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.
Well I – and a host of others – eagerly awaited the Irish launch of this much anticipated whiskey in the fine surroundings of The Rag Trader bar in Dublin’s fair city.
The actual Dead Rabbit bar is in New York. It’s the creation of founders Sean & Jack from Northern Ireland. Despite being only a stones throw from the mighty Hudson River, when you enter, it’s like being transported back to a local watering hole by the banks of the River Shannon.
Awards have been won, there are queues to get in, there is some slick & clever marketing & it’s a very enjoyable experience drinking and dining inside the friendly establishment.
And then there’s the rabbit.
To celebrate their 5 years in business the Dead Rabbit have launched their own whiskey. Not surprisingly it’s a 5 year old sourced blend. This follows a long tradition of pubs & grocers releasing their own distinctive whiskeys which are a mixture of spirits from a variety of sources blended to their own requirements.
So does it match the hype?
In one word – yes!
Now there were plenty of cocktails around – but I’m an old fashioned – ahem – kind of guy – so neat Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey it was for me.
A lovely woody nose enticed me in. The virgin oak finish had worked it’s charms.
The palate began softly. Gentle fruity notes developed into more robust woody tannins with a lovely rich spice which tingled on the tongue as it slowly faded away.
Suitably robust yet soft & spicy all at the same time.
The Dead Rabbit’s done good.
Many thanks to Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey for the invite & use of the Rabbit image for the blog.
Not only in the physical distance it has to travel to reach outside markets – but also in terms of taste, flavour and style.
Fortunately for me an invitation to a wedding in Melbourne (a Tullamore lad & a Melbourne lassie no less) allowed me the opportunity to sample a few of these marvelous malts.
The option of bringing home some of these usually quite expensive bottlings wasn’t really on the cards – so a venue that had a large selection of the local distillate was in order.
Bad Frankie – off Smith St in the bohemian suburb of Fitzroy in Melbourne – was recommended to me by the very helpful Pilgrim Bar. It didn’t disappoint.
The 86 tram does pass by – but another young couple kindly drove us there. A Melbourne lad & an Athlonian lassie who happened to be a next door neighbour & whose wedding we had attended back in Ireland. It’s a small world!
Bad Frankie is a popular spot. On the night we visited we only just managed to get a table. The atmosphere was very friendly & inviting. Bad Frankie specializes in Australian food, Australian Gin & the main reason it attracted me – Australian Whisky. Lots of it!
Handily for me they did a tasting platter of any 5 whiskies of your choice for 40 dollars. (Prices in July 2016) Seb – the owner – & his staff were very attentive and allowed me to pick the ones I wanted.
I narrowed it down to 7 bottles initially. Despite doing my homework before I came to Oz there were still distilleries I hadn’t heard off! Yet here they were – all tempting me.
The final 5 that won my attention on the night were brought to my table. The samples poured and the back story to each bottle in terms of style, flavour, distillery & even the distillation method were explained by the knowledgeable staff.
A varied round of Bad Frankie jaffles were also served up. I went for the ‘Bangers & Mash’. Basically it’s a sealed toasted sandwich filled with a fabulous concoction of tasty fillings. It certainly made a great whisky food pairing!
With a name like Limeburners I couldn’t let this one pass me by. Western Australia’s first single malt whisky distillery had me hooked! A lovely rich fruity number that only confirmed my prediliction to port finishes.
Yes – that’s right – peated rye. The world’s first. Not only that. It uses rye grown on the distiller’s – Peter Bignell – farm as well as Tasmanian peat to give a truly unique taste. There is a gorgeous soft smoke with the merest hint of rye spice too. Fabulous!
I must admit the above selection truly stunned me. The quality & diversity of Australian whisky is simply amazing. I love it – just like these Aussie rockers!
I should also point out that these bottles were available when I visited. Many Australian distilleries release small batches or single runs in limited numbers. What is available now is probably very different. One thing that will not be different is the fabulous taste offered by the new releases – whether they are new expressions from the above distilleries or new expressions from new distilleries that hadn’t appeared when I was down under.
As is true in many countries – the range of whiskies available in the home market is usually far larger than that on sale outside that country.
If you really want to taste Australian whisky – you have to go there.
And Bad Frankie for me at least – is the prime spot to do that tasting.
When out and about I enjoy popping into bars I’ve not previously visited on the off-chance of finding a gem.
The Masonic Arms in the picturesque East Neuk village of Anstruther sits at the end of the West Pier and is more of a rough diamond.
