Category Archives: Blended Whiskey

Kilbeggan Distilling Co Miniature Irish Whiskey Collection

Miniature gift sets make ideal gifts – they also make for an enjoyable tasting session.

Back to back comparisons very soon show up the range & diversity of flavours, styles & tastes from any whiskey distillery’s output – and the drinker will very quickly discern the particular flavour profile suitable for their individual palate.

I recently picked up the revamped Kilbeggan Distilling Co Irish Whiskey Collection at my local Kilbeggan Distillery in Westmeath – flag bearer to the Beam/Suntory owned sister Cooley Distillery in Louth where the bulk of the whiskey is made.

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Cooley Distillery name plaque c/othewhiskeynut

I got things rolling with ‘The Complex One’ – the Kilbeggan Single Grain.

Showing its new livery – along with the other featured brands – and a boosted 43% ABV with additional maturation in sherry & wine casks – this softly sweet Single Grain displayed a pleasingly varied range of flavours, a little prickly spice & warming heat on the satisfyingly long finish.

A great introductory single grain whiskey.

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Which one would you choose? c/othewhiskeynut

The ‘Sweet One’ came next. Kilbeggan Traditional Irish Whiskey – or a blended whiskey to you and me.

Now I must admit to having a soft spot for this blend. On blind tastings it always comes out vying for top spot within the category.

Easy, approachable, but with enough maltiness & depth of flavour to keep it interesting – this is an entry level blend that never disappoints.

The ‘Fruity One’ came in at 100 to 1 – or at least the famous horse the Tyrconnell Single Malt is named after did.

This is the non aged statement (NAS) version of a brand that has many cask finished & age statemented brothers & sisters to explore.

Ex bourbon barrel maturation only allows a warm fruitiness to shine through with a crisper, cleaner taste experience for my palate at least. Very nice.

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Old & new labels c/othewhiskeynut

The final offering is ‘The Smoky One’ – the Connemara Single Malt.

The Connemara range is sadly reduced to just this NAS – and the 12 year old. Gone for the time being are the fabulous 22 year old and Turf Mór expressions. Which is a pity – as peated Irish whiskey is an underrepresented flavour profile within the market.

The smoke in this single malt is rather dry & ashy, complimented by some gentle sweetness. There isn’t much complexity, but its a style I love – and I go out of my way to seek its pleasures.

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I got my Turf Mór! c/othewhiskeynut

There isn’t a bad whiskey in this range.

Just 4 differing styles & types of Irish Whiskey.

You have the single grain, the single malt & the blend combining both – along with that rare commodity in Irish Whiskey – peat.

I’d have to give my top pick to the smoky Connemara – even if the Tyrconnell has more complexity within its softer & subtler flavours.

Choosing between the Kilbeggan Single Grain or Blend is also a tough call – but I’d plump for the Single Grain. Simply because the wonderful flavours within showcase what a wonderful whisky a decent single grain can be.

Which one would you pick?

Sláinte.

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Jameson Whiskey, What Is The Message On The Bottle?

The issue of whiskey labelling is a hot topic that gets folks irate from time to time.

There are many variations.

Every whiskey producing nation usually has a set of rules & regulations governing their labels. What is allowed in one jurisdiction may not be permitted in another.

Before any label adorns a bottle of whiskey it generally has gone through some form of approval system.

In the main I’d be accepting of what is – or is not – mentioned on the label as having passed all these checks & balances and therefore legally sound.

Nothing written on the label ultimately alters the taste of the whiskey inside – it’s only a way of informing the customer of what is in the bottle.

I’m happy to drink any bottle that’s been labeled accordingly as whiskey – and trust my palate to decide wether the contents are to my tastes or not – irrespective of what the label says.

The latest row erupted over a bottle of Lambay Irish Whiskey. Here is the back label.

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Lambay Single Malt Story c/othewhiskeynut

I thought I’d add to the debate with a photo of a Jameson Irish Whiskey borrowed from a US blogger’s review here I happened to have read at the time.

Jameson Crested by Whiskey Straight
Jameson Crested c/oWhiskeyStraightblog

Applying my accepting position equally I’m happy with the story of Lambay using water from the island in their whiskey making process.

