I picked up this bargain basement blend working my way through all the whiskeys available in my local Dunnes Stores.
JG Kinsey also comes with gin & vodka options & I had it down as a store brand.
Jacob G Kinsey was an american gentleman who founded the Linfield Distillery in 1892. Pennsylvania was – and still is – associated with rye whiskey. A successful business flourished, floundered, merged & was subsumed into the giant International Beverage Holdings Group.
Kinsey’s name lives on with this current offering – plus numerous blogs & posts about the now abandoned plant at Linfield.
My local branch of O’Briens Wines in Athlone organised a Summer Tasting recently.
They invited a plethora of nearby craft beer producers – as well as a slightly more widespread coterie of spirits & whiskey distillers.
I simply had to go along!
Many familiar faces were encountered on the craft beer stalls.
Black Donkey were showcasing their latest limited edition release – Underworld. Savage Ale indeed.
12 Acres had their Single Malt lager. Dead Centre had some good news regarding planning permission for their town centre brewery/restaurant development. Boyne Brewhouse had some award winning beers. I even enjoyed a Miami J IPA from Rye River Brewing – despite not being an IPA fan – mainly as the hops were softer in the mix which accentuated the summer fruitiness.
Larkins from Wicklow were the only newcomers to me and I sampled some their interesting takes on the lager front.
On the spirits & whiskey front I had some brief chats with the Teeling & Connacht stands having tasted most of their excellent product before. I was tempted by Connacht’s Concullin Oak Aged Gin – mainly because of the whiskey like appearance – and did discern some oak influence in among the unfamiliar to me at least gin flavours.
Galway Gin Co were also in attendance – but for me the main attractions were the stalls offering whiskey I’d never tried before – like Ha’Penny Whiskey on the Pearse Lyons Distillery stand.
Now it was made clear Ha’Penny Whiskey – along with it’s stablemate Ha’Penny Gin & Mil Gin too – are all sourced spirits for the Pearse Distillery who market them to a different audience than the Pearse Whiskey range which was also on display.
The Ha’Penny Whiskey had that very attractive warmth I associate with charred casks maturaton. Only on closer inspection of the label was it revealed 4 different types of cask were used to mature this very flavousome blend; port pipes, sherry butts, bourbon barrels & double charred.
Very nice results too. Giving it a richness of depth & flavour not usually found in an attractively priced blend.
Midleton happened to be next door with their Method & Madness range – well 3 of them at least. How could I resist a vertical taste test?
The Single Grain continues to excite me with the warm notes of virgin oak contrasting with the clearer, fresher grain influence. The Single Malt doesn’t pull me in as much – but what’s this? – the latest Hungarian Oak matured Single Pot Still?
My my my!
Rich, warm and inviting. A softly growing spice to tantalise & tease. Great depth of flavour with a lovely long lasting finish to remind you of the beauty you’ve just enjoyed.
Now I could easily take this one home with me!
O’Briens offered a reduction on certain items on the evening so I – and many others – availed of this service and didn’t go away empty handed.
Much appreciation to all the stall holders on the night.
And a BIG UP to all the O’Briens staff in Athlone for putting together such a wonderful showcase of the fabulous beers, spirits & whiskey that abounds in Ireland today.
An opportunity to taste without prejudice. To judge all equally without bias to distillery of origin or mash bill. To savour & enjoy new tastes & styles in a manner echoing the ethos of the Declaration Of Independence written all those years ago.
Yet the Midlands masses were not moved and on the day there were more whiskey expressions on offer than punters to drink them.
Ah well. All the more for those that did attend.
I tried to put together a flight of whiskeys that represented as many different styles of American bourbon – to compare & contrast – within the limitations of what was readily available in Ireland.
To kick off with – a pair of entry level bourbons showed that even within the same category there were differences of taste & flavour.
To be labelled ‘bourbon’ under American rules means a minimum of 51% corn used in the mash bill. The mash bill is the ratio of grains used to make the whiskey – usually made up of the big 4; corn, wheat, rye & barley.
I twinned an Aldi own brand Clarke’s 1866 Old Kentucky Straight Sour Mash Whiskey with a market leading Jack Daniel’s Old No.7 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey. Most preferred the Jack – although Clarke’s wasn’t far behind.
Considering one is twice the price of the other – it just goes to show you can get a decent pour of a fairly standard bourbon at an affordable cost if you’re prepared to shop around.
The next pour moved up a level both in terms of cost and flavour – FEW Rye Whiskey. All agreed this was a far more complex, definitely a different style and a far more satisfying whiskey. The spicy rye dominated the palate yet was balanced by the sweet corn element in the mash bill.
The rye presence continued into the Brothership Irish – American Whiskey. A collaboration between Connacht Distillery in Ballina and New Liberty Distillery in Philly. It’s a blend of 10 year old Irish Single Malt & a 10 year old American Rye. A lighter & smoother start than the previous pours – all picked out the Irish malt influence – yet joyfully morphed into a lovely drying peppery spice at the end. You can pick out the 2 different styles within the same glass and marvel at how they both compliment each other in the final mix. Fabulous.
