The taste certainly reminds me of an American bourbon.
The couple behind the whiskey are American.
Yet this is an Irish Whiskey that happened to be the first I encountered at the excellent Whiskey Live Dublin 2018 show.
‘Is there any buckwheat in the mix?’ was my opener at the stall.
‘No’ was the reply – followed by an enthusiastic & open explanation of how this whiskey came about.
It’s a 10 year old sourced Irish Single Malt Whiskey that new entrants Irish Whitetail Distillery have finished in an unusually innovative & probably controversial manner.
Rather than put the malt into wood – they have put the wood into the malt!
Chunks of heavily charred African mahogany effectively free float in a vat of single malt for a period of time.
The results definitely pleased my palate!
The soft smooth barley entry was accentuated with rich warming vanilla & caramel notes reminiscent of a good bourbon. A heavier, darker element of cherry – along with a mildly drying spice rounded up the experience.
Will it catch on?
I don’t know.
I wish Irish Whitetail Distillery future success with their great tasting venture – but await discord.
Especially when Dublin is the departing airport with it’s marvelous display of Irish Whiskey – and other countries whiskies too.
A bonus is to try out some of the latest new releases and travel retail exclusives.
By good fortune Bushmills were showcasing their Steamship Collection – including the latest and what seems to be the last bottling of the trilogy.
Named after the SS Bushmills steamhip which supplied the thirsty American market back in the late 1800’s – the trio are all triple distilled single malts presented at 40%.
The first Sherry Cask release didn’t seem to be well received at the time. I felt it lacked a flavour punch myself – but was otherwise a decent sherry bomb style of whiskey and despite initial criticism – seems to be selling well.
The Port Cask release was much more suited to my tastes. Rich sweet dark cherry notes. Nice!
I would have predicted the Port Cask to be my favourite – but then I tried the Bourbon Cask.
The enticingly fruity warm vanilla & caramel notes associated with re-charred casks instantly won me over. There was added depth & flavour to this expression. A lovely warm glow enveloped my palate.
The results of re-charring the casks may not be to everyone’s tastes – but the boosted notes certainly work on me.
There has been a profusion of barrel aged beers on the market lately.
I welcome this development.
It adds a new flavour profile to both the beer industry – as well as the returning beer barrels being used to flavour new whiskeys.
The Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale wouldn’t be the best example according to my tastes.
The bourbon effect is somewhat muted – perhaps not long enough in the barrel? – and the fizz is more suitable for a lager rather than the heavy ale style I enjoy.
There is no mention of who collaborated to bring about this ale.
Alltech are the importers into Europe and although they posses both breweries and distilleries in Kentucky – they haven’t put their name on the product. Yet a trip to their website here does show it as one of their own.
Dingle have been the darlings of the new breed of Irish Whiskey Distilleries.
Their initial limited release batches marked the beginnings of a rebirth in Irish whiskey and fetched both high acclaim – as well as high prices.
Not being a collector – I prefer to enjoy the contents of the bottle – I did not get involved in entering a lottery to purchase an expression at extravagant cost. Nor auctions to acquire the first bottle off the line.
I generally taste at whiskey shows, media events and bars.
If I’m impressed with what I’ve experienced – and when the cost is more affordable & easier to obtain – I might be tempted to purchase.
The initial bourbon cask matured Dingle’s did not tempt me.
They were young, fresh – even exuberant – single malts from a new company. But taste wise they followed a well worn path.
The PX finished single pot still did impress however. I gave it top spot in a blind tasting event over and above all the Middleton releases at the time. It was new, innovative and grabbed my palate’s attention long before it’s identity was revealed to me.
So when a port cask limited release for supermarket chain SuperValu hit the stores I hungrily hunted down a bottle to savour the contents.
No flipping for me.
Subsequent to that – a 3rd Batch release was announced. The Cask Strength offering is as rare as hens teeth, yet the Single Malt – again including port casks – was available in my local O’Brien’s and SuperValu stores.
Was this expression just a relabelled SV release?
I had to find out.
So the Dingle Duel was born.
In the left corner, the SV release, limited to 678 bottles. ‘A Marriage Of Port And Bourbon Casks’. As it says on the tin.
On the right. Batch 3 Single Malt. A far healthier release number & ‘A Marriage Of Bourbon And Port Casks‘.
Mmmmm. Not much to go on there then.
There is a slight difference in colour though.
