L.Mulligan Whiskey Shop – along with other establishments – offer a variety of virtual whiskey tastings over the internet.
I’d highly recommend them.
The opportunity to try a flight of whiskeys – some possibly beyond your budget – with an introduction by the brand ambassador or owner & interactions from fellow whiskey fans.
What’s not to like?
Well – 2 things.
The vagaries of a courier system overwhelmed with demand due to COVID resulted in some folks not getting their physical tasting packs in time.
Your computer skills – or lack off – or outdated software – may need an update.
Thankfully it all came together on the evening as I sat down to enjoy 6 samples of Gelston’s Whiskey.
Samuel Gelston first began a whisky merchants business back in an 1830’s Belfast. Later joined by HJ Neill, the company successfully bonded, blended & bottled the whisky of the day. The current Samuel Gelston’s Irish Whiskey has been founded by direct family descendents who wish to revitalise the family tradition.
Gelston’s Single PotStill, 40%
Being independent bottlers, Gelston’s source their spirit from a number of sources – in this instance West Cork Distillers (WCD) using a 50/50 malted/unmalted barley mix. Displaying some nutty notes, oily mouthfeel & an enjoyable spice on the finish – this is a very easy going, accessible & engagingly pleasant introduction to the Single Pot Still category.
Gelston’s 5 Year Old, Single Malt, 41.2%
Again WCD supply the base malt – a combination of sherry cask & bourbon cask matured barrels that have been married together to produce this characterful 5yo which exhibits a fine degree of richness & depth for it’s young age. Very satisfying.
Gelston’s 10 Year Old, Single Malt, 40%
A very fruity & fresh exbourbon cask matured malt signified a marked doubling in age – along with a change of supply – a triple distilled Cooley. It was also stressed acquiring these barrels can often happen at very short notice with little prospect of future supply to guarantee a core & consistent product. Makes it all the more enjoyable to taste such an engaging whiskey!
Gelston’s 15 Year Old Single Malt, 43%
The higher up the years we go – the flavours were enhanced – the price escalated & the availability of barrels decreases – Bushmills malt sourced via John Teeling’s Great Northern Distillery (GND). I found a rather quiet nose belied the delights within completed with a gorgeous flourish on the finish. A beauty of a malt.
Gelston’s 26 Year Old, Single Malt, 54.2%
I was enveloped in the warm embrace of a joyously returning old acquaintance on tasting this one! Again – GND sourced Bushmills malt. This is probably my 3rd or 4th encounter with these venerable old barrels. Various independent blenders, bonders & bottlers have a cask or 2. Simply stunning!
Gelston’s Single Pot Still, Pinot Noir Finish, 40%
How do you top a beautiful, rare & superb single malt? How about a soon to be released SPS finished in Pinot Noir casks supplied by the Gelston/Neill family descendents vineyard? Rich dark fruits on the nose, great depth & complexity & a lovely long luscious finish. The Pinot Noir casks had added so much more to the original WCD SPS we started with at the beginning – and rather being an unicorn bottling – this one is set to become part of the core range! Fabulous!
Gelston’s Irish Whiskey
Gelston’s Whiskey are a wonderful example of the fine art of independent bottlers.
Sourcing from all and sundry – blending where needed – finishing in self sourced casks – releasing limited stock that might be deemed too small to market by the big companies.
May the current generation Gelston/Neill family be every bit as successful in the Irish Whiskey scene of today as their relatives were in the past.
A highly enjoyable & enlightening whiskey tasting!
I was immediately taken by this one. The reveal surprised me being peated – as I didn’t detect it on tasting! I did get a very enjoyable & characterful whiskey!
The above two captivated me – I’d happily purchase both – leaving the rest somewhat in the shadows.
3rd place, Sample 4, Bushmills 10 Year Old Single Malt, 40%
‘Clean & fresh ex-bourbon cask, soft & mellow, prickliness on rear, drying, hint of smoke?’
A standard of Irish Whiskey. It just didn’t shine against the new entrants.
