Category Archives: Irish Whiskey

Tullamore Dew to open new visitors attraction at it’s distillery

Tullamore Dew is in the spotlight for announcing the closure of their Visitors Centre at the Old Bonded Warehouse situated by the banks of the Grand Canal in the Midlands town of Tullamore.

Bury Quay, Tullamore c/othewhiskeynut

What the headlines failed to say is they will be opening a new state of the art visitors attraction at their €35 million Tullamore Distillery built only 6 years ago on the town’s bypass.

The new Tullamore Distillery c/othewhiskeynut

In whiskey terms it’s a step forward.

Most fans wish to visit a working distillery where they can not only learn about whiskey – but they can also see, feel, hear and smell the actual process of making that whiskey.

The Old Bonded Warehouse served Tullamore DEW well during the years when there was no distilling in the town and the whiskey for the brand was sourced from elsewhere.

The original distillery – of which many reminders still exist around the town – ran from 1829 to 1954.

Old Tullamore Distillery gates c/othewhiskeynut

Irish Distillers took over the brand & built it up to become the 2nd biggest selling Irish Whiskey in the world.

William Grants in turn acquired the brand & brought back distilling to Tullamore after a 60 year absence.

Having a visitors centre separate from the distillery is fraught with contention & is a bit of an anomaly. There is still one left in Ireland – Jameson Visitors Experience in Dublin – but that’s for another day.

I’ve dug out my only bottle of Tully to celebrate this move – Tullamore DEW 12 Year Old Single Malt Sherry Cask – bought at the Old Bonded Warehouse itself.

Tully 12 c/othewhiskeynut

I toast to the great leap forward Irish Whiskey & Tullamore DEW has taken in these last few years.

Tullamore Distillery c/othewhiskeynut

From being a sourced brand celebrated in a museum – to being a fully fledged distillery situated in it’s home town with a brand new attraction to showcase that distillery to it’s best.

Here’s to the next 200 years of whiskey distilling in Tullamore!

Sláinte

Kilbeggan Finest Irish Whiskey, 15 Year Old, Blend, 40%

Back in 2007 Kilbeggan released a 15 Year Old Finest Irish Whiskey complete with stylish bottle & packaging to commemorate 250 years of distilling history at the Kilbeggan Distillery in County Westmeath.

It was very well received at the time & went on to win many awards.

Kilbeggan 15 in the glass c/othewhiskeynut

Being a rather limited release it attracted a lot of buyers who stored it for intended resale, for a special occasion or just collecting.

Luckily I knew someone who’d actually opened it to enjoy the delights within.

Very generously – I managed a sample!

Now there are always dangers when storing whiskey – and this became evident on the nose with a slight fustiness going on among an otherwise attractive nuttiness.

The palate was soft, smooth & easy with a touch of woody spice going on in the rear.

A gorgeous juiciness finished up the proceedings.

Cool bottle! c/othewhiskeynut

A lovely little drop indeed – although that slight fusty note on the nose suggests it’s not ageing well.

If you enjoy your whiskey – perhaps drinking it soon after purchase is recommended.

1000 Years Of Irish Whiskey, Malachy Magee

Despite the 1000 Years title – Malachy believes the term Whiskey was coined by King Henry II’s soldiers who invaded Ireland in the 12th Century – the 1st half of the book deals with a rather troubling invention – the Coffey Still – that continues to influence Irish Whiskey today.

1000 Years, O’Briens Press 1980 c/othewhiskeynut

The big question of how a world leading industry in it’s prime lost it’s title is answered very succinctly in this 1980 publication – blending.

The dominant 4 whiskey houses of Dublin – J Jameson, Wm Jameson, J Powers & G Roe – rejected the efficient distilling equipment of A Coffey with his patent still.

They also rejected the growing art of blending whereby a large amount of ‘silent spirit’ produced in those Coffey Stills are mixed with more flavoursome spirit obtained from traditional pot stills.

In doing so Irish Whiskey stagnated & collapsed for over 100 years.

Back cover c/othewhiskeynut

When Malachy wrote his book there was only 1 surviving Irish Whiskey company – Irish Distillers – operating out of 2 distilleries – New Midleton & Old Bushmills.

What changed the demise was the final embracement of the Coffey Still in revising & marketing the Jameson, Powers & Paddy brands as blends to the world.

The category has gone from strength to strength ever since.

There are now up to 63 aspiring & established whiskey distilleries looking to invest, plan, build & market their own Irish Whiskey – creating a much more broad & diverse category.

It’s a fabulous time to witness the rebirth of Irish Whiskey – and give a nod of appreciation to A Coffey & his world changing still.

Sláinte

Chaos Is A Friend Of Mine, The Life And Crimes Of Conor McGregor, Ewan MacKenna

The pursuit of all things whiskey takes me down many unexpected paths – like reading a book on Conor McGregor!

The Whiskey and book c/othewhiskeynut

As the figurehead for Proper Twelve Irish Whiskey – now the 4th biggest selling Irish Whiskey in the world according to International Wine And Spirits Research (IWSR) – a greater understanding of the person behind this spectacular achievement drew me in.

Written by award winning journalist & author Ewan MacKenna – who has followed Conor from his 1st UFC victory in 2013 to the present day – it’s a no holds barred account of the Notorious phenomena.

In creating the Notorious character, Conor indulged in unorthodox tactics both in – and often more publicly – outside the ring. Trash talking before fights descended into racism, misogyny & xenophobia mirroring the ‘strongman alpha male’ attitudes of politicians like Putin, Trump & Bolsonaro. Despite projecting an anti-establishment aura – they are all part of the new establishment which has usurped the former incumbents.

