Established in 2003 – originally at Union Hall in the stunning scenery of west Cork but now based in nearby Skibbereen since 2013 – West Cork Distillers have been quietly working away refining the art of whiskey making and releasing a very tasty portfolio of product often under the radar of the mainstream whiskey community.
West Cork Distillers have recently won Irish Whiskey Distillery Of The Year at the New York International Spirits Competition 2016 along with a Gold for their Pogues release and a Silver for the 12 year old rum cask single malt.
The Galway Bay Irish Whiskey – a 3rd party release by West Cork Distillers – also won a Gold Award at the Irish Whiskey Awards held in Tullamore so their star is certainly beginning to shine.
The bold design of The Pogues Irish Whiskey immediately attracted me and I was rewarded by a pretty tasty blended whiskey when I got it home.
The Galway Bay Irish Whiskey – a rum finished 10 year old single malt – was produced for the Galway Whiskey Trail collective of 10 bars and 1 off-licence and launched to much fanfare at a fabulous event held on the stunning surroundings of Galway Bay itself.
On the stall at Whiskey Live Dublin meanwhile were several new releases under West Cork Distillers own label which I was ably guided through by their informative ambassador Liz.
I went straight for the cask finished trio of 12 year old single malts which encompassed a sherry, port and rum expressions.
All 3 expressions for me were far superior to the rather sweet tasting 10 year old offering. All gave a well balanced finish with extra flavour from the relevant finish which didn’t overpower the soft single malt base spirit. The port cask would be my best pick giving a slightly more heavy and rich feel than the other 2, but that’s just my preference as all were very palatable.
Bottled at 43%, they are a welcome addition to the growing West Cork range. They clearly demonstrate the effect different wood finishes have on the original single malt which makes a tasting of all 3 an interesting experience.
In my haste to move on and sample as much whiskey as I could I failed to sample the Black Cask release! A blend finished in heavily charred oak barrels. I’ve heard through the grapevine that it’s pretty good – so I’m looking forward to sampling yet more tasty whiskey from West Cork Distillers in the near future!
a) A mythological creature of many coastal communities along the Atlantic seaboard of Europe. Said to live as seals offshore but shed their skin and appear as humans on land – usually female.
b) A pretty tasty entry blend from the Sliabh Liag Distillery in Donegal who are currently planning & building a distillery in the beautiful countryside near the famous sea cliffs of the same name on the magnificent Wild Atlantic Way.
c) The subject matter of a lovely film by Neil Jordan starring Colin Farrell as a fisherman who lands a silkie in his nets – or is she?
Choose one of the above.
Choose a combination of all three.
I choose to believe in silkies.
I choose to relax and enjoy the smooth taste of Silkie whilst watching a modern interpretation of the silkie story set in stunning scenery.
One of the joys of attending a masterclass at Whiskey Live Dublin is gaining access to some of the movers & shakers and characters of the Irish Whiskey scene.
Darryl McNally – master distiller at the Dublin Whiskey Company – is certainly an engaging as well as entertaining character who led a highly enjoyable talk about his new Irish whiskey adventure.
Darryl regaled us with stories from his time at Bushmills. Originally with Irish Distillers, then Diageo and now Jose Cuervo before he decided to go his own way with the Quintessential Brands owned Dublin Whiskey Company.
Being a new player in the market doesn’t mean bringing a lack of knowledge or experience to the table. Darryl has an abundance of those qualities – as well as a knack of casually throwing in some whiskey stories from his many years in the industry.
In his early days at Bushmills he was intrigued by a tap marked 2D and 3D. Eventually plucking up the courage to ask someone, it turned out to be a flow valve for double distilled or triple distilled spirit. The distillery could – and probably still does – have the ability to produce either.
During the Diageo owned days the 2D was switched off to concentrate on the production of 3D spirit to fit in with the marketing strategy at the time.
The 2D stock that had accumulated beforehand no longer fitted the ‘core brand story’ and was subsequently off loaded.
Jack Teeling happened to have some ready cash from the Cooley sale to Beam and – as the story goes – 10 million worth of 2D stock now forms the bulk of current Teeling whiskey expressions having been selected and finished to Alex Chasko’s exacting standards.
Ironically the site chosen for the soon to be developed Dublin Whiskey Distillery is Mill Street in the Liberties area of Dublin – right behind the award winning Teeling Distillery!
The Liberties is once again gaining it’s former glory – or notoriety – of being the major whiskey production area of Ireland with the Pearse Lyons Distillery in nearby James’s Street almost complete.
