Category Archives: Irish Whiskey

The Ship Tavern, Anstruther, Scotland.

When over in Scotland earlier this year I popped into a few bars to see what whiskies were on offer.

The very attractive Ship Tavern – which appropriately sits only a stones throw from the picturesque harbour in the fishing village of Anstruther on the East Neuk of Fife – didn’t disappoint.

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Ship Tavern whiskey selections c/othewhiskeynut

A pleasing variety of Scottish blends & single malts adorned the shelves – as well as a sprinkling of Irish blends,

Being in Fife – which has a few new distilleries waiting for their own spirit to mature – I was keen to sample a sourced blend for the local Eden Mill distillery near St Andrews.

And being in Scotland – you have to have a bit of tartan!

The Art Of The Blend is a trio – a 4th bottle was released later – of very attractively presented blended Scottish whiskies from unnamed sources that Eden Mill are using to showcase & practice their maturing and blending skills on.

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Art Of The Blend c/othewhiskeynut

No 1 is a bourbon cask matured blend of malts & grain. It didn’t really do much for me. A fairly soft, sweet standard entry level offering with subtle tones. Approachable I suppose.

No 2 was far more entertaining. Mainly as smoke had been introduced with the use of ex-Ardbeg casks in it’s maturation. This raised the whole character of the blend with distinctive peaty notes I enjoy very much that balanced the sweeter tones.

No 3 offered an even more powerful peat influence and was the most attractive – at least on paper – expression I was keen to taste. Clearly this corresponded with many other whiskey drinkers  thoughts as the bartender informed me the bottle they did have sold out almost immediately!

Whilst chatting – I asked how the Irish whiskey was going down.

Now there were only 3 offerings on the shelf from the Emerald Isle – the ubiquitous Jameson Original – which effectively is the brand on which the entire rise of the modern Irish whiskey revival started with – The Pogues Irish Whiskey by up and coming West Cork Distillers in partnership with Halewood Wine & Spirits and West Cork’s Bourbon Cask.

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The Pogues Irish Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

‘Och The Pogues is a great wee dram, canny get enough o’ the stuff.’

If that’s not a testament to the resounding success of the new breed of Irish whiskey companies, blenders, bottlers & distilleries – I don’t know what is.

Sláinte.

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Whiskey Live Dublin, 2017

Whiskey Live Dublin continues to grow every year. Not only in numbers attending this marvelous showcase of Irish Whiskey – but also the amount of exhibitors on display.

There are masterclasses held throughout the course of the day which provide access to the distillers, whiskey ambassadors, blenders & bottlers who are driving the current growth in Irish Whiskey. It was to one of those classes that I started my visit to this years show.

Alex Chasko – master distiller with Teeling Whiskey Co. – regaled us with the story behind the current Brabazon series of whiskeys – as well as introducing us to some choice single cask samples.

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Brabazon tasting time c/othewhiskeynut

I was particularly taken by the 2001 Port Single Cask – especially in the newly released Tuath Irish Whiskey glass which was provided to visitors at the event.

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Teeling & Tuath c/othewhiskeynut

After this highly enjoyable introduction – I joined the crowds in the main hall as I tried to sample my ‘hit list’ of whiskeys I’d either missed out on during the year – or were new releases appearing at the show for the first time.

The Glengarriff series from West Cork Distillers were on my list.

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Glorious Glengarrif whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

I was highly impressed by the Peat Charred Cask single malt. The influence of the peat was clearly evident on both the nose and taste – yet there was a lovely earthy savouriness element to the expression too. Beautiful!

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Dunvilles Three Crowns Peated c/othewhiskeynut

Talking about peat – Echlinville had their Three Crowns Peated on display – very appealing to my tastes. But what surprised me was their yet to be released peated poitin – Bán Barreled & Buried at 47.2% – now that’s a tasty innovation.