I was very much looking forward to the next bourbon.
A representative at Hi-Spirits Ireland – a distribution company handling the Sazerac, Buffalo Trace portfolio – reached out to donate some liquid for the Blind Tasting. Much appreciated.
The bottle in question also happened to hail from the Barton 1792 Distillery which recently suffered a rickhouse collapse causing much loss of bourbon & property. Although thankfully no injuries.
1792 Small Batch Bourbon.
Again – much like the Brothership – this was a whiskey in 2 halves.
To begin with a rich, deep vanilla & burnt caramel coated the mouth leading you into a drier, cinnamon spice rye body which finished in a delightfully playful prickly heat. This ‘high rye’ bourbon pleased all present – although there was no clear overall winner on the night before the bottles were revealed. Beautiful bourbon indeed.
The final offering was more of a fun product.
Buffalo Trace White Dog Rye Mash.
This is the American equivalent of Irish Poitin. Raw un-aged whiskey.
At 62.5% this White Dog certainly packed a punch – yet was extremely palatable & very enjoyable. That familiar – slightly sour – new make nose, the oiliness on first tasting proceeding to a soft dry rye spice rounded the evening off with a bang.
There are various interpretations of ballyhoo on the web, publicity, frivolity or fun. They can all be distilled to one attractive package for me however.
An Irish Whiskey released by the Connacht Whiskey Company of Ballina, County Mayo. There isn’t much information on the very attractive black bottle with distinctive embossed silver labelling – but a trip to their website here reveals a bit more.
A single grain Irish Whiskey made with a 93% corn 7% malted barley mix distilled in a Coffey still at one un-named Irish whiskey distillery. Connacht haven’t been around long enough to release their own whiskey – yet – so this sourced grain is made elsewhere & finished in port casks at Connacht’s own facility.
Grain whiskey doesn’t have the allure of it’s stablemate malt – which is a pity. Grain is the very backbone of the modern whiskey industry. Up to 90% of all whiskey sold worldwide contains grain as part of the mix in blended whiskey. Showcasing the best grain whiskey has to offer is always welcome in my book.
Pouring a glass it quickly becomes apparent this is an extremely pale whiskey. A decent amount of legs are also present. Both signifiers that no added caramel nor chill filtration have been used in this expression. Very commendable.
At only 4 years old this is a young, fresh grain whiskey.
The nose is gentle & sweetly attractive. Soft vanillas combine with an enticing floral bouquet which probably emanates from the rather unusual – and possibly unique for a grain whiskey – port cask finish.
It’s very mild in the mouth. No rough edges here. A bit of corn influence, that sweet grainy lightness builds with deeper notes from the combined bourbon barrel maturation & port cask finish in a perfectly balanced mix.
There is no complexity here. A very easy, simple, smooth & eminently attractive grain whiskey that slowly fades to a pleasingly warm finish.
Whiskey as it should be.
Fun, frivolous, tasty, naturally coloured & non chill filtered.
It certainly floats my boat.
An album by Echo & The Bunnymen. Their song Bedbugs & Ballyhoo is the perfect accompaniment to this delightful grain whiskey.
We’d actually been on the Wild Atlantic Way since Derry – and the sea views from the North Mayo coast road raised our spirits in the early morning light.
But to begin with we ventured on a little detour!
Whilst in the bar the previous evening tales were told of a distillery in Sligo. We drove to the site in Hazelwood House but found little to confirm nor deny those tales. An internet search did reveal planning permission had been granted in 2016 – so if anyone has more information then please get in touch!
Our first planned visit meanwhile was Connacht Distillery in Ballina. A guided tour of the recently opened & fabulous looking shiny new facility by the banks of the River Moy had been arranged. Lyndsey kindly agreed to an early start to show us round the gleaming pot stills & lovely wooden lined tasting room of the spacious site. Like most new distilleries Connacht have a range of sourced products they sell until their own actual spirit is flowing.
Interestingly one of the freshly filled barrels of Connacht new make single malt recently made it’s way over to the beautiful scenery of Clare Island to quietly see out it’s maturation time in the stunning coastal location there. No doubt a large party will be in order when that barrel is finally bottled!
The Straw Boys Poitin – which is now Connacht’s own spirit – & Spade & Bushel Single Malt made an impact this early in the day – but what interested me was the Brothership Irish-American Whiskey. It’s a blend of 10 year old American rye whiskey with similarly aged Irish whiskey and is one of many new expressions currently going down this hybrid whiskey style to either much applause – or disdain.
Personally I think it’s a great idea & has sold out fast! I managed to get my hands on the last bottle before a new label adorns the expression to comply with Irish whiskey regulations. The rye certainly comes through in the mix which pleased me no end.