The 13 second knockout of José Aldo in 2015 propelled Conor to the top of his sport & amassed a huge fan base.

Despite his off ring antics – which are fully explored in the book – Conor leveraged his position to gain lucrative sponsorship fees & appearances at subsequent UFC fights.

Ewan locates the cult of Conor among other sporting icons. Their dedication & determination to get to the top, their struggles to stay at the top & their inevitable decline afterwards.

Proper Twelve c/othewhiskeynut

Conor’s Proper Twelve Irish Whiskey was eventually released in late 2017 & immediately achieved record sales. Perhaps it’s a way to extend his career as a public figure after losing to Khabib in his last UFC fight in 2018?

Conor’s entry into Irish Whiskey certainly upset the establishment.

To launch a celebrity based brand with no distillery by such a vulgar character was greeted with derision & scorn. No one seemed to even contemplate the success it would engender.

Back story c/othewhiskeynut

Now placed at number 4 – behind Jameson, Tullamore & Bushmills – Proper Twelve outsells established brands like Kilbeggan, Paddy & Redbreast & leaves for dust newcomers like Teeling, Dubliner & JJ Corry.

It marks a major change within Irish Whiskey circles where the status quo of established names has been disrupted & the hegemony of ‘premiumisation’ is challenged.

For the most part the Irish Whiskey community is ignoring these changes.

It’s interesting to note Irish Whiskey also poured scorn & ignored a previous disrupter.

His name was Aeneas Coffey with the patented continuous still.

In doing so Irish Pot Still Whisky lost the lead they had & Scotch took over with blended whisky.

Ironically the current rise of Irish Whiskey is mainly being fuelled by the very same blended whisky – this time spelled with an ‘e’ – of which Proper Twelve is making such a large contribution.

Sometimes I wonder if the Irish Whiskey community is ready for success.

Sláinte

Waterford, Ballykilcavan 1.2, 50%, Single Malt

The thing about terroir is you have to try at least 2 bottles made the same way with the only variable being where the barley was grown.

This posed a little problem.

Feeling like an eegit for forking out 70 yo-yos for a bottle of young malt – gotta admire the marketing capabilities of Waterford Distillery – I’d no intentions of buying another.

Ballykilcavan 1.2 c/othewhiskeynut

Step forward a fellow whiskey fan who had the alternative offering!

An exchange was duly arranged – as an aside, if you want to swap samples from my 60+ list of opened bottles, drop me a message.

Then I learned of another problem.

Bannow Island & Ballykilcavan are aged in different cask!

I checked the codes!

Up Laois! c/othewhiskeynut

Both had ex-bourbon & French casks – but only Bannow had virgin oak – which may account for the extreme dryness I experienced.

Kind of negates the whole terroir experiment – which is a big part of the sell!

Ah well – I got my chance to sample Ballykilcavan.

Is it any different?

In a word – yes!

The absence of virgin oak allows more of those rich & juicy notes from the French oak & ex-bourbon casks to come through.

It’s a more balanced & accessible malt with some of that aggressive youth tempered.

I’d still say it’s a work in progress however.

At the moment, Ballykilcavan would be my favourite, but how they develop in the next few years could all change with those cask influences working off that youthful exuberance & raw edges.

As for the terroir?

That will have to wait for another day.

Sláinte

Waterford, Bannow Island 1.2, 50%, Single Malt

Well I’ve finally given in to the hype.

Much has been written about Waterford Distillery.

Early on I decided not to bother with the auctions, inflated prices & general Hoorah! around this brand – until it arrived in my local O’Brien’s – which it did – tonite.

Waterford Bannow 1.2 c/othewhiskeynut

There were 2 bottles, Ballykilcavan & Bannow Island, 1.2 editions.

I chose Bannow.

Tales of Norman invaders, soil content & provenance don’t particularly excite me – taste does. So I didn’t bother looking up the minutiae & poured myself a glass.

Norman tales c/othewhiskeynut

Golden brown colour with thick legs.

Quite a soft, subtle sweet malt biscuity nose.

Smooth & dry on the palate.

The dryness develops a bit of a fresh young malt bite – then fades rather quickly.

This is quite a young & aggressive malt.

Style over substance? c/othewhiskeynut

For me Bannow 1.2 is more about the hype than content.

It needs a few more years in the barrel.

Sláinte

Proclamation, Blended Irish Whiskey, 40.7%

It’s always a delight to encounter a new Irish Whiskey brand on the shelves of my local SuperValu.

Wrapped in an attractive tin proudly displaying a period portrayal of O’Connell Street in Dublin, including the General Post Office from where the original proclamation was read, starting the founding of the Irish State in 1916.

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The GPO on O’Connell St c/othewhiskeynut

Proclamation Irish Whiskey certainly stood out among the other brands sharing it’s keen price point.

‘Matured in bourbon casks & blended with a touch of sherry finished malt.’ is the information given – along with extensive tasting notes on the back – as to the contents of this bottle.

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Tasting notes c/othewhiskeynut

A light golden brown colour complete with viscous legs.

Aromas of soft warm caramel, a touch of sherry sweetness & a hint of nuttiness to add some depth & complexity.

Very inviting.

Suitably smooth on the palate – but entertainingly so.

The nuttiness follows through into a softly drying sweetness with an added flourish of some oaky spice too.

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Raising my spirits! c/othewhiskeynut

The finish was rather brief – but Proclamation certainly lifted my spirits!

A very pleasant easy going sipper with a touch of character – and a long pedigree.

Definitely one to have on the shelve at home!

Sláinte

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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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