Category Archives: Blended Whiskey

Moon Harbour Pier 1, Premium Blended Whisky, 45.8%

Ooh la la!

I happened to be in Paris during the double bill of Bastille Day and France winning the World Cup!

My particular reason for being there was enhanced by both spectacular events and added to a memorable trip.

It therefore seems apt to pour out yet another French Whisky and give it a whirl.

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Pier 1 in a Tuath glass c/othewhiskeynut

Je donne Moon Harbour Pier 1 Premium Blended Whiskey.

Well I say French Whisky – as it’s actually mainly Scotch which has been shipped out in bulk to Bordeaux where – under the guidance of master blender John McDougall – it is finished in locally sourced sauternes casks before being bottled & presented non chill filtered at 45.8%.

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Parlez vous francais? c/othewhiskeynut

There is nothing unusual in this. It’s a well trodden path for Scotch to send out loads of bulk whisky to many countries around the world where it is blended – often with locally produced spirits – matured, finished & eventually bottled to the recipients requirements before being released – mainly in the home market.

Many a Scottish distilleries output is destined for such bottlings – and it’s a big market.

It also allows an up and coming whisky brand – like Moon Harbour – to test the waters, hone their skills and develop their brand in the absence of a distillery which they may – or may not build at a later stage.

Moon Harbour seem to have plans for their own distillery in Bordeaux – so this blend looks likely to be a stop gap until they have their own whisky to sell.

Could it emulate the successful football team and win in a World Cup Whisky tournament?

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Bastille Whiskey in a Tuath glass c/othewhiskeynut

Well – in a back to back with the Bastille Single Malt – I’m afraid Moon Harbour lost out.

It’s certainly packaged in an attractive bottle however – complete with box – has a ruby red hue and displays deep legs.

There wasn’t all that much going on with the nose though. A soft sweet malty biscuit with a hint of grain.

A bit slow to start. The sauternes sweetness swiftly followed by a spirity robustness – quite a nice contrast really.

It left an enjoyable dry prickly heat at the end – but was somewhat lacking in depth of flavour & character. Perhaps the sauternes finish was just too subtle for my tastes.

If it had been presented without ‘Premium’ on the label and at a lower price I might have been OK with the result.

As it was it promised more than it actually delivered.

I do hope Moon Harbour get the distillery going however. I find it entertaining sampling all whiskies – especially new brands with a local twist – and welcome the diversity created by new distilleries.

It’s why I enjoy whisky, and despite not being a football fan, I did get a buzz of excitement watching the cup final on a sunny afternoon in a Parisian hotel garden with congenial company washed down with a whisky or two.

Sláinte.

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Feckin Irish Whiskey, 40%, Blend

It’s Feckin Irish Whiskey.

It’s  a feckin blend.

As such it probably has added feckin caramel & is feckin chill filtered.

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St Feckin who? c/othewhiskeynut

But it has a lovely soft & smooth delivery.

It’s a feckin decent blend.

Go order a Feckin Irish Whiskey at your local bar.

I won’t be held feckin responsible for any consequences arising.

Sláinte.

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Nikka All Malt, 40%.

Japanese whisky has recently entered my world.

It also happens to be one of the most sought after whiskies in the world with prices going through the roof & distilleries cancelling sales of age statement malts to conserve stocks.

Which is all a bit of a conundrum for sticklers of whisky rules and regulations – as Japan has none.

Doesn’t seem to have damaged their reputation for making fine malts by my reckoning.

Anyway – I’m in this bar – The Rag Trader in Dublin if you need to know – and I’m looking for a whisky I’ve not tried before. Nikka All Malt – in a rather unusually designed bottle – catches my eye – so a glass is duly ordered.

Now the All Malt is a blend of 3 types of malt from the Nikka empire.

Miyagikyou distillery malt, Yoichi distillery malt – which tends to be peated, and Coffey malt – that is barley malt which has been distilled in a Coffey still. Makes for a lovely combination in my book.

