Tag Archives: Blended Whiskey

My Blind Tasting Irish Whiskey Awards 2019

Hot off the heels of the actual Irish Whiskey Awards 2019 are the results of my own blind tasting findings.

It certainly won’t attract as much fanfare – but it might be of interest to any readers out there interested seeing where my palate goes.

Blind tasting to me is the ultimate leveller.

It’s just you, your palate and the whiskey.

There is no information – not even the categories – and I love it!

There are simply identical bottles filled with whiskey for the judges to sample, rate and enjoy – which is exactly what I did.

This year I only managed the one tasting session – and the results were broadly similar to my previous findings.

Category B

34 entrants – average score 74.

Such a large group of entrants could only be Irish Blends Under €60 – which it was.

My scores were very tight. Ranging from 70 – there were a few – right up to 81 – of which there was only one.

Dunville’s Three Crowns Peated, 43,5%.

Dunvilles Peated CWS
Dunville’s 3 Crowns Peated c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

No contest really. The only peater in the pack. I love peat.

2nd & 3rd followed closely.

Pearse 7 Year Old Distillers Choice & Pearse 5 Year Old Original Blend.

Category D

4 entrants – average score 73.5

Correctly guessed as New Irish Whiskey.

Scores ranged from 70 to 77 and again reflected a ‘work in progress’ theme to the offerings.

My clear winner?

Dingle Single Malt Batch 4, 46.5%.

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Batch 4 at Dingle c/othewhiskeynut

Category E

4 entrants – average score 78

The power of these suggested Irish Cask Strength – and so it proved to be.

Scores ranged from 73 to 81. The winner turned out to be the biggest surprise of the session.

Wild Geese Untamed, Cask Strength, 65%.

Untamed
Wild Geese Untamed c/oTTBOnline

Didn’t see that one coming! A welcome return for Wild Geese Whiskey.

I wish all the entrants – especially all the winners – both my own personal preferences as well as the actual winners – much future success.

Sláinte

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Bowmore No 1, 40% vs Art Of The Blend 3, 43%

Which would you choose?

A single malt from a well known Islay Distillery versus a blend sold by an upcoming Lowland Distillery sourced from unnamed origins?

Luckily for me – I had both!

Art Of The Blend 3 was a limited edition release allowing Eden Mill Distillery to practice their blending & marketing skills in advance of their own whisky maturing.

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Art Of The Blend Batch 3 c/othewhiskeynut

It came in a highly attractive bottle – which has since continued into their own releases – containing malt & grain whiskies finished in Islay Whisky Casks.

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Eden Mill’s own whisky c/othewhiskeynut

I found it crisp, clear, vibrant and highly enjoyable.

You could say it was smokin’!

By contrast Bowmore No 1 – named after the warehouse the barrels used in the single malt were aged in – was muted – almost as if the fire had gone out.

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Bowmore No 1 c/othewhiskeynut

The sparkle was missing – and I was a tad disappointed.

The Art Of The Blend 3 just blew it out of the water.

I let my palate choose.

It chose Art Of The Blend 3.

Sláinte

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Glen Grant, Highland Malt Scotch Whisky, 43%

The label on this miniature bottle had me confused.

I always associated Grant’s with being a big selling Speyside blend with a distinctive triangular shaped bottle which hadn’t exactly set my palate alight.

Yet here was a round Glen Grant bottle proclaiming to be from the Highlands.

Turns out there were 2 or 3 Mr Grants who set up whisky distilleries in the 1800’s.

In the 1840’s brothers John & James Grant founded the Glen Grant Distillery. It has gone through many changes of ownership and is now in the hands of the Campari Group – which immediately takes me back to an old advert!

Later on a certain William Grant laid the stones for the Glenfiddich Distillery back in 1886. The company is still with the same family today and has gone on to great success. It is responsible for the Grant’s range of blended whiskies – as well as notable single malts and built the new Tullamore Distillery in Ireland.

So that’s one issue sorted.

Highland Malt when quite clearly it’s a Speyside distillery?

Well not so fast bucko.

