Tag Archives: Bushmills

Irish Whiskey is growing up – Musings on Bacardi’s proposed takeover of Teeling

The proposed Bacardi takeover of Teeling Whiskey Distillery in Dublin marks the future global growth of Irish Whiskey.

No longer seen as a minor backwater of whiskey – Ireland is now poised to become a threat to the dominance of Scotch in the world of whiskey.

The monies, marketing & reach this requires is beyond what a relatively small Irish Distillery can cope with & abilities only a multinational player can provide.

I welcome this latest development as an inevitable consequence of the growing demand & attractiveness of Irish Whiskey.

I also welcome this development as it provides added competition to the almost monopolistic like presence Jameson has previously played in the category.

Jameson – it must be noted – has been owned by French based multinational Pernod-Ricard since 1988 & often appears to be above any form of criticism within Irish Whiskey circles.

Teeling’s takeover follows in the footsteps of Paddy’s going to US based multinational Sazerac, Tullamore to Scottish based Grants, Kilbeggan to Beam & later Japanese conglomerate Suntory, with Roe already owned by giant Diageo & Bushmills by tequila company Jose Cuervo.

You either want Irish Whiskey to be a growing global player – or to be a small, elitist & pricey backwater for a select band of aficionados.

I’m for playing globally.

Sláinte

All photos author’s own.

Business Post article on Teeling takeover here.

Spirits Business history of Jameson here.

You can’t beat a good blend, Dunville’s 1808, 40%, Irish Whiskey

I always enjoy a blind tasting.

Stripped of any clues as to what’s before you it heightens your senses to the tastes & flavours experienced on drinking the liquid.

Presented before me were 6 samples. I duly poured them into 6 identical Túath glasses & proceeded to savour the contents.

For some reason I thought this was a rum tasting – & quickly revised this theory as No 1 ‘despite having a bit of a sour nose the lack of body on the palate & high ABV kick signalled to me a poitín! Can’t say it did much for me. Nice experience – but not an approachable spirit’.

There was no No 2 so No 3 ‘proved intriguing. The pale yellow colour, soft fruity nose, easy palate with slight hints of burnt notes on the rear drew me in. I could drink this one again!’.

With No 4I experienced a slightly musty nose, indicative of long ageing, perfectly fine palate yet lacked a bit of body & very dry on the rear. Rather nonplussed by this one’.

No 5 ‘had a sherry like influence, smooth & silky on the palate with a nice touch of dryness on the rear. Could be a low ppm peater? Not quite enough to excite me if it is’.

No 6 ‘initially blew me away! Suggestive of high ABV. On a 2nd tasting it still didn’t entice me’.

No 7 ‘kinda hooked me, if only for a more pronounced smoky influence. Elegant yet challenging all at the same time’.

So that was it! My initial thoughts are in italics.

Samples 3 & 7 stood out for me in this selection.

So what were they?

Photo courtesy Irish Drink Shop

3 – Dunville’s 1808, Blended Irish Whiskey, 40%

What can I say? A very pleasant easy drinker with enough depth of character to keep me coming back for more.

Photo courtesy Whisky Exchange

7 – Smögen 100 Proof, 6 Year Old, Swedish Single Malt, 57.1%

A heavy peater finished in oloroso casks at a challenging high ABV. Think I’d have enjoyed this one more at 46% without the oloroso finish myself.

And the others?

1 – Black’s Single Pot New Make, 63.5%

4 – Jamesons Black Barrel Proof, Blend, 50%

5 – High Coast, Dálvve Sherry Influence, Swedish Single Malt, 48%

A light peater with 50/50 bourbon/sherry influence. A bit of a let down from the original high peater Box Dálvve I enjoyed at Gothenberg Airport here.

6 – Bushmills Causeway Collection, 2008 Muscatel Casks, Single Malt, 56.4%

Given that Smögen is a bit of a unicorn bottle – hard to get hold of, pricey & limited edition – as are some of the other bottles – I think Dunville’s 1808 performed extremely well on my palate.

I took away a few themes from this tasting. High ABV can blow away the flavours for me & make for a challenging drinking experience. Sherry cask influence isn’t my style of choice & when it comes to enjoyable, affordable drinking – you can’t beat a good blend!

What would your palate have chosen?

Sláinte

Many thanks to fellow Whiskey Blogger S for the blind samples & bottle photo.

Quinn’s Barrel Rested Poitin, 45% & Seagram’s VO, 40%

Continuing my miniature series are a pair of releases from across the pond with links to Ireland.

Great Wagon Road Distilling in North Carolina play homage to their Irish roots with Quinn’s Barrel Rested Poitin while Canadian company Seagram’s at one time used to own Bushmills Distillery.

So how did I find them?

Image courtesy Drams Delivered

Quinn’s Barrel Rested Poitin, 45%

Golden brown in colour, slightly darker than Seagram’s. A pleasant sweet fruity nose, suggestive of sherry influence. Smooth, oily mouthfeel with good depth of flavour. Luscious mouth watering finish, reminiscent of fruit pastilles.

