Tag Archives: Cooley Distillery

2 Controversial Whiskey Blends, John L Sullivan, 40% & Celtic Nations, 46%

Both these whiskeys attracted a degree of controversy when originally released.

Most of it centred around the interpretation of ‘rules’ – but I was curious to taste the results.

Image courtesy Celtic Whiskey Shop

John L Sullivan Irish Whiskey, 40%

Named after a famous Irish/American boxer of the late 1800’s – which attracted initial upset – an original bottling of John L Sullivan displayed the legend ‘Irish Bourbon’.

Image courtesy Whiskey Jug

Attempting to celebrate the Irish/American heritage with a blend of Irish & Bourbon whiskeys fell foul of labelling laws & the bottle was withdrawn.

Before me is a sample from a bottle labelled John L Sullivan Irish Whiskey – aged in bourbon casks.

Pale straw in colour, shy nose, not giving much away, smooth easy palate, gentle growing warmth with a hug of sweet vanilla & caramel, flourish of mild spice on the rear.

An easy going entry level offering.

Image courtesy Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder

Celtic Nations, 46%

A collaboration between the Irish Teeling Whiskey Co & Scotch Bruichladdich Distillery to create a harmonious blend of single malts to celebrate the 2 nations spirits.

Didn’t meet the approval of the SWA & was banned.

Pale straw colour, gorgeous expressive nose of gentle peat coming through, the palate displays more soft Irish notes before the embers of a peat fire warms up the finish.

An entertaining soft peater.

Thoughts

Both of these whiskeys had great potential.

The pugilist inspired John L Sullivan pre-dated the global success of Proper Twelve & there’s been subsequent Irish/American Whiskey/Bourbon collaborations on the market since.

Cross nation blends have been a staple earning for both Scotch & Irish distilleries over the years – mainly for the lower end of the market. Perhaps this high profile open & transparent offering was just too much for the SWA?

Whatever the reasons – controversy is not a tasting note I encountered in either of these blends.

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A Pair Of Peated Irish Whiskey From The Recent Past, Magilligan & Clonmel, 8 Year Old Peated Single Malts plus a Magilligan non peater, 40%

There’s a misconception Irish Whiskey isn’t peaty.

It has been – for a long time.

Irish Distillers released a 45 Year Old Peated Malt from the Old Midleton Distillery a while ago.

The whiskey for this tasting however came from Cooley – who have done a lot to revive the peaty category in Irish Whiskey.

Trying out a pair of 8 Year Old Peated Single Malts from the same source appealed to me – so let’s dive in!

Image courtesy Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder

Magilligan Single Malt, 40%

An Irish brand dating from the 1990’s using Cooley malt bottled for Ian Macleod Distillers.

Golden brown colour with decent legs. Fusty leathery nose with a sweet fruitiness & wholesome palate. An appreciative bite on the finish.

Quite a belter!

Courtesy Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder

Magilligan 8 Year Old Peated Single Malt, 40%

Pale straw with decent legs. Gorgeous coastal iodine like smoke. An almost oily mouthfeel. The fabulous peat stacks up like a cosy warming fire on the finish.

Love this one!

Courtesy Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder

Clonmel 8 Year Old Peated Single Malt, 40%

Bottled for the Celtic Whiskey Compagnie in France.

Pale straw, decent legs. Soft gentle kiss of turf. Light palate yet smoke comes through. A more balanced well stacked glowing fire gradually fades away.

Nice

Thoughts

A tough choice!

2 gorgeous peaters – the full on Mulligan or gently cultured Clonmel?

Can depend on the mood at the time – but I’m giving it to the fabulous peaty exuberance of Mulligan 8yo.

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Concannon Irish Whiskey, Blend, 40%

You’d be forgiven for never hearing of Concannon Irish Whiskey before if you live in Ireland – as it’s mainly sold in the USA!

Concannon is a popular seller over the pond making it into the Top 10 of the biggest brands – appearing above Powers & Black Bush – so when an opportunity arose to purchase a miniature from the Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder’s new sample service – Drams Delivered – my curiosity was piqued.