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Glen Grant Highland Malt c/othewhiskeynut

Scottish Whisky Regions are actually a fairly recent construct and in my opinion more tied in with clever marketing & branding rather than anything intrinsically connecting whiskies made in these regions. An internet search found an enjoyable explanation here.

Since my miniature seems to be an old bottling – the closest I could identify is offered on Whisky Exchange here – which pre-dates current Scotch Whiskey Region rules.

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Courtesy Whisky Exchange

But I only found all this out after tasting  Glen Grant Highland Malt – as I fairly enjoyed it.

There was a slight funkiness on the nose – not overpowering & actually quite characterful – which I’d possibly allow as deterioration from the old bottling – yet otherwise fresh & light.

The palate was signature Speyside – soft, subtle fruits & easy sweet biscuity malt with a hint of spice towards the finish.

If anything the 43% presentation had boosted the flavours within & given an enhanced appeal to my palate.

Not bad at all.

It enticed me to unearth the information above – all from a mixed bag auction lot purchase.

A happy half hour drinking & internet searching.

Sláinte

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Kavanagh Irish Whiskey, Single Malt, 40%

My final bottle of Irish Whiskey – from my American market only trio – is Kavanagh Irish Whiskey.

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Kavanagh Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

They release a range of attractively labelled whiskeys. Namely a Blend, a Single Malt, a Single Grain and a 16 Year Old Single Malt – all at 40% ABV – or 80 Proof in America.

This NAS (non age statement) Single Malt made it back to Ireland for me to sample.

The distillery of origin is not stated and Kavanagh seem to be a store brand for Total Wine & More – from where it was purchased.

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Kavanagh’s back! c/othewhiskeynut

The nose was soft & fruity – almost orchard like – with hints of honey.

The palate started off suitably smooth – yet gradually built up with warming vanilla & caramel leaving a welcome soft tingling spice on the finish.

A very easy & approachable single malt. Relatively simple with no great complexity or depth – but for the price point it delivers an enjoyable experience.

I’d happily go on to sample the other Kavanagh Whiskeys based on my findings.

Sláinte

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Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fair 2019

The Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fair continues to be the first major drinks festival of the calendar in Ireland. Now in it’s 6th year – this is my 3rd visit.

I keep going back to enjoy the friendly atmosphere, sample the diverse & exciting array of craft beers & cider available – and taste some whiskeys too!

I’d like to thank Alltech for offering me a Media Pass to enjoy this years show so #ad is in order.

Now a word of advice – have a plan.

There is no way you’ll get round all the stalls & all the produce on offer – at least not in one day if you still want to be standing at the end of it.

My plan was relatively simple.

In order of priority I’d be checking out any new whiskeys, any new spirits, any new barrel aged beers, having a pie & enjoying myself.

Simples!

I made a beeline for Black’s Of Kinsale.

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#whiskey of the day c/othewhiskeynut

Their sourced 12 Year Old Single Malt – ahead of their own distillate maturing – captured me with it’s bold yet clean design & cool bottle.

The liquid inside didn’t disappoint either.

A warm smooth & inviting start with a slight smoky hint of charred casks developed into a silky mouthfeel which slowly morphed into a gorgeously dry finish.

A great start to the show.

Their Spiced Irish Rum also tempted me.

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#rum of the day c/othewhiskeynut

The Guatemalan sugar cane mollasses are imported into Ireland, fermented, distilled & matured by Black’s to produce an Irish Rum.

Now rum isn’t my speciality – but this had an invitingly pungent nose of earthiness, smokiness, sweetness & spice. The taste followed in this style & was a far more entertaining tipple than I expected.

Thumbs up all round for Black’s entry into the distilled spirits market.

Rye River Brewing happened to be nearby with their ever enthusiastic beer ambassador Simon. Now we happen to know each other prior to his latest rise to beer fame & he didn’t have to twist my arm too hard to get me sampling a Rye River special brewed for the show.

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#grodziskie of the day c/othewhiskeynut

It also wasn’t difficult to go on a slightly wavering tour of the festival – perhaps taking in more than we would have done individually – but having a great time nonetheless.

