Tag Archives: Cooley Distillery

Connemara Turf Mor, 46%

Peat.

Or if you’re in Ireland,

Turf.

Decomposed vegetable matter that can be used as a fuel source to dry the malted barley commonly used in whiskey production. This imparts a smoky flavour to the spirit which generates much devotion amongst ‘peatheads’ – who go to great lengths to satisfy their cravings.

Luckily for me – I simply cycled down to my local distillery – Kilbeggan – to indulge my passion for peat.

There has been a distillery at Kilbeggan since 1757. It claims to be the oldest working distillery in the world operating out of the same site with a continuous licence from it’s inception.

dscf4033-email
Wall plaque in The Pantry c/othewhiskeynut

Bushmills have  ‘alternative facts’ dating from 1608. The current distillery however wasn’t built until 1885 replacing an earlier one at a different site dating from 1784.

While it’s undoubtedly true Scotland is the biggest producing whisky nation in the world, they only gained that title in the early 1900’s. Before then Ireland was number 1. The earliest Scottish distillery still in production –  Glenturret – dates from 1775.

Kilbeggan – in advance of a new and welcome bill – also has a licence to allow the consumption & sale of alcohol on the premises. Cycling afforded me the luxury of being able to enjoy a few glasses. Allowing me to reacquaint myself with the Connemara 22 year old – as well as  trying out the recently re-released Turf Mor expression.

dscf9803-email
Connemara 22yo & Turf Mor c/othewhiskeynut

Now none of the Connemara range are actually produced at Kilbeggan. Cooley Distillery in County Louth is where that all happens – but Kilbeggan is one of the maturation sites. It also has a small boutique distillery whose spirit usually finds it’s way into some of the blended releases. There are plans afoot however to allow visitors the unique experience of  bottling their own Kilbeggan produced whiskey with a valinch as part of the historical distillery tour. A welcome addition.

The 22 year old has a softly peated nose. As befits it’s age the taste is smooth & complex. The peat is well balanced by many rich notes from the long years maturing in oak barrels. A very fine & well cultured whiskey. Bottled at 46%  & non chill-filtered.

Turf Mor is the bigger, badder & bolder younger sibling!

Youthful, exuberant & punchy. This heavily peated single malt delivers a healthy kick to the palate tempered by a soft sweetness. Much more my style.

It’s not as bold & overwhelming as the previous 58.2% incarnation – but a very welcome return of a heavy hitting peat from Ireland at 46% – albeit as a limited Travel Retail release & of course – at the distillery.

A bottle was duly purchased. Well worth the 70km cycle!

The entire Connemara range of peated single malts make a fine display in their new bright livery. Oh! Did I say they are all Irish double distilled peated single malts?

dscf9809-email
Current Connemara range c/othewhiskeynut

The 2 youthful non-aged statements (NAS) contain some welcome fire & bite in contrast to the rather well-mannered & refined 12 & 22 year old elders.

All are available at the Kilbeggan Distillery – along with the Tyrconnell, Kilbeggan & Locke’s range of whiskeys too.

Kilbeggan is currently owned by the Beam/Suntory group. Due to increased demand it’s advised to book in advance for the guided tours. You are welcome to drop into the very friendly Whiskey Bar anytime during opening hours.

dscf9826-email
Oh show me the way to the next whiskey bar c/othewhiskeynut

Full of wonderfully rich history & culture, some fabulous whiskeys, a cafe and a bar – what are you waiting for?

Slainte.

Good Logo

 

 

Nancy Hands & Peated Whiskey

Man walks in to a bar.

He’s missed his train & is looking for a spot to while away the hour – preferably with a whiskey.

Nancy Hands on Dublin’s Parkgate St is only a short walk from Hueston Railway Station and his train home. The pub has a large & welcoming facade. He walks in.

The front bar has the usual array of whiskeys on display – nothing that attracts his eyes – but there seems to be a back bar. He hasn’t been here before & only chose it at random. He investigates.

dscf9773-email
Nancy Hands & some Scotch c/othewhiskeynut

Whoa!

Whiskey!

He’s hit the jackpot!

Loads of Scotch. Many old looking bottles with gently faded fawn labels – no fancy colours here – and loads of Irish too with a slightly more colourful collection.

dscf9778-email
An Irish selection c/othewhiskeynut

Bingo!

But what to sample?

As I was that man I decided to continue my exploration of peat.

A Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old caught my eye. Having previously enjoyed the Darach Ur NAS (Non Age Statement) Travel Retail release I thought it would be a good comparison.

dscf9769-email
Bunnahabhain 12 old bottling c/othewhiskeynut

The satisfying rich peat on the nose from this Islay distillery single malt reassured me of what was to follow. I found the taste a tad harsh & rather monosyllabic however. Just the one note of pure peat – and a bit too burnt at that. The NAS release wins out on this challenge.

