Category Archives: Blended Whiskey

Wall Street, Blended Spirit, 39%, Vietnam.

Good morning Vietnam!

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.

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Vietnam Wall St in the snow. c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Premium? c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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A local Diageo brand. c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Wall Street Brazil c/othewhiskeynut

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.

Sláinte.

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The Ship Tavern, Anstruther, Scotland.

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.

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Ship Tavern whiskey selections c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Art Of The Blend c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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The Pogues Irish Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

‘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.

Sláinte.

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Wall Street, Blended Whisky, 38%

And now for something completely different.

Brazil.

Rio, Copacabana, Carnival, The Girl From Ipanema,

And whisky!

Yes, that’s right, whisky.

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.

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Extract from Chemical composition of Brazilian whiskies.

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.

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Wall Street c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Back of Wall Street c/othewhiskeynut

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!

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Tamper proof top removal c/othewhiskeynut

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.

Sláinte.

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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.

 

 

Midleton VR 2017 Connacht Launch in Sonny Molloy’s, Galway.

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.

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Brian Nation & Midleton VR 2017 at Sonny Molloy’s c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Midleton Very Rare glassware c/othewhiskeynut

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.

Wow!

I think I’ve just been won over by this one.

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The single pot still flows! c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Inside the cosy warmth of Sonny’s c/othewhiskeynut

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?

Certainly Sir!

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!

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Shane, Brian & Midleton VR 2017 c/othewhiskeynut

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!

Sláinte.

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I would like to thank all the staff & teams at Sonny Molloys & Irish Distillers for the warm hospitality & generous tastings on the evening.

May the road rise with you!

Hankey Bannister Original, 40%, Blended Scotch, NAS

After my previous experiences with entry level blends I was a bit apprehensive to approach this one.

But Hankey Bannister is widely available and having passed it by in my local Dunnes stores on numerous occasions my curiosity was eventually piqued – I also found a use for those 5 euro back vouchers!

I got a dose of the Whiskey Shivers before I tasted this one – which happens to be the name of this blogs featured band.

But this entry level blend wasn’t as bad as expected.

The nose is a bit corny. Which befits the high grain content used in the mix. Not my favourite flavour profile.

The taste is soft & smooth with a slight oiliness.

But the best bit is at the end where a decent hit of malt shines through on the palate with a lovely soft spiciness.

Just about makes this bargain purchase worthwhile.

Sláinte.

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Compass Box, Peat Monster, 46%, blended malt.

A 60th birthday party in London was the excuse to pop over the water for the weekend.

The balmy weather – which Storm Ophelia had pushed up from the South – allowed us to have our Sunday lunch alfresco. Our chosen venue was the recently refurbished Great Northern Railway Tavern in Hornsey.

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A fine facade! c/othewhiskeynut

A few of us recalled one of our last visits to this grand venue – a 30th birthday party – and wondered where all the years went.

Along with the expected Fullers offerings – the Great Northern is now a Fullers pub – there is a varied range of fine craft beers too. What tempted me however was the Compass Box Peat Monster whisky which was situated on the back row of the small yet varied spirits display.

The bottle label itself is a very attractive piece of work & the rich clear peaty aromas emanating from my glass certainly pointed to an equally attractive whisky inside.

Compass Box is the well respected blending & bottling whisky making company of John Glaser who sources the best malt & grain whiskies from around Scotland – ages them in barrels – also carefully selected – and expertly blends them together to produce a range of fine tasting whiskies highlighting the art of the blender.

The Peat Monster is certainly an angel of a whisky.

The familiar peat nose is crisp and clear – but not overpowering.

The taste is suitably smooth and silky. The peat pulls you in & opens up into some beautiful spice notes.

The long & gentle finish wafts all the perfectly balanced notes around in your palate before they fade away.

Bottled at 46% with no chill filtering & no added colour – Peat Monster certainly raises the bar for how good a blended malt can be.

Simply stunning.

Sláinte.

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SuperValu Premium Irish Whiskey Selection

On Wednesday 11th October SuperValu – an Irish owned retail store, part of the Musgrave Group with 223 shops nationwide – officially launch their new Premium Irish Whiskey range at an event in Dublin.

Being unable to attend – I did pop down to my two local SuperValu stores to see what all the fuss was about.

I must say I got quite excited about the breadth & depth of the range of Irish Whiskey on offer. Especially as it encompasses many of the new entrants into the resurging Irish Whiskey scene – as well as a couple of exclusives.

All the big 3 distilleries – Bushmills, Cooley & Midleton – are well represented with their familiar flagship brands.