I’m also happy to accept Jameson hails from Bow St Distillery.  Which is how another US based blogger interpreted the label here.

jameson black barrel by TOModera
Black Barrel c/oTOModerablog

The difference is,  Bow St Distillery closed it’s doors in 1971.

So my open question to the whiskey community as a whole, and Jameson in particular is simply – What is the message on the bottle?

Sláinte

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Natterjack Irish Whiskey, 40%, Blend

I first started hearing about Natterjack Whiskey about 2 years ago.

Such are the lead in times to get a brand to market – let alone building a distillery in Kilmacthomas, County Waterford.

Keen to try out this newcomer to Irish Whiskey – but conscious I’d break the bank buying every bottle – a bar was found.

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P Mac’s in Dublin c/othewhiskeynut

P Mac’s in Dublin’s city centre suited my needs perfectly.

A tempting stock of whiskey had me wavering – but a short window of opportunity between 2 appointments meant I only had time to kiss the toad!

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Have you #kissedthetoad yet? c/othewhiskeynut

I’ve enjoyed the marketing behind this brand.

It’s fresh, it’s novel and it’s exciting.

The Natterjack toad motif on the bottle is also eye catching – but what of the liquid inside?

A distinctively ‘sweet & sour’ mix on the nose.

It’s a note new to Irish Whiskey – but one I’ve encountered before – mainly on young corn whiskeys from America. That is whiskey containing at least 80% corn in the mash bill – according to US rules.

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The bold back. c/othewhiskeynut

As Natterjack is an Irish Whiskey – US rules don’t apply – and it would be called a blend here.

It’s an easy going smooth whiskey on tasting. The ‘sweet & sour’ is less prominent – but still there – before a softly growing spiciness dries out the silky barley.

The peppery spice attractively lingers on the palate at the finish.

It’s definitely a new flavour profile for Irish Whiskey.

Natterjack is bold, innovative & enticing.

Despite not fully setting my tastebuds alight – I wholeheartedly welcome this exciting new entrant into the growing market.

I look forward to the future development of this brand – along with the distillery in Kilmacthomas – and wish the Natterjack success!

Sláinte

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Paddy Irish Whiskey, Blend, 40%

There’s been a lot of interest in the new design for Paddy’s Irish Whiskey.

Sazerac have recently taken ownership of the brand from Pernod Ricard – it is still made in the New Midleton Distillery in Ireland – and are injecting some money & life into the marketing & labeling of this historic whiskey.

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The new Paddy c/otwitter

Die hard fans are not exactly enamoured by the rebrand.

The additional ‘s in Paddy, the additional ‘e’ in whiskey, the altered image of Paddy himself with bowler hat, clover and smile has all caused a degree of ire.

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twitter comment

I see it as the onward development & change inherent within the whiskey industry.

Spotting some bottles in my local Dunnes store when out shopping – also with the extra ‘e’ – I thought it opportune to revisit this blend.

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Paddy Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

The nose has that sweet caramelly aroma common to many an entry level blend. It’s relatively grainy neutral otherwise.

The taste is soft & sweet, but develops into a noticeable heat with warming vanilla & caramel dominating.

It’s a robust little dram with a short finish & uncomplicated appeal.

What Paddy Flaherty was dishing out in his legendary sales adventures is in all probability nothing like today’s offering.

To begin with it wouldn’t have been chill filtered. That practice didn’t become common until after the 1940’s or 50’s.

The barley and/or corn raw ingredients were probably organic – as were all grains in a pre-petro chemical agri business environment.

The whiskey Paddy was plying would likely have been a pot still whiskey – a  mix of malted & unmalted barley – and not a blend at all. Irish distillers were reluctant to embrace the new technology of the Coffey Still which kick started the modern whisky industry.

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Paddy no ‘e’ Centenary Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

It also wasn’t until the 1920’s or 30’s that bottling Irish whiskey became the norm. Usually it was sold in barrels to pubs, bars & hotels who dispensed it straight from the cask – a large variation in quality could then ensue.

Even if Carol Quinn – Archivist at Irish Distillers – is sitting on an original Paddy Whisky recipe – it would be difficult to recreate.

