Recent financial shenanigans in Tasmania only highlight the large stakes at play in trying to develop a whisky distillery.
Nant Whisky Distilling – which had a somewhat troubled financial history – are currently in receivership whilst the sorry mess is sorted out.
It remains to be seen how this new development will play out for the very attractive looking distillery in Bothwell – which I didn’t manage to visit – and a trio of whisky bars – including the one in Hobart which I did call into.
Situated in the wonderfully attractive quayside area of Salamanca Market in downtown Hobart, The Nant Whisky Bar offers punters a large comfortable space to enjoy an evenings libations.
I happened to be the only customer for an early morning – 11ish – visit on a beautifully sunny yet cold winter’s day – complete with a dusting of snow on the slopes of Mt Wellington which rises up behind the city.
There was a good range of whiskies behind the bar – Scotch, Japanese, Irish & some American too – but I did notice Nant were the only Australian representatives on show. Now OK. This is a ‘tied’ bar – but as Tasmanian whisky is promoting a friendly camaraderie & all the other bars in town had at least 2 or 3 Tasmanian distilleries products on show – it did make me ponder.
There was a choice of 2 Nant whisky flights to enjoy. The cask strength at 63% – or the standard 43% offering.
Now there are some expressions that are perfectly drinkable at 60% and above – but they are few and far between. I also find adding water a rather imprecise exercise which would probably bring down the liquid close to the 43% level anyway – and as it was still the morning – the standard flight it was.
I think I chose well. Even at 43% there was a strong alcoholic kick on the nose of all 3 single malt expressions.
Starting with the American Bourbon Cask, there were the signature vanilla & caramel notes coming through. Very nice – but very familiar. I’d find it hard on a blind tasting to distinguish this Australian malt from the best Scotland or Ireland has to offer.
The American Sherry Cask brought added depth & fruity notes. Whilst the darkest coloured French Port Cask bottle gave the heaviest mouthfeel with deeper & richer notes. The Port Cask – as you may have already guessed – came out tops for me.
Oddly, the Bourbon Cask was the priciest to buy – at tear inducing prices – which when I questioned the bartender, she shot me a look which suggested I shouldn’t follow Kasabian’s advice & Shoot The Runner!
With the future of Nant Distilling now very uncertain – the labels, design & content of any further releases may change. There are barrels still maturing – but who knows what will happen to them.
Perhaps what I sampled back in 2016 are destined to become collectors items never to be repeated again?
I’m just happy to have had the opportunity to taste what I did at the time.
It ebbs and flows on the fortunes & failures of the time.
I managed to get my hands on one of those new breed of ryes from Belgium via the marvelously named Drankenwereld online bottle shop. Despite the alleged openness of the European Union – it still took a few emails to arrange a safe & prompt delivery.
Sunken Still Rye Whisky is a 4 year old rye matured in bourbon barrels from the Filliers Distillery in Belgium who also do the Goldlys whisky range.
I found the nose to have a curious honey sweetness with a spice that reminded me of cinnamon – almost into liqueur territory here.
Mrs Whiskey adored the nose & likened it to perfume.
Luckily the taste was clearer with the dry rye spice punching through the soft sweetness to give a long lasting finish.
A pleasant & fragrant Belgian slant on the rye flavour profile.
Arriving in New York City after a 7 hour flight, the first thing on my mind was a taste of American whiskey – and what better place to satisfy that desire than the eponymously named American Whiskey bar at 247 W 30th St.
Now I have to admit we had to push our way through the heavy throng of very loud & cheery office workers who were enjoying a post work drink before we managed to find an empty table at the rear of the bar. Even here we had to almost shout to make ourselves heard above the din – but were attended to very quickly.
Not being sure what to taste from a very comprehensive whiskey list – and being unable to view the bar (which I normally like to do) because of the crowds – I chose the Rye: Winter 2017 flight.
