Category Archives: Blended Whiskey

Royal Eagle, Premium Whisky, 42.8%, Nigeria

To celebrate World Whisky Day I’m cracking open this Royal Eagle Whisky – kindly bought for me at a local Spar shop in Lagos, Nigeria, by my African correspondent.

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Fly like an Eagle! c/othewhiskeynut

The label states “A fine blend of Scotch Whisky and the Purest Quality Spirit”.

Voltic Nigeria are the producers.

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The Eagle’s back c/othewhiskeynut

They are/were a subsidiary of SABmiller – originally founded in South Africa with an HQ in the UK – who in turn were bought up by the giant Brazilian-Belgian conglomerate of AB InBev.

A more globally connected brand would be hard to find.

Nigerain Coat Of Arms
Nigerian Coat Of Arms c/olegit.ng

The image on the attractive bottle is rather striking – an imposing gothic eagle – which bears a resemblance to that in the Nigerian Coat Of Arms – and lends a degree of localisation to the brand.

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Strength in the Eagle c/othewhiskeynut

It’s presented at 42.8% Nigerian strength – with added caramel.

For this style of whisky – it’s quite light in colour.

There’s that intense caramelly nose – a sweet graininess & a hint of smoke.

The palate is pleasantly smooth. A rich mouthfeel – a touch of biscuity malt & a faint burnt note to add character.

The finish is like gently glowing embers slowly fading.

I’m glad this Eagle flew over to me!

Sláinte

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JG Kinsey, Special Reserve, Blended Scotch, 40%

Wow!

This one gives a lot!

I picked up this bargain basement blend working my way through all the whiskeys available in my local Dunnes Stores.

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JG Kinsey founded 1892 c/othewhiskeynut

JG Kinsey also comes with gin & vodka options & I had it down as a store brand.

WRONG!

Jacob G Kinsey was an american gentleman who founded the Linfield Distillery in 1892. Pennsylvania was – and still is – associated with rye whiskey. A successful business flourished, floundered, merged & was subsumed into the giant International Beverage Holdings Group.

Kinsey’s name lives on with this current offering – plus numerous blogs & posts about the now abandoned plant at Linfield.

Linfield
Linfield Distillery c/opre-pro.com

Interestingly New Liberty Distillery in Philadelphia – who have a connection with Connacht Whiskey in Ballina – also name check Kinsey with a range of Bourbon, Rye & American Whiskey.

With all this proud heritage – would the liquid inside the bottle deliver?

Well the nose had that sweetly honeyed, richly caramelised aroma – with a touch of depth.

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Some pedigree c/othewhiskeynut

As the label states – it was definitely smooth – but the body displayed a lovely wholesomeness which flourished on the finish into a gorgeously drying spiciness.

The source of this depth no doubt comes from the more meaty style of malts produced at the Balmenach, Balblair & Speyburn distilleries of the InterBev Group.

They give the blend a more robust kind of ‘Highland’ appeal – which suits my palate.

A bargain basement beauty!

Sláinte

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The Legendary Dark Silkie Smokey Irish Whiskey, 46%

Peat smoke.

It’s in fierce short supply as a flavour profile in Irish Whiskey.

Connemara flew the flag for many a year.

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Turf Mór c/othewhiskeynut

West Cork’s Peat Charred Cask used Irish Turf to flavour their barrels.

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Glorious Glengarriff whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

And lately WD O’Connell’s Bill Phil landed a smokey smacker.

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Peated Series c/othewhiskeynut

But they’re all Single Malts.

The big selling smokey blend market was effectively abandoned.

Inishowen did a gorgeous soft smoker from a few years ago.

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Inishowen, peated Irish Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Three Crowns Peated uses Islay casks to great results.

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Dunvilles Three Crowns Peated c/othewhiskeynut

But actual peat dried barley in an Irish Blended Whiskey was hard got.

Step forward The Legendary Dark Silkie Smokey!

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Dark Silkie c/othewhiskeynut

I took it for a whirl!

That distinctive coastal peat aroma greeted me.

Smooth easy & sweet on the palate.

A softly glowing peat fire grew in intensity – slowly drying out – adding a few prickly spices along the way – before leaving in a blaze of glory.

Dark Silkie is not for the faint hearted.

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@SilkieWhiskey c/othewhiskeynut

This is full on unapologetic smoke for the peatheads out there.

Fantastic!

Sláinte

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Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, Then & Now, Blend, 40%

A wonderful photograph courtesy of @irelandincolour featuring Kilbeggan Distillery  in 1937 prompted me to do a comparison review of Kilbeggan Whiskey.

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Kilbeggan Distillery 1937

The old gold label bottle has been superseded by a fresher & more vibrant green & white design. It still retains hallmarks from the previous incarnation – but with additional features included.

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Then & Now c/othewhiskeynut

Both offerings are presented at 40% with added caramel – a common feature throughout the range – which results in a shared golden hue.