The soils would be different, the water would be different, the air would be different, the processes have been altered, the wood for maturation would be different – all factors that in a myriad of ways would alter the taste, texture and flavour of the resulting whiskey.

But we can sit down today and enjoy a glass of Paddy’s Irish Whiskey.

I raise a toast to his memory and the fabulous tales therein of the original brand ambassador.

Sláinte

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Cutty Sark, Blend, 43%

It’s nearing Burns Night – 25th January – so I thought a bit of Scotch would be in order.

You could say Rabbie Burns is one of the first ‘celebrity’ endorsements of whisky – and he’s still going strong today.

My choice of whisky is one I rarely encounter – but the vivid yellow label & green bottle always stands out from the crowd & draws me in.

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Come sail with me! c/othewhiskeynut

Cutty Sark has dual meaning.

Rabbie Burns poem Tam o’ Shanter – a tale about drinking & chasing cutty sark or ‘short skirts’ in modern terms – still resonates today.

There was also a famous tea clipper – Cutty Sark – which just happened to be docked in London back in 1923. Berry Bros & Rudd decided to name & launch their new Cutty Sark Blended Scots Whisky on the back of this.

Marketing – when you get it right – it works.

And it’s still working today.

I picked up this miniature in a local off-licence when I spotted it.

The colour is reassuringly pale. There is added caramel – common practice for entry level blends – but not too much.

The nose is rather soft & light – with just a hint of sooty smoke & sweet grainy vanilla.

A very easy entry on tasting.

Nothing very much in the middle – before that gorgeous smoke influence wafts in and just makes this blend sail!

It’s simple yet well balanced.

None of the up to 40 different – and ever changing – single malt & grain ingredients dominate.

The particular bottle I sampled is from Berry Bros & Rudd and presented at 43%.

The brand has since passed through the Edrington Group & subsequently been acquired by  French group La Martiniquaise-Bardinet.

It’s a lovely easy drinking yet suitably smoky blend that certainly floats my boat!

Sláinte

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Black & Blue Premium Whisky, 43%, India via Nigeria.

Whiskey is a global business.

It reaches far and wide.

I love exploring the outer edges of the industry.

One emerging market everyone is keen to get in on is Africa – Nigeria in particular.

With a population estimated at 200 million – making it the 7th most populous nation in the world – and an alcohol sales figure of 2.84 billion dollars in 2014 – who wouldn’t want to have a slice of that cake?

Indian whisky is to the forefront here – at least until Nigeria develops it’s own distilling industry.

India produces mass market blends usually consisting of imported bulk malt from Scotland – augmented with Indian grain – plus a dash of added caramel.

All the big players – Diageo, Pernod-Ricard, United Spirits & others all have their own particular brands in this category. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a few here, here & here.

They retail – in Lagos at least – for about €5 per 750ml bottle of Nigerian strength – 43% – whisky.

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Black & Blue Premium Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

My latest acquisition – via my Nigerian correspondent – is Black & Blue Premium Whisky.

The name is entertaining.

A play on the successful Black & White Scotch mixed in with the premiumisation associated with Blue (a la Johnnie Walker Blue)  – and the unfortunate association attached to ‘battered black & blue.

It’s not clear as to the origins of this brand.

The label has a London address – a rather drab office in Kingsbury NW9 – and oddly a phone number – which rang out when I called.

Oh – I think ROI in this instance means Republic Of India.

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All the information you need? c/othewhiskeynut

I’ve not yet encountered any Irish whiskey in this segment of the market.

So what does ‘the finest oak aged matured malt blended with Indian grain spirit’ taste like?

Well – there is a burnt quality to the nose. I couldn’t describe it as smoky or peaty – yet it’s rather attractive. Mainly as it dampened down the sweet caramel influence.

This followed through into the taste – which didn’t offer much regards depth of flavour or complexity – but it was smooth & approachable.

The burnt note returned on the finish – which along with the 43% strength left a decent degree of heat & warm feeling on the palate.

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Sláinte! c/othewhiskeynut

It certainly didn’t leave my insides black & blue.

Just pleasantly intoxicated.

Sure at only a fiver – what can you complain about!

Sláinte

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My Irish Whiskey Release of 2018

There really can only be one winner.

No whiskey release has captured the imagination – mass sales – and adoration of fans on one hand.