Now Dingle don’t do added caramel nor chilled filtration – so what you see is what you get – and the SV release was noticeably darker.
On the nose it’s clear these are 2 unique & individual bottlings. The port influence on the SV release is just more pronounced.
It seems Dingle fully mature in the respective casks to begin with and marry the results at a later stage. There must be more Port cask used in the SV release and for me at least – it is more enjoyable for it.
The port influence smoothed over the young bourbon cask matured spirit giving a rather warmer, richer feel. A lovely dry, prickly heat came through at the end too – which suited my palate just fine.
The youthfulness of Batch 3 shone through both on the nose and taste. That’s not to say it’s a bad whiskey – it is want it is – a young fresh even lively whiskey with a decent port cask dressing showing itself in a more balanced, subdued kind of way.. Others may prefer this expression.
Having both back to back was a very enjoyable way to taste two lovely new Irish Whiskeys.
I look forward to future releases and further developments from this fabulous distillery.
Oh! Dingle may be moving away from the cult collector status that has sustained it’s earlier sales and transitioning into more general purchases. This may not be plain sailing judging from the discounted Batch 3’s in my local store.
Recent financial shenanigans in Tasmania only highlight the large stakes at play in trying to develop a whisky distillery.
Nant Whisky Distilling – which had a somewhat troubled financial history – are currently in receivership whilst the sorry mess is sorted out.
It remains to be seen how this new development will play out for the very attractive looking distillery in Bothwell – which I didn’t manage to visit – and a trio of whisky bars – including the one in Hobart which I did call into.
Situated in the wonderfully attractive quayside area of Salamanca Market in downtown Hobart, The Nant Whisky Bar offers punters a large comfortable space to enjoy an evenings libations.
I happened to be the only customer for an early morning – 11ish – visit on a beautifully sunny yet cold winter’s day – complete with a dusting of snow on the slopes of Mt Wellington which rises up behind the city.
There was a good range of whiskies behind the bar – Scotch, Japanese, Irish & some American too – but I did notice Nant were the only Australian representatives on show. Now OK. This is a ‘tied’ bar – but as Tasmanian whisky is promoting a friendly camaraderie & all the other bars in town had at least 2 or 3 Tasmanian distilleries products on show – it did make me ponder.
There was a choice of 2 Nant whisky flights to enjoy. The cask strength at 63% – or the standard 43% offering.
Now there are some expressions that are perfectly drinkable at 60% and above – but they are few and far between. I also find adding water a rather imprecise exercise which would probably bring down the liquid close to the 43% level anyway – and as it was still the morning – the standard flight it was.
I think I chose well. Even at 43% there was a strong alcoholic kick on the nose of all 3 single malt expressions.
Starting with the American Bourbon Cask, there were the signature vanilla & caramel notes coming through. Very nice – but very familiar. I’d find it hard on a blind tasting to distinguish this Australian malt from the best Scotland or Ireland has to offer.
The American Sherry Cask brought added depth & fruity notes. Whilst the darkest coloured French Port Cask bottle gave the heaviest mouthfeel with deeper & richer notes. The Port Cask – as you may have already guessed – came out tops for me.
Oddly, the Bourbon Cask was the priciest to buy – at tear inducing prices – which when I questioned the bartender, she shot me a look which suggested I shouldn’t follow Kasabian’s advice & Shoot The Runner!
With the future of Nant Distilling now very uncertain – the labels, design & content of any further releases may change. There are barrels still maturing – but who knows what will happen to them.
Perhaps what I sampled back in 2016 are destined to become collectors items never to be repeated again?
I’m just happy to have had the opportunity to taste what I did at the time.
It ebbs and flows on the fortunes & failures of the time.
At Brooklyn I booked myself into one of Kings County Distillery tours in the grand old Paymaster Building inside the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard. Located only a short walk from either the York St subway or the iconic Brooklyn Bridge itself – it’s easily accessible for anyone staying in New York.
Dave – our tour guide on the day – entertainingly took us through a potted history of whiskey distillation in Brooklyn taking in topics such as civil war, taxes, legal & illegal production, alcohol consumption, Irish immigration, prohibition as well as many other related – or not – subjects & then tied the whole lot up together with the founding of Kings County Distilling itself in 2010.
I’ll repeat that year again.
Because that makes Kings County Distillery the 1st legal whiskey distillery in New York City since prohibition.
History has long tentacles.
We were shown the whole whiskey making process from the mashing of the grains in open fermenters,
To the distillation in copper pot stills,
To the maturation of the spirit in virgin american oak casks in the upstairs warehouse.
