The opportunity to explore new categories of spirits with contrasting styles at reasonable prices.
Doing an WSET L2 in Spirits course a while ago widened my horizons to the tasty delights of Brandy – under which Calvados & Cognac both reside.
Calvados – made from apples – & Cognac – from grapes – adhere to French rules & regulations relating to how, where & what they are distilled from.
Picking these up in the Celtic Whiskey Shop allows me to compare the two differing spirits.
Chateau du Breuil, Calvados VSOP, 40%
Quite a distinctive bottle on this one!
Exhibits a shade lighter pale brown than the cognac. Fresh, fruity dry cider nose with caramelly undertones. Clean & crisp on the palate. The barrel ageing is evident with some tannic spiciness & a decent warmth.
A pleasantly refreshing little number.
Cognac Park, Cognac VS, 40%
Presented in an elegant elongate bottle.
A deeper, richer caramelly nose presents itself. The palate has a rounder feel, redolent with fruity warmth flowing into a surprising tangy, lip-smacking spicy finish.
I like the cidery start to the Calvados – & the spicy finish of the Cognac.
Both of these brandies show the diversity of the category.
This was my first visit to Ireland’s Premier Whiskey Show since COVID.
I kicked off proceedings with a Roe & Co Masterclass exploring food & cocktail pairings. Well I wanted to start things lightly & the fact the Masterclass got you in early without queues was a bonus.
I wasn’t expecting TV Chef Mark Moriarty to greet us with a Roe & Co 106 cocktail paired with a lovely presented smokehouse salmon!
Mark’s flavour wheel was all food based – & certainly gave me an additional insight to the world of cocktails.
I did get a taster of Roe & Co’s Killahora Edition Whiskey neat towards the end of the session however.
The apple influence was definitely evident – yet didn’t dominate the whiskey flavours. More of a complimentary pairing. Pity it’s all sold out!
The RDS Hall was filling out nicely after the Masterclass & I wasted no time in selecting my first whiskey – O’Driscoll’s Irish Whiskey.
I did wonder how a newcomer brand had such a large stall, produced a light yet extremely pleasant blended Irish Whiskey at an attractively affordable price point too. Turns out Stafford Bonded warehousing are behind O’Driscoll. I suppose there’s some perks to the trade!
Kirker had their Shamrock Blended Irish Whiskey on show.
This blend is tag-lined Four Proud Provinces Of Ireland & uses distillate from GND, West Cork, Drumshanbo & Echlinville in it’s make up.
A lovely amalgam of the growing depth of whiskey distilling in Ireland – and a tasty tipple too!
Achill Island Distillery caught my eye next – or rather their black bottled Bodán Poitín!
I wasn’t quite expecting the 60% ABV kick myself – assuming it was a 40% offering – but hey – it’s certainly eye-catching – if a bit of an eye-watering surprise.
More pertinent was a trio of Single Malts just recently released from the distillery – all their own distillate too!
Sadly the Peated version wasn’t available – so the Bourbon Cask matured malt made my glass. That’s a thumbs up from me for Ireland’s First Island Whiskey!
Chamber Irish Whiskey were next. They offer Oloroso Cask Matured Whiskey – which isn’t my normal favourite profile to be honest – but they did a good job of it & seem to be a confident export focussed brand.
By this stage of the game my photo focus skills were waning – as you can see from this Straw Boys Single Grain image from Connacht Distillery.
I loved their Ballyhoo offering & was keen to try the ex-bourbon matured Straw Boys. Certainly delivered plenty of taste for me!
Their own Connacht Single Malt has had a slight re-design into Spirit Of The Atlantic at a 44.8% ABV from the Batch 1’s 47%. Couldn’t help thinking a little oomph has been lost in the mix.
Newcomer’s Garden County made my cut with their Devil’s Glen Blend. Using sourced product they’ve upped the stakes with a complex blend using ex-bourbon as well as ex-stout casks – adds flavour to my palate!
Another distillery using sourced whiskey to get the ball rolling are Skellig Six 18. The Small Batch Blend worked well with additional PX Cask finishing while the Single Pot Still benefited from a little ageing in ex-peat casks which delighted my senses!