4th place, Sample 2, May-Lóag Small Batch, Single Malt, 40%
‘More mellowed, sweet & earthy, flatter on palate, nice spice on long lasting finish.’
Lacked a certain ‘oomph & character’ of it’s peated sister. Pleasant easy sipper.
5th place, Sample 3, West Cork, Virgin Oak Cask, Single Malt, 43%
‘Honeyed hint of smoke?, soft mellow & earthy palate, prickliness on rear.’
The reveal surprised me again. I’d have expected richer vanilla & caramel with some peppery spice from the virgin oak casks. Obviously being ‘finished’ rather than ‘matured’ hadn’t brought out enough flavour for my liking.
So there we go.
A very enjoyable tasting session where 2 of the newest entrants to the Irish Whiskey scene excited me.
One aspect of the growth of Irish Whiskey is the proliferation of new brands hitting the shelves of American liquor stores.
Many will be familiar to drinkers in Ireland – Jameson, Bushmills & Kilbeggan – to name a few.
Others not – Kavanagh, Kilbrin & Wolfhound – for example.
Generally the 2nd list are non distillery producers selecting sourced Irish Whiskey then labelling & marketing it under their own brand names.
For the last few years this has been a growing business.
The number of Irish Whiskeys seeking approval from the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has risen from 120 in the 2016-17 period to 204 in the 2019-20 time frame. Data courtesy TTB Online search page available here.
Clearly this reflects an increased appreciation of Irish Whiskey – as well as a ready supply of Irish Whiskey Distilleries willing to cater for this demand.
It’s marvelous to witness the growing marketability of Irish Whiskey.
I welcome each and every one of these new brands into the ever increasing & more diversified Irish Whiskey category.
There is however still a long way to go.
Scottish Whisky registered 1188 labels in the same 2019-20 period.
It may seem an incongruous pair of whiskeys to compare – but in my opinion – the two offerings above represent the growing maturity, complexity and coming of age of Irish Whiskey.
On the one hand you have ChapelGate’s ultra premium exquisitely packaged and presented Chosen,
On the other, McGregor’s mass market blend Proper Twelve.
Both have delivered a product that satisfies the demands of their specific target audiences,
And both are excelling within their respective categories.
My blog welcoming the arrival of Proper Twelve to the market stated;
‘Irish Whiskey will never be the same again’
Has certainly been proven true.
For a newly released brand to be seriously challenging the dominance of Jameson – as in an Irish Times article – is truly outstanding. Despite the recent deplorable antics – perhaps even because of? – there seems to be no slowing down of Proper Twelve’s growth trajectory.
It is opening the market to a new generation of Irish Whiskey drinkers around the world and recently expanded into Poland & South Africa.
ChapelGate’s Chosen is also taking Irish Whiskey into new – and to many unthinkable – territory, the ultra premium luxury market. I highly commend founder Louise McGuane for her courage in doing so.
The dedication, careful selection of stock and variety of quality casks at her bonded warehouse in County Clare was outstanding. I chanced a visit over two and a half years ago – even before her first release – which you can read about here.
To chart the growing success of ChapelGate since then – as well as tasting JJ Corry’s fabulous whiskey releases – has been a wonderful journey.
The reaction to Chosen and Proper Twelve has been immense – and divisive.
Both have taken Irish Whiskey out of the narrowly defined one dimensional stereotypes of the past.
They represent a multi dimensional & complex Irish Whiskey scene that can be double distilled, peated, flavourful, rough round the edges, brash & youthful, aged & nuanced all at the same time.
Both dreamed big and played far beyond the boundaries.
If anything – Irish Whiskey is late to this social media led personality trend – and I’d be more worried if there wasn’t an Irish celebrity wanting to get involved.
Right from the beginning however – even before it’s release – I posted a piece with the headline ‘We need to talk about Conor’ and got the following response;
“No we don’t”
Kind of sets the tone for what followed when Proper Twelve was launched.
“It’s barely legal”
Well at 3 years old it is legal.