Now I’d heard Kilbeggan were showcasing some of their ‘experimental’ casks – as well as the current range of freshly re-branded (and even re-recipied in some cases) favourites too – so naturally I was excited by a 6 year old Rye Pot Still!

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When will this stunner be released? c/othewhiskeynut

Rich rye on the nose & taste followed with some creamy smoothness. Stunning!

Peter Mulryan’s Blackwater Distillery – which is currently under construction in Co. Waterford – chose to reveal their Retronaut 17 year old single malt at the show – a must try.

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Retronaut Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

I can confirm the whiskey is every bit as bold & brassy as the elegantly designed label on the very attractive bottle.

At this stage in the proceedings – with a few samples onboard – chatting away with fellow attendees & stall holders began to divert me away from my ‘hit list’ as I was tempted into trying some surprising expressions.

Cork Whiskey Society had assembled a fine display of whiskeys from times gone by.

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A bevy of beauties! c/othewhiskeynut

The Bushmills 5 year old single malt took my fancy and a sample was procured. Was it just me or did this bottle taste more bold & robust in flavour than some current releases?

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A tasty blend c/othewhiskeynut

The Irish Whiskey Society’s excellent private bottling range continued to impress with a delightful blended offering sourced from the Teeling Whiskey Company.

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A Single Cask Powers c/othewhiskeynut

The Powers range of single cask releases surprised me with the fine creamy single pot still character on this Celtic Whiskey Shop‘s 16 year old exclusive. I did miss the signature spice kick though.

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Powerful bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

I also couldn’t resist a powerful Blanton’s Straight From The Barrel Bourbon at 65.4% – my sole American sample at the show.

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Campbeltown’s Longrow Peated c/othewhiskeynut

Longrow‘s  Peated Single Malt didn’t disappoint either – being my only Scottish dram on the day.

Apologies to all those I didn’t get round to sample, visit or even chat to – there is simply too much to cover in one session – which is part of the fun.

There were a few that got away – but the one I missed the most was the return of the indulgent donuts on the Dublin Liberties Whiskey stall!

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Donuts! c/o@AlanWhiskey

Sláinte.

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Confessions Of An Irish Whiskey Judge

One of the highlights of my whiskey year is being able to participate in the annual Irish Whiskey Awards blind tasting sessions.

There are no labels, no brands and no preconceived ideas of what particular expressions you like. Just row upon row of identical bottles filled with varying colours of the brown stuff for you to sample & score.

The only markings are the codes to donate which category the whiskey is in and it’s number.

I managed to make 2 out of the 3 judging sessions that were held in Dublin back in late August, early September. Only after the Awards Ceremony itself in October are the names of the actual expressions revealed – and it has thrown up some interesting results!

Confession No 1. I’m not a trained whiskey taster.

Simply by being a member of the Celtic Whiskey Club or Irish Whiskey Society you get an invite to the sessions. By taking part you very quickly learn to spot which expressions you enjoy – or those that you enjoy less – and mark them accordingly.

Whiskey tasting for me is very subjective. It’s about what I like and enjoy. I’m not judging to spot a winner or to stock a bar – it’s just down to me and my palate.

Now the only ‘control’ at the session is a gentleman who happens to score diametrically opposite to me – his top scorers are my bottom markers, and vice versa. This pattern has remained consistent for the last 3 years. Which is reassuring.

The first days judging consisted of Irish Blended Whiskey under 60 euro and blends 60 euro plus. It proved to be a very packed field.

Confession No 2. Despite only sipping a small sample, using the spittoon & drinking copious water in-between – I got rather tipsy towards the end.

The session ended up being a bit of a ‘speed tasting’ event simply to get through all of the whiskey! I did recover after however with a hearty meal & a calming cup of tea.

I had a clear winner in the blends under 60 – Hyde No. 6 Special Reserve.

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Hyde No 6 Special Reserve c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Now I know there has been a bit of controversy with this brand as to whether they are simply bottlers or a distillery – but they currently source their spirit from a third party and from my experience in trying out a few of their expressions – they do a good job in finishing the product.

