Tag Archives: Cask Strength

The Brollach, Single Malt, 46.45%

There was a highly unexpected & very pleasant surprise entry into the Irish Whiskey Awards 2021.

The Brollach.

Tasted blind in the Cask Strength category The Brollach scored well on my palate.

It shared joint 2nd – along with 2 other offerings.

Perhaps it’s 46.45% presentation gave it an advantage over higher strength whiskey where I often find the flavours blown away.

As it is the only thing that blew me away was the price – €5,500!

Sláinte

All images courtesy Craft Irish Whiskey Co

Irish Whiskey Awards 2021, My Blind Judging Results

The Irish Whiskey Awards 2021 were held – in person – at the wonderful Powerscourt Distillery.

Limited capacity excluded my attendance – but I did contribute my blind judging results for the awards.

Blind judging is a great leveller.

Presented before you are identical vials – codes are used to identify the whiskey inside.

Blind judging c/othewhiskeynut

No logos, no back stories, no information as to distillery of origin or casks used, no fancy bottle or labelling, not even whether you’re tasting single malt, grain or blended whiskey.

Just the vials, a glass & your palate.

It’s the most transparent & honest way to explore the flavours of the whiskey before you.

For 2021 I received 3 packs of whiskey for scoring – I, L & B – & didn’t attempt to guess the category or whiskey sampled so as to concentrate on the flavours & differences between each offering.

The reveal – always after the awards evening – gives an insight into my palate preferences.

Category I – Single Malts 12 to 15 Years

Consisting of 12 entrants my average score was 72.5 with a difference of 6.

I found these to be variations of a common theme – not surprising as only 3 or 4 distilleries were producing back in 2009 or earlier – with very tight scoring.

There was a winner,

Jack Ryan Founder’s Touch

With 4 sharing 2nd spot only 1 point behind – Tullamore DEW 12, Gelson’s 12, Pearse 12 Founder’s Reserve & Lough Ree Bridge Series Elfleet Bay.

The actual Award winner was Gelston’s 15 – which came below average in my scores.

Category L – Cask Strength

8 entrants, average score 73.8, difference 6.

Again a lack of diversity with tight scoring.

My winner was,

Dark Silkie Cask Strength

I didn’t detect the peat influence yet it obviously mattered as Dark Silkie was 2 points ahead of the trio that came 2nd – Natterjack CS, Teeling Fill Your Own SPS & a surprise entrant, The Brollach.

Award winner Dunville’s PX 12 CS again was below average.

Category B – Blended, Limited Release

12 entrants, average score 75.9, difference 12.

This category pleased me no end! A more diverse & entertaining array of whiskey resulted in higher overall scores.

A clear winning podium produced,

The Whistler, Calvados Cask

As winner with stablemate Whistler Imperial Stout 2nd & Pearse Marriage Of Malts 3rd.

Award winner was Writer’s Tears Ice Wine Cask.

Thoughts

Congratulations to all the IWA 2021 winners.

They have captured the popular tasting profiles of the judges participating & are clearly crowd pleasers.

They are however not my palate choices. None of the winners broke beyond my averages scores.

By presenting my winners I’m being honest & transparent as to what tickles my tastebuds.

The blended limited release category offered me a far greater diversity & heightened enjoyment all round.

Given too that almost all my winners used sourced product it suggests to me more attention is given to the blending & maturation process over distillation techniques by the brands involved.

These scoring results are also reflected in the content of my blog.

Everyone’s palate is unique & one person’s winners might be another’s losers.

Enjoy what pleases your palate & don’t be afraid to say so.

I enjoy blended whiskey best!

Sláinte

Bottle images courtesy Celtic Whiskey Shop & Sliabh Liag Distillers.

Fear, Paranoia & Tasting By Numbers In The Spirits Category.

There appears to be a palpable fear within the spirits drinking community.

Fear of being ‘gouged’ or ‘ripped off’ by rogue producers.

Paranoia that brands aren’t being ‘honest and transparent’ in refusing to disclose every conceivable nugget of information.

Refusing to taste a spirit until the correct check list;

Trusted distillery – check.