It’s easy to get sucked into conversation in this character driven pub – both from behind the bar as well as in front of it – but the main attraction for me – aside from the gently warming fire – is a great selection of whiskies.
A plethora of single malt Scotch, the usual big brand blends, assorted Irish & some bourbons adorn the back wall.
My tipple of choice however was a local offering – Cameron Brig Single Grain.
Cameronbridge Grain Distillery was among the first to utilise the new technology of the Coffey Still back in the 1830’s.
Irishman Aeneas Coffey failed to find many backers in his native land for his controversial invention – yet the Lowland Scottish distillers took to it with gusto. They effectively kick started the rise of blended whisky which went on to ensure Scotch as the biggest selling whisky in the world.
Over 180 years later, Cameronbridge is still pumping out 120 million lpa (litres of pure alcohol) per annum – making it the both the largest and oldest grain distillery in Europe.
George Roe used to have the largest distillery in Europe – but he (and other Dublin distillers) campaigned against grain whisky calling it ‘silent spirit’.
It’s rather ironic George & his friends are no more – yet Diageo – who own Cameronbridge – are currently resurrecting whiskey distilling on the old George Roe distillery site in Dublin.
So what does this ‘silent spirit’ taste like?
Well being a bourbon cask matured single grain it has that sweet vanilla & caramel nose going on. I wouldn’t rule out added caramel too.
A soft smooth inviting palate with a pleasant depth left a gentle warm glow in the mouth.
Nothing special really. An easy drinking dram ‘hard to find outside of Fife‘ my fellow barmate informed me – along with the anecdote he often enjoyed it mixed with Scotland’s other national drink – Irn Bru.
I didn’t check the veracity of either statement – but did enjoy a quiet half hour out of the wet & miserable weather to raise a glass to Aeneas Coffey & the Irishman’s contribution to the rise of Scotch.
One of the joys about entering the An Pucan bar – just off Galway’s Eyre Square in the West of Ireland – is the wide array of whiskey available. Not only do they stock a marvelous selection of Irish – there is a healthy amount of other countries output too.
Italy is one of those countries. They also happen to be one of the Six Nations rugby teams that do battle every year – and as An Pucan is a sports bar – they show the game – as well as having the whiskey!
Puni is the first whisky distillery in Italy – and I was keen to sample one of their expressions.
This Puni Alba release is one of their earlier incarnations. An Pucan’s bottle is the original design – a very attractive & distinctive rectangular bottle at that. Later editions come in a more traditional – yet still very stylish – round shape which is used across the whole range. For me however – it’s the contents that count – so a glass was duly poured.
The nose came over with a rather unique profile. Soft & sweet with a lovely floral touch – yet slightly citric all at the same time. Very intriguing.
The taste started off suitably mellow, followed by a lovely growing heat with a little spicy kick. The floral sweetness developed into a cornucopia of flavour sensations that rolled around in the palate.
The finish was rather short – but left me wanting more!
Why had it taken me so long to try this gorgeous whisky?
On the side of the bottle some interesting information – which became clearer when enlarged – explained why I loved this expression so much.
Turns out it’s triple distilled using a mash of barley, wheat and – my pet love – rye! So that’s where the delightful spice comes from. The combination of these grains works extremely well in producing a phalanx of beautiful flavours which just exploded in my mouth.
Heaven in a bottle!
Much like Linea 77 singing about La nuova musica Italiana – I want more nuova whisky Italiana!
It should go without saying this original bottling came non chill filtered with no added caramel – which raises the freshness, clarity & strength of the engaging flavours within.
Pikesville was a small neighbourhood in Maryland USA. It is now consumed into Baltimore County and happens to be where some of my in-laws live.
Despite visiting last year – I never did get the chance to try the locally named brand.
Pikesville – as well as Maryland in general – had a thriving rye whiskey business before prohibition. Only now is there a bit of a resurgence of that proud history with new distilleries entering the market.
This bottle in the meantime is made in Kentucky at the Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown – and when I spotted it on the shelves in Garavan’s – I couldn’t let the opportunity pass.
Now ‘straight’ in American terms means aged for at least 2 years. ‘Rye’ means at least 51% rye is used in the all important mash bill – the other 49% can be commonly made up of corn, wheat or barley. Added caramel is not permitted.
Rye is a style of whiskey I love.
I like the hit of spicy cinnamon & nutmeg followed through by a rich peppery dryness combined with some softer warming vanilla & caramel notes.