There were a further 7 expressions up to 2 points behind this top scorer & interestingly for me – all of them were from new entrants into the Irish whiskey scene. Whether they be actual distilleries or bottlers, the careful selection of casks to mature the whiskey in combined with skilled blending clearly appealed to my tastes.

Obviously my tastes are a little bit leftfield as the actual winner on the night – Jameson Black Barrel – didn’t grab me.

In the blends 60 and over I had a tie situation with 2 clear winners. Now usually I would re-evaluate the scores with a head-to-head tasting but,

Confession No 3. I just didn’t have the capacity for anymore whiskey!

The winners were JJ Corry The Gael,

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JJ Corry The Gael c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

and Pearse Coopers Select.

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Pearse Coopers Select c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Again I picked out the next generation of Irish whiskey entrants and was not in line with the winner on the night – although JJ Corry did get a Gold Award.

The second judging session found me in better form. I had a meal during the tasting which meant I had the capacity to re-appraise any tie situation – which happened to occur in the first Irish Single Grain category.

My eventual winner in this enlarged field over previous years was Hyde 1916 Single Grain.

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Hyde 1916 Single Grain c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

I’m not surprised by this choice – this whiskey grabbed me on first tasting it soon after it was released.

The whiskey that just missed out happened to be the recently re-recipied Kilbeggan Single Grain. And it goes without saying I didn’t pick the actual winner – Glendalough Triple Barrel.

Now the 14 entrants into the Irish Single Pot Still category represent to many the creme de la creme of Irish distilling. Midleton distillery dominates this field with their Redbreast, Powers, Spots & Midleton releases.

So what did I pick as my winner?

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Dingle Single Pot Still c/o@whiskeytalk2U

Dingle Single Pot Still. The only non Midleton product in the field – & I pick it out.

I’m gobsmacked!

My only tasting notes are a brief ‘different’.

And that to me is the excitement of what the new Irish whiskey companies are bringing to the market – difference.

Having said that – this was also a tied category which required a head-to-head duel. The one that just missed out happened to be the Midleton Dair Ghaelach Bluebell Forest release. Now that’s another whiskey showing something different by being matured in Irish Oak barrels.

So would the final Cask Strength category give me a full house of winners from the new breed of up and coming Irish whiskey companies?

You bet!

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Burke’s 15yo Cask Strength c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Now this release is also a single cask – but I don’t know which one I tasted. It’s also a sourced whiskey for John Teeling’s new venture in Dundalk – the Great Northern Distillery – whilst his own new make spirit matures.

So there you have it.

I may not be able to pick out the actual winners on the evening.

But I have an uncanny knack of picking out what’s new & exciting in the Irish whiskey scene!

Interestingly all of my winners are non chill filtered, all produced for or by new Irish whiskey companies and as far as I can ascertain – none have added caramel.

In a blind tasting situation all you are going on is ultimately the taste.

I believe I tasted the future of Irish Whiskey.

Slàinte.

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My thanks to all the staff at the Celtic Whiskey Shop for organising the judging sessions as well as the Awards night itself.

My thanks also to all the entrants who gave freely of their whiskey for the judging.

Fantastic!

 

 

Aldi Irish Reserve 26 Year Old Single Malt, 40%

Back in May I wrote a blog entitled ‘Irish Whiskey – Which Way Forward?

I posed the question could Irish Whiskey deliver a suitable supermarket brand own label to compete in that category which hitherto was largely absent of Irish product.

I’m pleased to say Aldi 26 Year Old Irish Reserve has answered that question.

Irish Whiskey can deliver!

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26yo Irish Reserve c/othewhiskeynut

Irish whiskey is on the same shelves – in the same supermarkets – competing on the same level playing field with Scotch – and by all accounts – it’s winning!

