The Cask Magazine & Hammerhead Single Malt 40.7%

Tasting a whiskey is all about the story.

The journey you make to find it.

The occasion of the first encounter.

And the totality of the whole experience.

What better way to engage with a new whisky than at the launch of a new whiskey magazine called The Cask.

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The Cask launch c/othewhiskeynut

The Cask Magazine is proudly based in Ireland – but has a global outlook when it comes to a passion for whiskey.

An eclectic mix of whiskey fans, bloggers, celebrities, imbibers and industry giants gathered in the wonderful surroundings of the Irish Whiskey Museum to raise a toast to the success of this brave new venture.

In the midst of all the media rush to tweet, post, photo & record the event I spotted a bottle that screamed out to me to

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STOP Hammer time! c/othewhiskeynut

Distilled in the former Czechoslovakia before the fall of The Berlin Wall  and the subsequent collapse of communism. Who remembers the joyous occasion of the tearing down of walls rather than building of them?

Left to mature under the distillery in Pradlo for 23 years before it’s ‘re-discovery’ and release into the marketplace to a changed world. This whisky certainly has a story to tell.

So what is it like?

Soft, smooth & very refreshing with a lovely malty note that pleased me no end. Hammerhead delivered a delightful blow to my tastebuds.

Almost as silky & smooth as the beautiful glossy pages of The Cask Magazine!

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Silk & smooth c/othewhiskeynut

Whiskey for me is a journey of discovery and enjoyment.

Cask Magazine certainly added to that enjoyment with their fabulous launch night.

They also added to my journey by unexpectedly increasing my world whisky count to 19 countries with a wonderful single malt from Czechoslovakia. Still a few more to go to match their Around The World In 24 Drams article!

I’d like to wish all the team at The Cask Magazine a long & productive publishing future.

Sláinte.

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Eschenbrenner Whisky Distillery – Berlin

Whisky – An alcoholic spirit made by distilling grain.

Berlin – The German capital city.

Distillery – A factory that makes distilled alcoholic spirit.

Eschenbrenner Whisky Distillery – A whisky distillery in Berlin.

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Eschenbrenner Amber Whisky and glass c/o Whiskey Nut

I visited this distillery back in 2015.

Situated in the Wedding district to the North of the city this micro distillery & brewery is nestled in the central gardens of apartment blocks.

We found it difficult to get seated as there were many happy punters from far & wide who had come to sample the wonderful whisky , beer & tasty flammkuchen that are only available at the premises.

I tried 3 of the whiskies on offer.

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Eschenbrenner Whisky c/o Whiskey Nut

Pete – aged in American oak,

Charly – aged in chardonnay casks &

Amber – aged in German spessart oak

And enjoyed them all very much.

At only 3 years old they were delightfully youthful, fruity & light – but with a nice woody influence.

The distillery continues to release various expressions and now has 5 year old bottlings to enjoy.

Do yourself a favour & pay them a visit when in Berlin.

You have to go there to sample the produce.

I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Slàinte.

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Whiskey Festivals

Real whiskey geeks across the world are already booking their holidays & planning trips to coincide with an array of whiskey events that take place throughout the year globally.

I’ve been to a few of these events – and thoroughly recommend them.

Why?

A room full of whiskey for you to sample. Often staffed by the people that make it. Whiskies you’ve never even heard of or can’t afford to buy.

A room full of fellow whiskey enthusiasts. Chat, compare, contrast. Conversation is easy with like-minded folks.

A room full of tasty food pairings & bottled water. It’s bad form to get too drunk so keep well fed & hydrated.

And a room full of whiskey knowledge, whiskey talks & whiskey tales that would take a lifetime to amass on your own steam.

Need any more reasons?

Below is a short itinerary of shows around the world I’ve either been to – or would like to attend.

Looking forward to bumping into you at one of them!

January

Well it’s a bit late now – but Burns Night on 25th January is an annual celebration of the Scottish Poet accompanied with whiskey & haggis! There are many local events held throughout the world. Check press for details.

