Category Archives: Distilleries

The Busker Irish Whiskey, Royal Oak Distillery

The long anticipated release of Irish Whiskey from the Royal Oak Distillery in Co Carlow finally seems to be over.

Bottle & label designs have been approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in America.

The Busker range appears to consist of a Single Grain, 44.3%.

Busker SG
Single Grain c/oTTB/Colasonline

Single Malt, 44.3%.

Busker SM
Single Malt c/oTTB/Colasonline

Single Pot Still, 44.3%,

Busker SPS
Single Pot Still c/oTTB/Colasonline

and a Blend, 40%.

Busker B
Triple Cask c/oTTB/Colasonline

As yet the only information available is from these labels – which may differ from the actual releases in various regions.

I find the bold design quite refreshingly striking – and can’t wait to have the actual bottle in my hands.

Especially as it will allow me to taste the all important Irish Whiskey inside!

After the parting of waves between Walsh Distillery founders Bernard & Rosemary Walsh and Royal Oak owners Illva Saronno– it appears the division was between a ‘premiumisation’ strategy versus a more mass market approach.

This is played out in the Irish Whiskey community too.

In an expanding & more diverse Irish Whiskey market both strategies are possible.

I’m certainly looking forward to sampling the fruits of Royal Oak’s labours  –  at a hopefully palatable price!

Sláinte

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Tullibardine Whisky Beer, 7%

Any whisky distillery that displays a row of beers proudly bearing it’s name always endears itself to me.

Tullibardine is one such distillery.

1488 Whisky Beer is a collaboration between Tullibardine Distillery – who provide the barrels – and Black Wolf Brewery – who make the beer.

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I do like a dark ale! c/othewhiskeynut

1488 is the year a young James IV ordered some beers from a local Tullibardine brewery.

This modern ale celebrates that long tradition of brewing & distilling in Tullibardine.

Alas there is no longer a brewery in the town – so nearby Black Wolf Brewery of Stirling do the honours.

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Let the wolf howl! c/othewhiskeynut

A dark brown ale colour & consistency.

A malty, bready nose.

Quite light on the palate with mild carbonation.

The whisky barrel ageing gives a heavier treacly undertow to the proceedings.

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Back story c/othewhiskeynut

An enjoyable pour that symbolises the rich history & craftship of brewing & distilling in the Central Belt of Scotland.

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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A Whiskey Flight From Clonakilty Distillery

I recently had the pleasure of revisiting Clonakilty Distillery.

Unlike the building site of my previous visit – Feb 2018 blog here – this time the gleaming copper pot stills were in full working order & the rich smells of distillation were ever present during the highly informative & enjoyable tour.

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Before, after at top. c/othewhiskeynut

Clonakilty Minke Gin is already available – but it will be a while for their own whiskey to mature.

In the meantime a varied range of sourced whiskeys – with added maturation & finishing at Clonakilty Distillery’s own warehouses on the Wild Atlantic Way – are available at the distillery shop.

I bought a couple of miniatures – part of their core range – as well as taking away some extra samples – I was driving – to enjoy later.

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Single Grain green, Single Batch blue. c/othewhiskeynut

Clonakilty, Single Grain, Bordeaux Cask, 43.6%

A clean, sweet & delicate fruity little number that lulls you in with gentle flavours before delivering a healthy spirity kick by way of entertainment leaving a soft fruit finish on the rear.

Nice

Clonakilty, Small Batch, Double Oak, 43.6%

Warming, more malt biscuity. There’s a fruity sweetness from the recharred ex-wine casks which give this blend a juiciness followed with a dry prickly spice from the virgin oak casks too.

Very engaging.

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Cognac Cask c/othewhiskeynut

Clonakilty, Cognac Cask, 43,6%

A limited edition at the distillery.

Rich warm dark fruits with a touch of nuttiness to boot. Dries out towards the finish with a pleasant spiciness.

Very enjoyable.

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Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

Clonakilty, Single Malt, Single Cask, Distillery Exclusive, 43.6%

If you ever need an excuse to visit a distillery – the chance to sample an exclusive bottling is always a bonus.

Warming vanilla enticed me in. A gentle rich maltiness tinged with dry tannic spice caressed my palate. A wonderfully balanced & elegant bourbon cask matured malt.