Only when I Googled the bottle did it become apparent that this was an old release prior to a redesign of the label. Maybe some of the subtleties of the whisky had been lost due to the length of time the bottle had been opened? It’s recommended 2 to 3 years is the maximum before the spirit begins to degrade due to oxidation & other chemical reactions that occur & can then spoil the taste. Perhaps this was happening here?

I moved on to the Irish section.

dscf9779-email
Slieve na cGloc c/othewhiskeynut

Slieve na cGloc stood out for me.

It’s a peated single malt made at Cooley Distillery from when John Teeling was still at the helm. I’ve read it was an own-label-bottling for the Oddbins off-licence chain in the UK –  but I cannot confirm this.

Again that lovely pungent peat on the nose warmly greeted me. The taste this time was smoother – yet the peat punch was still reassuringly intense. A more balanced feel to the malt sang a delightful harmony & had me wondering why there wasn’t more lovely peated Irish expressions.

Slieve na cGloc – named after the mountain below which the Cooley Distillery sits – is an excellent whiskey & much more appropriately named than it’s equally appealing peated stablemate Connemara whiskey that is also made at Cooley.

dscf3119-email
Slieve na cGloc top with Slieve Foy behind c/othewhiskeynut

There is a lovely walk up the hill here – which I did on a crisp winter’s day when last on the wonderful Carlingford Peninsula.

But that was then and this was now.

I could have stayed for more – but the night train was calling.

And being the last one home I didn’t want to miss it.

Nancy Hands is a treasure trove of whiskey.

I know where I’ll be enjoying a bite to eat & a whiskey or two before catching my next train home from Dublin!

Slainte.

Good Logo

Credit to Nancy Hands for the top image.

Peated Irish Whiskey

After disembarking at Galway Docks from successfully launching The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey the entertainment continued into the wee small hours. We were whisked away to one of the founding members of The Galway Whiskey Trail‘s bars – Sonny Molloy’s.

Cocktails
Whiskey sours c/o@yummymummy

Drinks soon flowed – wines for the non-whiskey drinking brigade – cocktails for the more youthful contingent – and yet more whiskey for myself.

Being in Sonny’s surrounded by a stunning display of whiskeys allowed me to further explore the wonderful world of peated Irish whiskey.

That’s right.

Peated Irish whiskey.

It’s not a category everyone seems to be aware of – let alone be familiar with.

DSCF5949 email
Connemara Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Connemara is the most well known example of this style. A Beam/Suntory brand from the Cooley Distillery in County Louth. It’s a fairly light tasting peated whiskey in its original non-age statement (NAS) single malt bottling but is also available as a 12 year old, a stunning 22 year old, a cask strength and if you look for it – a Turf Mor expression too.

A few years ago I tasted the 22 year old at it’s launch during the 2014 Irish Whiskey Awards held in Kilbeggan Distillery. I’m afraid to say peat wasn’t my strong point at that time so it was lost on me – but I have since developed a palate for peat and should go back to re-taste it again.

DSCF6866 email
Raw Spirit c/othewhiskeynut

Contrary to Iain Banks eminently enjoyable whisky book ‘Raw Spirit’ who likens peated whisky to Marmite in that you either love it – or hate it – I think the charms of peat have slowly grown on me.

Sonny’s also stock some lovely discontinued peated Irish whiskey.

MichaelCollins-SingleMalt-IrishWhiskey
Michael Collins Single Malt c/otheinternet

Michael Collins 10 Year Old Single Malt is a lighty peated expression also from Cooley before the Beam takeover in 2011. Originally destined for the American market by Sidney Frank Importing Company lawsuits ensued after the loss of supply but luckily this brand may re-surface as part of the Sazerac portfolio. I certainly await it’s return – although I can still enjoy the odd dram now and then of the original in decent whiskey bars around Ireland.

Inishowen
Inishowen Whiskey c/opinterest

The peated Irish whiskey that really tantalises my tastebuds however is Inishowen. It’s your standard entry level blend of young grain spirit mixed with peaty malt bottled at 40%. Cooley are responsible again for this delightfully smooth youthful yet fully peated whiskey.

I’d go so far to say this whiskey out performs the big Scottish guns of Johnnie Walker, Famous Grouse, Haig and Teachers et al – no sharp edges here with Inishowen. Just a wonderful aroma and taste of peat together with a lovely sweet refreshing grain finish. Pity it’s discontinued – as I love it’s simple charms – much like the youthful exuberance of my musical interlude.

In my merry state – I laid down 2 challenges.

1 – If any standard Scottish blend can match Inishowen I’d love to try it – I haven’t come across one yet.

2 – When will an Irish distillery release a blend to match Inishowen?

Peated barley
Heavily peated barley c/o@JackTeeling

Now I know Teeling are already laying down peated distillate and Nephin Whiskey are planning a peated single malt – so I may not have to wait too long – but a plain ordinary everyday peated blend is what I’m looking for – not a premium product.

