultimately the taste.
I believe I tasted the future of Irish Whiskey.
My thanks to all the staff at the Celtic Whiskey Shop for organising the judging sessions as well as the Awards night itself.
My thanks also to all the entrants who gave freely of their whiskey for the judging.
I posed the question could Irish Whiskey deliver a suitable supermarket brand own label to compete in that category which hitherto was largely absent of Irish product.
I’m pleased to say Aldi 26 Year Old Irish Reserve has answered that question.
Irish Whiskey can deliver!
Irish whiskey is on the same shelves – in the same supermarkets – competing on the same level playing field with Scotch – and by all accounts – it’s winning!
Whiskey fans in Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales are currently driving round to Aldi stores attempting to hunt down this elusive whiskey.
Ay Ay Ay Yeah! As this up coming Irish band sings.
My own local store in Athlone still didn’t have it 3 days after the advertised release date ! So to avoid disappointment I drove up to the next store in Roscommon to secure a bottle.
But then a few days of anxious nail biting that I wouldn’t get a bottle has to be put into perspective of the 26 long years this whiskey has spent maturing quietly in oak barrels before I finally managed to actually drink it.
Now I’d normally like my aged whiskeys to be non chill filtered with no added caramel & preferably at cask strength – but this attracts a three figure price tag. In the meantime Aldi release a 26yo at only 50 euro – so it’s 40%, probably chill filtered & probably with added caramel.
So is it worth it?
Now the nose is rather soft & delicate for such an aged expression. Just a hint of the depth of character with vanilla & soft fruits coming through.
Initially the taste is rather soft too, but slowly develops into a lovely rich and dry mouth feel which delivers a wonderfully warm tingling burn.
It’s in the long lingering finish that the whiskey begins to shine for me. Gently releasing the oak tannins, soft fruits with hints of vanilla & caramel from the decades in oak barrels – which I take to be ex-bourbon.
There are so many new expressions bursting forth from the renaissance of Irish whiskey it’s hard to keep up.
Popping down to my local SuperValu store to do a bit of essentials shopping – milk & bread in my case – I always scan the spirits shelves to see whats new.
The Dingle Single Malt has arrived!
I chat to the off-licence manager who informs me it’s a SuperValu exclusive. Each shop has had their allocation & there won’t be any more coming. I seem to remember she said this store received 7 bottles – and a couple have gone already.
Mmmm….. Decision time.
Now Dingle Distillery is seen as the cream of the crop of the new Irish whiskey scene. It’s releases are always highly sought after & well received. Before their first release you were invited to put your name into a draw to be chosen for an opportunity to purchase their 3 year old single malt for a three figure sum. Lots of people did.
I chose not to.
I saw it as plain marketeering to inflate the price & generate an air of exclusivity & premiumisation – which is all the rage right now.
Those same bottles sold out and are now collectables fetching even higher prices.
I’m not into whiskey for investment options or to build a collection. I’m in it to drink it – and when I got round to tasting some of those first editions at 46% and cask strength – I found them rather spirity & fiery – as would befit a young malt – but not possessed of any characteristics that would stand out in the crowd.
I’m glad I resisted.
But at a recent blind tasting a certain Single Pot Still got my top marks for being ‘different’ – such was the sum totality of my tasting notes as it became a ‘speed tasting’ exercise. You sniff, sample, score & move on. First impression count. This particular single pot still happened to be from Dingle Distillery & happened to have been double casked in bourbon and Pedro Ximenez barrels.
My thought processes were churning.
Now this Dingle Single Malt also happens to be double casked. Bourbon and Port it says on the label. So that immediately appeals to my palate – if I don’t purchase it now it will all be gone & I’ll never get to taste it – the wife is in Brazil so she’ll not have a go at me for buying yet more whiskey – and on and on.
I also like the fact it’s available in your local SuperValu store – much more egalitarian – although on a first come first served basis – and even if the price is a bit steep at 78 euro for a young single malt – sod it – buy it!
I wasn’t disappointed.
The liquid inside the very attractively designed chunky bottle is almost ruby red.
The nose is quite soft & infused with the rich aromas of the port cask – gone is the fiery element of solo bourbon cask maturation.
The taste – at least for an Irish single malt – is unusual & different – both qualities I like. The port influence seems to dominate giving a biscuity dryness to the proceedings.
That lovely dryness further develops in the mouth – not dis-similar to a good rye – which leaves some subtle spiciness & long lasting tingles on the finish.
Now this is very much my initial reaction. I will have time to allow this bottle to grow on me – as well as some friend – over the next few months – but this Dingle certainly ticks all the right boxes for me!
I received an invitation to ‘Go West’ recently – so I did.
‘Go West – Lots of open air,
Go West – Where the skies are blue’
ran the lyrics to a popular song.
By the time I got there on a dark, rainy & windswept November evening there was lots of open air for sure, but it was turning my skin blue with the wintry showers!
Thankfully there was a warm welcome and an even warmer open fire in the cosy heart of Sonny Molloy’s Whiskey Bar in Galway.
The event happened to be the Connacht launch of the very highly esteemed Midleton Very Rare 2017 release hosted by none other than wine guru John Wilson who introduced us to Irish Distillers Head Distiller Brian Nation . Brian – in turn – welcomed the gathered crowd into the world of Midleton VR.
