There’s always a frisson of excitement entering a bar for the first time.
You never know what you will encounter.
The best bars you enter as strangers – and depart as friends.
But in The Bank in Anstruther – I encountered an old friend.
Art Of The Blend #4.
Eden Mill are the next generation of Scottish brewers & distillers. Prior to their own whisky being released they experimented with sourced distillate under the Art Of The Blend label to hone their skills.
I enjoyed the results.
Presented at a stonking 51% this Port Cask finished blend packed a lively punch of sweet stone fruits.
The high ABV led to an explosion of flavour on the palate – yet it didn’t overpower.
A pleasing prickly heat faded gently with warming cherry notes dancing merrily into the distance.
Limited to 1100 bottles – I was glad to encounter my old friend again.
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!
What excites me about entering a bar for the first time is discovering the whiskey selection on their shelves.
What excites me even more is discovering a few new whiskeys to try out!
The Blackbird Bar in Ballycotton happened to be that bar – and 100 Pipers was the first new discovery.
This big volume Scottish blend has been around since the late 60’s. Now part of the Pernod Ricard empire – the bottle still displays Seagram’s on it from the original brand owners.
A rather dark blend – added caramel is expected for this category – there is that sweet vanilla & caramel going on. Towards the end a pleasing touch of peat smoke gives 100 Pipers a bit of character. An easy going softly smoked blend.
Next up was a Japanese Single Malt – Hakushu Distillers Reserve.
My drinking buddy ordered the Dingle Single Malt Batch 2 at the same time to compare & contrast.
I found the Hakushu clean & fresh. A lovely deep vanilla from bourbon cask maturation which then slowly morphed into a gorgeously drying soft ashy peaty spice which danced off the palate.
Really enjoyed this one.
The Dingle Single Malt Batch 2 was more rich with dark fruitiness from the added Oloroso & PX cask maturation – and made for an interesting taste comparison.
The bar recommended the final offering – Auchentoshan 12.
Now Auchentoshan are an anomaly in Scottish Whisky – they triple distill!
This bourbon & Oloroso cask matured Single Malt was a fine example of that style.
Smooth delivery, good depth of flavours with a touch of oakiness too – and an enjoyably long finish.
The Blackbird Bar also stock an extensive array of Midleton Distillery output – as befits a bar less than half an hour away from the distillery itself.
Having had them all before – I chose to go for a delightful trio of new acquaintances.
Out of the 3 – Hakushu would come out on top.
The combination of a clean, almost herbal yet fruity start growing into a drying soft spicy peat hit definitely had me hooked.
Just like the warm hospitality & great whiskey selection of the Blackbird Bar reeled me in.
Big shout out to Mossie & all the crew – a fabulous spot.
Egan’s Whiskey are a 6th generation whiskey company based in the Irish Midlands town of Tullamore.
Back in their heyday of the late 1800’s Egan’s were a very successful business. The Head Office reflected the grandeur of the time – and still stands today as the Bridge House Hotel.
One of P&H Egan’s many businesses was purchasing whiskey by the barrel & finishing or maturing it to their own specifications. Then bottling, branding, distributing & selling it under their own name.
The Brewery Tap in Tullamore still has P&H Egan mirrors prominently displayed in the snug of this popular hostelry.
The current Egan family generation have recently re-entered this market with a range of sourced malts and single grain whiskey.
I happened to get an invite to a vertical tasting of their products back in the summer.
Both the Vintage Grain and 10 Year Old Single Malt I’ve covered before – and if you click on the links you will be guided to my findings.
The highlight of this particular tasting however was the Egan’s 15 Year Old Legacy Release Single Malt as introduced to us by Alison, Brand Ambassador for Intrepid Spirits who are handling the whiskey.
Aged exclusively in ex bourbon barrels – the Legacy Reserve is a marriage of several individual cask chosen by Egan family members.
It’s bottled at that magic number – 46% – which usually denotes no chill filtering.
The nose opened up with rich vanilla & caramel complimented by some deeper oaky notes from the years in american oak.
Beautifully smooth on the palate – I found the tannic flavours balanced well with the sweet vanilla – even developing into old leather notes.
Others at the tasting wondered whether there had been any sherry influence as they were picking up some fresh fruity notes too – but no – bourbon cask maturation was the sole influencer.
A complex medley of flavours danced around with a hint of prickly spice on the satisfying long finish.
Very attractively packaged in a rectangular bottle complete with plush wooden box containing Egan’s back story in a handy booklet – this is aimed at a premium market.
The liquid inside lived up to it’s lavish presentation.
Garavan’s in Galway is the very epitome of what an Irish Whiskey Bar should be.
Leaving the bustling world outside, it is a haven of calm in a warm friendly bar adorned with a bewildering array of whiskey on wooden shelves behind the bar as well as in glass cabinets around the cozy snug areas.
It entices you in to sit down and slow down.
To take time and browse the extensive whiskey menu looking for a sample of that rare bottling, or perhaps ordering up one of Garavan’s tasting platters to explore the rich depth and variety of whiskey flavours on offer.
Garavan’s even have their own whiskey – Garavan’s Grocers Choice 10 Year Old Single Malt – and a fine whiskey it is too!
Yet Garavan’s have raised the bar even higher.
In a nod to times past when it was common practice for bars to bottle their own whiskey bought in barrel from the distillery – Garavan’s took themselves down to Midleton Distillery in County Cork and chose a single cask of Powers Single Pot Still Whiskey to be bottled for them as an exclusive Garavan’s Single Cask Release.
A small gathering of whiskey fans assembled to be part of the unveiling of the Powers 15 Year Old Garavan’s Single Cask Release presented by Ger Garland, Irish Distillers Whiskey Brand Ambassador.
As a way of introduction – we were served a glass of Powers Gold Label.
It’s a blend of spicy single pot still and sweet grain whiskey.
It typifies the more characterful spirit forward, honey sweet yet peppery spiced notes which are usually associated with the Powers range of whiskeys.
It’s a style I enjoy.
The Garavan’s Single Cask Release builds on these elements.
Presented at a higher 46% ABV and being a single pot still there is no grain input. A gentle vanilla & softly burnt toast nose from the exclusively ex-bourbon cask maturation provided the sweet part.
The dry peppery spice came through more clearly & distinctively on the palate with warming notes from the charred cask which slowly faded away leaving a gorgeously dry mouthfeel.
It’s a sensation I enjoy in a whiskey – and one this Powers delivers.
Single cask offerings can vary a great deal.
I’ve tried a few of the Powers Single Cask releases and it always amazes me the differences considering they are all essentially the same distillate. The individual casks used for maturation can produce such a wide variety of results that are normally married together to produce a consistent flavour profile. It’s a treat therefore to sample from one individual cask.
The Garavan’s 15 Year Old Single Cask Release certainly highlights for me the signature sweet & spice Powers mix I find so attractive.
Congratulations to both Garavan’s Bar & Powers Whiskey for coming together to release this bottle.
It’s presented in a very attractive wrap around laser etched box with a representation of the bar itself on the front.