Funny though – that issue never came up when punters were outbidding each other to get hold of ‘barely legal’ Dingle or Teeling whiskey when it was first released.
Then comes the condemnation.
“Heavily adulterated with caramel”
Yes there is added caramel – it says so on the label. Caramel is a legally allowed additive both within Irish Whiskey and Scottish Whisky. The same criticism can be levelled at virtually every Jameson product, Bushmill bottle, Johnnie Walker whisky and many others as they all contain caramel. Why single out one offender?
Then you start to get to the heart of the matter.
“See, Bono’s doing it right….he’s supporting the build of an ACTUAL distillery!”
Since when did you need a distillery to build a brand?
The Spot whiskeys started out from a grocers. So too did the best selling Johnnie Walker. Many a big brand of today began as non distillery producers – it’s a well trodden path.
And then you get plain old bias.
“I have no intention of ever trying it.”
Which is probably just as well – as blogger after blogger lined up to do a hatchet job on the liquid. The best described the whiskey as;
Now in all probability Proper Twelve was distilled at Bushmills for the malt content and Midleton for the grain. There is no law in either Irish or Scottish rules stating you must name the distillery which made the blend.
So effectively the same teams that make all Bushmills product – from the White Bush blend to the lauded 21 Year Old Single Malt – as well as the folks that make all the Jameson, Powers, Paddy’s & Midleton products have somehow dropped their standards to allow ‘toilet cleaner’ to be made in their stills, stored in their barrels and blended in their tanks?
I don’t think so.
What I found on tasting was a very easy going, approachable blend with a slight charred cask influence and a hint of spice.
It sits very well among the other Irish whiskey blends out there.
But then what is getting people irate – from what I can see – is not really the whiskey – it’s the man behind it – Conor McGregor.
The idea that a somewhat colourful & controversial kid from Crumlin can just swan in with his millions and release a whiskey that has the whole world talking – buying – and drinking – is obviously too much to bear .
It upsets the cosy consensus that assumed ‘premiumisation’ was the way to go – or that ‘transparency’ is key.
For a whiskey that sold out 6 months worth of stock within a matter of weeks – I think it just proved there was a vast untapped market out there waiting to be filled. It’s a marketing master stroke and something of a social media phenomenon.
But of course – when all else fails – slag off the customer.
“There are just enough rednecks and hooligans out there that will actually make this crap a success.”
I find it ironic that those who criticize Mr McGregor the loudest seem to descend to his level of pre-fight ritual lambasting.
Which is a pity.
As Mr McGregor and his Proper Twelve brand have just pulled off a massive publicity stunt that is getting Irish Whiskey instant worldwide recognition and potential sales far beyond anything that has gone before.
It is without doubt my Irish Whiskey of the year 2018.
All quotes in italics are from social media posts by various whiskey fans. They are by no means the only ones. I have chosen the milder variety.
I received a Press Release today from none other than Proper No Twelve Irish Whiskey.
Conor McGregor issues apology – Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey out-of-stock situation soon to be remedied.
Proper No. Twelve sold more cases in less than one month than many whiskey brands sell in a full year. This amounted to hundreds of thousands of bottles. Prior to unveiling the new whiskey blend on 17 September, the distillery bottled what was estimated to be enough product for six months of sales in Ireland and the United States. Thanks to consumer demand, this forecast was far short of the mark. Today, the team is working feverishly to bring new product to market, and first wave solutions are in place for early December in Ireland and the United States.
“I told everyone as the company Founder that I was going to give it my all and take the whiskey market by storm”, said McGregor. “I am energized by the incredible reaction and am looking forward to being back in stock in the next few weeks. The Irish whiskey market has been dominated by one brand, but people want choice. People want brands that have true meaning to them, that give back to the community and that taste great. Proper No. Twelve checks all of those boxes”.