The National Whiskey Festival is a new show held in Glasgow on 28th January.

February

Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fair kicks off Dublin’s events. Although mainly craft beer – there are a smattering of distilleries showing. The main item this year will be the imminent opening of The Pearse Lyons Distillery in the Liberties. By the way – Pearse Lyons is a Dublin born business man who happens to be the founder & president of Alltech.

March

With low-cost airlines making a trip across to the UK affordable – I’m tempted by Whisky Birmingham. It’s only a stones throw away but from previous knowledge the range of whisky on offer is often different from that available in Ireland. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway – as well as an opportunity to see how a whisky club manages to put on a big show!

April

Whisky Live bills itself as ‘The Worlds Premier Whisky Tasting Show’ and is a global event taking place in prestigious venues across the globe throughout the year.

Whisky Live London takes place on 31st March to 1st April.

May

The Whisky Live roadshow continues it’s global reach down under in Sydney on 5th to 6th May and Canberra on 26th to 27th May. I managed to catch the Melbourne show last year.

June

Bloom is all about gardening – but there was a fabulous beer & whiskey tent last year!

Whiskey In Summer is a new event to Dublin on 30th June. I’ve teamed up with them to secure 3 Whiskey & Food tickets for only 13 euro each. Contact me if you would like to join myself & others in attending this new show.

July

If you want fabulous whisky in a fabulous setting – Whisky Live Hobart is the place to be! Award winning whiskies & stunning scenery.

August

The 21st International Berlin Beer Festival sounds like a fun event – and it’s free!

September

The Irish Craft Beer Festival has some whiskey stalls too. A wonderful array of craft beer & whiskey for all tastes. Great craic! 7th to 9th September.

Or if it’s bourbon yer after – Kentucky Bourbon Festival – 11th to 17th September.

October

The Yorkshire Whisky Festival is one of many organised by The Whisky Lounge across the UK & looks good. October 21st.

November

Whiskey Live Dublin is the highlight of the Irish whiskey calendar!  25th November

WhiskeyFest New York. Celebrate 20 years of whiskey festivals in the Big Apple November 16th. Other events throughout USA held too.

December

Well – we are far to busy enjoying our own whiskey festival at home to bother going out anywhere!

There are loads of other shows around the world.

Drop me a line with your own favourite.

Sláinte.

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Many thanks to allevents.in for the header photo.

 

Flaming Pig Black Cask, 40%

Every now and then the attractiveness of a whiskey bottle – the wittiness of it’s mission statement – or even the name of the expression alone – is enough to tempt me to try a bottle – or at least sample a glass or two.

Fortunately with Flaming Pig Black Cask Irish Whiskey – I managed to acquire a promotional bottle to sample. Many thanks to Flor Prendergast – the entrepreneur behind the brand.

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Spiced Irish c/oflamingpigwhiskey

I first encountered the wonderfully named Flaming Pig brand a while ago with their  Spiced Irish release.

The label looked cool.

The story was fab.

And the spirit had a wonderfully rich christmassy cinnamon & clove spice finish which despite the sweet start – well it is a 33% liqueur – had a healthy warming whiskey bite too.

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Flaming Pig story c/othewhiskeynut

The Flaming Pig Black Cask is produced at the West Cork Distillers plant down in Skibbereen who release a fine range of expressions that often break the mould of what an Irish whiskey should be. This one is no exception.

Aged in heavily charred ex-bourbon barrels, this non-aged statement blend has been imbued with the strong sweetness & flavour of bourbon – yet with an Irish twist.

You could say it’s flavoured with fire!

The rich dark golden colour would imply added caramel in my book – there is no mention of it on the label – although the charred casks would also darken the spirit & add a sweet body to the mix. At 40% strength I assume it’s chill filtered too.

The rich sweet notes build a certain depth at the start- very bourbony with vanilla & caramel – but the delightful hint of warming spices at the end lifts this whiskey for me.

Very pleasant.

Very smooth.

Very drinkable.