Kings County Distillery have chosen to go down a a fairly traditional route in that they produce a predominately high corn mash bill bourbon with only a small amount of barely from Scotland.
The use of small casks allows a shorter maturation period – generally less than 2 years – before it is deemed suitable for release. Some larger casks have also been laid down for future expressions & I couldn’t help noticing the ‘rye’ mark on some casks indicating a welcome addition to the current range at some date.
Tasting the actual product of all this hard work and silent development in the wood is obviously the highlight of any tour.
Kings County Distillery treated us to 4 expressions from their current range.
Starting with the Moonshine release at 40%.
The nose was the classic oily & slightly rotten fruit smell I associate with an unaged spirit. The taste followed through as expected with no real surprises. A perfectly fine & smooth example of this style of spirit which is often released by new distilleries as a showcase and money maker whilst the real bourbon or whiskey slowly matures.
The Bourbon release came next.
At 45% ABV this high corn bourbon with added barely, aged for 2 summers, gave a classic caramel sweet bourbon nose & taste together with a little bite. Another perfectly fine example of it’s style which hasn’t gone unnoticed by discerning drinkers as well as whiskey judges by the the amount of awards won.
The Winter Spice Whiskey at 40% had me a little confused. It’s basically the standard bourbon release above infused with a mix of baking spices normally associated with Xmas – cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves along with others – but yet it doesn’t have that sweet honey mix of many a liqueur nor can it be a whiskey with the non conventional additives. There is a market for this type of flavoured whiskey however. I couldn’t say it would be my cup of tea though.
A choice of Chocolate Whiskey or Peated Bourbon was offered for the last sample.
It should be obvious which one I went for.
I found the Peated Bourbon the most interesting and satisfying expression at Kings County Distilling.
At 45% the addition of peated barley from Scotland gave a welcome waft of smoke to the sweet bourbon caramel which raised the resultant spirit to a more entertaining yet vaguely familiar flavour profile.
Of the 3 Brooklyn distilleries I visited, Kings County Distilling seem to be the most established outfit producing a fairly traditional style of bourbon which is gaining many admirers. They also do a cracking distillery tour which certainly engages you with the whole whiskey making process.
I can’t say they set my palate alight – but I do wish them future success – they are a welcome addition to the whiskey distilling world.
One thing is for sure – I eagerly await any future rye expression they intend to produce from the casks I spotted on the maturation floor!
Every now and then the attractiveness of a whiskey bottle – the wittiness of it’s mission statement – or even the name of the expression alone – is enough to tempt me to try a bottle – or at least sample a glass or two.
Fortunately with Flaming Pig Black Cask Irish Whiskey – I managed to acquire a promotional bottle to sample. Many thanks to Flor Prendergast – the entrepreneur behind the brand.
I first encountered the wonderfully named Flaming Pig brand a while ago with their Spiced Irish release.
And the spirit had a wonderfully rich christmassy cinnamon & clove spice finish which despite the sweet start – well it is a 33% liqueur – had a healthy warming whiskey bite too.
The Flaming Pig Black Cask is produced at the West Cork Distillers plant down in Skibbereen who release a fine range of expressions that often break the mould of what an Irish whiskey should be. This one is no exception.
Aged in heavily charred ex-bourbon barrels, this non-aged statement blend has been imbued with the strong sweetness & flavour of bourbon – yet with an Irish twist.
You could say it’s flavoured with fire!
The rich dark golden colour would imply added caramel in my book – there is no mention of it on the label – although the charred casks would also darken the spirit & add a sweet body to the mix. At 40% strength I assume it’s chill filtered too.
The rich sweet notes build a certain depth at the start- very bourbony with vanilla & caramel – but the delightful hint of warming spices at the end lifts this whiskey for me.
Flaming Pig Black Cask isn’t going to set the world on fire – but it lights up a cold winters evening by the hearth. It also opens up Irish whiskey to new flavours emboldened by the charred barrel ageing.
Due to a tragic unforeseen event a series of cross Irish Sea flights were unfortunately taken at short notice lately.
Normally I’d relish the opportunity to try out some new expressions offered at airside retail premises but on this occasion a good stiff drink was certainly required.
Dublin’s Terminal 2 didn’t disappoint in this instance with a choice of 3 separate whiskey stalls all touting their wares.