With my challenge set – I cheerily left what was developing into an Irish bloggers lovefest – rejoined Mrs Whiskey who had bonded with the wine drinking fraternity  – and bid our farewells for the evening before things got messy.

I raise a glass of The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey as a toast of appreciation for the wonderful launch party

And a toast to it’s success.

Sláinte

Good Logo

 

Hugh Lynch’s Tullamore

A short 2 minute walk from the impressive Old Bonded Warehouse of the Tullamore DEW Visitors Centre brings you to the rather unassuming windowless facade of Hugh Lynch’s Bar.

On entering – it’s a different story.

A busy public area bustles with regulars watching the sport on TV whilst a quieter lounge area is gently warmed by a glowing stove pumping out it’s welcome heat giving a warm tranquil cosy feel to the otherwise large space.

DSCF6185 email
Some of the whiskeys at Hugh Lynch’s c/othewhiskeynut

The main attraction for me however lay in the impressive display of whiskeys both behind the bar as well as tastefully shown in glass cabinets too.

A very large bottle of Tullamore DEW Original dominates the bar mainly due to it’s size! Fellow Tullamore DEW releases were obviously in no short supply either – including a few that are now discontinued like the Black 43.

DSCF6192 email
Tullamore DEW at Hugh Lynch’s c/othewhiskeynut

What took my eye though was another whiskey claiming to hail from Tullamore – Egan’s Irish Whiskey.

Egan’s is a 10 year old single malt and like Tullamore DEW isn’t actually made in the town of Tullamore. Both whiskeys are produced at one or more (in the case of blends) of the 3 large distilleries that currently have stock matured for long enough to be labelled as whiskey. They are Bushmills, Cooley and Midleton.

The new distillery opened in Tullamore by William Grant & Sons in 2014 won’t be able to release it’s first expression until 2017.

P&H Egan’s were a famous grocers in Tullamore who bottled and sold  whiskey in times gone by and the name has now been revived by this new release.

As I missed out on tasting it on my Galway Whiskey Trail adventure I couldn’t refuse the opportunity again!

DSCF5912 email
Egan’s in the hand c/othewhiskeynut

A rich golden coloured dram soon stood before me and despite being a 46% non-chill filtered release a surprisingly smooth rich nose warmed me to the drink.

The taste pleased me very much. I found it full-bodied and fruity with a lovely warm mouthfeel followed through by a long lingering finish.

Very nice indeed!

It didn’t surprise me to hear the whiskey has already won awards and Pat the bartender informed me it’s a popular seller both in the bar and the off-licence which is also part of the premises.

Lynch’s also features a cafe where decent pub grub can be enjoyed – a large hall at the back for private functions – as well as a regular music nights with a varied selection of bands or comedians hosted upstairs. It’s certainly a busy spot!

DSCF6190 email
Whiskey Galore! c/othewhiskeynut

I’ll certainly be back to sample some more of the varied whiskeys on offer from countries both near and far. Millars and Shanahans from Ireland I’ve yet to try . Scapa from Scotland and a sprinkling of bourbons from America too.

Being only a half hour train journey from my home in Athlone – I don’t think that visit will be long in the making either!

Slainte.

Good Logo

Teeling Whiskey Distillery – Revisited

My second visit to the Teeling Whiskey Distillery happened to take place on Valentine’s Day.

Herself had decided we’d stay with old friends in Dublin and all 4 of us would go out for a joint meal together on the 13th. It was further decreed the ‘ladies’ would visit the National Botanical Gardens on the 14th – allowing the ‘men’ to visit the now fully opened award winning distillery located in Newmarket Square in the historic Liberties area of Dublin.

Now my first visit to this fine establishment included a guided tour by none other than the master distiller Alex Chasko who exuded much glee at soon being able to produce the first distillate for many a year within the city confines.

As the building wasn’t yet complete the dress of choice was hi-vis vests and hard hats – complete with the sounds of powered tools and much shouting.

DSCF3548 email
Alex in the yet to be opened Teeling Distillery c/othewhiskeynut

As a paying customer this time round – it would be very interesting to compare my experiences.

Gone were the scaffolding – cranes -hoardings and ant like workers busily adding the final touches.

In was a nice clean facade aided by the cycle park outside the main entrance which enhanced the view. Instead of dirty workers there was a gathering of visitors who were as much excited by the short heavy hail shower that greeted our arrival as the golden liquid inside.

DSCF6040 email
Conor – our Teeling guide c/othewhiskeynut

Instead of Alex – Conor – one of the friendly and helpful Teeling branded staff was to be our guide today.

The ground floor contained a large cafe area serving delicious hot and cold foods along with teas – coffees and soft drinks for the kids. There were sofas and chairs to lounge in with large windows looking out into the square where many folks came to visit the neighbouring farmers market and food stalls which are a regular event.

Having been tagged at reception for the type of tasting experience you wished at the end of the tour – guests then entered a photographic display area along with whiskey memorabilia and associated artefacts whilst waiting for the tour to begin.