I’ve had some Yoichi Single Malt in the past and enjoyed the smoky peat flavours. Coffey Malt also impressed me. Partly because of it’s unusual manufacture – but I found the taste quite appealing. So I was looking forward to this one.

Now at 40% it’s probably chill filtered and colouring has been added.

It starts quite slowly. Soft, rich toffees & smooth. Some fruity notes appear before a lovely malt biscuity peat takes over. It’s not over powering – just very pleasant ashy smoke that raises the enjoyment of this lovely little All Malt for me. On the finish there are some more fruity notes to round things off.

A pleasingly pleasant easy sipper.

If you haven’t tried Japanese whisky before this is a relatively affordable expression to start with. It may not have that ‘wow’ factor – but there is enough flavour satisfaction to keep it interesting and certainly for me – very enjoyable.

乾杯

Which translates as Kanpai – or Sláinte in Japanese.

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Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey, Blend, 44%

Some whiskeys are just released quietly.

Others come with a blaze of publicity & flare.

And then there’s the Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey.

As the late great Phil sang – Are You Ready?

Well I – and a host of others – eagerly awaited the Irish launch of this much anticipated whiskey in the fine surroundings of The Rag Trader bar in Dublin’s fair city.

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The Rag Trader c/othewhiskeynut

The actual Dead Rabbit bar is in New York. It’s the creation of founders Sean & Jack from Northern Ireland. Despite being only a stones throw from the mighty Hudson River, when you enter, it’s like being transported back to a local watering hole by the banks of the River Shannon.

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The Dead Rabbit NYC c/othewhiskeynut

Awards have been won, there are queues to get in, there is some slick & clever marketing & it’s a very enjoyable experience drinking and dining inside the friendly establishment.

And then there’s the rabbit.

Dead Rabbit 1
c/o DeadRabbitWhiskey

To celebrate their 5 years in business the Dead Rabbit have launched their own whiskey. Not surprisingly it’s a 5 year old sourced blend. This follows a long tradition of pubs & grocers releasing their own distinctive whiskeys which are a mixture of spirits from a variety of sources blended to their own requirements.

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The Dead Rabbit family photo c/othewhiskeymut

So does it match the hype?

In one word – yes!

Now there were plenty of cocktails around – but I’m an old fashioned – ahem – kind of guy – so neat Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey it was for me.

A lovely woody nose enticed me in. The virgin oak finish had worked it’s charms.

The palate began softly. Gentle fruity notes developed into more robust woody tannins with a lovely rich spice which tingled on the tongue as it slowly faded away.

Suitably robust yet soft & spicy all at the same time.

Decidedly distinctive.

The Dead Rabbit’s done good.

Sláinte.

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Many thanks to Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey for the invite & use of the Rabbit image for the blog.

 

 

Lambay Whiskey – A Taster – Small Batch Blend & Single Malt, 40%

Lambay Island

A small privately owned island off the East Coast of Ireland with a rich historical background and a thriving biodiversity.

Lambay Whiskey

A business venture by the current Lambay Island owners and French based drinks producer Camus to launch Ireland’s first Cognac cask finished Irish whiskeys.

Sean’s Bar Athlone

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Sean’s Bar Athlone c/othewhiskeynut

The Oldest Bar In Ireland. Also happens to be a local of mine where a tasting of the Lambay Whiskey range was held with their entertaining  & informative ambassador Calum.

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Lambay Small Batch Blend c/othewhiskeynut

Lambay Small Batch Blend

A small batch sourced blend – West Cork Distillers – of malt & grain Irish whiskeys triple distilled, matured in ex-bourbon barrels & finished in cognac casks.

I was looking forward to trying this one.

A lovely soft, sweet yet surprisingly fresh & lively grainy nose pulled you in to a fruity & floral mix complimented by some nutty, almondy notes – presumably from the cognac influence.

The taste was clean & crisp – very engaging. Even at the 40% presentation there was appreciable depth of flavour with more of those nutty notes slowly fading to give that lovely dry mouth feel I enjoy.