I got side-balled at this stage from the Irish Whiskey by another one of my loves – Grappa.
I was extremely pleased to see Nardini Distilleria had a stall offering varieties of the grape based spirit to tempt me.
Their very attractively presented ExtraFina clear grappa caught my eye.
Offered at 43% this is a special blend of the smoothest most fragrant grappa & certainly delivered a rich – almost sumptuous – drinking experience.
Offered something else from the varied array of Grappa I thought I’d push the boat out with a sample of the Nardini 22 Anni flagship Grappa.
Now often when spirits reach an advanced age there’s a tendency for the wood to dominate. In Grappa however the casks used – or should that be vats? – are of an extremely big size. This resulted in the 22 Anni having a rich, juicy grappa beginning followed by a complex tannic oakyness on the rear. Pure delight!
Normandy Calvados makers Chateau Du Breuil have expanded into whisky making & their Tourbé Blended Malt caught my eye. Tourbé for those interested is smoked – just my style.
They actually had 2 smoked offerings – a blended malt at 40% & a single malt at 46%. Both sizzled my senses with a combination of gentle smoke contrasting with the more bolder turf fire from the single malt. Trés bon!
Back to the Irish offerings – a poitín & 2 rums all distilled by Fore Distillery in Westmeath!
The poitín had a mixed mash-bill of malted & un-malted barley along with some oats – the basis for Fore’s yet to mature single pot still whiskey – & delivered a smooth creaminess over the prickly spices.
The White Rum was a nice easy sipper while their Golden Rum upped the stakes a bit with additional warmth from the cask ageing.
Staying with rum the unusually packaged Plantation Rums attracted me. The straw strapping is a nod to the days when it was used to protect the bottle in transit. Perhaps in these eco-conscious days it ought to make a return!
Their Stiggin’s Fancy collaboration with Teeling’s caught my eye – and a few other punters who came to the stall purely on that connection. Despite being classed as a spiced rum because of the added pineapple juice Stiggin’s Fancy was extremely well balanced. The pineapple was there – but didn’t dominate – and the rich Caribbean rum flavours shone through.
A Single Cask Rum in the shape of the Australia 2009 bottle created with the Celtic Whiskey Shop was a sheer delight to experience. The complex maturation regime had allowed a rich cornucopia of flavours to flow through my palate. Fabulous!
I also got the opportunity of a snifter of a superb dunder & muck distilled rum. Fantastic!
But then there’s fantasy – & expensive prices – but the bulk of Irish Whiskey sold around the world is of the blended variety. Lír’s Green Crest blend from the Glens Of Antrim is another newcomer offering a classic interpretation of a light & fruity Irish Whiskey.
I couldn’t pass by Brian Nation’s latest venture of Keeper’s Heart without tasting the Irish + American Whiskey. Now it could just be me or the cumulative effects of the drinks already consumed – but I found the rye element in this blend dominated & I couldn’t pick up the Irish influence. One to try another day!
A quick palate quencher of MacIvor’s Juicy Cider – there was a craft beer stall at Whiskey Live too! – before my last whiskey of the day.
I know nothing about Dead Island 2 – but was interested enough to try this celebrity tie-in. Very nice I must say – as all things are from Echlinville – even when this one glows in the dark!
And then the bells tolled to announce the end of the session!
What a delight to sample such a wide array of spirits. Not only the Irish Whiskey newcomers – the established brands too – along with an exciting sprinkling of rum & grappa as well.
The Alcohol Industry across Europe is getting a bit hot under the collar over Irish plans to label all alcoholic drinks with a health warning.
I find the furore quite amusing.
It was – and still is – popular among many pundits to clamour for stricter labelling on alcoholic products. Be it whether caramel colouring was added or not, distillery of origin or cask maturation regime used in creating the liquid – it all results in further information being displayed on the label to inform the consumer.
Some purists take it a step further in calling drinks companies dishonest for not showing such detail.
Yet when it comes to displaying additional health information – there seems to be opposition?
The buzzwords used by the information brigade appear to hold true for the health label proposals.
It’s transparently clear there are health risks associated with drinking alcohol.
The labels will be giving clarity to those risks by displaying a warning.