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Proper Whiskey fans post images on twitter on securing a bottle c/otwitter

With so much derision and negativity on the other.

It has completely divided the whiskey community.

I give you Proper Twelve Irish Whiskey.

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Proper Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

I fully welcome the entry of a ‘celebrity’ into the Irish Whiskey market.

Scotland has Ewan McGregor & David Beckham, USA has Mathew McConaughey for whiskey, Lil Wayne for Rum & George Cluny for Tequila. Former World Cup Footballer Hidetoshi Nakata is involved with Sake in Japan – where the rise of it’s whisky industry is partially attributed to the film ‘Lost In Translation‘ starring Bill Murray – along with a TV drama called ‘Massan’ based on the lives of Masataka Taketsuru & his Scottish wife.

If anything – Irish Whiskey is late to this social media led personality trend – and I’d be more worried if there wasn’t an Irish celebrity wanting to get involved.

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Proper Whiskey fans stock up c/otwitter

Right from the beginning however – even before it’s release – I posted a piece with the headline ‘We need to talk about Conor’ and got the following response;

“No we don’t”

Kind of sets the tone for what followed when Proper Twelve was launched.

 “It’s barely legal”

Well at 3 years old it is legal.

Funny though – that issue never came up when punters were outbidding each other to get hold of ‘barely legal’ Dingle or Teeling whiskey when it was first released.

Then comes the condemnation.

“Heavily adulterated with caramel”

Yes there is added caramel – it says so on the label. Caramel is a legally allowed additive both within Irish Whiskey and Scottish Whisky. The same criticism can be levelled at virtually every Jameson product, Bushmill bottle, Johnnie Walker whisky and many others as they all contain caramel. Why single out one offender?

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Proper Whiskey fans post images of delivery trucks in NYC c/otwitter

Then you start to get to the heart of the matter.

“See, Bono’s doing it right….he’s supporting the build of an ACTUAL distillery!”

Since when did you need a distillery to build a brand?

The Spot whiskeys started out from a grocers. So too did the best selling Johnnie Walker. Many a big brand of today began as non distillery producers – it’s a well trodden path.

And then you get plain old bias.

“I have no intention of ever trying it.”

Which is probably just as well – as blogger after blogger lined up to do a hatchet job on the liquid. The best described the whiskey as;

 “Toilet cleaner”

Really?

Now in all probability Proper Twelve was distilled at Bushmills for the malt content and Midleton for the grain. There is no law in either Irish or Scottish rules stating you must name the distillery which made the blend.

So effectively the same teams that make all Bushmills product – from the White Bush blend to the lauded 21 Year Old Single Malt – as well as the folks that make all the Jameson, Powers, Paddy’s & Midleton products have somehow dropped their standards to allow ‘toilet cleaner’ to be made in their stills, stored in their barrels and blended in their tanks?

I don’t think so.

Proper worker
Proper Whiskey CEO checking stocks c/oinstagram

What I found on tasting was a very easy going, approachable blend with a slight charred cask influence and a hint of spice.

It sits very well among the other Irish whiskey blends out there.

But then what is getting people irate – from what I can see – is not really the whiskey – it’s the man behind it – Conor McGregor.

The idea that a somewhat colourful & controversial kid from Crumlin can just swan in with his millions and release a whiskey that has the whole world talking – buying – and drinking – is obviously too much to bear .

It upsets the cosy consensus that assumed ‘premiumisation’ was the way to go – or that ‘transparency’ is key.

For a whiskey that sold out 6 months worth of stock within a matter of weeks – I think it just proved there was a vast untapped market out there waiting to be filled. It’s a marketing master stroke and something of a social media phenomenon.

But of course – when all else fails – slag off the customer.

“There are just enough rednecks and hooligans out there that will actually make this crap a success.”

I find it ironic that those who criticize Mr McGregor the loudest seem to descend to his level of pre-fight ritual lambasting.

Which is a pity.

As Mr McGregor and his Proper Twelve brand have just pulled off a massive publicity stunt that is getting Irish Whiskey instant worldwide recognition and potential sales far beyond anything that has gone before.

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Success to Proper No Twelve! c/othewhiskeynut

It is without doubt my Irish Whiskey of the year 2018.

