Category Archives: Irish Whiskey

Teeling Distillery 5th Anniversary Whiskey Tasting

Even before Teeling Whiskey Distillery opened in 2015, I eagerly attended a guided tour of the nascent facility by none other than master distiller & blender Alex Chasko himself.

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Careful now! c/othewhiskeynut

I’ve been avidly watching the rebuilding of Irish Whiskey – especially the role Teeling plays in that growth – ever since.

Teeling’s 5th Anniversary took place during COVID – and like many events – moved online.

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Online tasting c/othewhiskeynut

So instead of a lavish party inside the fabulous distillery itself – it was me, my computer & 5 samples of Teeling Whiskey made in that very distillery.

Alex Chasko was again present – along with brand ambassador Robert Caldwell – to regale us with tales of those 5 years. From a dream to reality, a building site to a fully functioning whiskey distillery and from brewing beer in Oregon to distilling whiskey in Dublin.

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Welcome to the Bang Bang bar & Distillery Shop! c/othewhiskeynut

To date most of the Teeling bottles on the shelves are sourced product – and very good they are too!

Alex is responsible for maturing that stock, choosing the casks, finishing, blending and releasing a wide variety of styles & flavours.

Now before me are 5 differing samples drawn from casks distilled at Teeling’s Distillery in Dublin itself.

This is the dawning of a new age in Irish Whiskey.

So what does it taste like?

A trio of Single Pot Stills started the show. All triple distilled using a 50/50 malted/unmalted mashbill presented at 46%, non chill filtered & natural colour.

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SPS Bourbon Cask c/othewhiskeynut

SPS Bourbon Cask

Immediately captivating!

The combination of rich vanillas, bourbon sweetness with a joyful youthfulness followed by an attractive prickly spice just won me over.

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SPS Virgin c/othewhiskeynut

SPS Virgin Cask

A more tannic, sawdusty element with a sharper spice came through. Still enjoyable – if less balanced.

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SPS Sherry c/othewhiskeynut

SPS Sherry Cask

Milder, mellower & more subtle & sweeter than the other 2. Not my favourite.

The 3 casks demonstrate the influence wood has on the whiskey. They also show the building blocks Alex uses to blend together to achieve a relatively consistent product for the Single Pot Still release which can iron out any excesses within the individual components.

A wonderful insight into the world of the blender.

Next came a duo of single malts – Crystal & Peated – which demonstrate the role raw ingredients play in developing flavour.

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Crystal SM c/othewhiskeynut

Crystal Single Malt

Crystal malt is commonly used in craft beer circles to boost flavour, depth & colour. A throwback to Alex’s brewing days.

Crystal malt has been roasted for longer – allowing richer, darker flavours to come through.

I found a farmhousey saison type of nose, rich vanilla on the palate with a gorgeous spice on the finish.

Very attractive!

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Peated SM c/othewhiskeynut

Peated Single Malt

Well anything with peat in it is a winner for me – and Teeling’s didn’t disappoint!

Very well balanced from start to finish.

A sheer delight!

A wonderful way to celebrate Teeling’s 5th Anniversary with such delicious whiskeys.

Having followed their growth along every step of the way it reassures me no end – the quality & diversity of whiskey being produced at Newmarket is a joy to experience.

Hats off to Teeling Whiskey – and all the team involved – Happy 5th Anniversary!

Sláinte

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Velvet Cap Irish Whiskey, Blend, 40%

Well I’ve gotta hand it to Peter Mulryan & all the team at Blackwater Distillery for launching a sourced volume bonders blend & getting it seriously appraised by the Whiskey Nerd community.

Many other similarly styled brands are regularly lambasted.

But first to the whiskey.

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Velvet Cap c/othewhiskeynut

A rich reddy brown hue with an invitingly warm hug of a nose.

The palate had a depth & complexity resplendent of the port, stout & rye cask finishing having worked their magic.

A touch of drying spiciness at the end added a final flourish to this characterful little blend.

An easy, entertaining & accessible whiskey that fulfills the brief Blackwater intended.

The much publicised launch coupled with the delightful sample package ensured a wide audience for the Facebook Live event.

Peter gave a fairly precise potted history of both the origins of Velvet Cap – as well as a synopsis of the modern Irish Whiskey Industry.