The Dublin Liberties Irish Whiskey also happens to be the family brand name for a range of attractively designed expressions that cleverly combine the rich historical heritage of the Liberties area with a modern image and story.
My eye was immediately drawn to the bottle of Oak Devil I encountered last year in the lovely Dingle Whiskey Bar on Nassau Street. A glass duly sat in front of me for my pleasure – and it certainly was pleasing.
It had a rich malty, almost woody note to begin with followed by some lovely spices and a warming finish. It struck me as being a little bit different to the standard offerings of other blends out there and it struck a chord with me – just like the old Cult classic tune did as I quietly hummed it to myself whilst savouring the whiskey.
In the masterclass this 46% non-chill filtered blend was paired with some lovely salmon sushi from Yamamori – did I mention we were provided with some lovely food to compliment the tasty whiskey? – and Oak Devil only reaffirmed my enjoyable original tasting experience.
Copper Alley is the new release. Also at 46% non-chill filtered but this time a 10 year old single malt finished in 30 year old sherry casks. It’s a more refined smooth tasting whiskey than Oak Devil which despite the sherry influence still retains the lovely maltiness and spice I like. Lovely.
The Dubliner brand is also part of the portfolio and will make up the bulk of the Dublin Whiskey Company core sales.
The Dubliner Blend at 40% chill filtered proved to be a pretty decent standard entry expression with just enough spice to keep it entertaining. But I was blown away by the extremely tasty food pairing of a chocolate donut infused with Dubliner whiskey!
Still munching on the donut the Dubliner 10 year old single malt at 42% chill filtered matured in bourbon casks also went down very well. This release was paired with some beautiful tariyaki beef strips and concluded the session.
Asked for a favourite – I was about to shout out ‘The donut’ when Darryl joked that anyone who did so would be ejected from the show!
Oak Devil still won me over however with that blend of malt, spice and grain combined in a cool bottle wrapped up with a pleasing story.
I just can’t wait for the distillery in Mill St to be up and running so I can enjoy more donuts – sorry, whiskey! – whilst relaxing in the proposed visitors lounge overlooking the still room floor where all the action is.
Whiskey Live Dublin was held in the lovely premises of Dublin Castle Printworks. Whisky Live events are organised throughout the major cities of the world and bill themselves as;
The World’s Premier Whisky Tasting Show
After attending the Dublin show for the first time – I’d certainly recommend any budding whiskey fans to get down to a show wherever you are in the world. The amount of whiskey stands on display – let alone the range of expressions available – and many of the movers and shakers within the industry – are all there to sample – chat and entertain – it’s an event not to be missed.
I’d defy anyone to get round all the stands in one of the sessions allocated to guests – so much so that I met a few people who had booked for both the afternoon as well as evening session simply to ensure they visited every exhibitor!
After having read Whisky And Wisdom’s excellent blog to surviving a whiskey show – I felt ready to handle what Whiskey Live Dublin had to throw at me.
I had my target list,
I had my bottle of water,
I had my notebook – pen and camera and –
I had a suitable pre-event feed in a nearby cafe.
My plan was to walk round the displays without visiting any of them so I could ascertain where the ones I wanted to visit were – as well as seeing if there were any surprises I’d missed on the pre-publicity information.
This went well until I rounded the Celtic Whiskey Shop stand where one of the friendly staff that had been at the judging event of last month welcomed me over for a chat and before I could refuse – offered me a taster of a whisky that wasn’t even on my hit list! What else could I do?
Now Campbeltown whiskies are renowned for their peat – and as I’m not a massive peat fan I prefer a more balanced approach so the Longrow on offer was gently rebuffed. Springbank I’ve tried before and enjoyed – which left the Kilkerran Sherry Wood to duly sniff and slurp.
This proved to be a perfectly balanced mildly peated single malt of some distinction. My goodness – if his was an indication of quality of whisky at the show then it was very high indeed.
Heading on after gathering more info regards the history of Kilkerran I stumbled upon one of the food pairing stands. L Mulligan Grocers tempted me with a tasty morsel twinned with a smooth Glenmorangie. Lovely. But here I was 2 whiskies down and I’d not even started on my list!
Time to get a grip! Oh! What time is it? Time I was in that Powers Masterclass I’d booked for!