Flaming Pig Black Cask isn’t going to set the world on fire – but it lights up a cold winters evening by the hearth. It also opens up Irish whiskey to new flavours emboldened by the charred barrel ageing.

Long may the Flaming Pig squeal!

Sláinte.

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Stewart’s Cream Of The Barley, 40%

Something was clearly amiss when the bartender replied;

‘We don’t have that one.’

Even after I’d spotted the distinctly garish – even kitsch – labelled bottle on a shelve of whiskeys.

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Stewart’s whisky top c/othewhiskeynut

A little game of,

‘Left a bit, right a bit, down one, BINGO!’

ensued to retrieve said bottle – whereupon the same bartender proceeded to shovel loads of ice into a tall glass.

The ice was duly discarded – after I asked for my whisky neat – and a shot promptly poured in.

‘Oh dear’, I thought, before common sense prevailed and the drink was decanted into a more suitable – if not ideal – tumbler.

Forget ‘A Horse With No Name’  – this was the pub with no name!

It transpires the pub formerly known as ‘Whiskey Fair‘ – and which I’d chosen as a suitable watering hole to meet a friend whilst in Dun Laoghaire for the day – had recently changed hands. We even had trouble finding it as although the old name had been removed from the front facade – no new title proudly embellished the now empty display.

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The pub with no name c/oWhiskey Fair

With Irish Whiskey experiencing growing sales figures – I did ponder the managements decision to forgo the whiskey snug as the previous owners had obviously attempted to make a go of it. The premises were in a state of transition to something else – something not including a whiskey bar. Clearly I’d timed my visit during this change and been served by staff who obviously had no real knowledge or appreciation of the remaining whiskey stocks still evident behind the bar.

So what about Stewart’s Cream Of The Barley?

Well it’s an old standard Scottish blend dating from the 1830’s & currently owned by Pernod Ricard after their buyout of Allied Domecq back in 2005.

A rich golden brown colour smacks of added caramel – common in entry level blends.

The nose was sweet with a hint of malt.

The rich velvety malt on taste surprised me – although it soon diminished with an overly sweet overture & a short finish.

Very pleasant, very smooth, very aptly named & actually quite a decent blend for an afternoon chat.

I may not have got the pub I wanted.

But I did get a new whisky to try out!

Slainte.

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Burns Night in Athlone

Robert Burns is Scotland’s National Poet.

Burns Night is celebrated with much gusto throughout the world and usually involves Scotch Whisky & haggis.

This lovely short video explains all.

I decided to celebrate Burns Night in The Malt House – my local in Athlone.

The agenda for the evening comprised of 4 differing styles of Scotch with 4 authentic Scottish food pairings – including some haggis!

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The tasting tray c/othewhiskeynut

808 Whisky kicked off the proceedings.

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808 Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

Marketed as ‘Whisky Remixed‘, this 40% chill filtered blended grain is the creation of DJ TommyD – hence being named after the famous Roland TR808 drum-machine that inspired modern dance music.

Soft & subtle with a faint spice at the end made this a very easy to drink whisky which went down well with almost all the tasters.

It’s whisky for the new generation – so we paired it with old generation traditional Scottish shortbread.

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Grand Old Parr c/othewhiskeynut

Next up was a far more heavier & peatier example of a Scottish whisky dating from the 1870’s – which makes this blend about the same age as the original ‘Old Parr’ who was allegedly the oldest man alive before he passed away at 152!

The peat content didn’t please everyone – but Grand Old Parr 12 Year Old was balanced by some soft sweet grain notes which smoothed down the overall experience. Scottish tablet complimented this gently chewy whisky.

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Laphroaig 10 c/othewhiskeynut

Laphroaig 10 is one of the big peat hitters from Islay. The smoke had a more intense hit than Old Parr & only the more seasoned whisky drinkers in the audience seemed to enjoy it!

A round of oatmeal biscuit soaked up the welcome fire from this famous single malt.