The presentation of the 4 rye whiskeys in Glencairn glasses set in a thick wooden tray complete with a tasting note card with room to leave you’re own notes on impressed me very much.
As did the very tasty burger & brussels when it arrived too.
Something whiskey bars in Ireland should emulate.
On my flight – which changes with the seasons – were 4 different ryes. In American terms this means they all contained a minimum of 51% rye grain in their mashbills to be legally allowed to be called a rye.
Kicking off the evening was Sagamore Rye from Baltimore at 83 proof.
This is a sourced rye for a new distillery that is currently being built in downtown Baltimore. It’s a blend of a ‘high’ and ‘low’ rye cut with water from the owners farm in Maryland and aged for around 2 years.
I found it had a very welcome strong rye kick with that dry spice making itself felt prominently. It’s youthful exuberance was refreshing – though lacked finesse.
Despite being softer & sweeter – it did morph into a rich dry rye on tasting & had a wonderfully long lasting rye finish. Part of the Wild Turkey range.
The final tasting was Whistle Pig 10 Year Old Rye at 100 proof.
Again I was expecting more – but what I got was soft, smooth & sweet. There was a slight rye kick but it faded far to quickly for me.
For my initial foray into rye I found the full on youthful kick of rye from Sagamore won out over the more refined & balanced age statement offerings.
Russell’s came in 2nd closely followed by Whistle Pig & High West at the rear.
Meantime the burger was going down well & the crowds were beginning to thin a little so another drink was ordered.
What else could I finish on other than Hudson Manhattan Rye? As I was happily sat in a bar in Manhattan near the banks of the Hudson River itself.
This too proved to be a heavy youthful rye hitter which was refreshing – but a bit of me preferred the surprising spice from their Baby Bourbon expression mixed with that rich bourbon mouthfeel. Something I’ll have to explore in more detail later.
Thankfully it was only a short walk a few blocks away to our hotel on W 32nd St.
American Whiskey was certainly loud – but the whiskey & food inside definitely made it an enjoyable experience.
I wish I could say ‘I’ll be back.’ – but as it’s about 25 years from my last US visit – somehow I doubt it.
I got a little tip-off there was a new kid in town.
The town is Tullamore.
The new kid is the Tanyard Lane bar on William Street.
Housed in the old Wolftrap building, Carrig Brewing Company have moved into running licensed premises in addition to craft beer brewing from their Leitrim base.
Mrs Whiskey and myself had an opportunity to call in on a Sunday evening for a night-cap.
The premises are large and roomy & spread out over 3 main areas.
A smallish snug area on the front left, a large lounge bar with dining area on the right with an attractive walled bar at the rear.
There is an extensive food menu, a large outside smoking area behind the snug, all equipped with a modern sound system & large sports screens which were thankfully turned down low when we visited.
Carrig craft beers were obviously to the fore. but a decent array of other beer brands featured too, along with an impressive display of gins, wines and over 40 whiskeys to choose from.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to walk into a bar & find a whiskey I’ve not tasted before. Tanyard Lane had a couple of Knappogue Castles to tempt me – but I settled on an Ardbeg 10 year old for a base-line Islay peat hit.
At 46% & non chill filtered – as most Ardbeg releases are these days – I found the familiar satisfying peat hit to be the only show in town. Maybe I was expecting more from this award winning dram? In contrast, my earlier experience of the non age statement Uigeadail release sang to me on many levels & had a longer finish. It left the 10 year old rather one dimensional in my book.
The bar staff were very friendly & helpful and I got chatting with the bar manager Con who was keen to expand on his whiskey selection – which was music to my ears.
The walls were well adorned with pictures of old Tullamore, whiskey mirrors and old drinks adverts.
Kinahan’s made an appearance, along with a Three Swallow ad for Powers and a blatantly sexist ad from Old Dublin Whiskey which you’ll have to visit to see as I refuse to reprint it here.
Whiskey drinking is for both men and women.
Thankfully both were well representing drinking & eating at Tanyard Lane.
