An Fear Grinn – Dundalk’s Own Whiskey – have released some cracking independent bottles over the last few years.
Much appreciation to them for providing this latest pair for review.
As usual I cracked them open before reading up on what they were & my initial tasting notes are in italics.
An Fear Grinn Tide’s In, 13 Year Old, Cask Strength, Single Cask, Single Grain, 57.8%
Gentle warm caramelly nose with hints of leathery depth, lovely mouth coating experience, gorgeous complexity of flavours come through on the finish, hints of smoke, oaky wood & a prickly excitement too.
Gullion, Single Cask, Single Pot Still, 46%
Light, bright & fruity, gentle palate, mild mannered, easily accessible offering yet retains a depth of character & engaging attractiveness.
All An Fear Grinn are presented non chill filtered & natural colour. It shows in the richness of flavours & joie-de-vivre of the delivery.
I was slightly taken aback on finding Tide’s In to be a 57.8% single grain matured in ex-bourbon & finished in oloroso. Nothing silent about this one & no need for water.
Gullion turned out to be a bourbon matured, rye finished single pot still – which explained the prickly dry spice I experienced on the finish. A novel approach to presenting a single pot still – which worked for me.
Both are delightful whiskey to sip, savour & enjoy. My palate leans towards the rather-too-easy-to-enjoy-at-cask-strength delights of Tide’s In – but yours might go the other way.
I can’t help feeling single grain whiskey is still trying to escape the slur Messers Jameson x2, Roe & Power attached to it back in 1879 labelling the category as ‘Silent Whisky’ in their anti-Coffey-Still publication ‘Truths About Whisky’.
I get a frisson of excitement welcoming every new Irish Whiskey released to market.
Each and everyone of them are further confirmation of the renewed growth, revitalised confidence & appreciation of the category.
Seven Churches Irish Whiskey is of even greater appeal – it puts the historical significance of Clonmacnoise on the map & being only a half hour down the road from me – is truly local!
Back in 1405 a certain ‘Richard Magrannell died from taking a surfeit of aqua vitae,’ – as written in the Annuls Of Clonmacnoise – the earliest confirmed record attributed to the spirit that became whiskey.
Seven Churches has a bold & attractively designed bottle – adorned with an artists impression of the Clonmacnoise site itself & historical notes too.
Initially a good hearted spirity kick greeted me – followed by touches of caramel & a hint of star anise.
Rather unusual – but very engaging.
Very easy on the palate with a lovely warm embrace.
The long lasting finish brought out more star anise with a pleasant prickly spice dancing merrily away.
Overall quite a light & refreshing offering possessing a degree of character with intriguing & entertaining flavours.
Continuing my exploration of the constant development of whiskey brands are a pair of Kilbeggan Single Grains.
Now Kilbeggan Single Grain didn’t start out with that name. It first appeared – at least in my world – as Greenore Single Grain.
Greenore is a port on the Carlingford Peninsular in County Louth not far from the Cooley Distillery where these spirits are distilled. The original name far more accurately represented the geographical source of the whiskey.
Greenore Single Grain came in a range of age statements. All with the same bottle design as the relabeled Kilbeggan Single Grain miniature before me. The new name brought in a commonality across the range reflecting the showcase distillery at Kilbeggan itself.
It also tasted exactly the same – if my memory serves me right.
Matured exclusively in ex-bourbon barrels the 8 year old single grain has a light nose – as expected – but a welcome amount of flavour on the palate. Soft vanillas & caramel dominate with a teasing soft spice to round off this very easy drinking offering.
The latest incarnation sports a freshly redesigned label, a new bottle design, a boosted 43% ABV and a bit of a recipe change too!
The nose is richer!
Which reflects both the extra strength along with some sherry finishing too.
I must admit to enjoying this new offering – even if the age statement has been dropped.
It’s still quite a light whiskey – yet the sherry casks add a degree of depth & flavour to the experience without losing the core character of the single grain. The sweet vanillas & caramel have been augmented by fruity elements giving a more rounded & complex feel.