McGregor continued, “Over the past weeks, I have had the honour to visit many of our key distributors, customers, bartenders and consumers in Ireland and the United States. The feedback on our liquid and brand is outstanding and the support from people around the world has blown me away. I was thanking many and apologising at the same time for running out. I don’t usually see reason to apologise but in this case I want to take this chance to apologise to absolutely everyone for our out-of-stock situation. You have shown great support for Proper No. Twelve. I was at the distillery last week and we have plans in place to be back in stock in Ireland and the United States in early December and onward. We are producing many hundreds of thousands of bottles now. We will ship via air instead of by sea to deliver in time for the holidays for the many loyal customers who are asking for Proper No. Twelve for celebrations and gifting”. McGregor added, “We are also planning to launch in more countries in 2019 including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Canada and others. We will continue to expand as quickly as possible to meet the global demand. We are also working on additional expressions for the future and will launch them when they are proper ready for release”.
It seems sales of this whiskey far exceeded expectations and 6 months of stock sold out in a matter of weeks.This is nothing short of a whiskey marketing phenomenon.
John Quinn – Global Brand Ambassador for Tullamore DEW – told an amusing story at the recent Irish Whiskey Awards 2018.
Out marketing Irish Whiskey in Japan back in the 1980’s when Irish Whiskey was virtually hanging on by a thread – the then Brand Ambassador pulled a stunt which made the whole audience pick up and take notice.
Well Conor McGregor has certainly pulled off an even bigger stunt and made the whole world take notice of his Proper No Twelve Irish Whiskey.
He’s gaining new customers – opening new revenue streams and pushing the Irish Whiskey category forward in ways that could only have been thought of in the industry’s wildest dreams back in the 80’s.
I raise a glass to Conor and all the team behind Proper No Twelve Irish Whiskey who are busily engaged in trying to re-stock the whiskey so that all those who wish to enjoy it can do so in time for the festive season.
Press Release & header photo care of Hunter Communications
I don’t normally do press releases – but I’ll make an exception for this one.
The long awaited & hotly tipped Conor McGregor Irish Whiskey is here with the name Proper No Twelve Irish Whiskey.
This is the full statement below.
IRELAND, 17 September 2018 – Eire Born Spirits today announces the launch of Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Champion and one of the world’s most iconic athletes, Conor McGregor, is the founder, chairman and majority owner of the company. McGregor is proud to introduce this exciting Irish whiskey to the world, launching in Ireland and the United States, with further expansion in 2019 and onward. McGregor, being the perfectionist that he is, took a detailed, time-intensive approach to creating his whiskey.
Numerous Irish whiskey makers sought McGregor’s endorsement over the years, but as a true born and bred Irishman, he did not want to simply endorse an Irish whiskey. Inspired by his pride for Ireland and his love of Irish whiskey, McGregor wanted to create his own whiskey that would match his high standards and make his country proud.
For years, McGregor developed the brand under the project name “Notorious” through which came the foundation of what was to eventually become Proper No. Twelve. It became a longer and more complicated project than originally expected, so McGregor turned to the world’s oldest whiskey distillery, located in Ireland, with a proven history of quality whiskey making. He met David Elder, esteemed master distiller, previously of Guinness, and together they took painstaking measures to bring the whiskey to fruition. “We created close to one hundred blends and ultimately selected what we knew was the one and only proper whiskey blend. We took the time to develop an incredible whiskey and I’m excited to share it with the world,” said McGregor.
Proper No. Twelve’s global launch expression is a blend of the finest golden grain and single malt. It is produced in an area known for its rich soil and pure spring water. Proper No. Twelve is complex and sophisticated yet smooth and approachable with hints of vanilla, honey and toasted wood.
“I come from a place called Crumlin, in Dublin 12. It’s a place dear to my heart. It’s where I learned how to fight; it made me who I am today. It’s a place I’m still very much a part of every single day of my life. So, that’s where the name came from. It’s proper Irish whiskey and twelve is my hometown,” said McGregor. “Growing up on the streets of Dublin 12, I learned the values of loyalty and hard work. I respect other Irish whiskeys, but I am coming in strong, with passion and with purpose. I am the founder of this company and I am going to give it my all,” he continued.
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.