This small batch blend certainly introduces a new and exciting flavour profile to the Irish whiskey scene.

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Lambay Single Malt Story c/othewhiskeynut

Lambay Single Malt

Also sharing the same source and maturation as the small batch blend, the single malt spent a little while longer in the cognac casks. Some of them were even matured on Lambay Island itself in a small warehouse used for the cognac finishing.

A softer, more malty & rounded nose led to a very smooth vanilla & caramel taste from the ex-bourbon barrels before the deeper almost cherry fruit notes of the cognac casks came through.

The finish wasn’t as dry – which allowed more of the lovely flavours to linger on the palate.

Conclusion

Both of these new expressions bring a welcome additional taste & flavour to Irish whiskey. Cognac cask finishing is new to Ireland – and relatively new to the whiskey world in general. I congratulate Lambay Whiskey – and all their partners – in delivering a lovely pair of great tasting and exciting whiskeys to the market.

For what it’s worth – I enjoyed the youthful vitality of the blend over and above the smoother single malt. The grain element provided a pleasant kick which contrasted with the softer fruitier depth of the cognac cask influence. Very enjoyable indeed.

Sean’s Bar Whiskey Club

A friendly gathering of whiskey fans to meet, discuss & enjoy fine tasting whiskeys from around the world. For details of future events, membership & activities please email westmeathwhiskeyworld@eircom.net – or chat to a member of staff at Sean’s Bar, Athlone.

Sláinte.

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Best Classic Whisky, Blend, 43%, Nigeria

A good friend brought me back a selection of whiskies from a trip to Lagos recently. I wonder if he flew Afrikan Airlines?

Contained within the group was the delightfully named Best Classic Whisky.

Best is actually a bit of a misnomer. Even among the wider selection of brands in this style of whisky I’ve tasted before – Best is a bit rough & ready.

There is a very big range of locally produced & marketed brands of whisky around the world that generally use imported Scotch – shipped out in bulk – augmented by ‘spirits’ of an undefined source to make these blended expressions.

It’s a big market for Scottish whisky. The volumes these brands sell would be enough to swallow up the entire output of at least a few of the 120 or so Scottish whisky distilleries – even allowing for the possibly small percentage of Scotch in the blend.

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Scotland and South Africa c/othewhiskeynut

Being a self confessed whiskey nut – I get just as excited cracking open a bottle of Best Classic as cracking open a bottle of the latest Irish release or Scottish malt.

It’s the thrill of finding out what’s inside. The taste, the flavour, the mouthfeel and possibly the story behind the brand too.

The  Best Classic – to differentiate it from other releases in the Best range – would be their entry level offering.

The nose has that familiar hit of cloying caramel. I don’t believe the dark colour has come about by a long maturation alone.

Heavy caramel on the taste – with a slightly oily mouthfeel – soon morphs into a straight forward high alcohol heat which isn’t entirely unpleasant – just a bit devoid of any real flavours ageing in wood could have added.

The heat slowly fades on the finish with a rather unnatural chemically note.

Not exactly ‘Premium Product’ in my book – but I’ve tasted worse.

It’s an ordinary no nonsense added caramel laden blend that’s only real character is the warming alcohol heat.

So what’s the story?

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Bottled under license c/othewhiskeynut

A bit of digging seems to show BenRiach provide the ‘Finest Scotch Whisky’ element as mentioned in a Kenyan website here as well as Westside Distillers website here.

The ‘Premium Grain Spirit’ is from South Africa. At least that’s what it says on the label.

Now I thought the award winning Sedgwick Distillery – Bain’s Single Grain anyone? – was the only distillery in South Africa. Interestingly they also started out making blends mixing local spirit with imported Scotch. A truly acorns to oaks tale there I think.

But a quick internet search reveals a few other contenders; Durbanville Distillery, Silver Creek Distillery & Qualito Craft Distillery being some I found. There could be more.

Any one of these producers – even the company behind Best Classic Whisky – could go on to win in the international sphere too.

But as it stands at the moment – Best will have to get better.