Interestingly this whiskey is finished in Petite Sirah casks from the Concannon Vineyard in California – which might partly explain it’s impressive sales!

The colour was reassuringly pale for a wine cask finish.

Sweet, fruity & honeyed on the nose. Gently inviting.

Quite a light palate with an attractive freshness.

Juicy sweet grain appears before a pleasing fruitiness topped off with a touch of prickliness gently fades away.

A very pleasant easy drinker with enough depth of flavour to keep it entertaining.

Nice!

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Concannon Vineyard website here.

Irish Whiskey Sales in America 2020 here.

Hot Whiskey by James Morrissey, 1989.

Irish Whiskey was in a perilous state in 1987.

This revealing book by James Morrissey focuses on the remarkable turn of events culminating in the Pernod-Ricard takeover of Irish Distillers.

The most sobering chapters however expose the dismal performance & inability of Irish Distillers to drive the category forward – the very reasons a speculative takeover war started.

Irish Whiskey was a monopoly in 1987.

Irish Distillers owned all the distilleries – 2, Midleton & Bushmills – & all the brands – 15 – & was losing sales.

Cooley Distillery in County Louth was just being founded & had yet to mature any whiskey.

Irish Distillers main sales in 1987 were the domestic market followed by bulk sales to places like Japan – whose blending practices have a long history of using non-Japanese stock.

Sales in the lucrative American market dwindled down to a low of around 250,000 cases – about the same as Conor MacGregor’s Proper Twelve sold alone in 2021 – yet Irish Distillers marketing strategies were effectively underfunded & ineffective.

Without the takeover of Pernod-Ricard & increased competition from Cooley who knows where Irish Whiskey would have ended up.

Irish Whiskey today is in a far more healthier situation.

New brands, new bottles & new distilleries are being announced on an almost weekly basis.

I welcome each and every single one of them as they collectively strive to rebuild Irish Whiskey.

A read of Hot Whiskey sobers you up as to how grim things were a mere 35 years ago.

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All images authors own.

Hot Whiskey available at www.librariesireland.ie

Galway Irish Whiskey, 40%

A range of miniature Irish Whiskey labelled up in Irish County colours make for an entertaining gift.

I picked mine up at the Celtic Whiskey Shop.

Galway is pale straw in colour.

Has a soft honeyed aroma.

Smooth & mellow in the mouth.

With an engaging hint of spice on the finish.

No mention regards source – but reminds me of the best blended Cooley used to offer.

An easy drinking Irish Whskey.

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All images authors own.

Kilbeggan Black, Lightly Peated Irish Whiskey, 40%, Blend

For a long time Irish Whiskey was defined more by what it couldn’t be rather than by what it could.

Truths About Whiskey 1878 c/othewhiskeynut

When the whisky market was clearly shifting to blended whisky in the late 1800’s, Messrs J Jameson, W Jameson, J Power & G Roe brought out the ‘Truths About Whisky’ pamphlet which railed against this new confounded ‘silent spirit’ & thereby shunned the opportunities available.

Proper Twelve c/othewhiskeynut

Celebrity endorsed brands are making big waves across the globe right now – yet within the Irish Whiskey community there is almost universal rejection of Conor McGregor’s Proper Twelve Whiskey – despite it leaping to become the 4th most popular Irish Whiskey in the world.

Sods of turf drying in the sun. c/othewhiskeynut

Many also adhere to the myth that Irish Whiskey can’t be peated.

Which is a pity.

Peated whiskey displays a gorgeous smoky flavour which many customers seek out – customers like myself.

Peated Kilbeggan c/othewhiskeynut

So when Kilbeggan Distillery recently added the Kilbeggan Black Lightly Peated Irish Whiskey to their range – I couldn’t wait to try it out.

Label info c/othewhiskeynut

The double distilled blend of malt & grain whiskey from Cooley Distillery in County Louth is presented in a no nonsense screwcap bottle at 40% ABV with added colouring.

It’s clearly positioned at the mass market peated blend category previously dominated by Scorch – and I fully welcome Irish Whiskey’s entry into this arena.