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Supervalu Whiskey Cabinet c/othewhiskeynut

A clutch of new entrants offerings are also on display – Dubliner, Glendalough, Hyde, Teeling & Writers Tears whiskeys. All of which are currently sourced from the big 3 distilleries above – until the distillate from their own stills is old enough to be called whiskey.

The exciting dimension comes into play with the inclusion of three new distilleries who are actually old enough to produce & market their own whiskey.

Pearse Lyons Distillery only opened the doors to their marvelous facility in the former St James Church in August 2017. But prior to that their current stills – Mighty Mollie & Little Lizzie – had been fired up in County Carlow laying down single malt distillate which is now included in the two blended offerings of Pearse Original & Pearse Distiller’s Choice Whiskey – both included in the SuperValu range.

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West Cork Dhá Chasca c/othewhiskeynut

West Cork Distillers have had a somewhat rocky relationship with the whiskeyratti – but have been busily laying down distillate, releasing a slew of tasty own label expressions as well as innovative 3rd party brands too. They are actually old enough to release their own whiskey – but have never shouted about it if they are. The 10 year old single malt would be too old to be their own stock – but the new West Cork Dhá Chasca – a non age statement double barreled single malt just could be.

It’s also a SuperValu exclusive.

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Musgrave Exclusive c/othewhiskeynut

How cool is that!

So I bought a bottle for later evaluation.

What is even cooler is the poster child for the resurgence of Irish Whiskey – Dingle Distillery – have also released a SuperValu exclusive.

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From the SuperValu Premium Whiskey booklet

Dingle single malt whiskey matured in both port casks & bourbon barrels has been married together to produce this limited edition release.

Sadly it wasn’t in either of the shops when I visited – but wouldn’t it be great to pick up the cream of new Irish whiskey whilst doing your weekly shopping?

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Paddy for sale c/othewhiskeynut

And if you’re really lucky – like I was – you might also bag some of the remaining stock of classic whiskey from the recent past!

If that doesn’t make you excited – you’re not excited by whiskey!

Sláinte.

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The Temple Bar Whiskey, 40% x 4

There has been an explosion of new Irish whiskeys in recent years. A trend that is likely to increase as the next generation of Irish whiskey distilleries begin to release their own produce.

Another phenomenon of the re-birth of the Irish whiskey scene is the growing number of whiskey bars releasing their own bottlings.

Local to myself in the Midlands, Hugh Lynch’s Bar in Tullamore & Sean’s Bar in Athlone have both released approachable & enjoyable blended Irish whiskey offerings under their own label – both produced for them by West Cork Distillers.

Generally these releases are only available in their bar of origin. Which makes a good excuse for a journey to sample them in their natural habitat – in the pub full of ceol agus craic. Always a bonus in my book!

However when passing through Dublin Airport a while ago I did notice a quartet of whiskeys under the Temple Bar logo.

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I’ll have the 12 please! c/othewhiskeynut

Not content with releasing the obligatory blended offering – Temple Bar have taken it a step further and are offering a trio of age statement single malts at 10, 12 & 15 years old.

I didn’t ascertain where they were sourced from – there are only a few choices at this age – but they were all what I’d call standard bourbon matured Irish whiskeys.

That’s not to say they weren’t good – all of them are far better than the blend offering a richer, smoother & more flavoursome experience for the discerning drinker.

There were subtle differences between all 3 – but for me the 12 year old proved to be the sweet spot.

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Temple Bar 15yo Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

The combination of rich vanilla & caramel notes from the bourbon cask combined with some woody tannin notes from the oak barrel won me over.

Having a taster in the airport lounge before a long flight wouldn’t be the ideal spot to really savour these malts. That will have to wait for a visit to the actual Temple Bar in Dublin where a flight of all 4 whiskeys in the comfortable lounge area can be truly appreciated.

Maybe I’ll meet you there for one!

Sláinte.

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Coleraine Irish Whiskey, 40%, Brexit in a Bottle

As I sit tasting a whiskey, relishing it’s flavours & relaxing in the warmth of the brown spirit – my mind often wanders to the stories contained within the glass.

You could say it’s the ‘Message in a Bottle’ that often excites me.

Coleraine Distillery used to produce first class whiskey. Opened in the early 1800’s – Coleraine made triple distilled malts of distinction before struggling during the two world wars eventually coming under the ownership of nearby neighbour Bushmills. It was converted to a grain distillery in it’s latter years before falling victim to Irish Distillers rationalising plans in the 1970’s when grain production was moved to the New Midleton Distillery & Coleraine closed for good.

This is the Message in a Bottle.

So I took a sip.