Class.

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Clonakilty tasting flight c/othewhiskeynut

Clonakilty, Single Pot Still New Make, unknown ABV.

A rare treat indeed!

Using the traditional – as in malted & unmalted barley only mash bill – that signature oily & slightly sour new make nose was evident. A clean & fresh feel was enjoyed before the high ABV kicked in leaving a prickly heat with a touch of spice on the finish.

A well crafted spirit for the wood to work it’s magic on.

Interestingly this new make has already won awards.

All bodes well for Clonakilty Distillery.

The stunning signature building, the lovely cafe, the enjoyable tour and the increasing use of barley from their own farm in future distillations yet to come.

Isn’t it about time you called round?

Sláinte

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Porterhouse Celebration Stout, 4th Barrel Aged Release, 12%

An unexpected serve at Dingle Distillery for the Irish Whiskey Awards 2019 event was this Celebration Stout from Porterhouse Brewery.

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It’s dark and it’s heavy. c/othewhiskeynut

I say unexpected as I’d not come across this one before – and obviously missed the previous 3 offerings.

Rich & dark, the sweet malty notes on the nose from the ex bourbon barrels used to mature this beer pulled me in.

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Drinking beer in the distillery. c/othewhiskeynut

The palate had a dark fruitiness to it – ex port casks (a favourite of Dingle Whiskey) contributed to this element – and the carbonation being light suited my tastes.

Full bodied & bursting with flavour this isn’t a shy stout – I certainly warmed to it’s delights.

Clearly the judges thought so too – as Celebration Stout went on to win the Best Irish Whiskey Barrel Aged Beer category .

A worthy winner!

Sláinte

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Bowmore No 1, 40% vs Art Of The Blend 3, 43%

Which would you choose?

A single malt from a well known Islay Distillery versus a blend sold by an upcoming Lowland Distillery sourced from unnamed origins?

Luckily for me – I had both!

Art Of The Blend 3 was a limited edition release allowing Eden Mill Distillery to practice their blending & marketing skills in advance of their own whisky maturing.

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Art Of The Blend Batch 3 c/othewhiskeynut

It came in a highly attractive bottle – which has since continued into their own releases – containing malt & grain whiskies finished in Islay Whisky Casks.

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Eden Mill’s own whisky c/othewhiskeynut

I found it crisp, clear, vibrant and highly enjoyable.

You could say it was smokin’!

By contrast Bowmore No 1 – named after the warehouse the barrels used in the single malt were aged in – was muted – almost as if the fire had gone out.

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Bowmore No 1 c/othewhiskeynut

The sparkle was missing – and I was a tad disappointed.

The Art Of The Blend 3 just blew it out of the water.

I let my palate choose.

It chose Art Of The Blend 3.

Sláinte

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Eden Mill, Oak Aged Beer, Whisky Barrel, 6.7%

On my last visit to Eden Mill – which is a combined Brewery & Distillery operation on the banks of the Eden River in Guardbridge, Scotland – the opener for the distillery tour was a bottle of their fine Whisky Barrel Aged Beer.

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Whisky Barrel Aged Beer c/othewhiskeynut

It certainly loosened up the tongues of the mixed bag of visitors on the day – and was a novel way to introduce the rich variety of drinks including beers, gins & whiskies made at the facility.

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Art Of The Blend series c/othewhiskeynut

Bottled at 6.7% the dark beer delivered a gentle aroma of malt. The carbonation wasn’t too strong – more in the style of a traditional Scottish Heavy Ale – with a great outpouring of flavour comprising of caramel, burnt molasses, a hint of dark chocolate & coffee too.

There is also a limited edition Bourbon Barrel offering – slightly sweeter & heavier if possible – with a younger 68 day age statement as opposed to the 93 of the Whisky Barrel Beer.

Whatever your poison – Eden Mill have a drink to satisfy.

These Oak Aged Beers satisfied me.

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Whiskey Burn, The Distilleries Of Ireland By Vespa, Ben Birdsall.

The growth of Irish Whiskey doesn’t just restrict itself to exciting new brands, bottles & distilleries – it also spins off into a growing library of books on the subject.