DSCF6037 email
Teeling whiskey display c/othewhiskeynut

As is customary – a short video introduces the visitor to Irish Whiskey and Teeling Whiskey Distillery in particular before we are led into the main event – the working distillery itself!

The first thing that struck me upon entering the working distillery was the strong smell – and heat – of the malt in the mash tun. Such a warming and welcoming entrance to the building site I previously enjoyed.

DSCF6042 email
Teeling’s mash or lauter tun c/othewhiskeynut

The attention to detail was evident with the inclusion of a strategically based light above the inspection window to allow visitors – and staff – to see inside the large vessel.

The trio of copper stills had been cleaned up and were not only shining – but had been given names too!

DSCF6061 email
Natalie and the spirit safe c/othewhiskeynut

And most importantly of all – the spirit safe had a steady flow of new spirit during the entire duration of our visit.

Conor gently informed us of the whole whiskey making process – from the delivery of malted and unmalted barley – to the mash tun and copper stills – to the spirit safe and on to the maturation period.

One thing I hadn’t previously thought about was that after the 1875 Liberties Whiskey Fire – the maturation of whiskey was banned from within the city and so to this day – all whiskey – including that made in Teeling’s – has to be transported out of Dublin to complete the minimum 3 years in a barrel before being able to call itself whiskey.

Teeling matures many of it’s expressions for a lot longer than that minimum requirement.

In fact at present – with the exception of Teeling Poitin – all Teeling expressions were distilled at the Cooley Distillery but have been matured to their own style by the master blender Alex Chasko.

We had the opportunity to taste some of these marvellous creations at the Bang Bang Bar after our tour.

DSCF6072 email
Single Malt, 15 yo Revival and 23 yo c/othewhiskeynut

I’d opted for the Teeling Master Class tasting – sure why else would you visit the distillery than to try out the best they had to offer?

My trio consisted of;

Teeling Single Malt

Part of the standard Teeling Trinity made up of the Small Batch and Single Grain releases – Single Malt is a lovely smooth yet sweet offering which belies it’s 46% non chill filtered strength.

DSCF6079 email
Teeling Revival c/othewhiskeynut

Teeling 15 Year Old Revival

A recent offering matured and finished in rum casks. A far more fuller bodied expression with a hefty dose of rum throughout the nose and taste. I thoroughly enjoyed this dram.

Teeling 23 Year Old Sherry Cask

A beautifully dark liquid with distinctive sherry nose. The whiskey slips down so smoothly you’re unaware of it’s 52.5% ABV until a rich – softly spicy tingle reminds you of it’s true strength on the long and satisfying finish. A masterpiece!

This dram is definitely Louder – cue Kid Karate! An equally new – as Teeling – young upcoming band from Dublin.

This superb 23 yo expression is only available at the distillery which features the novel and exciting experience of bottling your own whiskey.

I was mindful the ‘ladies’ would be meeting us shortly in the cafe downstairs so a purchase of this magnitude for myself probably would’t be wise given the day that’s in it. An 11 yo crystal malt sherry cask is also offered for filling which is again a distillery exclusive.

DSCF6087 email
Bottle yer own! c/othewhiskeynut

Along with the usual array of branded clothes – glasses and bottles available to purchase in the roomy shop area there were a fine collection of books pertaining to both whiskey and Dublin too. I spotted Jim Murray’s 2016 Whisky Bible and after all the fuss made about his winning dram – I couldn’t resist buying a copy.

It pleased me very much that to date – Jim hadn’t yet rated the fabulous 23 yo Teeling – nor for that matter the fabulous Eschenbrenner Spessart Amber I’d  purchased in Berlin!

I may be short of the 4000 plus samples he’s tasted but at least I’ve had a few he hasn’t!

I don’t know if Jim has visited Teeling’s yet. He won’t be disappointed when he does – and neither will you.

DSCF6088 email
Teeling’s awaits you. c/othewhiskeynut

The staff are very friendly and informative. The food is great. The building has modern clean lines and the whiskeys are divine!

A working distillery in the heart of Dublin. There hasn’t been one for over 40 years.

Isn’t it about time you paid it a visit?

Slainte

Good Logo

 

O’Connell’s, Galway.

O’Connell’s on Eyre Square is handily situated a stones throw from the railway station and my train home.

The outside of the premises looks like an old shop with the large open window at the front allowing a view into the bar inside.

Indeed O’Connell’s used to be a grocers – operating alongside the pub – which is still a feature of many a more traditional Irish bar. The grocery is long gone now – but a lovely patterned tiled floor remains to remind you of former times.

DSCF5915 email
O’Connell’s tiled floor from bygone days c/othewhiskeynut

I’m surprised I could still hold the camera steady enough to capture a snap after all the great whiskey I’d had during my day on the Galway Whiskey Trail – and seeing as this was my last venue – I threw caution to the wind and went for 2 expressions from the fine array of bottles perched on wooden shelves behind the bar.