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Comes with an E & House of Commons logo c/othewhiskeynut

The current incarnation of Coleraine is a budget priced blend trading off it’s past glory. The nose has that e150 caramel characteristic of an entry blend – the taste is rather muted but approachable – the finish is slightly harsh but not unwelcoming – overall no strong flavours, no surprises, but for the price point – it’s grand.

This is the Message in a Bottle.

So I took another sip.

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There is no distillery by the name of Coleraine anymore. c/othewhiskeynut

Brexit – for those that don’t know – is the name given to the process by which Britain will leave the European Union after the historic vote in 2016.

Northern Ireland is part of Britain – along with Scotland, England and Wales.

Depending on how the talks go – Northern Ireland will be out of the European Union (EU) by 2019.

As ‘Irish Whiskey’ is an EU definition – Regulation 110/2008 – I’d argue that definition no longer applies post Brexit. I cannot see how a non EU country will be allowed to label itself the same as an EU country.

This is the Message in a Bottle.

So I took another sip.

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Neck detail c/othewhiskeynut

Now initially this means whiskey collectors will have a field day. Just think – all the whiskey producers in Northern Ireland will no longer be able to label their produce as ‘Irish Whiskey’.

At present these producers are;

Bushmills,  Echlinville,  Quiet Man,  Boatyard  &  Rademon Distillery 

To the best of my knowledge they are all engaged in making, planning or building a whiskey distillery. After 2019 they will all be out of the EU – and if you click on the names you will be guided to their websites.

Do you think the 27 remaining member states will allow a non-member state to trade under an EU registered label?

I think you will get a resounding non, nein, nie, ne ………… and so on.

This is the Message in a Bottle.

So I continued to sip and ponder.

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Post Brexit is Bushmills non-Irish? c/othewhiskeynut

But it gets more complicated.

There is no grain distillery in Northern Ireland.

At one fell swoop all blends produced there will now become whiskey made in an EU country – Ireland – as well as a non EU country – Northern Ireland.

That will go down well with the Brussels bureaucrats!

It was beginning to wreck my head too!

This is the Message in a Bottle.

I needed another sip at this stage.

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Ring ring, Brexit calling! c/othewhiskeynut

But wait a minute. Doesn’t Bushmills export some of it’s liquid South for other bottlers & blenders to use?

Won’t that be subject to import taxes & customs control?

Won’t the resultant whiskey become a non EU product or a hybrid whiskey at least?

This is the Message in a Bottle.

And it was all getting a bit too much for me – and another song popped into my head.

What is the message in your bottle?

Sláinte.

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Jameson Caskmates, IPA Edition, 40%, Blend

You’ve gotta hand it to Irish Distillers – the largest producer of whiskey on the island of Ireland – for constantly coming up with new & innovative expressions for our delight & delectation.

The very successful Jameson Original blend is by far and away the biggest selling Irish whiskey in the world – but to be brutally honest – I find it rather bland & characterless.

The surprise hit of Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition gave the Original blend a welcome dose of character by it’s final maturation resting in casks that previously held stout from the Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork.

This has led to further collaboration with craft brewers around the world with limited releases of Jameson Caskmates in various regions to add more flavour & depth to the Original blend.

The latest incarnation of the Caskmates series takes it’s lead from the hirsute hipster’s darling drink of the craft beer scene – IPA.

You could say it’s bigger than Hip Hop!

IPA – or Indian Pale Ale to give it the original title – is a style of beer characterised by the varying degrees of bitterness provided by the inclusion of hops in the recipe. It currently fuels the growing interest in craft beer with an explosion of new tastes, new flavours & new styles.

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IPA Edition c/othewhiskeynut

Jameson has taken a leaf out of the craft beer scene to age their latest Caskmate in IPA casks – also from the nearby Franciscan Well Brewery – to provide new tastes, new flavours & new styles to the whiskey world.

So does it work?

Well – the back story and the flavours in the Stout Edition had me hooked so on hearing O’Briens had a limited run of 2000 for a trial period – I was first in line for a bottle!

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In O’Briens c/othewhiskeynut

But what does it taste like?

The dark colour struck me first – perhaps I was taking the IPA influence a bit too much in expecting a pale yellow offering!

On the nose it was relatively soft with a hint of citrus, quiet nice actually.

The taste came over crisp & dry. The bourbon maturation notes faded quickly to leave a pleasant dry lemony tart finish.

Novel & intriguingly enticing.

The overall experience was of a well balanced blend with subtle flavours throughout – perhaps just a bit too subtle for me.

But the hint of hops at the end together with a sprinkling of spice won me over.

You’d better ‘hop to it’ if yer after a bottle!

Sláinte.Good Logo