Sláinte

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All quotes in italics are from social media posts by various whiskey fans. They are by no means the only ones. I have chosen the milder variety.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Oak, Tokinoka, Blend, 40%

If I’d tried Akashi before this sister blend – I may not have bothered – but in reality – Tokinoka was my first exploration into the White Oak Distillery.

Oddly – I also found this whisky in France.

There must be a distributor doing a great job in getting it stocked around the country.

Again – this is an entry level caramelised blend.

But it’s more characterful & robust than it’s stablemate.

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Tokinoka Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

A sharp spirity nose is smoothed by the caramel influence.

There is a soft underlying malt to begin with – before a lovely warming heat kicks in.

I found it a pleasant little number.

A fair few were enjoyed at a Parisien get together with friends.

Sláinte

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White Oak, Akashi, Blend, 40%

Out at a party – en France.

The 1st bottle of whisky had already been enjoyed.

Our host said there was a bottle of Japanese Whisky inside.

The collective clapped their hands and said yeah!

White Oak Akashi was procured & poured.

Oh dear.

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White Oak Akashi c/othewhiskeynut

Entry level caramel infused blend this one – not much in the way of individuality, style or flavour here.

I moved onto some locally made Eaux-de-Vie.

It was far more entertaining!

Sláinte

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Whiskey 21C, Blend, 54.2%

Whiskey Live Dublin always throws up a surprise or two.

This years was the safely guarded release of Whiskey 21C.

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Whiskey 21C c/othewhiskeynut

This is a unique historical bottling of all the Irish Whiskey Distilleries that currently have stocks of matured whiskey in their possession.

The Celtic Whiskey Shop – not content with being the hard working organisers behind Whiskey Live Dublin – contacted all the distilleries with matured whiskey – asked for a donation of some of that precious liquid – proceeded to blend it – bottle it – sell it at the show on a strictly limited never to be repeated release – all for the Downs Syndrome Ireland charity!

Now that WAS a surprise indeed!

The 12 Irish Whiskey Distilleries who kindly donated to this project are – in the order they appear on the back label;

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The distilleries involved c/othewhiskeynut

Bushmills Distillery – Producers of the Bushmills range + other brands.

Cooley Distillery – Producers of the Tyrconnell, Connemara, Locke’s & Kilbeggan ranges – as well as numerous other brands.

Dingle Distillery – Producers of Dingle Whiskey

Echlinville Distillery – All current releases under the Dunvilles brand are sourced – yet Echlinville are sitting on 5 year old whiskey of their own making which has not yet been deemed ready for it’s public debut.

Great Northern Distillery – Producers of the First Born range debuted at Whiskey Live Dublin.

Kilbeggan Distillery – Producers of Kilbeggan Rye – the 1st Irish Whiskey containing rye for many a year and the 1st whiskey to be wholly produced at Kilbeggan since the micro distillery was commissioned there in 2010.

Pearse Lyons Distillery – Producers of Pearse 5 Year Old Single Malt. Some of the Pearse blends also contain malt made on the stills sited at the Pearse Lyons Distillery in Dublin.

Teeling Whiskey Co – Producers of Teeling Single Pot Still. All other current releases are sourced.

The Shed Distillery – Producers of Gunpowder Gin & Sausage Tree Vodka – yet clearly have whiskey waiting to be released.

Tullamore DEW – All current Tullamore DEW is sourced – yet they are obviously sitting on whiskey which has been produced at the new Tullamore Distillery.

West Cork Distillers – Producers of the Glengarriff range. Some of the WCD range is sourced + they supply other brands too.

Camera Shy Cork Distillery – The only whiskey producer not mentioned is Midleton. Could this be them?

A small sample of Whiskey 21C was also offered to Whiskey Live Dublin attendees!

I found it a young, fresh & fruity blend. Approachable & easy despite it’s 54.2% strength. There was no mention if it was either a blended malt or a malt & grain mix – nor the percentages of the distilleries involved in the project. I was just extremely pleased to get a chance to taste the future of Irish Whiskey!

A big thank you to all the hard work of the team behind Whiskey Live Dublin AND Whiskey 21C.

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A toast to the future of Irish Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

May your glass be ever full!

Sláinte

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