Whiskey fans in Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales are currently driving round to Aldi stores attempting to hunt down this elusive whiskey.

Ay Ay Ay Yeah! As this up coming Irish band sings.

My own local store in Athlone still didn’t have it 3 days after the advertised release date ! So to avoid disappointment I drove up to the next store in Roscommon to secure a bottle.

But then a few days of anxious nail biting that I wouldn’t get a bottle has to be put into perspective of the 26 long years this whiskey has spent maturing quietly in oak barrels before I finally managed to actually drink it.

Now I’d normally like my aged whiskeys to be non chill filtered with no added caramel & preferably at cask strength – but this attracts a three figure price tag. In the meantime Aldi release a 26yo at only 50 euro – so it’s 40%, probably chill filtered & probably with added caramel.

So is it worth it?

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A golden dram! c/othewhiskeynut

Sure!

Now the nose is rather soft & delicate for such an aged expression. Just a hint of the depth of character with vanilla & soft fruits coming through.

Initially the taste is rather soft too, but slowly develops into a lovely rich and dry mouth feel which delivers a wonderfully warm tingling burn.

It’s in the long lingering finish that the whiskey begins to shine for me. Gently releasing the oak tannins, soft fruits with hints of vanilla & caramel from the decades in oak barrels – which I take to be ex-bourbon.

Sit back, sip, savour & enjoy.

Irish Whiskey is definitely back in town!

Sláinte.

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Dingle Single Malt, Port And Bourbon Cask, 46.5%

There are so many new expressions bursting forth from the renaissance of Irish whiskey it’s hard to keep up.

Popping down to my local SuperValu store to do a bit of essentials shopping – milk & bread in my case – I always scan the spirits shelves to see whats new.

The Dingle Single Malt has arrived!

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Dingle Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

I chat to the off-licence manager who informs me it’s a SuperValu exclusive. Each shop has had their allocation & there won’t be any more coming. I seem to remember she said this store received 7 bottles – and a couple have gone already.

Mmmm…..   Decision time.

Now Dingle Distillery is seen as the cream of the crop of the new Irish whiskey scene. It’s releases are always highly sought after & well received. Before their first release you were invited to put your name into a draw to be chosen for an opportunity to purchase their 3 year old single malt for a three figure sum. Lots of people did.

I chose not to.

I saw it as plain marketeering to inflate the price & generate an air of exclusivity & premiumisation – which is all the rage right now.

Those same bottles sold out and are now collectables fetching even higher prices.

I’m not into whiskey for investment options or to build a collection. I’m in it to drink it – and when I got round to tasting some of those first editions at 46% and cask strength – I found them rather spirity & fiery – as would befit a young malt – but not possessed of any characteristics that would stand out in the crowd.

I’m glad I resisted.

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The mission statement. c/othewhiskeynut

But at a recent blind tasting a certain Single Pot Still got my top marks for being ‘different’ – such was the sum totality of my tasting notes as it became a ‘speed tasting’ exercise. You sniff, sample, score & move on. First impression count. This particular single pot still happened to be from Dingle Distillery & happened to have been double casked in bourbon and Pedro Ximenez barrels.

My thought processes were churning.

Now this Dingle Single Malt also happens to be double casked. Bourbon and Port it says on the label. So that immediately appeals to my palate – if I don’t purchase it now it will all be gone & I’ll never get to taste it – the wife is in Brazil so she’ll not have a go at me for buying yet more whiskey – and on and on.

I also like the fact it’s available in your local SuperValu store – much more egalitarian – although on a first come first served basis – and even if the price is a bit steep at 78 euro for a young single malt – sod it – buy it!

I wasn’t disappointed.

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Ruby red anyone? c/othewhiskeynut

The liquid inside the very attractively designed chunky bottle is almost ruby red.

The nose is quite soft & infused with the rich aromas of the port cask – gone is the fiery element of solo bourbon cask maturation.