Ger Garland – Ambassador for Powers whiskey – guided us whiskey geeks through a history of Powers whiskey from it’s days in Dublin to the current location in Midleton. This led to a tasting of the 3 single pot still releases available under the newly repackaged Powers label namely – Three Swallow – Signature and John’s Lane releases.Sitting there being guided through the taste profiles of these fine whiskeys by Ger whilst gazing across to Dublin Castle outside the room certainly mellowed my initial rush so that I savoured the nuances of the expressions.
Suitably refocused I emerged from the masterclass to head for one of the new Irish distilleries opening up in Drogheda. Boann Distillery’s stills are enroute from Italy as I write this. I assumed they would be from Frilli but no – they hail from Green Engineering – a new name for me.Regardless of who manufactured the stills – as a taster of things to come they have The Whistler.
A rather unusual named blend from Boann but distilled elsewhere – this rather rich and heavy blend pleased me very much and I certainly wish all at Boann well with their venture. I for one will be eager to visit the combined distillery – brewery – eatery and visitors centre when it opens!
Mossfield Organic Cheese had a stall closeby and being a fan of their Slieve Bloom Cheddar I Paid them a visit to be rewarded by a sample of their tasty cheese paired with an equally tasty Machrie Moor Single Malt from the lovely Arran Distillery in Scotland.
Echlinville Distillery on the Ards Peninsula are currently laying down their own spirit for maturation and I was lucky to get a taster of a 2 yo new fill cask which despite it’s youth had some lovely flavours which will only grow with further ageing. Graeme Millar proved to be a very passionate distiller and ambassador for Echlinville as he guided me through the lovely award winning Dunville’s PX 10 yo Single malt – the surprisingly good Feckin Irish Whiskey blend and the unusual Feckin Spiced liqueur. I certainly think this is a distillery to look out for in the future given that passion combined with great tasting expressions!
Now the Hyde 10 yo single malt Oloroso release I bought when it first came out and I have to admit – it didn’t light my fire – unlike The Doors track – but I was intrigued to taste their No. 2 release finished in Rum casks.
I mentioned this to the rep and he proffered me a sample of both the releases. The first remained exactly as how I remembered it – lacking something – but the second made up for that with a healthy rum aroma and taste which to my mind gives the spirit a fuller – richer body with a more rounded – mellow – if sweeter taste. Much more to my liking! Perhaps I should have saved my cash for this expression!
Now I was on a roll!
I stopped at Jack Ryan’s stand for a brief chat to congratulate him on his excellent whiskey then moved over to The Palace Bar who also have a whiskey available at their premises – much like how all pubs would do in times gone by. The sample I had was simply – there is no other way to describe it – gorgeous!
John Teeling was engaged by a small crowd at his Great Northern Distillery stand so I got talking to a very informed engineer who had helped design and install all the pipework at the Dundalk plant. There were samples of clear white new spirit to try but at 80% proof and above I decided to let it mature a bit more before I’ll give it a go – at least for another 3 years!
Dingle Distillery will shortly be releasing their first whiskey expression. Exclusivity is the buzzword here. If you want a bottle – give them your details. They contact you and offer you a bottle from the first cask for 350 euro. They also offer personalised barrel options too. I think I’ll have to wait a bit before I can get a taster of this expression.
Nomad however were freely dispensing their lovey sherry cask finished blend created by the collaborative efforts of Richard Patterson and Gonzales Byass. It’s distilled in Scotland then shipped to Jerez for ageing so falls to be called a Scotch by the rules of definition.Breaking the rules never tasted so good in my book!
As the afternoon session was coming close to it’s finale – I tried Makers Mark from the Beam/Suntory range as I’d been informed this was a classic bourbon. Having yet to develop a taste for bourbon I thought I’d give this one a go. Sadly it didn’t do much for me.
A quick venison hot pot from Koh with another Dunville’s PX were my penultimate tasty pairing followed by an amiable chat with the Gaelic Whisky crew over the teaching methods of both Scotland and Ireland’s native language – led me to a taster of their rather fine Te Bheag blend.
I have a soft spot for Skye – where this tasty dram comes from – having cycled across the island back in the late 90’s. My grandfather also earned his living in a boat not dis-similar to the one used as a logo by the distillery. So sampling this fine blend and chatting to the lovely people behind it only warmed my affections even more.
So there you go.
What a lovely way to end my day at Whiskey Live Dublin.
Congratulations to Al Higgins and all the staff at the Celtic Whiskey Shop for arranging – promoting and organising this wonderful event. I’ll definitely be back next year!
Oh – I managed to get the train home OK and even bought my cup of tea with a snack before boarding to ensure I arrived home in a fit state – not parched dry like my last visit to Dublin!