Single grains are often overlooked – which is a pity.
These are both very enjoyable easy going exemplars of this style of whiskey.
A.D. Rattray are an independent bottler of fine standing in Scotland.
They happen to have a lovely Whisky Shop on the main access route – A77 – to & from the Irish ferry terminals at Stranraer & Cairnryan that I often use to cross the water.
Oddly enough on my last trip – January 2018 – it was the first time in well over a decade using this route I encountered armed police, a passport check, a personal check as well as a vehicle check – all for an internal crossing?
Brexit changes indeed.
The Whisky Shop itself is a treasure trove of whisky, some gins & local beers too. Predominately Scotch it has to be said – although there is a sprinkling of world whisky. There are also tasting classes, rare single casks to be had, a small museum and more to attract you in and delay your journey.
But as I was driving – I made do with an elegantly packaged & well presented 5 pack A.D. Rattray miniature selection.
Nearly a year later I eventually managed to sample them if only to mark Rabbie Burns Night – who happened to live nearby.
The standard Bank Note 5 Year Old Blend at 43% struck me as just being that – standard. Pleasant enough with it – but no stand out qualities to pull me in. I do like the label however.
Next up was the Stronachie Highland Single Malt 10 Year Old – also at 43%. With this A.D. Rattray branded malt you actually get the distillery of origin – Benrinnes in this case – unlike the blended offering.
Now 10 year old malts these days are often considered entry level – and I’m afraid my tasting experience only concurred with this hypothesis.
Smooth, easy drinking, well balanced butterscotch, honey & vanilla – just not enough character or oomph for my tastes.
Meanwhile the Stronachie 18 – also Benrinnes sourced but with a slightly higher 46% ABV – gained some lovely dry woody tannins from the extra years in maturation. I was pulled in with it’s suitably more complex , characterful & to my palate anyway – a much more appealing dram.
The next bottle – at least from the label – promised something special.
A single grain whisky from a closed distillery – Cambus – matured for no less than 26 years & presented at 59.9% with no chill filtering nor added colouring. – kind of suggests the other bottlings perhaps had added e150 or chill filtering as it wasn’t stated on their labels?
Part of the A.D. Rattray Cask Collection – which changes regularly – I was very happy to try this single grain.
It’s a category of whisky many people dismiss – which is fine – all the more for me to enjoy!
It’s fresh, it’s lively, it’s full of flavour, it’s got character, it’s got strength, it’s got lucious drying tannins & velvety vanilla which just explode in the mouth.
A wonderful whisky.
The final miniature was Cask Islay – an non aged statement (NAS) non disclosed distillery single malt presented at 46%.
Now normally an Islay influenced dram floats my boat – but not this sweet peat. I think I prefer dry ashiness myself.
Perhaps the cask strength offering of earlier had influenced my findings. But I had cleansed my palate after each sample, left a gap in-between & then re-sampled later. All to no avail.
The Single Grain Cambus 26 Year Old is clearly my top of the pile – a stunning drop.
There are various interpretations of ballyhoo on the web, publicity, frivolity or fun. They can all be distilled to one attractive package for me however.
An Irish Whiskey released by the Connacht Whiskey Company of Ballina, County Mayo. There isn’t much information on the very attractive black bottle with distinctive embossed silver labelling – but a trip to their website here reveals a bit more.
A single grain Irish Whiskey made with a 93% corn 7% malted barley mix distilled in a Coffey still at one un-named Irish whiskey distillery. Connacht haven’t been around long enough to release their own whiskey – yet – so this sourced grain is made elsewhere & finished in port casks at Connacht’s own facility.
Grain whiskey doesn’t have the allure of it’s stablemate malt – which is a pity. Grain is the very backbone of the modern whiskey industry. Up to 90% of all whiskey sold worldwide contains grain as part of the mix in blended whiskey. Showcasing the best grain whiskey has to offer is always welcome in my book.