And the way to pronounce Hven is demonstrated by this piece of Eurotrash pop with it’s instantly sing-along-can’t-get-the-words-out-of-my-head-catchy-tune-vibe going on as in The Macarena or Agadoo – complete with obligatory kitsch dance moves.
I give you Karen Paolo – Ven Ven Ven.
Ven in Spanish – which is the official language in Chile where the singer is based – happens to mean ‘come’.
Well I first came across The Spirit Of Hven on the Amathus stall at the very enjoyable Birmingham show. Amathus being the importer & distributor of Hven – and other fine malts – in the UK.
There were 2 expressions to sample from the Hven Distillery range of organic barley made single malts produced with no carbon filtration, no chill filtration and no added colouring.
Tycho’s Star – named after the famous astrologer Tycho Brahe whose scientific work was conducted on Hven in the late 1500’s – was an instantly attractive softly peated single malt. Soft & smooth with subtle flavours and a well balanced feel.
It’s star mate – as the No. 3 Phecda release also follows in the astral theme being named after one of the seven stars that make up The Plough constellation which is prominent in the Northern sky at night – is much more my style of whisky.
Big, bad & bold.
There was a noticeable waft of smoke on the nose – the official tasting notes suggest BBQ.
The taste exploded on the tongue – young, strong , fresh & meaty.
A bit like a bold teenager full of vigour & vitality. Bursting with self confidence & self belief. Unashamed by their youthful exuberance and unabashed by their posturing & strutting.
To use a term that’s crept over the Atlantic and is now in common use by my grandkids.
Every now and then a whiskey comes along that kind of takes you by the hand & leads you in to a taste sensation that just enraptures you.
Powers 1817 Release is one of those whiskeys.
On the nose it’s wonderfully rich yet smooth.
Gorgeously rich in depth on tasting with the characteristic Powers pot still spice toned down to a delightful tingle.
With a finish that just goes on and on and on.
At only 10 years old & matured solely in bourbon casks, there must be some much older single pot still malts in here to give the whiskey such gravitas.
Powers 1817 Release is a special bottling for the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) to mark their 200th Bicentenary. The LVA are the trade association representing Dublin pubs.
If you want to sample Powers 1817 you’ll have to visit one of those Dublin pubs – like I was fortunately able to do for a tasting with the highly informative Powers Ambassador Michael Carr at The Brian Boru in Phibsborough.
Michael expertly guided us through the lovely Powers Gold Label blend – a mixture of single pot still & grain whiskey giving a lovely spice kick on the finish – which I must admit to being my ‘go-to’ blend.
The superb Powers John’s Lane Release – a bourbon matured & sherry finished single pot still 12 year old which I thought couldn’t be surpassed.
Until I tasted the 1817 release.
My thanks to Michael for the tasting & Rebecca for arranging the event.
There has been a lot of hot air expended over a bottle of whiskey recently by the name of John L Sullivan.
John L Sullivan is a sourced whiskey brand. They – like many other sourced brands – get their whiskey from a reputable Irish whiskey distillery. They can then proceed to promote, brand, distribute and blend this whiskey in any way they see fit.
Just as many other companies do.
The particular expression that everyone is getting hot under the collar about is one where they have mixed the Irish whiskey with an American bourbon – also sourced from a reputable distillery in the USA – to create a hybrid type of blend.
This hybrid whiskey has garnished rave reviews in some regions here.
And an outpouring of scorn in others.
A facebook thread in Ireland castigates this whiskey as ‘fake’ & ‘pseudo’. It likens the whiskey to the ‘gutrot’ produced by gangsters during prohibitions times which allegedly brought the Irish whiskey industry to it’s knees.
I just don’t buy that narrative.
I congratulate John L Sullivan for coming up with a new & exciting product that can offer an innovative new taste experience to customers – as well as opening up a new revenue stream for Irish whiskey.
The Irish whiskey industry has a long proud history and culture.