Delicately smoky c/othewhiskeynut

A subtle kiss of smoke rises from the honeyed blend.

Soft & easy palate.

Gently drying smokiness envelops the finish in a warm tingly embrace.

Now that the pubs are slowly opening after a long COVID shutdown – it’ll be great to reach for a lightly peated Irish Whiskey.

Go on Kilbeggan!

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Shanahans Original, Single Malt Irish Whiskey, 40%

Hopefully by the end of 2021 we’ll be able to freely walk into bars & enjoy ourselves without any worries – as I miss the unexpected encounters within.

Back in summer ’19 herself requested a trip to the seaside on a hot sunny day in contrast to the flat Midland’s bogs we normally frequent.

Afterwards, a spot of light refreshment at Keelings Bar in Donabate rounded off the day.

Shanahans Original c/othewhiskeynut

The whiskey shelves were scanned for a suitable selection & Shanahans Original stood out for me.

Being a commissioned malt from the Cooley Distillery for the famous Dublin based steakhouse – this was in the days before the Beam/Suntory takeover turned off the taps to 3rd parties – Shanahans is a slice of Irish Whiskey’s recent history I was keen to sample.

Back label c/othewhiskeynut

That lovely fresh citrusy & fruity malt aroma greeted me.

A delightfully light & easy whiskey with a touch of malty character – as well as an entertaining back story – to enjoy on a warms summers day in the beer garden of Keelings.

Oh to be able to experience those simple & unexpected pleasures again!

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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!

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Kilbeggan Finest Irish Whiskey, 15 Year Old, Blend, 40%

Back in 2007 Kilbeggan released a 15 Year Old Finest Irish Whiskey complete with stylish bottle & packaging to commemorate 250 years of distilling history at the Kilbeggan Distillery in County Westmeath.

It was very well received at the time & went on to win many awards.

Kilbeggan 15 in the glass c/othewhiskeynut

Being a rather limited release it attracted a lot of buyers who stored it for intended resale, for a special occasion or just collecting.

Luckily I knew someone who’d actually opened it to enjoy the delights within.

Very generously – I managed a sample!

Now there are always dangers when storing whiskey – and this became evident on the nose with a slight fustiness going on among an otherwise attractive nuttiness.

The palate was soft, smooth & easy with a touch of woody spice going on in the rear.

A gorgeous juiciness finished up the proceedings.

Cool bottle! c/othewhiskeynut

A lovely little drop indeed – although that slight fusty note on the nose suggests it’s not ageing well.

If you enjoy your whiskey – perhaps drinking it soon after purchase is recommended.

Michael Collins, Single Malt, 40%

One of the last bars I entered before the COVID19 shutdown was Garavan’s in Galway.

There on the shelves was an old acquaintance of mine – Michael Collins Whiskey.

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Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

Michael Collins is an iconic figure in Irish history. To name a whiskey brand after him celebrates that history.

When having a glass I not only enjoy the whiskey – I also wonder at the momentous changes Michael Collins witnessed – and eagerly participated in – a hundred years ago. There is a similarity to the current changes we are living through with the pandemic.

I ponder at the beauty and longevity of a brand too.

It can outlive changes in distilleries that supply the spirit.

It can overcome changes in ownership.

It can constantly change & adapt to the availability of casks – altering the blending ratios accordingly to produce the finished product.

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I polished off the blend! c/othewhiskeynut

Yet it’s still remains the same brand.

The Single Malt version before me was the old ‘baseball bat’ shaped bottle originally commissioned by Sidney Frank Importing Co. There is no age statement with this one.

It had a smooth honeyed maltiness to begin with. A characterful bite followed by a touch of dryness on the finish – perhaps reflecting a smidge of smokiness – which is more evident in the 10 Year Old Single Malt offering.

MC 10
Michael Collins 10yo c/owhiskyauctioneer

Sazerac now own the brand.

I eagerly await their reincarnation of Michael Collins Whiskey.

Just as I look forward to the end of the pandemic – and welcome in whatever changed reality exists in the future.

Long live the brand!

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