Kweichow Moutai were up next.

A newcomer into the market for Ireland this historic and extremely popular Chinese spirit often catagorised as ‘baijiu‘ is an area I’ve yet to venture into.

Gorgeously garishly attractive – both the bottle, stall design and uniformed – as well as informed – staff had me trying to get my head round the sorghum & wheat base, 9 distillation production technique and new taste sensations.

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#baijiu of the day c/othewhiskeynut

It has the nose & appearance of a poitin – yet the taste was something else. At 53% it was warm, inviting, softly sweet yet earthy & unusual. I’d have been tempted to buy a bottle to explore further – but on hearing the price – this is a premium product with a premium price tag I was informed – I made do with another sample that still had me yearning for more! One to watch as they say.

Knowing my predilection for darker, heavier beers Simon guided me to Clifden based Bridewell Brewery. Along with their core range a limited edition duo commemorating the historic first flight across the Atlantic by Alcock & Brown resulted  in highly enjoyable & very satisfying Navigator Transatlantic Brown. The Pilot Amber Ale of Alcock wasn’t too bad either!

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#brown ale of the day c/othewhiskeynut

Lough Gill Brewery of Sligo also got a look in with their Award Winning Barrel Aged Dark Sunset Imperial Oatmeal Stout.

Yes, yes and yes! – is all I can say.  Suits me sir!

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#barrel aged beer of the day c/othewhiskeynut

A few other beers were had – some enjoyable – others not so – before Simon went back to work – and I back to whiskey – Pearse Lyons Whiskey to be precise.

Now I thought I had a reasonable handle on the fast moving Irish Whiskey Scene – obviously not when confronted by three age statemented Pearse Lyons offerings!

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#revamped whiskey of the day c/othewhiskeynut

What gives?

Turns out the original core range of 4 has been revamped, rerecipied & rebranded!

Gone are the non age statements, chunky bottles & keyhole like labels – in is a sleeker, leaner shared brand identity with a slightly higher 43% ABV. Also gone is the Cooper’s Select – grab it while you can!

The names & colours remain the same – with Original now a 5yo & Distiller’s Choice a 7yo. Founder’s Reserve was already a 12yo.

Short of a back to back comparison with the old 42% versions I couldn’t discern what changes have taken place. It was admitted the Original had lost a little of it’s smoky character from the former Alltech Lexington Brewery & Distillery barrels. It also looks as if that facilities output has also had a rebrand – but I failed to make the Town Branch stall this time.

The newly rebranded Pearse Lyons trio all still taste very appealing & are attractively priced – yet I was somewhat surprised by the revamp – so much so I needed a break – and a pie – to recompose myself!

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#pie of the day c/othewhiskeynut

Pieman continue to be a favourite festival pie provider of mine. A roast chicken & sausage stuffing pie sated my hunger & calmed me down for the final push. It also allowed some entertaining chats & discussions with fellow attendees on the shared table spaces dotted around the hall. Hats off to the Tempted ciderist who won Best In Show for their gorgeously dry & balanced Tempted Strawberry Cider & explained the intricacies of the trade to me over our meal.

Conscious that time was limited to make the last train home – I found another barrel aged beer to sample at the Clocked Out stall.

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#brett of the day c/othewhiskeynut

Brett  yeast seems to be a growing trend in craft brewing but I’m still not sure of the sour & funky taste even with this fine barrel aged stout. I did manage a quick catch up with the ever energetic Mr Guilfoyle whose rise in beer has been a pleasure to witness.

Scottish punk drink empire’s BrewDog stand earned a final visit. I knew they had a sourced whisky lurking under the counter waiting to celebrate Scotland’s win over England in the Six Nations which ultimately went to a draw.

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#whisky of the day c/othewhiskeynut

Uncle Duke’s is a Cameron Bridge sourced single grain with American virgin oak maturation, no chill filtration & natural colour. Rich, warm & inviting with a lovely dry spiciness showing through the soft & smooth delivery.