A tad sweet for my palate – but a very entertaining tipple!

Turns out this poitin is made with organic barley & wheat – which perhaps gives the sweetness? – & is rested in new oak barrels.

Really enjoyed this one!

Image courtesy Celtic Whiskey Shop

Seagram’s VO, 40%

Pale straw. Grainy sweet caramel. Quite light. Mild & mellow palate. Hints of tingling spice on the finish.

An easy drinker livening up on the rear.

Seagram’s are now part of the Sazerac group who only recently announced their purchase of the Lough Gill Distillery in County Sligo.

A classic Canadian blend.

Preferences

For my palate Quinn’s provided a richer & more entertaining tipple.

Which one would you choose?

Sláinte

My samples were purchased from Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder here.

Great Wagon Road Distillery website here.

Seagram’s VO webpage here.

Sazerac invest in County Sligo here.

Spirit Of The Age, The Story Of Old Bushmills, Alf McCreary

I always find it fascinating looking back into the history of Irish Whiskey.

This 1983 publication on Old Bushmills catalogues the rich tapestry of the distillery through it’s folklore, scenery, politics, changing fortunes, characters & calamities.

The book clearly displays there’s a lot more to simply enjoying the glass of whiskey in front of you – there’s always a whole back story.

Illustrated with many photographs & tales of the people involved – both from the boardroom as well as the distillery floor – Spirit Of The Age is a testament to the longevity of Irish Whiskey.

At the time of publication Old Bushmills was owned by Irish Distillers – but history is ongoing & Tequila makers Jose Cuervo are now in control.

Ironically one of Bushmills biggest sellers no longer bares it’s name – Proper Twelve has now overtaken the lead sales position Bushmills used to enjoy – and marks yet another chapter in the changing faces of Irish Whiskey.

I found this highly informative & entertaining publication through Libraries Ireland – well worth reading.

Long may Old Bushmills continue producing Irish Whiskey!

Sláinte

Old Bushmills website here.

Jose Cuervo buys Bushmills here.

Irish Distillers website here.

Proper Twelve sales growth here.

Northern Exposure, An Exploration Of Northern Irish Whiskey – Mainly – Via Blind Tasting.

Northern Irish Whiskey isn’t a separate category – although shifting political structures between Ireland, UK & Europe might influence that.

Presented before me were 5 sample bottles, below are 5 impressions in italics before the reveal & the 5 bottles uncovered.

Bréifne – Hinch Single Pot Still, 43%

Pale straw. Intriguing nice deep nose. Clean, fresh, spicey & sweet. Rye like finish. Nice!

The spice was so intense & lively I could’ve mistaken this for a rye whiskey! Hinch SPS is a sourced product while their own distillate matures. Really enjoyable.

Slemish – Powers Distiller’s Cut, 43.2%

Dark straw. Clean, sweet dark fruits. Shy palate. Nice depth & spice on the finish. Yeah!

Of the 3 Midleton brands, Jameson, Paddy & Powers, Powers has always been my favourite. This blind tasting only appears to confirm this with the latest UK Distiller’s Cut edition.

Iveagh – Kirker & Greer, 10 Year Old Single Grain, 43%

Golden brown. Expressive. Wine cask influence? Warm, inviting. Soft finish. Spice on rear. Interesting.

Kirker & Greer are a Belfast based independent bottling company revitalising an old tradition. An easy going single grain offering.

Donard – Bushmills American Cask Finish, 40%

Dark straw. Mild, mellow & sweet. Smooth easy palate. Touch of spice on rear. Grand.

I’d have to congratulate Bushmills on releasing some new bottles to market & updating their core range labels – even if I found this one rather ‘pedestrian’.

Oriel – Bushmills Caribbean Rum Cask Finish, 40%

Dark straw. Cookie dough. Slightly muddy. Smooth, mellow & soft. Short finish. Not exciting.

Sadly this one just wasn’t for me.

Thoughts

I had an entertaining evening picking out the flavours from this quintet of whiskey.

There was a clear winner – as well as loser – on my palate with the middle 3 being somewhat closer in experience.

In terms of trends my palate appears to favour the spicey side of things – usually non chill filtered & natural colour helps too. Which partly explains the poor showing of Bushmills here.

The tasting also shows no division regarding sourced or distillery product in enjoyment of the whiskey.

The tasting is what it’s all about at Whiskey Nut.

Sláinte

Images courtesy CelticWhiskeyShop, WhiskyExchange, @_PMcDermott & authors own.

Jose Cuervo Tequila Tasting, 38% x 6

Global drinks group Jose Cuervo’s Tequilas regularly top the best selling charts.

In Ireland they aren’t doing too badly either with Bushmills coming in at No 3 for the Irish Whiskey category.

The recent hot weather prompted me to sample some Jose Cuervo Tequila.

One positive from the pandemic is a profusion of outlets offering tasting packs to whet your appetite.

c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

This particular 6 bottle selection was ordered from Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder – although other providers exist.

A zoom tasting accompanied it – I missed the date – but it didn’t deter me from enjoying the tequila!