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Rabbie’s own! c/othewhiskeynut

The most refined and complex whisky of the evening was undoubtedly the exclusive Robert Burns single malt from Isle Of Arran Distillers.

Bottled at 43%, aged in a combination of ex bourbon & sherry casks, this malt gave a soft sweet palate of fresh fruits which followed through to mild spice on the long warm finish.

Haggis on a seaweed oatcake brought out a bout of tingling on the tongue as the pepper & spice of the pudding interacted with the spirit – very enjoyable.

There was no outbreak of Highland Dancing nor bagpiping or dubious tartan fashion statements as in The Bay City Rollers – but there was a little corner of Scotland in The Malt House to celebrate the poet.

My thanks to The Malt House for the hospitality & big thanks to all who came along to enjoy the evening.

I’ll leave Rabbie with the last word,

O Whisky! soul o’ plays and pranks!

Slainte.

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Connemara Turf Mor, 46%

Peat.

Or if you’re in Ireland,

Turf.

Decomposed vegetable matter that can be used as a fuel source to dry the malted barley commonly used in whiskey production. This imparts a smoky flavour to the spirit which generates much devotion amongst ‘peatheads’ – who go to great lengths to satisfy their cravings.

Luckily for me – I simply cycled down to my local distillery – Kilbeggan – to indulge my passion for peat.

There has been a distillery at Kilbeggan since 1757. It claims to be the oldest working distillery in the world operating out of the same site with a continuous licence from it’s inception.

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Wall plaque in The Pantry c/othewhiskeynut

Bushmills have  ‘alternative facts’ dating from 1608. The current distillery however wasn’t built until 1885 replacing an earlier one at a different site dating from 1784.

While it’s undoubtedly true Scotland is the biggest producing whisky nation in the world, they only gained that title in the early 1900’s. Before then Ireland was number 1. The earliest Scottish distillery still in production –  Glenturret – dates from 1775.

Kilbeggan – in advance of a new and welcome bill – also has a licence to allow the consumption & sale of alcohol on the premises. Cycling afforded me the luxury of being able to enjoy a few glasses. Allowing me to reacquaint myself with the Connemara 22 year old – as well as  trying out the recently re-released Turf Mor expression.

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Connemara 22yo & Turf Mor c/othewhiskeynut

Now none of the Connemara range are actually produced at Kilbeggan. Cooley Distillery in County Louth is where that all happens – but Kilbeggan is one of the maturation sites. It also has a small boutique distillery whose spirit usually finds it’s way into some of the blended releases. There are plans afoot however to allow visitors the unique experience of  bottling their own Kilbeggan produced whiskey with a valinch as part of the historical distillery tour. A welcome addition.

The 22 year old has a softly peated nose. As befits it’s age the taste is smooth & complex. The peat is well balanced by many rich notes from the long years maturing in oak barrels. A very fine & well cultured whiskey. Bottled at 46%  & non chill-filtered.

Turf Mor is the bigger, badder & bolder younger sibling!

Youthful, exuberant & punchy. This heavily peated single malt delivers a healthy kick to the palate tempered by a soft sweetness. Much more my style.

It’s not as bold & overwhelming as the previous 58.2% incarnation – but a very welcome return of a heavy hitting peat from Ireland at 46% – albeit as a limited Travel Retail release & of course – at the distillery.

A bottle was duly purchased. Well worth the 70km cycle!

The entire Connemara range of peated single malts make a fine display in their new bright livery. Oh! Did I say they are all Irish double distilled peated single malts?

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Current Connemara range c/othewhiskeynut

The 2 youthful non-aged statements (NAS) contain some welcome fire & bite in contrast to the rather well-mannered & refined 12 & 22 year old elders.

All are available at the Kilbeggan Distillery – along with the Tyrconnell, Kilbeggan & Locke’s range of whiskeys too.

Kilbeggan is currently owned by the Beam/Suntory group. Due to increased demand it’s advised to book in advance for the guided tours. You are welcome to drop into the very friendly Whiskey Bar anytime during opening hours.