DSCF5919 email
O’Connell’s bar & whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

A Titanic was very quickly spotted with the friendly and informative staff giving me a brief lowdown on the heritage of this Cooley made discontinued brand.

As I’d previously met Peter Lavery – the brands owner – at the 2014 Irish Whiskey Awards – and turned down the Titanic in favour of Baileys Whiskey in Tigh Neachtain’s earlier – I loved the opportunity to plug the gap in my whiskey tasting experience.

Glass duly in hand I sat down below the front window on a long bench beside the growing number of customers to enjoy the lovely mellow and sweet – smooth tasting tipple from the Belfast Distillery Company. Such a delight. Pity it’s no longer around.

At times like this I do ponder if the mood and general wellbeing of the taster- as well as the ambience of the premises and conviviality of fellow drinkers – influences the resulting ratings given to any particular dram.

It wasn’t just the whiskey warming me to this lovely pub. The conversation was flowing too – and the heat was definitely on with warm air being pumped into the large bar area from under the bench.

You’ll have to excuse the musical interlude to commerorate the passing of yet another musical icon – Glen Frey.

O’Connell’s also boasts a more traditional lounge area at the back – along with a beer garden to compliment the rather unique setting of the front bar. I certainly enjoyed it. So much so that when I chatted to the staff and spotted a bottle of Crown Royal – I couldn’t pass it by.

Crown Royal Deluxe is the entry level blend from the now famous Canadian distiller whose Northern Rye expression is the Best Whisky In The World  2016 – according to Jim Murray. I was curious to see what the fuss was all about.

From the initial sweet aroma of the rye – the smooth creamy mouthfeel and complex taste together with the lovely warm finish – this is certainly a different flavour profile to the Irish whiskeys sampled before. I can see why Jim rates this brand and I’m sure I’ll seek out other opportunities to try it. I wasn’t disappointed!

DSCF5920 email
Some of the whiskeys for sale c/othewhiskeynut

A glance at the time roused me from my revelry. With less than 5 minutes before the last train home I hurriedly made my way to the station.

The ticket collector was already shouting out the imminent departure as I – and a few other stragglers – ran along the platform. I’d only got round to taking my jacket off before the train started rolling. Talk about cutting it fine!

At only half seven in the evening – I’d be having an early night – but considering my first whiskey was at half ten that morning – it would be welcome.

My Galway Whiskey Trail adventure was a wonderful experience.

So many pubs.

So many new expressions sampled and plenty more yet to taste.

So much help and advice from the friendly staff and so much craic from the customers.

I’d do it all again!

When will you do the Galway Whiskey Trail?

Maybe I’ll tag along?

Sláinte,

Good Logo

 

Tigh Neachtain, Galway.

On leaving The Dail Bar in my Galway Whiskey Trail adventure – I’d popped across the road from the pub and into another famous Galway institution – Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop.

Charlie’s is a cornacopia of culture and literature. Over the years I’ve picked up a few titles related to my poison of choice. One of them being the famous – or infamous depending on your point of view – Jim Murray’s ‘A Taste Of Irish Whiskey’ which has given me lots of source information regarding distilleries and brands – particularly the old Cooley brands I’ve been enjoying today.

Going into a book shop half cut probably has it’s risks – but on seeing ‘How To Cure A Hangover’ by Andrew Irving in the drinks section I couldn’t resist buying it considering I could be experiencing one next morning!

DSCF6005 email
Too much of one and you might need the other! c/othewhiskeynut

Back to the trail.

Tigh Neachtain’s occupies a prominent corner spot made all the more striking by the deep blue colour scheme and attractive murals outside. Inside it’s a warren of wooden nooks and crannies where you can loose yourself in conversation and craic. Most of the snugs were busily occupied  by cheery customers when I visited so once more I happily found a spot by the bar.

DSCF5910 email
Some of the whiskeys in Tigh Neachtain’s c/othewhiskeynut

Suitably situated to spy on the whiskey shelves I quickly spotted the Titanic. NOT the doomed ocean liner now – NOR the DiCaprio-Winslet love story either – but another discontinued Cooley expression for the Belfast Distilling Company.

But wait a minute – what’s that?

A rather tatty & worn whiskey bottle was retrieved from the shelves and placed on the counter for me to inspect. Bailey’s The Whiskey – I didn’t even realise they’d done a whiskey!

‘Don’t know much about it.’ proffered the bar tender,

‘Bailey’s did make a whiskey but pulled it at the last moment before the launch for some reason. There’s not much of it about now, but we have a bottle or two.’

Despite the higher price incurred by the rarity – and visions of a sickly sweet and creamy whiskey like a Bailey’s Original liqueur – I just had to give it a go.

DSCF5907 email
Bailey’s The Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Mmmmmm!

Well yes it is sweet – but not overpoweringly so – and well within the taste experience of other whiskeys I’ve had. It’s also very smooth with a very satisfying whiskey rush.

Very nice!

