Laid out before me were 7 whiskeys – 7 identical glasses – & some water to cleanse the palate between each sample.
Oh! They weren’t completely blind.
They were from a list I’d selected from a fellow whiskey fan as part of an exchange and it included;
1792 Single Barrel, Ballantine’s 17, Chita Single Grain, Dingle 4 Single Malt, Evan William’s Bottled In Bond, Hellyers Road Roaring Forty, Jack Daniel’s Bottled In Bond, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel 100, Kilkerran 12, Miltonduff 9, Naked Grouse, North Star Campbeltown 4, Stagg Jr, & a Surprise.
A Immediately impressed me. Strong spirit, good clean flavours, rich in the mouth. Nice.
B Wasn’t as enjoyable.
C A bourbon – but with a welcome spice.
D Nice easy drinker.
E Another bourbon – strong, opened up on the finish.
F Didn’t enamour me.
G Very intriguing.
I initially went through them trying to match my experiences to the expressions above. It was really guesswork – as I hadn’t encountered them before this session.
On a second round – I scored them.
Then the reveal!
A North Star 80 B Hellyers Rd 72
C 1792 SB 77 D Dingle 4 73
E Stagg Jr 79 F Kilkerran 12 70
G Glenglassaugh Evolution 78
Congratulations to North Star Campbeltown 4 Year Old Blended Malt!
An independent bottle from undisclosed distilleries presented non chill filtered & with natural colour at a hefty 57% ABV.
Obviously my kinda whiskey!
There’s a clear division between the top 4 – bigger, badder, bolder – and the bottom 3 – softer, subtler, smoother.
My only surprise was the poor showing of Kilkerran 12 – normally a distillery I enjoy.
But then that’s the whole point of blind tasting.
To try and eradicate – as far as possible – any bias you may hold,
A recently opened micro bar in an elegantly designed 1920’s public toilet that I can’t recall ever using – despite living round the corner for years – but do remember passing daily.
It looks the same on the outside. You enter via the ‘LADIES’ – which is a little disconcerting being a man – and behold a white tiled space replete with chunky wooden tables & chairs. The bijou bar at the ‘GENTLEMEN’ end of the building offers a good selection of local craft beers, assorted spirits & a tasty range of wholesome bar food.
Spotting a Nikka From The Barrel on the top shelf I went for it.
This blended whisky drew me in with clean & fresh flavours offering decent depth & complexity – with a bit of bite from the 51.4% ABV too.
It’s probably around 30 years since I last had a drink in the Beehive.
I remember a traditional bar with carpeted floors, comfy sofas & polished wooden tables leading to a grassy beer garden.
I found a bare wooden floored open space – filling up with Spurs fans – leading to a concreted patio adorned with large sports screens.
Ah well – change is the only constant in London.
From the small whiskey selection Four Roses Single Barrel made my glass – or rather plastic cup – Spurs were playing.
Now Four Roses haven’t exactly bowled me over. Their entry Bourbon is decent enough – and this Single Barrel did boost the flavour experience with it’s higher ABV & higher rye content.
Just not enough character to enthrall me.
I toyed with The Ship – but the pre-match crowds were getting larger – so a short bus ride to Wood Green & a spot of lunch set me up for an invigorating walk up to the magnificent Ally Pally with it’s panoramic view over North London.
It felt like I’d just been taken back to the time my better half – now wife – and I spent an anxious few hours here over 20 years ago. All our worldly possessions were in a transit van nearby awaiting the exchange of contracts allowing us to move into our first flat down in Turnpike Lane at the foot – almost – of the wooded slopes beyond the fine windows of this very establishment.
A Dewar’s White Label was ordered.
Having just been introduced to the delights of Dewar’s 12 Year OldAncestor blend – a lovely balanced example of peated Scotch – the White Label was rather more basic.
Following on from the 6 Irish offerings were 2 American Whiskeys courtesy Hi-Spirits Ireland distributors.
Colonel EH Taylor, Small Batch, 50%
An extremely well crafted & balanced bourbon. A few not familiar with this category were impressed. Clearly their previous drinking experiences hadn’t matched the quality of EH Taylor.
Using an undisclosed mash bill – #1 for those interested – of corn, rye & malted barley from the mighty Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky – this Bottled In Bond offering displays the tasty highlights bourbon can attain.
A delight to meet it’s acquaintance.
1792 Full Proof 63.5%
Not many in Ireland may have had the pleasure of tasting 1792, but they might recall the disastrous rickhouse collapse at the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky where this fine bourbon hails from.
The Full Proof version at a stonking 63.5% is not for the fainthearted.
There is an explosion of taste & flavour followed by an even bigger explosion of alcohol as it literally ‘booms’ on the palate.
Using the same high rye mash bill as the 1792 Small Batch I’d enjoyed at a 4th July tasting in Sean’s Bar, Athlone – Full Proof achieved cult status after Jim Murray gave it Whisky Of The Year in his 2020 Whisky Bible.
Fantastic to have sampled Full Proof, – yet for easy drinking without the high strength drama- Small Batch is still a winner for me.
If you’re ever in Sean’s – drop me a line – perhaps we might put it to the test?