What can be more honest than allowing such proposals to proceed?
Is the drinks business trying to hide something?
I find the outcry of extra costs to be a lame excuse.
Various EU countries have a variety of labelling rules in action. Germany – for example – requires a statement to say if caramel colouring is added. Any producer operating in these jurisdictions already have to provide labelling to those differing states.
It’s business as usual as far as I can see.
I would however take a dim view of any producer lobbying against the health proposals.
To use the language of the purists – there’s a level of dishonesty by opposing such transparent & clear proposals designed to give additional information to the consumers.
Lancet article on Irish Health Proposals on Alcohol labelling here.
I don’t know if 3 Counties Spirits have a back catalogue of Irish folk songs to name their whiskeys after – but I’m very happy to purchase this latest release – Irish Rover.
Having previously enjoyed the very well presented Galtee Mountain Boy Irish Whiskey from the same independent bottlers – Irish Rover differs inbeing ‘ a delicate blend of grain and malt Irish Whiskey’ – and is produced in ‘the South West of Ireland’ – which kind of narrows down the distillery to West Cork.
Irish Rover is also a response to the Minimum Unit Pricing – MUP – regime in place in Ireland.
I used to pick up 700ml bottles in the sub €20 category – now they’re all €22.09 minimum.
Going for 500ml bottles allows you to purchase sub €20 bottles again.
So how is Irish Rover Irish Whiskey to experience?
A no nonsense screw cap is cracked open to pour a light golden brown whiskey – no mention of added caramel or not – although Non Chill Filtered is stated.
A fairly shy nose – hints of vanilla & caramel with a touch of bready malt peeking through.
Easy on the palate. Smooth & mild.
A welcome growing heat develops on the rear – augmented by a flourish of almost gingery spice on the finish.
I was on errands in Dublin but managed a little break in the recently refurbished Distilled premises to catch up with what’s new in Irish Whiskey.
The former Porterhouse Bar has been given a fresh face-lift & re-named Tapped whilst their Whiskey Bar remains reassuringly the same inside.
With such a plethora of new Irish Whiskey on the market I was a little dumbstruck as what to choose from their overflowing shelves. In the end I went for a new Donegal distillery in the shape of Crolly Distillery – or Croithlí if you wish to use Irish.
Croithlí have three Single Malt bottles on the market. None of them are actually distilled at the site – it’s far too young a project for that yet – but they have finished the sourced single malts in a variety of virgin oak casks to accentuate the differing flavours each wood-finish brings to the table.
Given a choice of Irish, European or American Oak – I went for Irish.
Labelled as Sessile Single Malt this bottle shares the same ex-bourbon matured malt as the others before being finished in virgin Quercus Petraea Oak barrels – otherwise known as Irish Oak – which in this instance has been sourced from Slovenia!
A rather soft nose greeted me.
Lovely oaky tannins with a heaviness reminiscent of Midleton’s Dair Ghaelach series were evident on the palate.
Opened up more on the finish where the woody influence shone through.
An entertaining experience would be to try all three wood influences on a back-to-back tasting to tease out the different flavours each displays.
Sadly I wasn’t in a position to do that on the day – perhaps for later.
A wonderful way to showcase the distillery in advance of their own distillate being ready.
This is what a 3 year old whiskey looks like at natural colour.
Pale straw like yellow.
Loch Measc in County Mayo have released their inaugural single malt whiskey non-chill filtered & natural colour.
There’s certainly a freshness to the nose – almost minty.
Smooth palate – merest hints of flavours.
A lovely warming finale gives a lip smacking sensation with residues of new make whiskey, prickliness & a certain dryness too.
Lovely to get the opportunity to try out a new Irish distillery’s output – even if at only 3 years of age this is still a work in progress.
There is pressure on new distilleries to have something on offer to tempt folks in. Initially that might be poitín or new make offerings. Vodka & gin also provide a revenue stream while their own whiskey matures. Clearly many go for sourced whiskey to get their name out there & build up a relationship with both customers & retail streams. Loch Measc have chosen to only release their own distillate – albeit an early offering that hints at future flavours to come rather than a well rounded mature core product.
Will be interesting to see what the next few years adds to this initial whiskey.