For those that are not familiar with Midleton VR – a brief introduction.
Midleton VR is a 40% non age statement blend of the finest aged single pot still & single grain casks Midleton Distillery has in stock at the time of blending the annual release. Normally matured in bourbon casks the whiskey to many is the finest Irish whiskey blend there is. Being an annual limited release the series – started in 1984 – automatically becomes sought after by whiskey collectors.
So glasses were poured – and a very attractive MVR logoed glass too – as Brian led us through a communal sampling of the delights of this 2017 bottling.
Now at this juncture I must admit to trying a few Midleton VRs in my time. None of them overwhelmed me nor grabbed me as many a whiskey does. They are usually very well crafted & finely balanced with a complex marrying of subtle notes & flavours so that no one element dominates. Perhaps just a bit too subtle & well balanced for my palate?
But on the first nosing of this 2017 release the rich warm aromas associated with bourbon cask maturation drew me in. A combination of a 32 year old single grain with single pot stills up to 26 years old certainly worked their charms.
On tasting the lovely oily mouthfeel which coated the palate together with that signature single pot still spice combined to further entrance me.
A hint of orchard fruits emerged too & the whole flurry of flavours danced on the tongue during the very long finish.
I think I’ve just been won over by this one.
To up the stakes Brian produced an unmarked bottle. He proceeded to tell us we were the first audience to sample the 2nd generation of Midleton Dair Ghaelach whiskey finished in virgin Irish oak casks from a forest in Ireland he couldn’t reveal!
Being a cask strength release around the 58% mark this single pot still was a far punchier whiskey. Lovely rich oaky tannins over and above the vanillas & caramel from the bourbon cask maturation pleased me very much. A meatier whiskey than the finely tuned VR.
If that wasn’t enough Brian revealed a final tasting.
Midleton have recently announced the Very Rare Cask Circle Club where for varying degrees of money you can select your own casks & maturation times before Middleton will bottle the cask for your pleasure.
We would be tasting from one of those casks offered for sale.
Originally barreled in a bourbon cask in 2004 & re-casked into a Malaga hogshead in 2009 this 13 year old single pot still could be yours for somewhere in the region of 230 to 250,000 euro!
Erm, Could I have a sample before I buy?
Again at cask strength this is a powerful whiskey packed with flavour. The Malaga influence has toned down some of the fire & introduced more sweet yet heavier fruity notes to the rich vanilla bourbon undertones. It would make any prospective buyer very happy indeed. I’m just not sure my budget can stretch that far at present!
Brian then presented Shane McMahon – General Manager at Sonny Molloy’s – with a bottle of Midleton VR 2017. Shane scaled a ladder to place this latest release among the complete collection of Midleton VR bottles dating back to 1984 which is housed in a glass cabinet in the bar itself.
An astounding collection, an astounding evening & an astounding whiskey!
I would like to thank all the staff & teams at Sonny Molloys & Irish Distillers for the warm hospitality & generous tastings on the evening.
Welcome to their Dha Chasca Single Malt – exclusively released for the Musgrave Group of groceries.
It’s a sherry cask matured single malt finished in heavily charred bourbon casks – and it’s all West Cork Distillers liquid.
Originally founded in Union Hall & now based in Skibbereen – it should come as no surprise that a couple of the original West Cork team came from a fishing background. There is an emblem of a trawler proudly displayed on the simple yet attractively designed bottle labels to denote this.
Fishermen are a hardy lot. They have to be resourceful, adaptable & highly self-reliant on the open seas.
Couple those skills with a friend grounded in food research & development and you have the kernel of West Cork Distillers.
There was no fancy Frilli stills from Italy for these lads – nor a lengthy order time for Forsyth’s finest from Scotland.
These lads largely built their own kit! It may not be pretty – but it is effective.
West Cork Distillers have been quietly and industriously honing their distilling skills over the last few years. They have also invented & fabricated their own barrel burner to char the casks to their own specifications. And if you want to see it in action read the Whiskey Experts excellent blog on West Cork here.
Dha Chasca is one of a few recent expressions that only contain their own distillate – which attests to the journey they have taken in becoming a fully fledged Irish whiskey distillery.
There is a strong sherry note on the first sniff – mellowed by sweet bourbony notes of vanilla & caramel from the charring.
On tasting the warm notes of vanilla dominate to begin with. The dry sherry slowly makes it’s presence felt before a welcome hint of spiciness.
The bourbony notes fade to quite a dry mouthfeel with the spices tantalising & teasing the tongue as it slowly fades.
Unlike some of their earlier releases, Dha Chasca has no added caramel. This seems to mirrored in later West Cork expressions and could almost be a defining feature of the new generation of Irish distillers & bottlers. Teeling, Hyde, Pearse Lyons & JJ Corry have all eschewed the common practice of putting e150 in their offerings – unlike most of the multi-nationally owned established distillers.
Whether this trend will be the start of something more seismic – like the introduction of the Coffey Still in establishing blended whiskey – remains to be seen. It’s a move I’d be pleased to see growing & I welcome West Cork Distillers embrace it.
Despite what the industry says – I believe you can taste the difference.
The Dha Chasca is clean, crisp & fresh.
I suggest you get down to your local SuperValu or Centra to try it out for yourself.