A gentle honeyed aroma is enjoyed.

This follows through on the palate offering sweet biscuity malt – before a hint of spice on the finish just adds a spot of character to the proceedings.

A very pleasant, nice & easy blend.

In an ever changing world – it’s often a welcome to greet a familiar friend.

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The back story c/othewhiskeynut

Just as Kilbeggan Distillery retains the characteristics of the 1937 photo today – there were only cosmetic differences in the 2 whiskeys.

I’ll be looking forward to a return visit to the distillery after the COVID pandemic is over.

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Kilbeggan Distillery 2019 c/othewhiskeynut

Stay safe.

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Original 1937 photo courtesy the Breslin Archive.

Highland Queen, Blended Scotch, 40%

God Save The Queen!

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Highland Queen c/othewhiskeynut

Well – Highland Queen Scotch at least.

Earlier this month – in what now feels like a different era – I freely travelled by car, bus & plane across the Irish Sea to Scotland.

I also took the opportunity to visit a whisky distillery.

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Tullibardine Distillery c/othewhiskeynut

Tullibardine.

Owned by the French drinks company Picard Vins & Spiritueux – trading as Terroirs Distillers – Tullibardine – like many distilleries – has had a chequered history.

It also sails under the radar of many a more famous distillery – which piques my interest.

I found an open, honest, hard working distillery pumping out millions of litres of the amber nectar.

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A pair of Tullibardine stills. c/othewhiskeynut

Only around 30% of production is used by Tullibardine themselves. The vast majority – 70% – goes to supply the very backbone of the industry – blended Scotch.

Highland Queen is one such blend – available at the distillery too – which I was happy to try.

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Legal requirements. c/othewhiskeynut

A bit of caramel, a bit of vanilla, a bit of depth too. Very pleasant.

A nice smooth delivery opening up with decent rich flavours and an attractive bite as well.

A bit of alright!

Highland Queen is a characterful blend backed up by a long & distinguished career.

The constituent ingredients & blending ratios may constantly change – but the brand remains strong.

Just like how the whisky industry itself will comeback after the COVID19 pandemic.

Sláinte

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Teacher’s, Highland Cream, Blend, 40%

I had the privilege of attending The Brand Ambassador’s Tasting at the fabulous Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder in Killarney recently.

Fine whiskey, great company & mighty craic ensued.

I came away with a nugget of Irish Whiskey sales information however.

The biggest selling whisky in Ireland from the eclectic & well represented Beam-Suntory brand portfolio is by a long shot – Teacher’s Highland Cream.

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A naggin of Teacher’s c/othewhiskeynut

So I bought a bottle.

It’s yer standard Scotch Blend product.

It’s chill filtered & has added caramel. It’s non age statmented and gives no list of the 30 or so distilleries that have contributed their malt and grain whisky to construct this historic blend – yet it sells bucket loads.

It’s a straight forward no nonsense attractively peated whisky that outsells all others on the Beam-Suntory portfolio.

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The light of Scotland is added caramel. c/othewhiskeynut

The colour is ‘The Light Of Scotland’ – according to the label.

A decent hit of peat on the nose is mellowed by a sweet honeyed palate. A slightly drying peaty bite leaves toffee notes to finish on.

Plain, simple peated whisky.

Clearly what the market wants.

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Inishowen, peated Irish Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Yet ever since the demise of the gorgeous Inishowen – Irish Whiskey has no peated blend currently for sale.

Seems to be a big omission.

Slàinte

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Bell’s 21 Year Old Royal Reserve, Blend, 40%

I picked up this unusual bottle of Bell’s in a job lot auction win of miniatures.

Having tasted a few that had clearly ‘turned‘, I’d resisted opening this one as the fill level seemed low – a sure sign things were not good inside.

Only when the magnifying glass picked out 3cl on the rather sparse label – total 15 words – did I get my hopes up.

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Bell’s 21yo Royal Resreve c/othewhiskeynut

Could I be in for a treat?

Sadly – my nose said not!

Like opening a long closed cupboard – an intense rank foostiness assaulted me.

Undeterred – I ploughed on.

The palate started off dull – but a richness of depth, warming vanilla, oaky woodiness & a solid alcoholic kick greeted me.

Oh to have enjoyed this one in it’s prime!

Even on the turn there’s an attractiveness to the flavours within this Bell’s.

A joyous prickly heat danced off the palate on the satisfyingly long finish.

This must have been a belter in it’s day!

Hells Bells!

 

Sláinte

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21C Whiskey, 2nd Edition, Blend, 54.3%

Irish Whiskey continues to grow.

There are now 16 working distilleries that have matured stocks of spirit old enough to be called whiskey.

All of them contributed to create this special limited edition 21C blend unveiled at Whiskey Live Dublin 2019.

Luckily I managed a taster.

A fabulously rich & complex nose. Full bodied on the palate. A long lasting satisfying finish.