Non chill filtered – check.

Single Malt – check.

Cask Strength – check.

Distillery release – check.

Or whatever criteria you choose has been adhered to.

It’s all so reductionist.

Taste is not defined by what is – or isn’t – written on the side of a bottle.

Taste isn’t made by engaging tweets or larger than life characters.

Taste is the complex interplay of the individual drinkers palate with the fruits of the raw ingredients, distilling process, blending & maturation regimes of the liquid before them.

Someone’s ‘amber nectar’ is another’s ‘gnat’s piss’.

What if all that extraneous information was removed?

What if all bottles of spirits simply stated the legal minimum?

No branding, no advertising, no stories?

Would the spirit taste the same?

Well – yes and no.

Yes in that the liquid – and your palate – remains the same.

Having blind tasted whiskey for the Irish Whiskey Awards over a number of years a familiar pattern of brands & styles consistently rise to the top.

On the other hand slick advertising, where & whom with you taste the liquid as well as your mood on the day can all sway the results.

But is there another fear at play?

Fear of enjoying a drink that is deemed unpopular?

Fear of enjoying a spirit that hasn’t matched your check list?

Or simply a fear of not conforming?

You don’t have to like the popular brands or top sellers.

Just enjoy what works for your individual palate.

Above all – enjoy the journey.

Sample & taste as far and wide as possible – you’ll quickly find your own sweet spot.

Sláinte

All images authors own.

Flight Of The Earls, Irish Whiskey, 40% to 63.48%

When Red Earl first appeared with it’s cartoon like imagery it was somewhat overlooked.

c/o TinyTipple

Now available in 4 differing styles. – with varying images too – The Flight of the Earls make for a striking posse of whiskey.

It’s about time I discovered the flavours behind the brand – so ordered up a tasting pack from Tiny Tipple.

Red Earl, 40%

A blend aged in bourbon, sherry & rioja casks.

Warm, inviting & fruity sweet nose. Juicy mouthfeel with a lip smacking finish.

A lovely well balanced flavoursome blend.

c/o KinsaleSpiritCo

Great Earl, 40%

A single grain aged in recharred & virgin oak barrels, finished in Sangiovese casks.

A dry, clean & clear nose. The wine influence makes it’s presence felt on the palate followed by a lovely frisson of oaky spice on the rear.

Nice!

c/o KinsaleSpiritCo

Spanish Earl, 43%

A single malt matured in bourbon casks & finished in rum & stout casks.

Yum yum – a juicy depth to this one! Rich maltiness on the palate with a solid backbone of darker delights. Opens up further on the finish with a spicy prickle, soft hints of roastiness & an engaging dryness.

Red Earl, Cask Strength, 63.48%

A cask strength version of the Red Earl blend.

Despite the high ABV the nose is still inviting – with just a suggestion of high alcohol presence. The triple cask maturation notes roll over each other in a wonderful flourish of flavour – before a drying hit of alcohol kicks in with an explosion of power.

I don’t subscribe to the notion cask strength is automatically superior to 40% – but Red Earl CS wears it well.

Thoughts

The Flight of Earls impressed me.

Full of flavour, full of style & a hearty bunch of characters too.

The pale colour of the quartet also points to a lack of added caramel.

It’s a delight to taste them all back to back to explore both the differences – & similarities – that run through the collection.

It’s hard to pick a winner from this flight of beauties – but for me the ease of drinking, clarity of flavours & enjoyable flair on the finish – I’m giving it to Great Earl.

What would you choose?

Sláinte

Images authors own unless stated.

A St Patrick’s Day Blind Whiskey Tasting

Blind tasting some whiskey on St Patrick’s Day in the midst of a pandemic?

Sure – what else would you be doing?

I had my usual Tuath whiskey glasses, water, pen & paper – and set to it.

In order of appearance are my rather distilled notes – given in italics before the reveal.

c/oMasterOfMalt

A Tullibardine 500, 43%

Grand

c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

B Glendalough Pot Still, 43%

OK

c/oMasterOfMalt

C Auchentoshan Three Wood, 43%

Lacklustre

It became apparent doing the tasting that all struck a similar chord – sherry finished, mild & mellow, easy going & sweet. Attractive for some – but lacking a certain flair on my palate.