Pouring a glass it quickly becomes apparent this is an extremely pale whiskey. A decent amount of legs are also present. Both signifiers that no added caramel nor chill filtration have been used in this expression. Very commendable.
At only 4 years old this is a young, fresh grain whiskey.
The nose is gentle & sweetly attractive. Soft vanillas combine with an enticing floral bouquet which probably emanates from the rather unusual – and possibly unique for a grain whiskey – port cask finish.
It’s very mild in the mouth. No rough edges here. A bit of corn influence, that sweet grainy lightness builds with deeper notes from the combined bourbon barrel maturation & port cask finish in a perfectly balanced mix.
There is no complexity here. A very easy, simple, smooth & eminently attractive grain whiskey that slowly fades to a pleasingly warm finish.
Whiskey as it should be.
Fun, frivolous, tasty, naturally coloured & non chill filtered.
It certainly floats my boat.
An album by Echo & The Bunnymen. Their song Bedbugs & Ballyhoo is the perfect accompaniment to this delightful grain whiskey.
There is an outpouring of new Irish Whiskey releases marking the growing interest in the category both by consumers – as well as companies trying to enter the market.
Egan’s are slightly unusual in that they are a company re-entering the market after a long absence.
Back in the mid 1800’s – when Irish Whiskey would have been the world’s most popular – P & H Egan built up a sizeable business in their home town of Tullamore importing wines, maturing & bottling whiskey, malting & general groceries – which you can read about here.
Former generations of the present day Egan family – who have released this bottle in question – were a well respected & prosperous company in the Midlands of Ireland. They added to the architecture of the town by building the fine Bridge House Hotel as their head office. The building now proudly adorns their latest offerings.
Whilst many of Tullamore’s bars proudly display Egan’s products of the past.
Following on in the family tradition, the 21st Century Egans also do not distill their own whiskey – they source it from third parties – but they do wrap it in a visually attractive label that proudly displays their heritage & connections to Tullamore.
This Vintage Grain offering is a single grain presented at a powerful 46% with no chill filtering. Always a bonus in my book.
Now single grain may need a bit of an explanation. ‘Single’ implies it comes from one distillery. Not as many assume made from one type of grain. Different types of grain may be used – usually barley, corn, wheat or rye – but they all must be distilled in a continuous, or commonly called, Coffey Still.
The resultant distillate is usually of a higher strength with less taste & flavour of the batch distilled malt whiskey and consequently spends more time in wooden barrels to impart those lovely aromas that are released upon nosing & tasting the whiskey.
Vintage Grain is matured in ex-bourbon barrels for between 6 to 8 years to impart those lovely vanilla & soft caramel notes associated with this type of ageing.
Both the nose and initial tasting is fresh, clean & clear, which suggests no added caramel to my palate – another bonus for me.
The smooth vanilla notes slowly morph into a soft peppery spice which gently fades to a wonderfully warm finish.
This is a worthy addition to the growing Irish single grain category which definitely benefits from it’s higher strength and more natural presentation.
Couple that taste with the wonderfully rich historical back story of the Egan family and you have a winning combination.
I certainly raise a glass to the present day Egan family and wish them future success in re-establishing their name in the proud annuls of Irish Whiskey’s ongoing story.
I’d like to thank Killian & Jonathan Egan for the generous sample provided for the purposes of this review.
It’s always wise to visibly scan the whiskey shelves of any bar you go into to see what they actually have in stock – even if you are familiar with the premises.
I’d not been in the Tullamore Court Hotel for a few months and was very pleasantly surprised by the improved array of fine whiskey before me.
Not only was there a veritable wall of Tullamore DEW expressions lining the front bar, which befits the hotel only being a mere mile away from the new Tullamore Distillery – but also plenty of The Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Monkey Shoulder & Grant’s bottles all from the William Grant & Sons – owners of the distillery – portfolio.
