Category Archives: Irish Whiskey

Sean’s, Clonmacnoise Irish Whiskey, Single Malt, 40%

I like a whiskey that takes you on a journey.

A journey of taste – as well as history.

Sean’s Clonmacnoise Single Malt Irish Whiskey does this in bundles.

A short boat ride down the mighty River Shannon from just outside Sean’s Bar’s beer garden in Athlone – is the monastic settlement of Clonmacnoise

The art of distillation is often attributed to monks bringing back the knowledge from the middle east. The route they would have traveled into the heart of Ireland is the very same River Shannon.

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Sean’s Clonmacnoise Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

The earliest written record of  aqua vitae, or uisce beatha, or whiskey as we now know it – was written in the Annuls Of Clonmacnoise in 1405. It regales the story of an unfortunate local chieftain who died of a ‘surfeit of aqua vitae’ during festivities.

Meanwhile I was fortunate enough to receive an advance bottle of Clonmacnoise by Sean’s for appraisal – & more sensible drinking.

Now I’m a fan of pubs releasing their own whiskey brands. It harks back to the days when licensed premises would have had a barrel of whiskey propped up at the bar from which they would have dispensed the spirits inside.

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Sean’s, Ireland’s Oldest Bar c/othewhiskeynut

The degree of individuality, diversity & tastes experienced when going from bar to bar would have been vast – and to a certain extent bars releasing their own brands today reflects that history.

Nowadays the whiskey is usually sourced from a number of distilleries and bottled for the bar.

Sean’s happens to have been sourced at West Cork Distillers (WCD) – and I must admit to being a fan of this slightly unconventional distillery founded by three friends who were mainly previously involved in the fishing industry.

So how did I find Clonmacnoise Whiskey?

Well the colour is a lovely dark amber. Suggestive of charred casks – which WCD do a lot of – or perhaps a sherry finish.

The nose is quite youthful & invigorating – with a warm & inviting depth to it. There’s some dark fruity notes & an intriguing soft hint of smoke.

Sean's (1 of 1) email
Sean’s Bar Athlone c/othewhiskeynut

It starts off light & easy. Very accessible & gently warming – but then it takes you on a journey – slowly developing layers of enjoyable flavours & complexity before a lovely dry spiciness with subtle hints of smoke finishes of this characterful little number.

Sean’s Clonmacnoise captures both the modern rebirth of Irish Whiskey with it’s youthful vitality & modern style – as well as remembering the long historic legacy of Irish Whiskey that has journeyed so far from it’s original birthplace.

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The Viking Ship on the mighty River Shannon at Athlone c/othewhiskeynut

You too can take that journey – by having a glass of Sean’s Clonmacnoise Whiskey in the Oldest Bar In Ireland – Guinness Book Of World Records certified – as well as journeying down river on the Viking Ship from Athlone to visit Clonmacnoise Monastery – home of the earliest written record of whiskey in the world.

Just go easy – don’t end up like the poor old chieftain!

Sláinte

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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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Glastry Farm Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey Ice Cream, 3.32%

A visit to a whiskey distillery is always an exciting experience.

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Kilbeggan on a wet day c/othewhiskeynut

There is the history, the heritage, the gleaming copper pot stills, the subtle smells of malted barley along with gentle woody notes of maturing casks.

There are the characters that make the whiskey too – and all that before actually tasting the whiskey!

But there is also the unexpected.

Like Glastry Farm Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey infused ice cream!

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Mmmmmm! Nice c/othewhiskeynut

I couldn’t resist.

Soft, creamy, indulgent, with a mention of malt in the background. This ice cream makes a gorgeous dessert on it’s own – let alone served with strawberries and a dash of Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye perhaps?

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Go on,dig in! c/othewhiskeynut

Little touches like this provide the icing on the cake.

It’s more than the whiskey.

It’s immersing yourself in the experience.

When will you visit Kilbeggan Distillery?

Slàinte

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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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Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fair 2019

The Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fair continues to be the first major drinks festival of the calendar in Ireland. Now in it’s 6th year – this is my 3rd visit.

I keep going back to enjoy the friendly atmosphere, sample the diverse & exciting array of craft beers & cider available – and taste some whiskeys too!