The taste  – at least for an Irish single malt – is unusual & different – both qualities I like. The port influence seems to dominate giving a biscuity dryness to the proceedings.

That lovely dryness further develops in the mouth – not dis-similar to a good rye – which leaves some subtle spiciness & long lasting tingles on the finish.

Wonderful!

Now this is very much my initial reaction. I will have time to allow this bottle to grow on me – as well as some friend – over the next few months – but this Dingle certainly ticks all the right boxes for me!

Sláinte.

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Midleton VR 2017 Connacht Launch in Sonny Molloy’s, Galway.

I received an invitation to ‘Go West’ recently – so I did.

‘Go West – Lots of open air,

Go West – Where the skies are blue’

ran the lyrics to a popular song.

By the time I got there on a dark, rainy & windswept November evening there was lots of open air for sure, but it was turning my skin blue with the wintry showers!

Thankfully there was a warm welcome and an even warmer open fire in the cosy heart of Sonny Molloy’s Whiskey Bar in Galway.

The event happened to be the Connacht launch of the very highly esteemed Midleton Very Rare 2017 release hosted by none other than wine guru John Wilson who introduced us to Irish Distillers Head Distiller Brian Nation . Brian – in turn – welcomed the gathered crowd into the world of Midleton VR.

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Brian Nation & Midleton VR 2017 at Sonny Molloy’s c/othewhiskeynut

For those that are not familiar with Midleton VR – a brief introduction.

Midleton VR is a 40% non age statement blend of the finest aged single pot still & single grain casks Midleton Distillery has in stock at the time of blending the annual release. Normally matured in bourbon casks the whiskey to many is the finest Irish whiskey blend there is. Being an annual limited release the series – started in 1984 – automatically becomes sought after by whiskey collectors.

So glasses were poured – and a very attractive MVR logoed glass too – as Brian led us through a communal sampling of the delights of this 2017 bottling.

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Midleton Very Rare glassware c/othewhiskeynut

Now at this juncture I must admit to trying a few Midleton VRs in my time. None of them overwhelmed me nor grabbed me as many a whiskey does. They are usually very well crafted & finely balanced with a complex marrying of subtle notes & flavours so that no one element dominates. Perhaps just a bit too subtle & well balanced for my palate?

But on the first nosing of this 2017 release the rich warm aromas associated with bourbon cask maturation drew me in. A combination of a 32 year old single grain with single pot stills up to 26 years old certainly worked their charms.

On tasting the lovely oily mouthfeel which coated the palate together with that signature single pot still spice combined to further entrance me.

A hint of orchard fruits emerged too & the whole flurry of flavours danced on the tongue during the very long finish.

Wow!

I think I’ve just been won over by this one.

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The single pot still flows! c/othewhiskeynut

To up the stakes Brian produced an unmarked bottle. He proceeded to tell us we were the first audience to sample the 2nd generation of Midleton Dair Ghaelach whiskey finished in virgin Irish oak casks from a forest in Ireland he couldn’t reveal!

Being a cask strength release around the 58% mark this single pot still was a far punchier whiskey. Lovely rich oaky tannins over and above the vanillas & caramel from the bourbon cask maturation pleased me very much. A meatier whiskey than the finely tuned VR.

If that wasn’t enough Brian revealed a final tasting.

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Inside the cosy warmth of Sonny’s c/othewhiskeynut

Midleton have recently announced the Very Rare Cask Circle Club where for varying degrees of money you can select your own casks & maturation times before Middleton will bottle the cask for your pleasure.

We would be tasting from one of those casks offered for sale.

Originally barreled in a bourbon cask in 2004 & re-casked into a Malaga hogshead in 2009 this 13 year old single pot still could be yours for somewhere in the region of 230 to 250,000 euro!

Erm, Could I have a sample before I buy?

Certainly Sir!