Things changed a little with the next pair.

c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

D Writer’s Tears Copper Pot, Japanese Cask, 55%

Bit of a welcome bite & entertainment.

c/oIrishMalts

E WD O’Connell 12 Sherry Series, 59.2%

Almost, but not quite.

The use of Japanese Mizunara & longer maturation times added to the depth, complexity & variety of flavours found in these whiskeys.

I had to re-sample to pick a winner – E WD O’Connell 12 – if only for those tannic woody spices.

c/othewhiskeynut

The tasting further confirmed a few themes with my palate;

Sherry finished whiskey isn’t my forte – but even within that category there can still be a diversity of flavours.

Added caramel dulls the intensity – lacklustre kind of sums that up.

Ageing & higher ABV generally adds to the experience – but not always.

As for the not quite comment – well it wasn’t Bill Phil!

I’d encourage all to sample far & wide. It will hone down your palate preferences, enable you to pick out what works – or doesn’t – & is great fun too!

I’m always open to sample swaps – get in touch.

Sláinte

Honesty & Transparency in the whiskey world.

Honesty & Transparency are current buzzwords in the whiskey world.

The implication being there are dishonest & cloudy whiskeys out there.

But how does this alter the all important factor – taste?

Having always taken these buzzwords as the latest marketing ploy of whichever brands use them – or whiskey fans extolling the virtues of their choice over another – in choosing to blind taste that ‘honesty & transparency’ is turned on it’s head.

Honest Whiskey Samples c/othewhiskey

What whiskey does your palate enjoy?

It’s no longer about what’s written on the label, the limited edition, attractive bottle or price.

It’s simply 4 vials of whiskey, glassware of choice – and your palate.

So into my Túath glass they went!

Transparency in a glass c/othewhiskeynut

A – Pale straw, grand, vanillas & caramel, tad spirity, nice mouthfeel, sherry influence? long lasting finish, lip smacking, very pleasant & easy.

B – Light brown, fruity, easy mouthfeel, softer, flatter on the finish, OK, nothing spectacular.

C – Light brown, nice ex-bourbon cask nose, richness, nice prickly burn on the finish, higher strength? classic bourbon cask.

D – Light brown, nice ex-bourbon nose, richness, hint of woodiness, mixture of sweetness & oaky influence, long lasting, lovely complexity, a decent dram.

My order of preference for the selection had D winning out closely followed by C. A came next with B trailing last.

But what were they?

Reveal c/o@mjpm67

D – Glen Scotia Victoriana, Cask Strength, Single Malt, 54.2%

C – Tipperary Rioja Finish, Single Cask, Single Malt, 57.35%

A – Whistler Mosaic, Single Grain, 46%

B – MVR 2018, Blend, 40%

Happy tasting! c/othewhiskeynut

What ‘honest & transparent’ results would your palate have chosen?

Sláinte

Mitchell & Sons, Blue Spot 7 Year Old, Single Pot Still, 58.7%

My first encounter with Blue Spot was after tasting the MVR 2020 & Knockrath Tree 7 offerings – the depth & complexity of which swamped any delights Blue Spot held.

Blue Spot c/othewhiskeynut

A chance sample allowed me to revisit this acclaimed single pot still.

Despite the high ABV – rich warming caramels greeted me on the nose.

The palate started off soft, mellow & mouthcoatimg – before the 58.7% strength kicked in with a powerful punch leaving me reeling with touches of spicy oak tannins.

2nd Blue Spot c/othewhiskeynut

My original appraisal still stands.

Doesn’t grab me.

Sláinte

A Unicorn Whiskey Tasting, 40% to 58.7%

What is a unicorn whiskey?

To me it’s a whiskey way above my price range – I max out at €100 – which is usually rare, a collector’s item, limited edition, first release or a combination of all.

Many are never opened.

I grasp any opportunity to sample such whiskey – tastings, whiskey shows, launch parties – or in this instance – miniatures.

I approach them with the same level of respect as that of a €20 bottle from the local supermarket.