I’d like to thank Alltech for offering me a Media Pass to enjoy this years show so #ad is in order.

Now a word of advice – have a plan.

There is no way you’ll get round all the stalls & all the produce on offer – at least not in one day if you still want to be standing at the end of it.

My plan was relatively simple.

In order of priority I’d be checking out any new whiskeys, any new spirits, any new barrel aged beers, having a pie & enjoying myself.

Simples!

I made a beeline for Black’s Of Kinsale.

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#whiskey of the day c/othewhiskeynut

Their sourced 12 Year Old Single Malt – ahead of their own distillate maturing – captured me with it’s bold yet clean design & cool bottle.

The liquid inside didn’t disappoint either.

A warm smooth & inviting start with a slight smoky hint of charred casks developed into a silky mouthfeel which slowly morphed into a gorgeously dry finish.

A great start to the show.

Their Spiced Irish Rum also tempted me.

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#rum of the day c/othewhiskeynut

The Guatemalan sugar cane mollasses are imported into Ireland, fermented, distilled & matured by Black’s to produce an Irish Rum.

Now rum isn’t my speciality – but this had an invitingly pungent nose of earthiness, smokiness, sweetness & spice. The taste followed in this style & was a far more entertaining tipple than I expected.

Thumbs up all round for Black’s entry into the distilled spirits market.

Rye River Brewing happened to be nearby with their ever enthusiastic beer ambassador Simon. Now we happen to know each other prior to his latest rise to beer fame & he didn’t have to twist my arm too hard to get me sampling a Rye River special brewed for the show.

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#grodziskie of the day c/othewhiskeynut

It also wasn’t difficult to go on a slightly wavering tour of the festival – perhaps taking in more than we would have done individually – but having a great time nonetheless.

Kweichow Moutai were up next.

A newcomer into the market for Ireland this historic and extremely popular Chinese spirit often catagorised as ‘baijiu‘ is an area I’ve yet to venture into.

Gorgeously garishly attractive – both the bottle, stall design and uniformed – as well as informed – staff had me trying to get my head round the sorghum & wheat base, 9 distillation production technique and new taste sensations.

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#baijiu of the day c/othewhiskeynut

It has the nose & appearance of a poitin – yet the taste was something else. At 53% it was warm, inviting, softly sweet yet earthy & unusual. I’d have been tempted to buy a bottle to explore further – but on hearing the price – this is a premium product with a premium price tag I was informed – I made do with another sample that still had me yearning for more! One to watch as they say.

Knowing my predilection for darker, heavier beers Simon guided me to Clifden based Bridewell Brewery. Along with their core range a limited edition duo commemorating the historic first flight across the Atlantic by Alcock & Brown resulted  in highly enjoyable & very satisfying Navigator Transatlantic Brown. The Pilot Amber Ale of Alcock wasn’t too bad either!

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#brown ale of the day c/othewhiskeynut

Lough Gill Brewery of Sligo also got a look in with their Award Winning Barrel Aged Dark Sunset Imperial Oatmeal Stout.

Yes, yes and yes! – is all I can say.  Suits me sir!

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#barrel aged beer of the day c/othewhiskeynut

A few other beers were had – some enjoyable – others not so – before Simon went back to work – and I back to whiskey – Pearse Lyons Whiskey to be precise.

Now I thought I had a reasonable handle on the fast moving Irish Whiskey Scene – obviously not when confronted by three age statemented Pearse Lyons offerings!

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#revamped whiskey of the day c/othewhiskeynut

What gives?

Turns out the original core range of 4 has been revamped, rerecipied & rebranded!

Gone are the non age statements, chunky bottles & keyhole like labels – in is a sleeker, leaner shared brand identity with a slightly higher 43% ABV. Also gone is the Cooper’s Select – grab it while you can!

The names & colours remain the same – with Original now a 5yo & Distiller’s Choice a 7yo. Founder’s Reserve was already a 12yo.

Short of a back to back comparison with the old 42% versions I couldn’t discern what changes have taken place. It was admitted the Original had lost a little of it’s smoky character from the former Alltech Lexington Brewery & Distillery barrels. It also looks as if that facilities output has also had a rebrand – but I failed to make the Town Branch stall this time.