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Velvet Cap sample c/othewhiskeynut

I welcome the growing diversity of styles, brands & flavours coming out of this wonderful renaissance in Irish Whiskey globally.

The rather narrow & monopolistic view that defined Irish Whiskey of the recent past is inhibiting the future growth today.

The mantra of honesty & transparency is leading to some entertaining avenues – and focuses the debate onto what is or isn’t written on the label – rather than on what the whiskey actually tastes like.

Does a whiskey that says the ‘wrong’ things taste worse than any others?

An emphatic NO from Whiskey Nut.

Hyde came in for a lot of criticism on this front.

Interestingly in blind tastings, the brand always scored highly on my palate, irrespective of the labelling – which has been amended.

The blended whiskey market is a crowded category. Most of the people purchasing these brands are not whiskey nerds.

The finer details of the sales patter, cask maturation, mashbill composition or distillery of source may not be to the fore here – but taste & accessibility might.

Taste is very subjective.

An interesting analysis of taste came my way recently. A worthy read.

So when someone says;

‘I’m enjoying Velvet Cap’

It’s better than 500 words of BS any day!

Sláinte

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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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Tipperary Irish Whiskey Artisan Ice Cream, 1%

Irish Whiskey comes in many shapes & forms with exciting new releases appearing on an almost weekly basis.

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Yum yum! c/othewhiskeynut

One innovative idea I came across in my local Lidl was Tipperary Irish Whiskey Artisan Ice Cream.

How could I resist?

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Sounds good! c/othewhiskeynut

A serving was prepared – neat to begin with – although extra toppings of strawberries, cream & even a dash of single malt were later enjoyed!

The ice cream was exceptionally smooth, creamy & lucious.

A hint of maltiness came through the rich vanilla base.

Made in Tipperary using whiskey sourced from Kilbeggan Distillery – this ice cream has no artificial additives or colouring.

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Small batch ice cream. c/othewhiskeynut

A highly entertaining dessert that can be enjoyed in numerable ways.

Delicious!

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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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Jose Cuervo, Especial Reposado, 38%

As tequila finishing is now a ‘thing’ in Irish Whiskey – see JJ Corry The Battalion & Killowen Experimental Series Tequila Cask – along with the fact tequila distillers Jose Cuervo own Bushmills – I thought an exploration of the category would be fun.

Tequila is a highly regulated spirit.

The governing body – Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) operate strict guidelines as to what is – or is not – allowed under the Official Standards of Tequila – or NOM – which are available at crt.org.mx

Jose Cuervo is the biggest selling Tequila brand in the world – stats from 2019 here.

The brands bottles are readily available in Ireland & I picked up their Especial Reposado for appraisal.

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Tequila sunshine! c/othewhiskeynut

All tequila has to be made with the blue agave plant in Mexico.

If it doesn’t state ‘100% agave’ – like this especial – it must contain a minimum of 51% agave. The remainder can be made up of permitted additives; caramel colouring, natural oak extract, glycerin & sugar syrup for example.

This obviously effects the tasting experience.

So how did I find Jose Cuervo Especial Reposado?

Well – initially that distinctive pungenty earthy agave aroma greeted me – but it was overlaid by a sweet & slightly sickly caramel I dislike in many a whiskey.

The palate was very smooth & easy – just lacking a rich powerful earthiness – which is what I’m after in a tequila.

Only on the finish did those lovely agave notes resurface as it gently dried out leaving a peppery spice.

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Mit farbstoff c/othewhiskeynut

This is mass market stuff.

Simple, sweet, easy & smooth.

And it sells well.

It’s the equivalent of many a blended whiskey & exhibits the same sweet caramelly notes that – on my palate at least – hide the purity of the agave – or subtleties of the barley – depending on your drink of choice.

Just like whiskey – to get the better stuff you usually have to pay more.

But those tequilas are harder to find in Ireland.

Sláinte

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Irish Whiskey in the US.

One aspect of the growth of Irish Whiskey is the proliferation of new brands hitting the shelves of American liquor stores.

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Westmeath whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Many will be familiar to drinkers in Ireland – Jameson, Bushmills & Kilbeggan – to name a few.

Others not – Kavanagh, Kilbrin & Wolfhound – for example.

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Kilbrin floated my boat! c/othewhiskeynut

Generally the 2nd list are non distillery producers selecting sourced Irish Whiskey then labelling & marketing it under their own brand names.

