Fine whiskey, great company & mighty craic ensued.
I came away with a nugget of Irish Whiskey sales information however.
The biggest selling whisky in Ireland from the eclectic & well represented Beam-Suntory brand portfolio is by a long shot – Teacher’s Highland Cream.
So I bought a bottle.
It’s yer standard Scotch Blend product.
It’s chill filtered & has added caramel. It’s non age statmented and gives no list of the 30 or so distilleries that have contributed their malt and grain whisky to construct this historic blend – yet it sells bucket loads.
It’s a straight forward no nonsense attractively peated whisky that outsells all others on the Beam-Suntory portfolio.
The colour is ‘The Light Of Scotland’ – according to the label.
A decent hit of peat on the nose is mellowed by a sweet honeyed palate. A slightly drying peaty bite leaves toffee notes to finish on.
Plain, simple peated whisky.
Clearly what the market wants.
Yet ever since the demise of the gorgeous Inishowen – Irish Whiskey has no peated blend currently for sale.
Mindful of my own advice to not store whiskey too long before consumption, I looked into one of my storage cupboards – dark & at constant temperature – to find a shocking amount of bottles.
The Ballechin was one that attracted me.
It had a few things going for it.
To begin with – it was a small bottle that wouldn’t be around for long after opening. More pertinently it bore 3 phrases pleasing to my palate; unchill filtered, natural colour & heavily peated.
The nose was a mixture of peat smoke infused with dark stone fruits.
Rather than a dry ashy peatiness – a luscious smooth & engaging fruitiness eased me into a warming peat fire which wrapped me in it’s cosy embrace.
A gorgeously engaging whiskey to savor.
Emanating from Edradour Distilley in the Highlands – the Ballechin is a run of peated malt they do.
Interestingly, for the first 160 years of it’s existence from 1825, there were no single malt bottlings. All product was used for fillings in the highly successful blended scotch market. Only in 1986 did Edradour start releasing their own single malts when that category began to rise in popularity.
All this information was gleaned from Charles MaClean’s Whiskipedia book.
Which is a mine of information on Scottish Whisky Distilleries.
After my initial findings with a washed out bottle of Islay Storm from last year – available here – I chanced upon a miniature bottle sporting a shiny new label & thought I’d check it out.
I still had the old bottle – so did a comparison.
First off – the older bottle is slightly darker.
More added caramel?
Longer in the cask?
A completely different source of single malt?
All of the above?
Being an independent bottling for C.S. James & Sons Ltd of Glasgow there is no guarantee what was in the old bottle is the same as the new. It’s the same for all bottlings – they change & evolve -and I have no problem with that.
On the nose the miniature was cleaner, fresher & more lively.
A lovely bright & full on smoky peat hit enveloped my palate from the start. Briny & a tad sweet at the end – but very enjoyable.
The old bottle was dull & flat in comparison. Only on the finish did the ashy peat rise up to give some life to the washed out contents.
If you enjoy a smoky number – Islay Storm clearly delivers.
Just drink your bottle in timely fashion to get the full effect!
W.D. O’Connell are part of the next generation of Irish Whiskey brands/bottlers/bonders and distillers that have exploded onto the scene.
Labelling themselves as ‘Whiskey Merchants’, W.D. O’Connell source their spirit from existing distilleries – and have it finished to their own requirements.
Showcased for the first time at Whiskey Live Dublin 2019– where I had a quick sample – as well as a tweet tasting I missed – I did get a couple of sample bottles for my tasting pleasure.
Bill Phil, Peated Series, 47.5%
Peat – or turf in Ireland – is a flavour profile that has been absent in Irish Whiskey for too long. It’s a style I enjoy & I celebrate with open arms any newcomer’s reinterpretation of this distinctive character.
That lovely warm smokiness just captivated me straight away. Clear, crisp & slightly meaty. A joy to behold.
Delightfully young & fresh on the palate. The ashy peat smoke develops into an all embracing toastiness that wraps you heartily like a turf fueled fire.
A frisson of nutmegy spice dances merrily on the finish.
A stunner of a malt.
17 Year Old PX Series, 46%
A much more ‘traditional’ Irish style.
Cooley malt matured in ex-bourbon casks & finished in Pedro Ximenez barrels for 6 months.
A dark cherry sweetness on the nose.
Lucious fruitiness on the palate – more stone fruits than orchard apples – with a gentle spiciness to enliven the whiskey – finished off by a softly drying prickliness.
Classic stuff indeed – and very well done.
Without a doubt – Bill Phil.
It’s young, it’s fresh, it’s exciting.
It marks the welcome return of peat to the Irish Whiskey cannon.
W.D. O’Connell sourced this one from the Great Northern Distillery. Hopefully it will be the first of many interpretations using peated malt from this distillery.
What would make it even more outstanding was if Irish turf was used to dry the barley.
There was an article in the Irish Times the other day about rural development & Gort happened to feature.
Picking up the paper in the town itself after an enjoyable evening topped off the experience.
The revelry started with a meal at The Gallery Cafe in the Square. A popular spot offering great food & some tasty beers to boot.
Kinnegar’s Rustbucket Rye Ale washed down my burger delightfully as we chatted outside on the terrace taking advantage of the warm evening sunshine.
A bar was selected afterwards & Cummins on Main Street suited us.
Garishly coloured on the outside & embazoned with GAA murals we entered into a trad session being played in the corner by a group of local musicians with a small gathering of drinkers happily tapping along.
The usual whiskey suspects lined the shelves, Powers, Paddys & Jameson being the standards – a Teacher’s was there too and I fancied a peat hit so went with it.
Teacher’s is a well established blend of Scotch Whisky. A bit on the rough & ready side, sweet peat & a little spirity, but you know what you’re getting.
Chatting away I scanned the shelves for something I’d not had before & spotted a couple of bottles half hidden behind others.
Highland Earl Special Reserve was duly ordered on the next round.
Now Highland Earl is an Aldi brand. An entry level one at that too – and I’d hesitated buying one after having a tad too many caramel laden blends in the past – but being in a bar is a fabulous way to sample it.
My first nosing raised a smile.
A decent waft of balanced peat greeted me.
Wasn’t expecting that!
The palate was more mellow & soothing than the Teacher’s. Yes there is added caramel & yes there is probably chill filtering – but then so has Teacher’s.
If anything Highland Earl lived up to it’s – admittedly low level – titled status by being a step up in enjoyment from the recognisable big brand.
Now the bar’s bottle seems to be an old offering. There is no age statement as with the current 3 Year Old release – and a tagline on the label proclaims it to be a 2010 IWSC Winner!
So I can’t vouch if what is on sale now matches the bottle I tried – but what I can say is the Earl entertained me for the rest of the evening!
Oh the joy of pubs & the simple pleasures of a decent peated blend!