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#waffle of the day c/othewhiskeynut

A proud testament to the enduring legacy of Irishman Aeneas Coffey whose continuous still was adopted by Cameron Bridge back in the 1830’s – and is still going strong today – in a larger modern version –  with wonderful results like this.

And with that it was all over for me – despite the growing crowds still entering to enjoy the evenings entertainment.

All I was looking forward to now was that hot cup of tea on the train home!

Sláinte

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The Dublin Liberties Distillery

A bright sunny Monday morning had me waiting outside Dublin’s newest whiskey distillery – Dublin Liberties Distillery – eagerly looking forward to being one of the first customers within it’s doors.

The building has been transformed since my last visit. Gone are the whitewashed walls, black doors and empty industrial space inside. Now it’s showing off the original stone walls, immaculately varnished wooden doors and a modern yet comfy cafe combined with an extremely well stocked distillery shop displaying it’s attractive wares.

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The way it used to be. c/othewhiskeynut

The staff were warm & friendly – if a little apprehensive at the start of their new roles as whiskey ambassadors for a bright shiny recently opened distillery.

The Liberties location is featured heavily in the opening story – a story of rebels, rascals and raconteurs.

Being beyond the city walls the area had certain freedoms – liberties – that weren’t available within. Business & industry grew up here – especially the brewing & distilling industry with it’s associated trades. As well as a reputation for entertainment & thrills – which the freshly redesigned & elaborate whiskeys of the Dublin Liberties Distillery range reflect.

The Dubliner Honeycomb Whiskey Liqueur at 30% is offered at the start of the tour as an easy starter into the brand.

Rich sweet honey up front gently morphs into a smooth warming whiskey heat that slowly fades on the palate.

A lovely little liqueur to lure you in!

Despite honouring the past – this is a modern distillery.

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Women who whiskey. c/othewhiskeynut

The washback & fermenter room is full of gleaming stainless steel tanks, pipe work & monitoring gauges.

The grain mill is enclosed beyond protective glass to prevent potential fire risk – as well as saving the guides shouting over it’s noisy operation!

The highlight of the tour – apart from the tastings obviously – are the shinning copper pot stills themselves – which have to be photographed outside of the still room – with just a peek of the up-to-date control room above.

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Dublin Liberties Distillery Stills c/othewhiskeynut

Interestingly the first still – usually called the wash still – already exhibited a darker shinier copper hue than the others. Simply as more production cycles have been put through. The rest will no doubt follow in due course.

The all important tasting room – resplendent in wooden beams, benches & tables, as well as comfy seats & a modern bar – had the obligatory samples waiting to enjoy.

The Dubliner Irish Whiskey at 40% was first up. A young, fresh easy going pleasant blend showing delicate honey sweetness with a lovely warming malty heat.

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The tasting room c/othewhiskeynut

The Oak Devil 5 Year Old at 46% – which I enjoyed very much in it’s original non aged statement (NAS) guise here – and preferred over the Dubliner blend – still retained that rich vanilla & caramel warming notes brought out by the charred ex-bourbon casks maturation. Quite what the 5yo age statement adds to the blend will have to wait for a back to back tasting.

It’s a pity the distillery exclusive Tannery Edition blend at 40% wasn’t offered as part of the tasting – but I rectified that by having a glass at the bar.

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The Tannery Edition c/othewhiskeynut

Honeycomb sweetness combined with a soft maltiness & grain heat. A decent gentle warming made this a very easy going winning blend in my book. Nothing too fancy – not too expensive – yet different enough to warrant a purchase – after all – it is a distillery exclusive!

Being the only person at the bar, I took full advantage of the bartender’s attention and went for a double bill of the new 13 Year Old Murder Lane  & 16 Year Old Keeper’s Coin Single Malts.

Now I should state all the current offerings are sourced product from an unnamed Irish Distillery – or distilleries for the blends – until Dublin Liberties Distillery distillate is fully matured. Even then the grain element will continue to be sourced as only single malt will be made at the site.

That’s not to diminish the current offerings – all resplendent in elaborately designed artwork & presentation boxes.