Why Bailey’s binned this lovely tipple is beyond me. I did an internet search when I got home and found very little. The best I could find from the Irish Whiskey Society chat site is the following;

‘In 1997, the innovation team at Grand Metropolitan’s spirits division International Distillers and Vintners were about to extend the franchise of the “Baileys” Irish cream liqueur brand. The idea was to turn Baileys – a cream base containing among other things Irish whiskey – into an Irish whiskey base containing cream, chocolate, vanilla etc. The concept was revealed “exclusively” in the “Irish Independent” newspaper on 12th November 1977. A follow-up piece on 12th March 1988 confirmed that the product – now named as “Baileys. The Whiskey” was to be tested in the Dublin market prior to a wider rollout in Ireland and the UK. Before it could go much further however, “Baileys. The Whiskey” ran into a major obstacle in the shape of the Scotch Whisky Association and the European regulations on spirits drinks. The production method used to create “Baileys. The Whiskey” involved finishing the spirit in casks that had been infused with the key flavouring elements from the “Baileys Cream Liqueur” product. This technique was marginal in terms of its adherence to the EU regulations and while in normal times, the management of IDV would have fought its case these were not normal times. IDV’s parent Grand Met had just merged with Guinness PLC to create Diageo in December 1997 and IDV Managing Director John McGrath was in the Chairman’s seat at the SWA. When it became apparent to the wider business that Baileys were engaged in a whisky project that would push the legal boundaries of the EU whisky definition, there were some rapid and terse discussions. The industry was still absorbing the formation of a formidable new lead player in the shape of Diageo and any row with the SWA over what the Association would regard as a non-compliant product would embarrass John McGrath and potentially tarnish his SWA Chairmanship. The decision was taken quickly and effectively. “Baileys. The Whiskey” would be withdrawn with immediate effect. News of the brand’s demise does not appear to have entered the public domain and in the continuing turmoil that marked the integration of the Guinness and Grand Met businesses within Diageo, the project was quickly consigned to history. It is not certain how many bottles ever made it into the Irish licensed trade but it is likely that this is one of only a handful of bottles still in existence. The distinctive bottle departed from the “Baileys Liqueur” pack although the front label retained a family look with a bronzed landscape. In gold beneath this label is a specially composed ode to the spirit.’

Compass Box may not be the only whisky company to arouse the SWA rule book!

Unless anyone has any other theories as to the disappearance of Bailey’s The Whiskey – the above premise is all I can go on. Another site did suggest the team that put the whiskey together went on to form Castle Brands Clontarf brand.

Whatever the truth – this is a great dram.

I enjoyed it so much I ended up walking out of the pub without paying!

What else can I say? All apologies.

‘Down with this sort of thing!’ as Father Ted used to say.

Even in my inebriated state there is no excuse for such bad behaviour!

I’m glad to say Tigh Neachtain were very understanding when they contacted me.

After settling my debt I’ll even be allowed back in again!

Which is nice.

As this is a gem of a bar!

Sláinte

Good Logo

 

 

Freeney’s, Galway.

Freeney’s is another one of those lovely old bars that genuinely look like the modern world outside just passed them by. It didn’t pass The Jam by however.

The gently worn wooden panels along the bar have the imprint of many happy customers – the shelves gently sag with the weight of a wealth of whiskey – the open fire gently warms the lounge area – what is there not to like about the inside of this establishment?

DSCF5894 email
Freeney’s whiskey bar c/othewhiskeynut

As by now is a habit of mine – my original choice of whiskey was not available – well not in a glass anyway.

Michael Collins Single Malt is another one of those discontinued Cooley expressions that are out there. I previously polished off a bottle of the enjoyable Michael Collins Blend and was intrigued to find out if the single was equally as good.

DSCF5459 email
My empty Micheal Collins Blend c/othewhiskeynut

Alas – they only sold it by the bottle.

Freeney’s doubles as an off-licence too – and despite being tempted – this expression is increasingly difficult to get hold of – I reminded myself there were another 4 pubs to visit on my Galway Whiskey Trail adventure and perhaps lugging around a full and fragile bottle of whiskey perhaps wasn’t the wisest thing to do considering my increasingly intoxicated state.

Again I scanned the shelves – trying to figure out which expressions were sold by the bottle and those by the glass – and spotted yet another Cooley brand – Irish Fiddler.

Irish Fiddler twitter
Irish Fiddler Whiskey c/otwitter

As the bottle looked half empty I was confident that a dram would soon be procured for my pleasure. Indeed it was – and in a Glencairn glass too – something which the more discerning whiskey bars provide and pleases me as well.

Irish Fiddler Whiskey turned out to be a fairly decent example of a soft – sweet Irish blended whiskey. The grain element wasn’t overpowering but then neither was the overall taste or finish. Another standard blend produced by Cooley for a third party – something the distillery excelled in under the tenure of John Teeling – just who is satisfying this market now?