The newly rebranded Pearse Lyons trio all still taste very appealing & are attractively priced – yet I was somewhat surprised by the revamp – so much so I needed a break – and a pie – to recompose myself!

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#pie of the day c/othewhiskeynut

Pieman continue to be a favourite festival pie provider of mine. A roast chicken & sausage stuffing pie sated my hunger & calmed me down for the final push. It also allowed some entertaining chats & discussions with fellow attendees on the shared table spaces dotted around the hall. Hats off to the Tempted ciderist who won Best In Show for their gorgeously dry & balanced Tempted Strawberry Cider & explained the intricacies of the trade to me over our meal.

Conscious that time was limited to make the last train home – I found another barrel aged beer to sample at the Clocked Out stall.

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#brett of the day c/othewhiskeynut

Brett  yeast seems to be a growing trend in craft brewing but I’m still not sure of the sour & funky taste even with this fine barrel aged stout. I did manage a quick catch up with the ever energetic Mr Guilfoyle whose rise in beer has been a pleasure to witness.

Scottish punk drink empire’s BrewDog stand earned a final visit. I knew they had a sourced whisky lurking under the counter waiting to celebrate Scotland’s win over England in the Six Nations which ultimately went to a draw.

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#whisky of the day c/othewhiskeynut

Uncle Duke’s is a Cameron Bridge sourced single grain with American virgin oak maturation, no chill filtration & natural colour. Rich, warm & inviting with a lovely dry spiciness showing through the soft & smooth delivery.

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#waffle of the day c/othewhiskeynut

A proud testament to the enduring legacy of Irishman Aeneas Coffey whose continuous still was adopted by Cameron Bridge back in the 1830’s – and is still going strong today – in a larger modern version –  with wonderful results like this.

And with that it was all over for me – despite the growing crowds still entering to enjoy the evenings entertainment.

All I was looking forward to now was that hot cup of tea on the train home!

Sláinte

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The Dublin Liberties Distillery

A bright sunny Monday morning had me waiting outside Dublin’s newest whiskey distillery – Dublin Liberties Distillery – eagerly looking forward to being one of the first customers within it’s doors.

The building has been transformed since my last visit. Gone are the whitewashed walls, black doors and empty industrial space inside. Now it’s showing off the original stone walls, immaculately varnished wooden doors and a modern yet comfy cafe combined with an extremely well stocked distillery shop displaying it’s attractive wares.

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The way it used to be. c/othewhiskeynut

The staff were warm & friendly – if a little apprehensive at the start of their new roles as whiskey ambassadors for a bright shiny recently opened distillery.

The Liberties location is featured heavily in the opening story – a story of rebels, rascals and raconteurs.

Being beyond the city walls the area had certain freedoms – liberties – that weren’t available within. Business & industry grew up here – especially the brewing & distilling industry with it’s associated trades. As well as a reputation for entertainment & thrills – which the freshly redesigned & elaborate whiskeys of the Dublin Liberties Distillery range reflect.

The Dubliner Honeycomb Whiskey Liqueur at 30% is offered at the start of the tour as an easy starter into the brand.

Rich sweet honey up front gently morphs into a smooth warming whiskey heat that slowly fades on the palate.

A lovely little liqueur to lure you in!

Despite honouring the past – this is a modern distillery.

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Women who whiskey. c/othewhiskeynut

The washback & fermenter room is full of gleaming stainless steel tanks, pipe work & monitoring gauges.

The grain mill is enclosed beyond protective glass to prevent potential fire risk – as well as saving the guides shouting over it’s noisy operation!

The highlight of the tour – apart from the tastings obviously – are the shinning copper pot stills themselves – which have to be photographed outside of the still room – with just a peek of the up-to-date control room above.

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Dublin Liberties Distillery Stills c/othewhiskeynut

Interestingly the first still – usually called the wash still – already exhibited a darker shinier copper hue than the others. Simply as more production cycles have been put through. The rest will no doubt follow in due course.

The all important tasting room – resplendent in wooden beams, benches & tables, as well as comfy seats & a modern bar – had the obligatory samples waiting to enjoy.