You never know what you might find at Whiskey Live Dublin.
I had intended to try some Scotch – but an amadán had decided to vape in the toilets & set off the fire alarms.
No joy there.
I missed out on Japanese too
Beam Suntory’s Toki offering had vanished – but I did try their soon to be released Kilbeggan Single Pot Still with 3% oats in the mix. Creamy & spicy all at the same time. Although I did struggle to fully appreciate what the oats brought to the whiskey in such a brief encounter.
The parent company behind Belfast’s McConnell’s release had an interesting trio of American Whiskeys however. Attractively presented & branded as Clyde May’s the Alabama Style Whiskey caught my eye.
What is Alabama Style?
Turns out something to do with adding dried apples to the barrel. A look online provided a better insight here. I did get a fresh fruitiness on the nose.
Offered at 42.5% this was a decent full bodied whiskey I’d like to enjoy more off.
The Straight Rye also pleased me. A good balance of dry peppery spice with a wholesome body to boot.
Both are sourced from Kentucky – but brand owners Conecuh are building a distillery of their own in Alabama.
I received this lovely looking duo of ryes courtesy of Axiom Brands – many thanks.
Being a self confessed rye head WhistlePig loomed large yet had always eluded me.
Now was my chance to try them out.
First the controversy.
To begin with WhistlePig didn’t distill their own rye. They bought a load of Canadian Rye destined to be used in blending, shipped it across the border & finished it to WhistlePig’s own requirements at their Vermont Farm.
Having built up a bit of a following & brand recognition they latterly distill their own rye made from grain grown on the farm, aged in oak trees from Vermont & cut with water from the farm well.
Some folks have a problem with this.
To me it makes sound business sense being able to sell sourced product before your own matures. It also allows experimentation & a growing knowledge in handling the spirit in advance of committing even more money into building a distillery.
But what really interests me is how it tastes.
So let’s go!
WhistlePig 10 Year Old, Straight Rye, 50%
Very marginally paler than the 12yo.
Classic peppery rye spice on the nose yet balanced & nuanced with the decade in oak.
A powerful rye hit on tasting. The balance has gone as rye spices shine through with added tannins in the mix leading to a long lasting dry finish.
A no nonsense take no prisoners brute of a rye.
WhistlePig 12 Year Old, Old World Rye, 43%
Can I detect a slightly darker hue to this one?
The rye spices have taken on a more rounded, almost perfumed nose. Makes me want to jump in!
Softer on the palate, even creamy to begin with, before it reminds you this is a rye with that classic dry peppery spice slowly growing in intensity.
A more balanced & complex rye that benefits from it’s ageing in Madeira, Sauternes & Port Casks.
The ‘in yer face’ honesty of the 10 or the complexity of the 12?
Both have their good points – but on balance – the Old World 12 piques my interest the most.
The novel triple cask approach adds depth & variety to the classic rye canon.
As it’s National Bourbon Day I thought I’d celebrate by cracking open a bottle that’s been sitting in my cupboard for some time.
When I first bought this bourbon I knew nothing about it.
My original impression was that as it has a large 8 emblazoned on the label it must be a step up from the 7 on a bottle of Jack?
And on eventually getting round to a tasting – it certainly did satisfy my palate more.
A lovely golden hue complete with decent legs graced the Túath glass on a pour. Being a ‘straight‘ bourbon guarantees no added caramel in the mix.
Soft and gentle on the palate to begin with, the flavours & heat slowly grew in intensity giving a good showing of vanillas & sweet caramel mixed with darker hints of tobacco and a lovely growing spice towards the end.
For me the finish was the best bit.
The spiciness – suggestive of a decent rye percentage in the mashbill – slowly dried out leaving a gentle prickliness in the mouth – which I enjoy.
Being an entry level bourbon – Benchmark is appropriately named as it does provide an exceedingly pleasing drinking experience from which other bourbons can be compared.
Only after I purchased this bottle did I find out it’s part of the Buffalo Trace portfolio from Kentucky.
Interestingly it shares the same mashbill as Buffalo Trace itself – along with the more aged Eagle Rare & George T Stagg offerings!
The only differences are the time spent in the barrel – they are all virgin american oak remember with the same char level – and which part of the rickhouse they were stored in during maturity.
Having tasted the Eagle Rare 17 Year Old 2017 release at Whiskey Live Dublin – it would be folly to compare the 2 bourbons – but you can appreciate the solid foundations of the young Benchmark that with added maturity grew into the stunning Eagle Rare 17.
But then my local O’Briens only stocked Benchmark!
I was supposed to be revising for an exam – but the Teeling Small Batch on the Aer Lingus flight only reacquainted myself with this lovely little blend & provided a taster for what was unknowingly to come.
After checking into the city centre hotel – a quick read over the course book – it was out for a wander to visit the Whiskey Jar pub.
The promise of 400+ whiskies to whet my appetite accompanied by a tasty pie for the late Sunday afternoon lunch sounded too good to miss.
On entering I was taken aback!
Gathered in the pub were a clutch of whiskey companies displaying their wares.
A small cover charge – along with a tasting glass – had me at the first stall.