They are opened, poured into a Tuath Glass & enjoyed.

MVR 2020 c/othewhiskeynut

Midleton Very Rare 2020, Blend, 40%

The MVR series is highly collectable – especially this one – as it’s the last under Brian Nation’s tenure.

Quite a light nose, sweet grain with woody oak enticing me in. A lovely mouthfeel with those oaky tannins drying out towards the finish.

Very approachable, enjoyable & complex – yet lacks a certain oomph.

Knockrath Tree 7 c/othewhiskeynut

Midleton Dair Ghaelach, Knockrath Forest Tree 7, Single Pot Still, 56.6%

Straight into a deep, dank woody close!

The richness of this whiskey is a sheer delight to enjoy.

Gorgeous stuff!

Blue Spot c/othewhiskeynut

Blue Spot 7 Year Old, Single Pot Still, 58.7%

The much anticipated completion of the Spot series.

After the other 2 – this was a bit of a let down.

Light & spirity on the nose – lacking the depth & complexity of the MVR’s – what sherry influence appeared was quickly blown away by the high ABV.

Not for me – even if it’s the only one I could afford!

A satisfying tasting! c/othewhiskeynut

Thoughts

I don’t lust after these whiskeys – nor am I prepared the break the bank for them. They are simply expensive whiskeys appealing to a demographic beyond me,

But that Knockrath Tree 7 is a lovely tipple to lose yourself in!

Sláinte

Cask Strength Calamity!

My continued blind tasting sessions threw a bit of a wobbler recently.

Randomly chosen from a selection of 8 bottles – I failed to identify any of the 4 samples – failed to detect some of the cask influences & failed to enjoy the cask strength couple.

They were – in order of preference;

Stout Cask c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

West Cork, Black’s Stout Cask, Blend, 40%

I found this a very easy & enjoyable, quite clean & sweet, attractively approachable whiskey which despite being relatively simple – hit the right notes.

The reveal surprised me a little as I didn’t detect any stout influence.

Black Op’s c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Black Op’s, Blend, 43%

A more complex whiskey offering greater depth of flavour from a sherry influence – I guessed Oloroso? – that again satisfied.

It just lost out to the simple pleasures of the Stout Cask.

Dark Silkie CS c/oSliabhLiag

Dark Silkie, Cask Strength, Blend, 64.5%

Wow!

The high ABV was noticeable from the go. Nice clean & fresh flavours – but the high strength just obliterated my palate & left me reeling.

The peat influence must have been subtle – as I didn’t detect it!

Currach CS c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Currach Founders, Cask Strength, Single Malt, 60%

Again the high ABV swamped my senses. The more subtle & smooth flavours emanating from this whiskey were lost in a powerful alcohol hit.

I was disappointed by the reveal – I really enjoyed the 46% version & thought nothing had been gained by being 60%.

So there you go.

A good clean & simple 40% blend won out over the high strength competitors.

What would your palate pick?

A Paul John Whisky Miniature Tasting

My first encounter with Paul John was back in 2016 at Whisky Live Melbourne.

The quality of flavours impressed me back then – but there’s been a lot of whiskey since – so a revisit seemed in order.

The pleasures reside within. c/othewhiskeynut

A gorgeously presented miniature pack showcasing their core range happened my way – so I got stuck in!

To be honest – I was blown away!

To paraphrase an old hit – Everyone’s A Winner.

They had me question my preference for peat – as well as the attraction for cask strength.

Brilliance 46%

A gorgeously clean & fresh ex-bourbon cask matured malt.

Edited 46%

A straightforward peat smoke stonker.

Bold 46%

Dials the peat – and the flavours – up a notch.

Classic 55.2%

A cask strength crusader.

Peated 55.5%

The peat fire is getting seriously hot.

Enjoying these whiskies again was a fabulous treat.

Were the joys of a flavoursome ex-bourbon cask malt able to trounce a pleasing peater?

Was the cask strength power curtailed by the 46% sweet spot?

Ready & waiting. c/othewhiskeynut

Let’s just say Bold won the day!

Hat’s off to Paul John – seriously satisfying whisky.

Sláinte