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21C Whiskey 1st Edition contributors. c/othewhiskeynut

From my recollections of 21C 1st Edition – blog here – this was a vast improvement. Perhaps reflecting the growing maturity of Irish Whiskey in general – a better blend of ingredients – older stocks added – or a combination of all factors.

Whatever – it made a great whiskey.

The new additional distilleries to have matured whiskey are below – taken in left to right, top to bottom order as printed on the back label.

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21C Whiskey 2nd Edition contributors. c/othewhiskeynut

Shortcross Distillery have yet to release their 1st whiskey – a single pot still by all accounts – but have built up a strong following with their Shortcross Gins.

Connacht Distillery are also waiting for their own whiskey to age further before release. In the meantime they have some tasty & innovative sourced whiskey under the Spade & Bushel, Ballyhoo & Brothership labels.

Waterford Distillery are following the above 2 in waiting for their own stock to age before committing to market. Unlike the others – they have not sourced any whiskey prior to that release.

Royal Oak Distillery in County Carlow have not released their own whiskey. Previously called Walsh Distillery – a split with the 2 companies involved means Irishman & Writer’s Tears will remain as sourced brands.

In addition to last years 21C – some distilleries have recently entered the market with their own stock.

Shed Distillery’s wonderful Inaugural Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Whiskey is now in the shops.

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105 Years waiting! c/othewhiskeynut

Tullamore Distillery’s malt is now being used as a component in their blended Tullamore DEW range.

A big congratulations to all those who contributed to this fantastic 21C Whiskey. Much credit to Celtic Whiskey Shop for bringing this fabulous project to fruition.

Already looking forward to the next installment of Irish Whiskey to mature in the coming year!

Sláinte

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The Snow Grouse, Blended Grain, 40%

As it’s St Andrew’s Day – a Scotch review is in order.

The UK is on the cusp of change. Brexit raises the possibility of a split with Europe – a big chunk of the whisky market – and Independence for Scotland.

Changes are also occurring in the whisky world. New brands, new countries and new styles are pressurising the pole position enjoyed by Scotch.

That position was achieved back in  the early 1900’s by the adoption of new technology allowing a new style of whisky to rise to the fore – blended whisky.

One brand that has had immense success with that style is Famous Grouse.

The Snow Grouse is one of their newer releases.

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Seriously chilled Snow Grouse c/othewhiskeynut

A blended grain – rarely encountered – much like the proud bird on the attractive label – a Ptarmigan.

This species of Grouse inhabits the higher & often snow covered ground of the Scottish Mountains.

The clever marketing suggests ‘freezing’ the whisky – much like the birds habitat – which goes against the – ahem – grain of allowing the whisky to sit at room temperature to enjoy the aromas.

So I did.

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Deep frozen. c/othewhiskeynut

Bad move.

The nose was decidedly silent – apart from a healthy dose of added caramel.

Ice cool on the palate – unnaturally sweet – oily & viscous on the mouth.

No warmth here for me.

I enjoy the marketing and the added theatrics of freezing – but the overall experience just leaves me cold.

Any soft or delicate notes exhibited by the grain have been frozen out & drowned by added caramel.

At room temperature it was far more palatable.

Slàinte

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Three Ships 15 Year Old Pinotage Cask, Blend, 46.2%

I’d heard a lot about the James Sedgwick Distillery in South Africa – mainly positive – so I couldn’t let this opportunity pass.

A glass of Three Ships 15yo was duly ordered in a packed Dick Mac’s pub at Dingle after the fabulous Irish Whiskey Awards 2019 event.

I got chatting with some American tourists – as you do – and they asked a pertinent question.

‘If you’ve heard a lot of good news regarding a whiskey – does that raise your expectations?’

‘Certainly’ I replied ‘But the proof is in the drinking.’

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I saw Three Ships & took a glass. c/othewhiskeynut

So I gave Three Ships a good nosing – and beamed a broad smile.

There was a richness & depth to this whisky that captivated me.

Notes of dark cherries – a juicy fruitiness – the warmth from years in wood and a touch of oaky spice. It reminded me of a good port finish – yet this was a South African Pinotage Wine cask. Works for my palate!

Those dark –  almost heavy notes – followed through into the taste. My mouth burst with flavours before a pleasing punchy alcohol kick set them alight.

The finish had those flavours gently falling back into orbit with a gorgeous warm oaky spice tinged with prickly juiciness.

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Three Ships aft label c/othewhiskeynut

I was so impressed I insisted my American friends took a swig.

They likened the punchy quality to a good rye – no bad thing in my book – although the luscious fruit juiciness of Three Ships was in contradiction to the dry peppery spice of a rye.

Even after tasting the Irish Whiskey Awards winners – this Three Ships 15yo certainly won me over!

Sláinte

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Many thanks to the kindly American tourists for sharing their time & displaying the whisky for my snaps. Hope you had a great time in Ireland.