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Oh show me the way to the next whiskey bar c/othewhiskeynut

Full of wonderfully rich history & culture, some fabulous whiskeys, a cafe and a bar – what are you waiting for?

Slainte.

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Nancy Hands & Peated Whiskey

Man walks in to a bar.

He’s missed his train & is looking for a spot to while away the hour – preferably with a whiskey.

Nancy Hands on Dublin’s Parkgate St is only a short walk from Hueston Railway Station and his train home. The pub has a large & welcoming facade. He walks in.

The front bar has the usual array of whiskeys on display – nothing that attracts his eyes – but there seems to be a back bar. He hasn’t been here before & only chose it at random. He investigates.

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Nancy Hands & some Scotch c/othewhiskeynut

Whoa!

Whiskey!

He’s hit the jackpot!

Loads of Scotch. Many old looking bottles with gently faded fawn labels – no fancy colours here – and loads of Irish too with a slightly more colourful collection.

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An Irish selection c/othewhiskeynut

Bingo!

But what to sample?

As I was that man I decided to continue my exploration of peat.

A Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old caught my eye. Having previously enjoyed the Darach Ur NAS (Non Age Statement) Travel Retail release I thought it would be a good comparison.

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Bunnahabhain 12 old bottling c/othewhiskeynut

The satisfying rich peat on the nose from this Islay distillery single malt reassured me of what was to follow. I found the taste a tad harsh & rather monosyllabic however. Just the one note of pure peat – and a bit too burnt at that. The NAS release wins out on this challenge.

Only when I Googled the bottle did it become apparent that this was an old release prior to a redesign of the label. Maybe some of the subtleties of the whisky had been lost due to the length of time the bottle had been opened? It’s recommended 2 to 3 years is the maximum before the spirit begins to degrade due to oxidation & other chemical reactions that occur & can then spoil the taste. Perhaps this was happening here?

I moved on to the Irish section.

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Slieve na cGloc c/othewhiskeynut

Slieve na cGloc stood out for me.

It’s a peated single malt made at Cooley Distillery from when John Teeling was still at the helm. I’ve read it was an own-label-bottling for the Oddbins off-licence chain in the UK –  but I cannot confirm this.

Again that lovely pungent peat on the nose warmly greeted me. The taste this time was smoother – yet the peat punch was still reassuringly intense. A more balanced feel to the malt sang a delightful harmony & had me wondering why there wasn’t more lovely peated Irish expressions.

Slieve na cGloc – named after the mountain below which the Cooley Distillery sits – is an excellent whiskey & much more appropriately named than it’s equally appealing peated stablemate Connemara whiskey that is also made at Cooley.

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Slieve na cGloc top with Slieve Foy behind c/othewhiskeynut

There is a lovely walk up the hill here – which I did on a crisp winter’s day when last on the wonderful Carlingford Peninsula.

But that was then and this was now.

I could have stayed for more – but the night train was calling.

And being the last one home I didn’t want to miss it.

Nancy Hands is a treasure trove of whiskey.

I know where I’ll be enjoying a bite to eat & a whiskey or two before catching my next train home from Dublin!

Slainte.

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Credit to Nancy Hands for the top image.

Micil Poitin, 44%

Micil. A proper noun. (mick-ill)  A person’s name. Specifically one who hails from the gaeltacht area of Galway and was employed in illicit alcohol production.

Poitin. A noun. (po-cheen)  A formerly illegal distilled spirit. Usually clear in appearance. In this instance made by the above person – but now turned into a legal enterprise by his great, great, great grandson.

I encountered Micil Poitin whilst waiting for the start of my Dublin Whiskey Tour in the welcoming Dingle Whiskey Bar.

Surprisingly smooth on the palate with the familiar oiliness & hints of rotten fruit associated with what is essentially unaged raw whiskey.

The added locally foraged bogbean gave a few other soft notes contributing to a degree of terroir.

Micil Poitin is the taste of tradition.

A worthy addition to the growing Irish Poitin market.

Slàinte.

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