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Murder Lane 13yo c/othewhiskeynut

The 13 Year Old Murder Lane at 46% is matured in ex bourbon casks with a finish in Tokaj Wine casks.

I’d not heard of Tokaj before  – but it’s an area in Hungary famous for it’s wines – which kind of makes this a rather unique Irish Whiskey offering!

Warming vanilla, slight spice with richness & depth to boot. Smooth on tasting. Growing peppery spice with sweet dark fruits coming through. Long finish with a sweet spicy appeal.

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Keeper’s Coin 16yo c/othewhiskeynut

The 16 Year Old Keeper’s Coin at 46% is also ex bourbon matured but with a PX cask finish.

Rich dark sweetness with plenty of depth. Smooth, soft, the dark PX sweetness coming in with a lovely drying prickly spice. Long lasting loveliness.

There is another even older offering – the 27 Year Old King Of Hell – but at 2700 euro – and not available by the glass – I declined the opportunity.

The Dublin Liberties Distillery is fully open for tastings, tours, shopping & relaxing in the cafe. It’s a wonderful addition to the ever expanding Irish Whiskey scene both within the Liberties area of Dublin as well as the country as a whole.

They have very attractive & tasty offerings to suit all tastes – as well as budgets – and I wish all connected with the distillery a hearty toast to their future success.

May the road rise with you!

Slainte

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An A.D. Rattray Appreciation

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.

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The AD Rattray Whisky Shop c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Miniature selection c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Cambus 26yo Single Grain c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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An outstanding single grain! c/othewhiskeynut

The Single Grain Cambus 26 Year Old is clearly my top of the pile – a stunning drop.

Stronachie 18 Single Malt is a close runner.

The others didn’t make the cut.

Sláinte

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Powers 15 Year Old, Garavan’s Single Cask, Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, 46%

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!

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Garavan’s Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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A tasty drop of Powers c/othewhiskeynut

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.

Get it while you can.

Sláinte

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World Whisky Day 2018

A toast to World Whisky Day.

A toast to whatever type of glassware you use, Túath, Glencairn, tumbler or tall.

A toast to whoever you are. regardless of class, creed, colour or country.

A toast to whatever style of whiskey is in your glass, single malt, single cask, grain, blended, bourbon, rye or hybrid from whatever country’s output you happen to have access to.

A toast to all the farmers, distillers, blenders, bottlers & distributors out there throughout the world that ensure the whiskey we love reaches our lips.

A toast to you – and all fellow whiskey drinkers everywhere.

Remember – the best whiskey is the one in your glass.

Thank you for the day.

Enjoy it.

Sláinte.

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Powers 1817 Release, Single Pot Still, 46%

Every now and then a whiskey comes along that kind of takes you by the hand & leads you in to a taste sensation that just enraptures you.

Powers 1817 Release is one of those whiskeys.

Wow!

On the nose it’s wonderfully rich yet smooth.

Gorgeously rich in depth on tasting with the characteristic Powers pot still spice toned down to a delightful tingle.

With a finish that just goes on and on and on.

At only 10 years old & matured solely in bourbon casks, there must be some much older single pot still malts in here to give the whiskey such gravitas.

Powers 1817 Release is a special bottling for the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) to mark their 200th Bicentenary. The LVA are the trade association representing Dublin pubs.

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Powerful whiskeys c/othewhiskeynut

If you want to sample Powers 1817 you’ll have to visit one of those Dublin pubs – like I was fortunately able to do for a tasting with the highly informative Powers Ambassador Michael Carr at The Brian Boru in Phibsborough.

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Gold Label down to the last c/othewhiskeynut

Michael expertly guided us through the lovely Powers Gold Label blend – a mixture of single pot still & grain  whiskey giving a lovely spice kick on the finish – which I must admit to being my ‘go-to’ blend.

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John’s Lane Release going down well c/othewhiskeynut

The superb Powers John’s Lane Release – a bourbon matured & sherry finished single pot still 12 year old which I thought couldn’t be surpassed.

Until I tasted the 1817 release.

A stunner.

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My thanks to Michael for the tasting & Rebecca for arranging the event.