DSCF5890 email
Whiskey display and regulars in Freeney’s c/othewhiskeynut

The photos I fired off at this pub were a little off focus when I viewed them a few days later – obviously mirroring my deteriorating senses due to the lovely whiskeys I’d enjoyed.

Despite all that – Freeney’s is a bar I’ve visited before in my pre-whiskey love affair days – and is a bar I’ll certainly be going back to in the future.

Sláinte,

Good Logo

 

Kilbeggan / Cooley Distillery part 2

Prior to the Beam/Suntory takeover of the Kilbeggan/Cooley distillery, it was the only independently owned distillery in Ireland. (This situation has altered again due to the many new entrants into the market). A number of brand names were dropped from the portfolio during the changing process which has led to exciting developments in the Irish Whiskey industry.

Locke's Single Malt Crock c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop
Locke’s Single Malt Crock c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop

The 1st notable omission from the current line-up is Locke’s Single Malt.This is a fine example of a smooth tasting pot still Irish whiskey. The fact that the Locke’s family ran the Kilbeggan distillery for over 100 years through the ups and downs of the whiskey trade and that there name was synonymous with a good dram – it seems a startling miss out. For further reading there is a very informative book – “Locke’s Distillery, A History.” by Andrew Bielenberg, produced for the 250th anniversary of the distillery. Well worth getting hold off. I got my copy at the Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society shop in Tullamore.

Locke's Distillery A History c/o Whiskey Nut
Locke’s Distillery A History c/o Whiskey Nut

The main beneficiaries of the sale to Beam were the Teeling family. Brothers Jack and Stephen wasted no time reinvesting their share in building the 1st new distillery to be opened in Dublin for 125 years. I’ve been lucky to have visited it already. It’s a grand building and will produce some very fine whiskeys indeed judging by the Teeling releases currently out there which are all presently spirit made at Kilbeggan/Cooley. There is a must see documentary called “The Whiskey Business” soon to be screened on Irish TV on June 5th which follows the boys making their dreams come true.

Teeling Single Malt c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop
Teeling Single Malt c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop

Father John is also building a grain distillery at Dundalk – no doubt to supply his sons (and others) with one of the main ingredients for blended whiskey.

There are a number of other clients who previously sourced their spirit at Kilbeggan/Cooley who have gone on to develop their own distilleries.

Slane Castle Whiskey c/o independent.ie
Slane Castle Whiskey c/o independent.ie

Slane Castle Whiskey is in Co. Meath and is part of an estate famous for holding outdoor rock concerts. The Foo Fighters play this year – if you fancy that!

Peter Lavery c/o belfastmediagroup.com
Peter Lavery c/o belfastmediagroup.com

Lottery winner Peter Lavery previously released the Titanic and Danny Boy whiskey brands. He is now behind the release of McConnell’s Irish Whiskey prior to the development of Crumlin Gaol in Belfast as a whiskey distillery.

Michael Collins Whiskey c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop
Michael Collins Whiskey c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop

Meanwhile – a whiskey I have tasted and enjoyed – Michael Collins – is taking a rather different approach. The Sidney Frank Importing Co is suing Beam for the cessation of it’s whiskey stocks!

There is also the rather unknown quantity of “own label” brands – supermarket chains for example -that would have got their spirit from Kilbeggan/Cooley. This is a major business – but often hard to get information on. The requirement is only to state which country produced the whiskey – not the distillery – but Kilbeggan/Cooley under Teeling supplied this lucrative market.

O'Reilly's Irish Whiskey c/o eluxo.pl
O’Reilly’s Irish Whiskey c/o eluxo.pl

One example is O’Reilly’s Irish Whiskey which is available in Tesco’s. It has the Cooley Business address on the back. It is still on the shelves at present so whether stocks have been secured post Beam – or pre Beam – I don’t know. I’ve aslo not tasted it. But it is an example of the many different labels a distilleries output can end up in!

The above are only a small sample of whiskeys manufactured at Kilbeggan/Cooley during the time John Teeling was at the helm – 1987 to 2012. Many are no more – but some may survive. I certainly enjoy hunting them down and experiencing the differing tastes and styles on display – marvelling that they were all produced at the same distillery!

Slainte

Whiskey Nut

Future Irish Distilleries. Part 1.

It’s not very often that an opportunity arises of being shown around a new, soon to be completed distillery in Dublin City by it’s esteemed master blender.

According to the websites of both Teeling Whiskey and Single Pot Still Whiskey it’s been 125 years since such an event occurred.

Trying to track down which actual distillery they are eluding to proved a little more difficult. Contenders are The Phoenix Park Distillery  which some have opening in 1900, but others in 1878, and The Dublin City Distillery of Great Brunswick Street which was formed in 1890, but it’s unclear if the distillery was situated at this spot or elsewhere, as the company was allied to a failing Banagher Distillery and the venture collapsed by 1905.