Sláinte.

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Clontarf 1014 Irish Whiskey Trinity, Single Malt + Blends, 40%

The Clontarf 1014 Irish Whiskey Trinity pack is one of the most attractive & innovative designs I’ve come across in the whiskey world.

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Clontarf Trinity c/othewhiskeynut

The three separate expressions that make up the complete Trinity come in individually designed bottles that fit into one another to give the impression of one complete bottle.

Neat! Or should that be Neat Neat Neat?

Clontarf Irish Whiskey – or 1014 to commemorate the Battle of Clontarf – is one of the brands developed by Castle Brands Inc. They are an NDP (Non Distillery Producer). Like many others – at home and abroad – they source their whiskey from an Irish distillery and add their own signature to the expression.

I’ve come across Clontarf before. Mainly in Aldi – at least in Ireland – but this Trinity pack I picked up in Mullingar’s Old Stand off licence. I did notice they have made a reappearance at the Loop Dublin Airport too when I last flew out.

So what is actually inside the attractive packaging?

There are 3 expressions.

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Clontarf Trinity miniatures c/othewhiskeynut

The Clontarf Classic Blend.

The Clontarf Reserve and

The Clontarf Single Malt.

All are presented at 40%. Probably chill filtered with added caramel.

I’ve had the Classic Blend before. It’s the entry level blend. I found it a rather robust straight forward bourbon cask matured malt & grain blend with a decent nose, taste & a healthy bite to it. No nonsense stuff with a bit of character. It is what it is and I found it rather appealing for that.

The Reserve comes over a bit softer & smooth. More subtle and cultured yet lacking the attractive bite of it’s sibling. There is no age statement on any of the Trinity bottles – although I have come across a 10 Year Old Signature Reserve before. It had much the same taste experience.

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Clontarf 10 yo Signature Reserve c/othewhiskeynut

The flagship of the Clontarf Trinity is the Single Malt.  At least that’s what you’d expect.

What I found was a soft, even muted nose. A very approachable mellow malt with a smooth delivery together with a gently warming finish. There’s nothing wrong with it. I just found it lacking in character.

Rather oddly for this trio of whiskeys – my favourite would have to be the full tasting full on robust entry level Classic Blend. The vibrancy & honest character of this blend appealed to me over and above it’s more balanced & smoother siblings.

I’d be interested to hear what you found.

Comments below.

Sláinte.

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Jameson Deconstructed Series x 3, 40%, Blends.

Flying.

We all do it.

Short haul, long haul, weekend breaks, trips of a lifetime.

There are disadvantages.

Security queues, liquid bans, baggage allowances.

And advantages.

Travel retail exclusives.

For the whiskey fans at least.

And usually tasters. Which I’m ever so happy to sample.

The Jameson Deconstructed Series had eluded me for a long time. Now I can’t say I was entirely bowled over by the landside Makers Series. The flavours were a little too mild & subtle for my liking. Perhaps soft & approachable – which can almost be a Jameson tag line – and one they’re highly successful with. Generally I prefer something bold – which happens to be the name of one expression in the airside Deconstructed Series.

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Jameson Deconstructed Series c/othewhiskeynut

Contrary to perceived wisdom – which is to start with the mildest then move on to the more robust not to overpower the subtleties – I asked the rep at the Loop Dublin Airport for the strongest flavoured expression first.

Round was chosen. An expression ‘giving the barrel the final say‘ according to Jameson.

Well yes! This was nice. Big bold tannins, leather and a little bite at the end.

Suitably impressed I moved onto Bold.

It too was rather pleasing. If only slightly more ’rounder’ on my palate. This one highlighted the pot still character.

Lively meanwhile only delivered what I expect from Jameson. Soft & approachable – yet perfectly drinkable all at the same time.

All in all I came away very happy with the Deconstructed Series.

There are notes & flavours here you can get your teeth into.

Pity they hadn’t moved up from the 40% chill filtered & added caramel presentation. The flavours would have been even more enhanced.