The Dubliner Irish Whiskey at 40% was first up. A young, fresh easy going pleasant blend showing delicate honey sweetness with a lovely warming malty heat.

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The tasting room c/othewhiskeynut

The Oak Devil 5 Year Old at 46% – which I enjoyed very much in it’s original non aged statement (NAS) guise here – and preferred over the Dubliner blend – still retained that rich vanilla & caramel warming notes brought out by the charred ex-bourbon casks maturation. Quite what the 5yo age statement adds to the blend will have to wait for a back to back tasting.

It’s a pity the distillery exclusive Tannery Edition blend at 40% wasn’t offered as part of the tasting – but I rectified that by having a glass at the bar.

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The Tannery Edition c/othewhiskeynut

Honeycomb sweetness combined with a soft maltiness & grain heat. A decent gentle warming made this a very easy going winning blend in my book. Nothing too fancy – not too expensive – yet different enough to warrant a purchase – after all – it is a distillery exclusive!

Being the only person at the bar, I took full advantage of the bartender’s attention and went for a double bill of the new 13 Year Old Murder Lane  & 16 Year Old Keeper’s Coin Single Malts.

Now I should state all the current offerings are sourced product from an unnamed Irish Distillery – or distilleries for the blends – until Dublin Liberties Distillery distillate is fully matured. Even then the grain element will continue to be sourced as only single malt will be made at the site.

That’s not to diminish the current offerings – all resplendent in elaborately designed artwork & presentation boxes.

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Murder Lane 13yo c/othewhiskeynut

The 13 Year Old Murder Lane at 46% is matured in ex bourbon casks with a finish in Tokaj Wine casks.

I’d not heard of Tokaj before  – but it’s an area in Hungary famous for it’s wines – which kind of makes this a rather unique Irish Whiskey offering!

Warming vanilla, slight spice with richness & depth to boot. Smooth on tasting. Growing peppery spice with sweet dark fruits coming through. Long finish with a sweet spicy appeal.

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Keeper’s Coin 16yo c/othewhiskeynut

The 16 Year Old Keeper’s Coin at 46% is also ex bourbon matured but with a PX cask finish.

Rich dark sweetness with plenty of depth. Smooth, soft, the dark PX sweetness coming in with a lovely drying prickly spice. Long lasting loveliness.

There is another even older offering – the 27 Year Old King Of Hell – but at 2700 euro – and not available by the glass – I declined the opportunity.

The Dublin Liberties Distillery is fully open for tastings, tours, shopping & relaxing in the cafe. It’s a wonderful addition to the ever expanding Irish Whiskey scene both within the Liberties area of Dublin as well as the country as a whole.

They have very attractive & tasty offerings to suit all tastes – as well as budgets – and I wish all connected with the distillery a hearty toast to their future success.

May the road rise with you!

Slainte

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Teeling 21 Year Old Vintage Reserve, 46%, Single Malt

I always get a frisson of excitement entering a bar & finding some rare or discontinued whiskey on the shelves.

It’s a chance to sample & taste a fleeting timepiece of the larger whiskeysphere with ever changing bottles on offer.

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Keenan’s c/othewhiskeynut

Keenan’s of Tarmonbarry – a popular dining spot on the banks of the mighty River Shannon just inside the County Roscommon border – happened to be the bar.

Teeling 21 Year Old Vintage Reserve happened to be the whiskey.

The nose was suitably rich, filled with dark fruitiness & slightly drying woody tannins.

A gorgeously smooth entry developed with sweet yet deep & dark fruity notes which gently morphed into a soft dry spiciness followed by wonderfully woody drying tannins & oaky opulence.

The dark sweetness, gentle spice & dry tannins complemented each other as they slowly ebbed away on the palate to my great satisfaction.

A fabulous find in a delightfully enjoyable establishment.

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.

Paddy's
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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Five Farms Irish Cream Liqueur, 17%

The closest way I can describe my experience of drinking Five Farms Irish Cream Liqueur is by playing the following video;

If only the tag line had been miraculously transformed to.

Only the luxuriest indulgiest Irish Cream Liqueur

Tastes like Irish Cream Liqueur never tasted before.

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Lush liqueur c/othewhiskeynut

Sláinte

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