The newly commissioned Walsh Whiskey Distillery proudly showed off their core range of the 3 Irishman releases – Founders Reserve – Single Malt and 12 Year Old Single Malt – together with the Writers Tears blend. All are very agreeable whiskeys. It will be a few years yet though before we can taste the spirit currently being laid down in Co Carlow as actual matured whiskey.
Teeling had a rather fine display all to themselves showcasing the Small Batch and rather tasty Single Grain releases. The Aviators Whiskey Society Single Cask exclusive bottling was on display too. This Cabernet Sauvignon finished release is sure to taste fantastic but what drew my eye was the last stand.
Bushmills new Steamship release commanded attention next to the Whiskey Collection at the duty free shop. As Bushmills haven’t exactly been profuse with their offerings of late – this hotly anticipated release is one not to miss.
Steamship is an oloroso finished single malt bottled at 40% and can be summed up in 2 words – sherry bomb – which is no bad thing in my book as I’m partial to that style of whiskey.
The rich smooth mouth feel and sweet sherry notes left the 10 year old rather a dull comparison when I tried it.
I was sorely tempted to buy a bottle – but having recently finished my Amrut fusion a suitable replacement in the shape of the Amrut Oak Barrel Single Malt won out on the day.
The return journey came via Gatwick which understandably didn’t feature as much Irish whiskey.
We reacquainted ourselves with our former habit of a wholesome meal at a Wetherspoons care of their Flying Horse airside establishment. Despite having an extensive array of craft beers on offer – the whisky menu was rather limited. A Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select did the honours of washing down my Bangers ‘n’ mash and as bourbons go – this had a smooth delivery coupled with a slightly spicy finish which I found very nice indeed.
I’m not a fan of the layout at World Duty Free airports whereby all passengers have to wind in and out of the shopping area before gaining open space. I’ve found it frustrating having been both a non-shopping late traveller rushing to catch my flight as well as a timely flyer looking for a relaxed retail experience being bumped into by by my former self.
I much prefer the layout at Dublin which has a large central aisle with shops either side the customer can chose to go in to – or not as the case may be.
No choice is no good in my book.
Whatever option is in play – I usually scan the whiskey area to see what is being promoteted or if any special offers are available. Heading through to Wetherspoons I did spot 2 Bruichladdich expression to tempt me and in this instance I chose to go back after my meal.
Mark Reynier – the former CEO at Bruichladdich is currently laying down distillate for maturation at his new distillery in Waterford – Ireland. I was therefore curious to find out what his previous tenure on Islay had produced as a pointer of things to come.
The Laddie Eight is a non-peated single malt matured in american and European oak casks – non-chill filtered and bottled at 50%. It’s sister travel retail exclusive Port Charlotte CC 01 is heavily pleated – matured in Cognac casks for a few more years and bottled at 57.8%.
I sampled both neat and was blown away by how smooth they were. I could easily drink these straight which can be dangerous at high strength!
Despite the moniker ‘Heavily Pleated ‘ on the Port Charlotte bottle I found this a very well balanced whisky. There was peat present – but it did not dominate the taste and much more complexity shone through in both the palate and finish. The Laddie didn’t disappoint either with a rich wholesome array of flavours coating the mouth.
Based on the delights of this duo of beauties – any new release from Waterford will be highly sought after.
Bruichladdich are also involved in the transparency issue with the Scottish Whisky Association as highlighted by Compass Box so I felt a desire to buy a bottle to acknowledge that stand. However – my finances have taken a bit of a beating with all this last minute travel – so despite Port Charlotte CC OI being the better malt – The Laddie Eight made it back to my drinks cabinet. I also like doing the unexpected – a non-peated Islay anyone?
My 2nd trip over the water was the usual red-eye-express so too early for whiskey. With finances low I did pick up a small bottle of Johnnie Walkers Spice Road with my last sterling note in Gatwick. It’s a step up from the Red or Black – but nothing fancy – which at the price point is just fine.
Whenever you fly – it’s always a treat to try out some new ‘exclusive’ – and invariably they are – whiskeys at the airport.
You’re already on the premises with usually a little time to spare – so why not give something new and potentially outside you’re normal range a whirl?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a few tastings that I wouldn’t have gone for otherwise unless I’d taken the opportunity airside.
I usually stock up at the airport too. The staff are generally well informed and very helpful. It’s often the only specialist whiskey shop I manage to get into without going out of my way for months at a time.
Just go easy on the return journey – especially if you’re driving home after landing.