1890 wasn’t a great time to invest in whiskey as the boom years of the 1860’s to 1880’s were showing signs of faltering. The growing rise of blended whiskey, world war, independence, civil war, prohibition and economic isolation all led to the collapse of Irish Whiskey from being the Worlds Finest, to a mere footnote. By 1966 only 2 distilleries remained in Dublin, Powers and Jameson but with the formation of Irish Distillers and the merging of production to Midleton by the 1970’s there were none –  Dublin ceased to be the Whiskey Capital of the World.

The Teeling Whiskey Distillery (TWD) opening is therefore an historic and monumental occasion signifying the growing rebirth in Irish Whiskey.

Busy at work in Teeling Whiskey Distillery c/o thewhiskeynut
Busy at work in Teeling Whiskey Distillery c/o thewhiskeynut

I’m going to add a piece of music at this point – borrowed from a Teeling promo video – you can listen as you read. Everything about Teeling is Louder – Louder aroma – Louder taste and I’ll sing their praises – Louder!

TWD is situated in the former whiskey heartland of the Liberties and it’s not hard to miss the scaffolding, cranes, hard hats and hi-vis vests that currently (April 2014) obscure the view of the Kilkenny Marble and zinc sheeting facade that will be the visitors centre and pot still manufacturing distillery for Teeling.

Alex Chasko c/o Whiskey Nut
Alex Chasko c/o Whiskey Nut

Alex Chasko kindly took time out to show a bunch of Celtic Whiskey Club fans around his prized new facility. The front half of the building will hold the reception area, cafe, shop, tasting area and bars spread over 2 spacious floors.

The back part of the building houses the business end – the actual distillery – where the basic ingredients of barley, water and heat are combined in such a way to produce the raw spirit that is then aged in a variety of barrels to give us the marvelous drink that is whiskey.

A mezzanine walkway guides the visitor round an impressive array of wooden washbacks, shiny copper pot stills, complicated stainless steel pipework all infused with lovely aromas. The passion Alex has for his craft of distilling clearly shone through as he emphasised the finely controlled pot still heating system installed, the extra feints collector added to improve total control of the finished product – all experience gained whilst working at Cooley. In fact – most of Teelings main players learned their trade at Cooley so this distillery already has many years of knowledge that is being put to good use in the design of this facility.

Pot Stills and Still Safe c/o Whiskey Nut
Pot Stills and Still Safe c/o Whiskey Nut

Normally – visitors would proceed to the tasting area – crafted to look like the inside of a whiskey barrel at TWD – but as the workmen were still busily adding the finishing touches Alex led up to a balcony and out to the welcoming sunshine for a  very informative Q&A session helped along with a superb rum finished single bottled in 1999 and a 2004 burgundy finished single. Alex is going to be a very busy man indeed for the next few years. Not only does he have to oversee the opening, running and operation of the new distillery, he has to manage the old stocks secured from Cooley as well as marrying the new stock from TWD to continue the excellent range currently on offer and produce some new exciting expressions from the Dublin plant. I think he can’t wait to get stuck in! The innovative culture that Cooley created in launching new styles of Irish Whiskey to the market clearly forms a large part of the Teeling ethos.Based on their track record so far – and where they intend to go – the future of Irish Whiskey is very bright indeed with Teeling!

Teeling Whiskey samples c/o Whiskey Nut
Teeling Whiskey samples c/o Whiskey Nut

So – onto the current range.

Small Batch c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop
Small Batch c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop

Teeling Small Batch   A blended whiskey using grain (there will be no grain spirit produced at TWD – it’s envisaged that element will come from John Teeling’s new grain distillery venture The Great Northern Distillery at Dundalk) and malt, finished in rum casks to produce a full bodied taste. As far as I can tell – this is the 1st rum finished blend of Irish Whiskey on the market and very nice it is too.   B+

Single Grain c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop
Single Grain c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop

Teeling Single Grain   Single Grain is a relatively rare beast for both Ireland and Scotland, but Teeling have pulled off a superb example of this style by finishing this expression in wine casks. It adds a lovely smooth and creamy taste to the dram. There’s no surprise this whiskey has won awards.  B+

Single Malt c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop
Single Malt c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop

Teeling Single Malt   Wow! I never got round to actually tasting this before as I just assumed (correctly) all Teeling expressions were great – but I didn’t realise just how great! Again – finishing in a variety of barrels adds so much aroma, taste and flavours  to this dram it’s simply stunning!   A+

These are the standard expressions – I haven’t tried the premium range of 21, 26 and 30 year olds – nor the Poitin – but I’m pretty sure they’ll all be stunning too.

Here’s hoping that Alex – and all the crew at TWD – continue to uphold the excellent releases mainly based on spirit laid down at Cooley/Kilbeggan. I certainly feel confident they will add yet more new and exciting releases to their portfolio when the spirit from Dublin matures.

If you haven’t tried a Teeling yet – now is the time – they are all a cut above the rest.

The future of Irish Whiskey is clear, the future is Teeling.