One of the most delightful books I happened to read recently was Whiskey Burn by Ben Birdsall.

It combines a travelogue of his adventures round Ireland on a vintage Vespa visiting as many whiskey distilleries as possible – along with an entertaining & informative description of those distilleries themselves – as well as the people, places & characters that shape those distilleries – and perhaps the resultant taste of the whiskey too!

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Packed full of fabulous photography, amusing anecdotes and a quirky sense of humour, Ben manages to capture the essence of Irish Whiskey on his circumnavigation of the Emerald Isle.

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Roe & Co c/othewhiskeynut

Published in 2018, Whiskey Burn is already out of date due to the fast moving explosion of Irish Whiskey.

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Powerscourt Distillery c/othewhiskeynut

Distilleries that were mere building sites or planning diagrams at the time are now fully functional & accepting visitors like Powerscourt Distillery, Dublin Liberties Distillery and Roe & Co.

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Dublin Liberties Distillery c/othewhiskeynut

Others have sadly failed to find adequate backers for their dreams like Quiet Man Distillery.

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Mural in former Officers Mess of sadly closed Quiet Man Distillery building site. c/othewhiskeynut

But as an apt quote in the book says,

” by the time they come out, all whiskey books are out of date”

This however doesn’t detract from the core enthusiasm displayed within Ben’s prose – nor the commitment of the characters encountered.

A must read for any fan of Irish Whiskey.

Sláinte

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Powerscourt Distillery

When your country estate already pulls in a substantial amount of visitors to the stunningly ornate gardens with magnificent views of Sugarloaf Mountain behind.

When a 5 Star hotel graces your grounds along with 2 championship designed golf courses laid out in the beautiful Wicklow scenery.

Not to mention the history, tales and adventures contained within the walls of the grand 18th Century mansion of Powerscourt House itself.

What exactly would be the icing on the cake?

Well a single estate whiskey distillery wouldn’t go amiss now would it?

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Powerscourt Distillery c/othewhiskeynut

Discreetly built onto the old estate sawmill, Powerscourt Distillery is fully operational busily laying down casks of single malt Irish Whiskey to mature in it’s nearby warehouse.

The 3 resplendent copper pot stills – made by Forsyths – sit majestically in a modern clean & bright open plan space allowing visitors a close up look, feel & smell of the whole grain to glass process of whiskey making.

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3 Copper Pot Stills c/othewhiskeynut

Noel Sweeney has brought his many distinguished years of knowledge as Master Distiller to Powerscourt overseeing the production of both single malt – as well as single pot still distillate – to this exciting distillery.

It will be a few years before Powerscourt Distillery’s own spirit is fully mature – but in the meantime a trio of whiskeys released under the Fercullen label – the old name for the lands Powersourt Estate sits on – are available.

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A tasty trio c/othewhiskeynut

Unusually in this instance Noel probably had a hand in distilling these sourced whiskeys from his days at Cooley & Kilbeggan Distilleries under a number of different owners.

Tours include a tasting of all 3 whiskeys in one of Powerscourt Distillery’s sumptuously laid out rooms.

The 10 Year Old Fercullen Single Grain Whiskey was offered first.

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Fercullen 10yo Single Grain c/othewhiskeynut

Now there aren’t that many single grains on the market – which is a pity – as this one shows up the light yet delicately balanced sweet & fruity flavours within a great single grain. Far from being silent there were notes of honey, citrus and a gentle woody spice too.

Very approachable & easy on the palate.

The attractively priced Fercullen Blend was a bit of a pleaser too.

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Fercullen Premium Blend c/othewhiskeynut

It displayed a complex set of notes from soft fruitiness to darker oaky tannins within an extremely well balanced mix.

A blend you can happily sit back & savour.

The pride of place meanwhile went to the Fercullen 14 Year Old Single Malt.

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Fercullen 14yo Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

Packing extra ABV at 46% – as opposed to the 40% of it’s siblings – the 14 Year Old had added depth & boosted character from the exclusively ex-bourbon cask maturation used in all 3 offerings.

When many a distillery relies on additional finishes to give the spirit a lift – Fercullen demonstrates the beauty of what to many is a simple standard of Irish Whiskey.

A very impressive range of whiskeys for a very impressive distillery.

Sláinte

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