Again at cask strength this is a powerful whiskey packed with flavour. The Malaga influence has toned down some of the fire & introduced more sweet yet heavier fruity notes to the rich vanilla bourbon undertones. It would make any prospective buyer very happy indeed. I’m just not sure my budget can stretch that far at present!

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Shane, Brian & Midleton VR 2017 c/othewhiskeynut

Brian then presented Shane McMahon – General Manager at Sonny Molloy’s – with a bottle of Midleton VR 2017. Shane scaled a ladder to place this latest release among the complete collection of Midleton VR bottles dating back to 1984 which is housed in a glass cabinet in the bar itself.

An astounding collection, an astounding evening & an astounding whiskey!

Sláinte.

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I would like to thank all the staff & teams at Sonny Molloys & Irish Distillers for the warm hospitality & generous tastings on the evening.

May the road rise with you!

West Cork Dha Chasca, 43%, Single Malt

Welcome to the new generation of Irish whiskey distilling,

Welcome to West Cork Distillers.

Welcome to their Dha Chasca Single Malt – exclusively released for the Musgrave Group of groceries.

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Musgrave Exclusive c/othewhiskeynut

It’s a sherry cask matured single malt finished in heavily charred bourbon casks – and it’s all West Cork Distillers liquid.

Originally founded in Union Hall & now based in Skibbereen – it should come as no surprise that a couple of the original West Cork team came from a fishing background. There is an emblem of a trawler proudly displayed on the simple yet attractively designed bottle labels to denote this.

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West Cork label c/othewhiskeynut

Fishermen are a hardy lot. They have to be resourceful, adaptable & highly self-reliant on the open seas.

Couple those skills with a friend grounded in food research & development and you have the kernel of West Cork Distillers.

There was no fancy Frilli stills from Italy for these lads – nor a lengthy order time for Forsyth’s finest from Scotland.

These lads largely built their own kit! It may not be pretty – but it is effective.

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The Rocket c/o https://whiskyexperts.net

West Cork Distillers have been quietly and industriously honing their distilling skills over the last few years. They have also invented & fabricated their own barrel burner to char the casks to their own specifications. And if you want to see it in action read the Whiskey Experts excellent blog on West Cork here.

Dha Chasca is one of a few recent expressions that only contain their own distillate – which attests to the journey they have taken in becoming a fully fledged Irish whiskey distillery.

There is a strong sherry note on the first sniff – mellowed by sweet bourbony notes of vanilla & caramel from the charring.

On tasting the warm notes of vanilla dominate to begin with. The dry sherry slowly makes it’s presence felt before a welcome hint of spiciness.

The bourbony notes fade to quite a dry mouthfeel with the spices tantalising & teasing the tongue as it slowly fades.

Unlike some of their earlier releases, Dha Chasca has no added caramel. This seems to mirrored in later West Cork expressions and could almost be a defining feature of the new generation of Irish distillers & bottlers. Teeling, Hyde, Pearse Lyons & JJ Corry have all eschewed the common practice of putting e150 in their offerings – unlike most of the multi-nationally owned established distillers.

This seems to be a trend in Scotland too with the likes of Kilchoman, Bruichladdich & Bunnahabhain now stating no added caramel in their releases.

Whether this trend will be the start of something more seismic – like the introduction of the Coffey Still in establishing blended whiskey – remains to be seen. It’s  a move I’d be pleased to see growing & I welcome West Cork Distillers embrace it.

Despite what the industry says – I believe you can taste the difference.

The Dha Chasca is clean, crisp & fresh.

I suggest you get down to your local SuperValu or Centra to try it out for yourself.

Sláinte.

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SuperValu Premium Irish Whiskey Selection

On Wednesday 11th October SuperValu – an Irish owned retail store, part of the Musgrave Group with 223 shops nationwide – officially launch their new Premium Irish Whiskey range at an event in Dublin.

Being unable to attend – I did pop down to my two local SuperValu stores to see what all the fuss was about.