How about a tasty trio of Tullamore DEW to test your tastebuds?
Clearly the hotel is a popular watering hole & welcome bed for the night to many overseas staff and visitors to the Tullamore Distillery.
Meanwhile the side bar had also broadened to showcase the large selection of Irish whiskeys currently available on the market today.
The trio that caught my eyes however were the very distinctive & attractively packaged Method and Madness range recently released by Irish Distillers to much acclaim.
Comprising of a single grain, single malt and a single pot still – these whiskeys have pushed the envelope in terms of style, cask selection & innovation for Irish whiskey.
This happened to be my 1st encounter with them – so I started at the beginning with the single grain release.
Presented at 46%, matured in ex-bourbon casks & finished in charred virgin oak, the nose immediately captivated me with warm rich vanilla notes associated with the bourbon casks but heightened with added depth from the virgin oak.
This followed through into a warm smooth snug of flavours in the mouth – very reminiscent of a good bourbon – which is hardly surprising as it is made from a high corn mash with some charred virgin oak cask maturation – albeit Spanish oak. There was a slight delay to savour these beautiful notes before a lovely warming, slightly spicy finish coated the palate and enveloped it like a cosy fireside hug.
There is no madness to this whiskey – it’s simply pushing the method of distilling & maturing the spirit to a higher level.
And in the words of Mr Belt & Wezol – I’m happy for Irish Distillers to Take Me Higher.
The single grain category bar has just been raised!
Irish Single Grain Whiskey is a bit of a rare breed. Malted barley in pot stills is the norm and has been for centuries – even after fellow Irishman Aeneas Coffey invented his new continuous still around 1830 which sparked the rise of Scottish blended whisky. He did offer it to his fellow countrymen first – but so tied to their superior product they declined – so Aeneas went abroad and the rest is history.
Blended whiskey – a mixture of both malted pot still and grain continuous still spirits – accounts for about 90% of whisky sales worldwide – so is nothing to be scoffed.
Grain Whiskey is generally seen as the inferior spirit in a blend and only a few offerings are available in Ireland or even Scotland.
Ireland had to wait until the 1990’s before it’s first single grain offering was released from the Cooley Distillery in Louth when it opened in 1987.
Released as an 8 year old – Greenore Single Grain has recently been re-branded as Kilbeggan Single Grain by the current owners of Cooley, Beam/Suntory. Other age statements are available; 6, 10, 15, 18, 19 and 21 but may be hard to find and/or limited release.
Grain generally needs longer in the barrel to absorb the flavours than malt. Greenore reflects that by being a mild tasting approachable whiskey not unlike The Glenlivet but very enjoyable nonetheless. Bottled at 40% ,mainly made from maize. B
Teeling Single Grain follows on from Greenore in more ways than one. Also produced at Cooley by the former owners under John Teeling, many of the team at that plant are now the main force behind the Teeling Whiskey Distillery. Innovation is almost part of the Teeling culture and finishing this single grain in Californian Wine Casks certainly does that in raising the aroma and taste of this lovely smooth whiskey. Bottled at 46%, non-chill filtered, no age statement – it’s no surprise that World’s Best Single Grain 2104 went to this expression. B+
Glendalough Double Barrel is another new player in the Irish Whiskey market. They certainly hit the mark with this expression. As with many new entrants waiting for their spirit to mature – Glendalough has sourced this product from a third party. I originally thought Cooley – but with a malted barley and corn mash I’m not so certain. The malted barley certainly adds a bit more depth to the taste and the olorosso finish only adds to the experience. One to keep Teeling on their toes! Bottled at 42%, no age statement. B+
A delightful trio of Single Grain Whiskeys to tempt you with their individual take on the silent spirit. All very good whiskeys too for a gentle evening drink. I’m finding it hard to decide between the Teeling or Glendalough as my favorite but think the latter just wins out with the fuller body – probably imparted by the barley content.
If you haven’t tried a single grain yet – now is the time!