But part of that culture is resisting new means and methods of making whiskey.
In 1878 a book was published denouncing the new form of whisky being made by an invention called the Coffey Still.
That new whisky was called ‘silent whisky’ and we now know it as grain whiskey.
Nowadays that ‘silent whisky’ is the main constituent in blended whiskey – which is the very backbone of the modern global whiskey industry making up to 90% of all sales worldwide.
Sections of the Scottish whisky industry took to this new product in the 1840’s to create market leading brands that are still popular today.
It took at least another 100 years for the Irish whiskey industry to fully engage with the new methods. None of the 4 large Dublin whiskey distilleries who commissioned the book exist today
What if this new hybrid whiskey becomes the next ‘silent whisky’ in terms of future sales?
Is the Irish whiskey industry of today going to inflict the first cut in it’s demise as it did in the past?
And as the old song goes, The First Cut Is The Deepest.
Or is this new style of whiskey going to be embraced?
Being a new style means there will be labelling issues, regulatory red-tape and legal gremlins to sort out.
Hopefully that is in process.
Whiskey is fluid.
It has constantly flowed, changing and evolving throughout it’s long existence.
History is not kind on those who wish to stop that flow.
Walking into the downstairs bar of The Dead Rabbit in New York was like stepping back across the Atlantic and entering a well stocked Irish whiskey bar on the Emerald Isle itself.
In fact there was so much Irish whiskey lining the shelves it would put many a respectable bar in Ireland to shame!
The wall hangings, drinks mirrors & assorted jumble of paraphernalia together with the dark wood finish were also a very familiar attribute in many an Irish bar – along with no food!
As Mrs Whiskey & myself had come in for a spot of grub we were directed up stairs to the middle bar which does serve food – only to find it temporarily closed being midway between the lunchtime menu & evening service – and so ended up on the top floor via a narrow staircase.
The bar here was a slightly smaller affair – yet still well stocked – with a comfortable bench along the back wall complete with high tables & chairs for casual diners & imbibers to sit back and enjoy the fair.
Being an Irish bar – I had to go for an Irish whiskey. Now Dead Rabbit do a selection of whiskey flights – but not including the specific whiskeys I was looking for – so I settled for a glass of Kinahan’s 10 year old single malt along with a burger & chips.
Kinahan’s are one of those sourced brands that are generally not available in Ireland. Mainly found in the American market – they were on my radar to try out. Coming in a blend and a 10 year old single malt they have a back story which you may choose to believe – or not – I found it entertaining.
The soft, smooth, charred ex-bourbon cask maturation taste sat well with my previous drinks yet developed into a clearer, more finely tuned fruity note together with a faint spice on the finish. A pretty fine example of an Irish barley single malt in contrast to the mixed corn, wheat, barley & rye american bourbon mash bills. It perfectly accompanied my rather large burger.
For afters I decided to go native.
A very attractively designed bottle of Angels Envy took my eye.
Hailing from Louisville Distilling in Kentucky with a corn, barley & rye mash bill – the expression I had is aged for up to 6 years & unusually – for American bourbon anyway – finished in ruby port casks.
The rye spice I love was very subdued by both the rich port influence as well as the high corn with added barley mixed mash. It did have depth & a complex nuance – but not that instant POW I was looking for. One to savour over I think.
Suitably sated – we ventured out for the South Ferry subway. Dead Rabbit is only a short walk from the very attractive Battery Park area where clear views of The Statue Of Liberty & Ellis Island can be enjoyed – along with the obligatory boat trips. As the temperatures were plummeting below zero we left the chance to embrace ourselves in the cultural & historic tales of Irish emigration for another day.
Dead Rabbit may not have been around when those early immigrants first arrived in America – but it’s a very welcome bolthole for the modern day traveller. Just be sure to get there early. We easily got a table when we arrived around 4ish – but later patrons had to wait for a while as the venue was packed out by the time we left.