I must say I got quite excited about the breadth & depth of the range of Irish Whiskey on offer. Especially as it encompasses many of the new entrants into the resurging Irish Whiskey scene – as well as a couple of exclusives.

All the big 3 distilleries – Bushmills, Cooley & Midleton – are well represented with their familiar flagship brands.

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Supervalu Whiskey Cabinet c/othewhiskeynut

A clutch of new entrants offerings are also on display – Dubliner, Glendalough, Hyde, Teeling & Writers Tears whiskeys. All of which are currently sourced from the big 3 distilleries above – until the distillate from their own stills is old enough to be called whiskey.

The exciting dimension comes into play with the inclusion of three new distilleries who are actually old enough to produce & market their own whiskey.

Pearse Lyons Distillery only opened the doors to their marvelous facility in the former St James Church in August 2017. But prior to that their current stills – Mighty Mollie & Little Lizzie – had been fired up in County Carlow laying down single malt distillate which is now included in the two blended offerings of Pearse Original & Pearse Distiller’s Choice Whiskey – both included in the SuperValu range.

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West Cork Dhá Chasca c/othewhiskeynut

West Cork Distillers have had a somewhat rocky relationship with the whiskeyratti – but have been busily laying down distillate, releasing a slew of tasty own label expressions as well as innovative 3rd party brands too. They are actually old enough to release their own whiskey – but have never shouted about it if they are. The 10 year old single malt would be too old to be their own stock – but the new West Cork Dhá Chasca – a non age statement double barreled single malt just could be.

It’s also a SuperValu exclusive.

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Musgrave Exclusive c/othewhiskeynut

How cool is that!

So I bought a bottle for later evaluation.

What is even cooler is the poster child for the resurgence of Irish Whiskey – Dingle Distillery – have also released a SuperValu exclusive.

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From the SuperValu Premium Whiskey booklet

Dingle single malt whiskey matured in both port casks & bourbon barrels has been married together to produce this limited edition release.

Sadly it wasn’t in either of the shops when I visited – but wouldn’t it be great to pick up the cream of new Irish whiskey whilst doing your weekly shopping?

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Paddy for sale c/othewhiskeynut

And if you’re really lucky – like I was – you might also bag some of the remaining stock of classic whiskey from the recent past!

If that doesn’t make you excited – you’re not excited by whiskey!

Sláinte.

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The Temple Bar Whiskey, 40% x 4

There has been an explosion of new Irish whiskeys in recent years. A trend that is likely to increase as the next generation of Irish whiskey distilleries begin to release their own produce.

Another phenomenon of the re-birth of the Irish whiskey scene is the growing number of whiskey bars releasing their own bottlings.

Local to myself in the Midlands, Hugh Lynch’s Bar in Tullamore & Sean’s Bar in Athlone have both released approachable & enjoyable blended Irish whiskey offerings under their own label – both produced for them by West Cork Distillers.

Generally these releases are only available in their bar of origin. Which makes a good excuse for a journey to sample them in their natural habitat – in the pub full of ceol agus craic. Always a bonus in my book!

However when passing through Dublin Airport a while ago I did notice a quartet of whiskeys under the Temple Bar logo.

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I’ll have the 12 please! c/othewhiskeynut

Not content with releasing the obligatory blended offering – Temple Bar have taken it a step further and are offering a trio of age statement single malts at 10, 12 & 15 years old.

I didn’t ascertain where they were sourced from – there are only a few choices at this age – but they were all what I’d call standard bourbon matured Irish whiskeys.

That’s not to say they weren’t good – all of them are far better than the blend offering a richer, smoother & more flavoursome experience for the discerning drinker.

There were subtle differences between all 3 – but for me the 12 year old proved to be the sweet spot.

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Temple Bar 15yo Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

The combination of rich vanilla & caramel notes from the bourbon cask combined with some woody tannin notes from the oak barrel won me over.