For the last few years this has been a growing business.

The number of Irish Whiskeys seeking approval from the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has risen from 120 in the 2016-17 period to 204 in the 2019-20 time frame.  Data courtesy TTB Online search page available here.

Clearly this reflects an increased appreciation of Irish Whiskey – as well as a ready supply of Irish Whiskey Distilleries willing to cater for this demand.

It’s marvelous to witness the growing marketability of Irish Whiskey.

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3 Irish Whiskey brands in the US c/othewhiskeynut

I welcome each and every one of these new brands into the ever increasing & more diversified Irish Whiskey category.

There is however still a long way to go.

Scottish Whisky registered 1188 labels in the same 2019-20 period.

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.

Blind Sample Tasting

Blind tasting.

You – the whiskey – your palate.

No transparency – no openness – no labels.

What could possibly go wrong?

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Ready? c/othewhiskeynut

Laid out before me were 7 whiskeys – 7 identical glasses – & some water to cleanse the palate between each sample.

Oh! They weren’t completely blind.

They were from a list I’d selected from a fellow whiskey fan as part of an exchange and it included;

1792 Single Barrel,   Ballantine’s 17,   Chita Single Grain,   Dingle 4 Single Malt,   Evan William’s Bottled In Bond,   Hellyers Road Roaring Forty,   Jack Daniel’s Bottled In Bond,   Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel 100,   Kilkerran 12,   Miltonduff 9,   Naked Grouse,   North Star Campbeltown 4,   Stagg Jr,   & a Surprise.

A Immediately impressed me. Strong spirit, good clean flavours, rich in the mouth. Nice.

B Wasn’t as enjoyable.

C A bourbon – but with a welcome spice.

D Nice easy drinker.

E Another bourbon – strong, opened up on the finish.

F Didn’t enamour me.

G Very intriguing.

I initially went through them trying to match my experiences to the expressions above. It was really guesswork – as I hadn’t encountered them before this session.

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Score sheet c/othewhiskeynut

On a second round – I scored them.

Then the reveal!

A North Star                              80                B Hellyers Rd     72

C 1792 SB                                    77                D Dingle 4           73

E Stagg Jr                                   79                 F Kilkerran 12   70

G Glenglassaugh Evolution  78

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North Star c/o@bogstandarddram

Congratulations to North Star Campbeltown 4 Year Old Blended Malt!

An independent bottle from undisclosed distilleries presented non chill filtered & with natural colour at a hefty 57% ABV.

Obviously my kinda whiskey!

There’s a clear division between the top 4 – bigger, badder, bolder – and the bottom 3 – softer, subtler, smoother.

My only surprise was the poor showing of Kilkerran 12 – normally a distillery I enjoy.

But then that’s the whole point of blind tasting.

To try and eradicate – as far as possible – any bias you may hold,

and let your palate  decide.

Sláinte

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Michael Collins, Single Malt, 40%

One of the last bars I entered before the COVID19 shutdown was Garavan’s in Galway.

There on the shelves was an old acquaintance of mine – Michael Collins Whiskey.

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Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

Michael Collins is an iconic figure in Irish history. To name a whiskey brand after him celebrates that history.

When having a glass I not only enjoy the whiskey – I also wonder at the momentous changes Michael Collins witnessed – and eagerly participated in – a hundred years ago. There is a similarity to the current changes we are living through with the pandemic.

I ponder at the beauty and longevity of a brand too.

It can outlive changes in distilleries that supply the spirit.

It can overcome changes in ownership.

It can constantly change & adapt to the availability of casks – altering the blending ratios accordingly to produce the finished product.

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I polished off the blend! c/othewhiskeynut

Yet it’s still remains the same brand.

The Single Malt version before me was the old ‘baseball bat’ shaped bottle originally commissioned by Sidney Frank Importing Co. There is no age statement with this one.

It had a smooth honeyed maltiness to begin with. A characterful bite followed by a touch of dryness on the finish – perhaps reflecting a smidge of smokiness – which is more evident in the 10 Year Old Single Malt offering.

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Michael Collins 10yo c/owhiskyauctioneer

Sazerac now own the brand.

I eagerly await their reincarnation of Michael Collins Whiskey.

Just as I look forward to the end of the pandemic – and welcome in whatever changed reality exists in the future.

Long live the brand!

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