Only a short drive down the road is Nephin Distilery. Nestled in the pretty village of Lahardaun under the towering bulk of Nephin mountain, Nephin Whiskey have chosen not to release any spirit until their own peated single malt is matured. Using locally grown barley & locally sourced peat – or turf as it’s called in Ireland – this will be a malt with some terroir. My name is already down on the list for the Reserved First Bottles offer!
Nephin have very ambitious & well thought out plans for an attractive distillery in the town along with a malting floor too! Wonderful news. The site is empty at present but everything is going according to plan for this forward looking company. Construction is due soon & expected to be complete by 2018. More power to them.
A long drive through counties Mayo & Galway was eased by the stunning scenery – as well local lads Saw Doctors singing their songs on the car stereo.
The busy crowds of Galway City slowed down our progress as we made our way to the home of Micil Poitin in the popular spot of Salthill.
The enthusiastic founder Pádraic Ó Griallais met us in his micro distillery behind the Oslo Bar where just like his ancestors, Pádraic makes 100% Irish grain Poitin infused with locally sourced bogbean botanicals. The results are a soft, smooth yet slightly spicy refreshing drink which is often used as a base for cocktails.
He also hoped to do a gin soon – and whiskey was on the cards too! But the timescale wasn’t finalised. Nonetheless his Micil Poitin went down very smoothly. We even sampled a taster at 80% which despite my initial misgivings actually proved to be quite palatable. You could still taste the attractive flavour through the powerful alcoholic kick!
The Oslo Bar is also the original home of Galway Bay Brewery – who have since moved onto larger premises in Ballybrit – and is a lovely gastropub serving delicious food & snacks on the popular Salthill promenade which was thronged with folks enjoying the wonderful sunshine.
Later on in the evening we also ventured out into the sunshine on the famous Galway Whiskey Trail to sample the Galway Bay Irish Whiskey that is only available in the 10 pubs & 1 off-licence that make up the trail. We settled on Freeny’s in the end with it’s marvelous selection of Irish whiskey on display.
Being Saturday night the bars were packed with revellers – but we did find space in the newly opened Caribou bar who stocked an impressive array of craft beers, gins & whiskeys. I couldn’t resist a can of Commotion Lotion. A collaboration between pop act King Kong Company & YellowBelly Beer. A tasty & fun beer to end the day!
Dram of the day?
The blended expression of Irish whiskey & American rye that is Brothership.
Produced by West Cork Distillers for a 3rd party – this whiskey is a blend of Irish single malts & grain whiskey aged in ex-bourbon barrels before being finished in ex-rye casks from Tamworth Distilling, NH.
An American rye whiskey made with predominately american rye grain in charred virgin oak barrels by the FEW Distillery, Evanstown, Chicago.
I like to see a variation in the colour of the whiskeys I drink. It foretells of the different smells, flavours & overall drinking experiences to be enjoyed.
FEW came out the darkest – reflecting the use of charred virgin oak casks. There was a jump down then to the paler duo of PrizeFight & Brothership with Sunken Still coming in with an almost pale yellowy hue.
Brothership kicks off with a soft barley sweetness before developing muted rye spice. PrizeFight comes across with a more fresher, clearer nose & an equally enjoyable spice. Sunken Still has a wonderfully aromatic floral bouquet whilst FEW delivers a classic peppery rye punch.
The soft smooth delivery of Brothership quickly develops into a lovely rich dry spice. PrizeFight has a cleaner palate with a slightly less intense rye spice.
Meanwhile the Sunken Still’s fragrant bouquet flows through into a wonderful cornucopia of taste on the tongue with a rich dry spice that is simply divine. Beautiful.
The FEW doesn’t disappoint either. To start there is that caramel/vanilla bourbon like feel followed by an almost classic rich peppery spice that tingles & teases as it drys the palate.
PrizeFight’s lovely spice fades slowly, only marginally beaten by the warmer, drier spice of Brothership. FEW lasts the longest whilst Sunken Still manages that dry floral spice right to the end.
What stands out to me is that whilst having no rye grain in the original mix – the rich dry spicy notes of a decent rye whiskey still come through in the PrizeFight whiskey simply by it’s time in the ex-rye casks. It may lack the overall dry mouthfeel of a true rye – but it certainly makes a worthy addition to the rye cannon.
Brothership benefits by the addition of a real rye whiskey in the mix which heightens the rich dry rye spiciness on both the taste & finish which is not initially apparent on the sweet barely nose.
The FEW could almost set the benchmark of what a good rye whiskey should be. A straight forward crisp peppery spice with a marvelously long dry finish. Superb.
Sunken Still adds something extra to that dry spice by giving it a floral display of flavours.
For taking rye whiskey the extra mile – Sunken Still from Belgium comes out tops in this taste-off.
FEW from America comes in a close second
The Irish-American hybrid that is Brothership follows closely behind – leaving Ireland’s PrizeFight bringing up the rear.
I would commend PrizeFight for being able to hold it’s own among such worthy competition in that they all contain rye in their original mix.
It just goes to prove the powerful influence the maturation in wood has to the overall taste.