Pikesville Supreme only just had that rye kick. I found it very much muted by the other ingredients – which I suspected as being corn. This resulted in a warm vanilla led nose & taste with only a tingling of rye at the end.
An easy drinking approachable rye yes – but not what I’m craving.
My suspicions on the corn content were confirmed later by an internet search. The mash bill makes all the difference to the taste. In this instance Pikesville appears to have a mix of rye 51%, corn 37%, and barley 12% – which explains why it didn’t light up my life.
That’s not to say it’s a bad rye. In fact many are lamenting the loss of this particular bottling which has been replaced by a 6 year old 110 proof – 55% ABV – expression that might be more up my street. The Washington Post even covered the story here!
So if you’re missing a taste of Maryland – head for Garavan’s in Galway!
Only the other day I was remarking there would be an increase in bars releasing their own label whiskey when;
Out of the hat pops the Dead Rabbit whiskey.
Shortly followed by a Garavan’s 10yo single malt!
I get as excited as a kid at Christmas with every new Irish whiskey release. In this instance it was a lot easier to visit a pub only an hour down the road – rather than a trans-atlantic flight across the pond – for me to sample one of these bottles!
Garavan’s is a gem of a whiskey bar. One of the 12 venues on the Galway Whiskey Trail. It has warm wooden snugs & paneling, loads of whiskey coupled with friendly welcoming & informed staff. What more could a whiskey fan ask for?
I ordered up my Garavan’s Grocer’s Choice 10 Year Old Irish Whiskey – neat as is my way – & awaited the joys that were within.
The nose opened up with some playful fruity notes – this whiskey isn’t shy about coming forward – with some rich vanilla & caramel from the bourbon cask maturation.
The taste was a delight. No holding back here either. Clear, crisp & fresh. More of that warming bourbon influence with a soft prickly spice too.
The finish was suitably long & mellow – yet left a satisfying lingering heat. Time for a tune for the recently departed.
I liked the no nonsense label too. It harks back to bygone days when brown paper bags were the norm – deliveries were done on a bone shaker & each grocer had their own whiskey – from sourced distilleries!
There is no mention on the bottle as to the origin of the spirit within. Under both Irish and Scottish whiskey rules there is no legal requirement to do so – and I’m happy with that.
I don’t judge a whiskey by the cover.
I judge by the contents.
And the contents taste lovely!
Only when I blew up the photos – I’m of an age when all of a sudden the small print has become a bit of a blur – did I see some of the reasons why.
46% in whiskey terms is a magic number. It usually denotes non chill filtration. On my palate at least that means bigger & bolder flavours – more taste sensation & more warming heat. All of which Garavan’s Grocer’s Choice possesses in spades.
There is no mention of added caramel – but the bold clarity of the flavours suggests not.
There are plans to release the whiskey for retail – but in the meantime it’s only available at Garavan’s bar. For me – it’s the best place to experience this fabulous new Irish whiskey – having the craic & sharing the friendly banter with both regular customers and welcoming bar staff.
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.
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.
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.
It’s always nice after being away for a short while to come home to an unexpected surprise. Especially when that surprise involves a new Irish whiskey!
Sean’s Bar in Athlone is firmly on the tourist trail.
As the oldest bar in Ireland – and possibly the world depending on your sources – mainly due to the old wattle & wicker wall contained within the bar’s structure – it has a steady stream of tourists, revellers & locals entering it’s doors.
Being one of my local bars it’s simply a short walk across the mighty River Shannon for me to enjoy the dimly lit snug like main bar as well as the extensive outside back bar which are often both crowded on a weekend.
Sean’s never had an extensive whiskey range – the usual suspects were to be had; Jameson, Bushmills, Tullamore, Connemara & the Pogues for example – but recently that has all changed.
Sean’s Bar Blended Whiskey has just been released & is available exclusively in the bar either by the glass or the full bottle if you desire.
I popped down on a damp Sunday afternoon to try it out.
Now I wasn’t expecting much from an entry level standard blend.
It has that caramalised nose feel and initially the taste is rather soft & mildly sweet. Very approachable & easy however.
What raises this whiskey slightly above the rest for me is a welcome warming spiciness on the finish – very reminiscent of a Powers Gold Blend.
Produced by West Cork Distillers on a limited run. Packaged in an attractive label with a bit of history on the back. It’s a good excuse as any to give Sean’s a visit!
Get in touch if you do – I might just join you for one!