Comprising of 3 separate ranges – all 100% blue agave & 38% ABV – I chose initially to compare within each brand starting with the Tradicional offerings.

Tradicional Tequila c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Traditional Silver

That classic earthy agave pungency greeted me with a hint of peppery spice.

Smooth & silky palate topped off with a hearty serving of signature black pepper spice on the finish.

Just what I expect from a tequila.

Traditional Reposado

The agave pungency was tempered a touch by hints of barrel ageing.

More complexity on the palate as the interplay between the raw ingredients used & wood maturation played out & added a hint of oakiness to the finish.

Very enjoyable – although the clear simplicity of the Silver won me over.

A trio of brand 1800 came next.

1800 Tequila c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

1800 Silver

Back – for me at least – to the signature agave & spice combination.

Lovely.

1800 Reposado

Once again – a lovely interplay between the distilling ingredients & wooden maturation.

1800 Anejo

I was beginning to miss the agave influence with this one!

It was there – but the barrel ageing dominated for me & detracted from what I’m looking for in tequila.

All 1800’s were enjoyable tipples – with Silver gaining my affections most.

Reserva Tequila c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Reserva de la Familia Extra Anejo

A solo offering that stood out from the others with a noticeably darker colour & clearly perceptible & pronounced wooden cask influence.

The sweet agave came through on the nose – but caramels & hints of vanilla more reminiscent of whiskey were evident.

Very smooth, very cultured & very engaging – tequila for the whiskey lover?

For a 2nd round I compared the Silver & Reposado offerings.

Silver Tequila c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Silver

Traditional’s flavour profile shone through with it’s defining features.

1800 delivered similar – but I found it a smoother, sweeter & ultimately a less exuberant offering.

Traditional for me!

Reposado Tequila c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Reposado

Tradicional was a shade lighter than 1800 – which suggests a shorter period in wood.

This played out in the tasting.

1800 had less spice, a sweeter & subdued feel to it with the wood influence a tad more forward.

The differences weren’t massive – & would be hard to pick up unless a back to back comparison was possible – but once more – Tradicional won the day.

Overall

As in all these tastings – I like to choose my favourite.

For the sheer clarity of flavours & bold display of the agave used in distillation there could only be one winner for me – Tradicional Silver.

Tradicional Silver c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

What would you have picked?

Sláinte

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A Gelston’s Whiskey Zoom Tasting

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.

Gelston’s Tasting c/othewhiskeynut

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 SPS c/oDropStore

Gelston’s Single Pot Still, 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 5yo c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

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 10y c/oDropStore

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 15yo c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

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 26yo c/oLMulligan

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 SPS Pinot Noir c/oDropStore

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!

Sláinte

New Irish Whiskey

There’s hard sell – & then there’s soft sell.

A duo of distilleries in Ulster have recently released their first whiskeys to market.

Being small concerns they lack the advertising might, supply chain connections & brand recognition of established players to garnish much attention.

Blind tasting c/othewhiskeynut

My Northern correspondent obtained a trio – added a pair of wild cards – & presented 5 blind samples for my tasting pleasure.

In order of preference – this is what I found.

Mourne DEW Irish Whiskey c/oMourneDEW

1st place, Sample 5, Mourne DEW Irish Whiskey, Blend, 40%

‘Soft vanilla, mellow soft & slightly smokey, dry smoke on finish.’

I knew some of the releases had a peaty element – which I like – & I found it in sample 5. It wasn’t overpowering – gently balanced, easy & attractive. A delightful blend.

May-Lóag Peated c/oMayLóag

2nd place, Sample 1, May-Lóag, Peated, Blend, 40%

‘Sweet fresh & honeyed, complex rich flavours, lovely spice on finish.’

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.

Bushmills 10yo c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

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.

May-Lóag Small Batch c/oMayLóag

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.

West Cork Virgin Oak c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

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.

I look forward to many more!

Sláinte

Irish Whiskey in the US.

One aspect of the growth of Irish Whiskey is the proliferation of new brands hitting the shelves of American liquor stores.

2 (1 of 1)-2
Westmeath whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Many will be familiar to drinkers in Ireland – Jameson, Bushmills & Kilbeggan – to name a few.

Others not – Kavanagh, Kilbrin & Wolfhound – for example.

2 (1 of 1)
Kilbrin floated my boat! c/othewhiskeynut

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.

2 (1 of 1)-4 (2)
3 Irish Whiskey brands in the US c/othewhiskeynut

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.

Sláinte

Good Logo

 

ChapelGate’s Chosen vs McGregor’s Proper Twelve

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.

Chosen from youtube
Photo c/oYouTube

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.

2 (1 of 1)-2
Proper Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

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.

Proper No Twelve Conor McGregor
McGregor c/oProperTwelve

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.

Chosen independent.ie
Louise McGuane launches Chosen c/oindependent.ie

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.

Meet the new trendsetters of Irish Whiskey.

Meet Chosen & Proper Twelve.

Putting dreams into action.

Sláinte

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