Having a taster in the airport lounge before a long flight wouldn’t be the ideal spot to really savour these malts. That will have to wait for a visit to the actual Temple Bar in Dublin where a flight of all 4 whiskeys in the comfortable lounge area can be truly appreciated.

Maybe I’ll meet you there for one!

Sláinte.

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Walsh Whiskey Distillery, Royal Oak, Carlow.

Driving into the grounds of Walsh Whiskey Distillery you half expect the butler from Downton Abbey to meet you at the end of the long drive surrounded as it is by lush green pastures populated by lively horses, docile cattle and mature trees.

Instead a barrel of Walsh Whiskey awaits you!

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Welcome barrel c/othewhiskeynut

Followed shortly by an impressive looking purpose built whiskey distillery fronted by an idyllic duck pond – populated by real ducks! – bordered by green banks that would make an ideal spot for a bit of outdoor whiskey tasting.

Bernard and Rosemary Walsh have spent many years building up the Irishman brand to get to this. A complete grain to glass whiskey distillery built on the grounds of Holloden House estate in the County Carlow countryside a few miles out of Carlow town itself.

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Opening plaque c/othewhiskeynut

The distillery was opened in 2016 and has been in full-time production from that date making all 3 styles of Irish whiskey; single malt, single pot still and grain.

Our tour guide – Paddy – entertainingly took us through the very spacious & clean working distillery showing us the process by which the barley – from the nearby fields – ends up as the uisce beatha we all love in the glass before us.

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Inside the distillery c/othewhiskeynut

Walsh produce that whiskey using the traditional triple distilled method using malted & unmalted barley for the single pot still & malted barley for the single malt. They also have an impressively tall pair of stainless steel coffey stills through which they distill the corn based grain whiskey.

There are plans to build maturation warehouses on-site too – but at present this takes place off-site for now.

Unusually for such a large operation in a new build there is no computerisation of the process. Bernard insisted on the old methods whereby the distillers – there are 12 of them in total – have to nose or sample the new make every 20 minutes during production to ascertain when to switch from the heads, to the heart & finally to the tails for every batch. Certainly putting reliance on there sense of taste & smell.

Talking about taste – after the tour there is the obligatory tasting session in the fabulously appointed Still House Lounge overlooking the scenic duck pond as well as the historic Holloden House itself.

There are 3 tasting options;

The first offers the choice of either the Irishman Founder’s Reserve or Writers Tears Copper Pot blends. Interestingly both these blends contain a mix of single malts & single pot stills only , giving them a richer & slightly more oilier & softly spicy feel than other blended expressions.

The middle choice has you tasting the lovely Irishman Single Malt, the Irishman 12 Year Old & the Writers Tears Red Head Single Malts.

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Irishman 12 c/othewhiskeynut

Finally the premier choice offers cask strength heaven in the Irishman Cask Strength, Irishman 17 Year Old & Writers Tears Cask Strength expressions.

Fortunately for our group there were the newly released Founder’s Reserve Florio Marsala Cask Finish at 46% & the stunning Irishman 12 Year Old Florio Marsala Cask Strength at 56% expressions to sample. The cask strength certainly hit the right notes & is only a distillery release at present. Pity it was sold out on the day we visited as there would have been some eager buyers!

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Irishman 12 Marsala Cask c/othewhiskeynut

Currently all the whiskey in the Walsh Whiskey portfolio is sourced elsewhere from an undisclosed distillery with Bernard Walsh himself overseeing the blending, maturing & final bottling of the product. Most of the releases also contain added colouring – although the sherry finished offerings would be naturally darker & slightly sweeter from the marsala casks used.

The Walsh Whiskey Distillery is certainly an impressive building set in a stunning location with lovely scenery. The dedication & passion for whiskey making is evident – and I eagerly look forward to the proceeding years as the new make Walsh spirit quietly transforms itself within it’s maturing casks into Walsh Whiskey made with their own stills.

That’s something worth waiting for!

Sláinte.

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