But maybe that’s too ‘bold‘ a step for Jameson – even though Round came out tops for me.

Slàinte.

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Masonic Arms, Anstruther, & Cameron Brig, Single Grain, 40%

When out and about I enjoy popping into bars I’ve not previously visited on the off-chance of finding a gem.

The Masonic Arms in the picturesque East Neuk village of Anstruther sits at the end of the West Pier and is more of a rough diamond.

It’s easy to get sucked into conversation in this character driven pub – both from behind the bar as well as in front of it – but the main attraction for me – aside from the gently warming fire – is a great selection of whiskies.

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Some Masonic whiskeys. c/othewhiskeynut

A plethora of single malt Scotch, the usual big brand blends, assorted Irish & some bourbons adorn the back wall.

My tipple of choice however was a local offering – Cameron Brig Single Grain.

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The local whisky c/othewhiskeynut

Cameronbridge Grain Distillery was among the first to utilise the new technology of the Coffey Still back in the 1830’s.

Irishman Aeneas Coffey failed to find many backers in his native land for his controversial invention – yet the Lowland Scottish distillers took to it with gusto. They effectively kick started the rise of blended whisky which went on to ensure Scotch as the biggest selling whisky in the world.

Over 180 years later, Cameronbridge is still pumping out 120 million lpa (litres of pure alcohol) per annum – making it the both the largest and oldest grain distillery in Europe.

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Cameronbridge Distillery c/othewhiskeynut

George Roe used to have the largest distillery in Europe – but he (and other Dublin distillers) campaigned against grain whisky calling it ‘silent spirit’.

It’s rather ironic George & his friends are no more – yet Diageo – who own Cameronbridge – are currently resurrecting whiskey distilling on the old George Roe distillery site in Dublin.

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The new Roe & Co distillery. c/othewhiskeynut

So what does this ‘silent spirit’ taste like?

Well being a bourbon cask matured single grain it has that sweet vanilla & caramel nose going on. I wouldn’t rule out added caramel too.

A soft smooth inviting palate with a pleasant depth left a gentle warm glow in the mouth.

Nothing special really. An easy drinking dram ‘hard to find outside of Fife‘ my fellow barmate informed me – along with the anecdote he often enjoyed it mixed with Scotland’s other national drink – Irn Bru.

I didn’t check the veracity of either statement – but did enjoy a quiet half hour out of the wet & miserable weather to raise a glass to Aeneas Coffey & the Irishman’s contribution to the rise of Scotch.

Sláinte.

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Great Oaks Irish Whiskey, Blend, 46%

As I write this Ireland is effectively in lockdown covered in a great blanket of snow from the #BeastFromTheEast & awaiting the blizzard of Storm Emma.

In response I’m sitting indoors enjoying a #WarmthFromTheWest whiskey by the name of Great Oaks.

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Great Oaks c/othewhiskeynut

This whiskey seems to be off the radar for most – which is a pity – as it’s the perfect antidote to keep Storm Emma at bay.

I’ve only come across it in Dunnes stores – yet it’s a product of West Cork Distillers.  The label isn’t particularly attractive. Rather plain & unassuming – but for me – it’s the contents that count.

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#WarmthFromTheWest c/othewhiskeynut

There’s a rich inviting nose of vanilla & caramel – with a hint of oakiness – the usual notes expected of bourbon cask maturation coupled with charred cask finishing.

In the mouth it’s soft, approachable, very bourbony and above all, lovely & warming. The oak influence adds a degree of spiciness too. Very nice.

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Detail c/othewhiskeynut

A lovely dry prickly finish rounds off this comforting little blend.

Bottled at 46%, non chill filtered, no age statement & possibly without added caramel. I’d suggest this was all West Cork’s distillate. It has the same DNA as their Black Cask bottling which at only 40% doesn’t pack as much flavour or heat.

With snow all around – heat is exactly what I’m looking for and Great Oaks certainly delivers that in a delightfully enjoyable way.

Keep yourself warm with a bottle from the West!

Sláinte.

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