The taste certainly reminds me of an American bourbon.
The couple behind the whiskey are American.
Yet this is an Irish Whiskey that happened to be the first I encountered at the excellent Whiskey Live Dublin 2018 show.
‘Is there any buckwheat in the mix?’ was my opener at the stall.
‘No’ was the reply – followed by an enthusiastic & open explanation of how this whiskey came about.
It’s a 10 year old sourced Irish Single Malt Whiskey that new entrants Irish Whitetail Distillery have finished in an unusually innovative & probably controversial manner.
Rather than put the malt into wood – they have put the wood into the malt!
Chunks of heavily charred African mahogany effectively free float in a vat of single malt for a period of time.
The results definitely pleased my palate!
The soft smooth barley entry was accentuated with rich warming vanilla & caramel notes reminiscent of a good bourbon. A heavier, darker element of cherry – along with a mildly drying spice rounded up the experience.
Will it catch on?
I don’t know.
I wish Irish Whitetail Distillery future success with their great tasting venture – but await discord.
I remember visiting the building site that became the Teeling Whiskey Distillery here.
I remember my first visit to the working distillery here.
And I remember drinking their new make Poitin – distilled in Dublin – here.
So it’s a great treat to eventually getting round to tasting their first official whiskey.
All previous Teeling releases are sourced. I’ve enjoyed a fair few of them over the years so this young Single Pot Still has a very high bar to follow – some might say an impossible task – so does it make the grade?
Well – it Smells Like Teen Spirit!
The idea that a just-over-3yr-old Single Pot Still can match the complexity & depth of flavour of malts matured in a variety of barrels for at least 5 years or more – much more in many cases – is frankly ridiculous.
This Single Pot Still is fresh, lively & exuberant.
There’s plenty of sweet fresh fruit on the nose with just a hint of sour new make in the background.
Initially a smooth fruity mouthfeel develops into a dry peppery spice with a good deal of prickly heat.
The dry spices fade leaving a clean tropical fruit finish.
I actually really enjoy it – but it’s hardly an easy smooth tannic laden whiskey of hidden depth & character. It’s a little rough around the edges – nothing a few more years wouldn’t sort out.
But then this whiskey was never meant to be the finished item.
It’s a work in progress to highlight the maturing process – to keep the adoring fans happy – to keep Teeling in the limelight and to earn a bit of return too.
It’s a historical bottling with a release of 6,000 at an affordable price.
It’s presented at 46% – and like all Teeling releases – there is no chill filtering nor added caramel.
A nice touch is the light blue label which mirrors the Dublin GAA colours.
With prices for whiskey going ever upwards – and punters bidding for bottles at eye-watering figures – I can’t but draw similarities to the Dublin housing market.
A market that is excluding the ordinary buyer who is effectively being priced out by speculators with larger pockets who appear to neither live in – nor drink their purchases.
Thank goodness for Aldi entering the market like a breath of fresh air!
Let’s go Aldi Way – to rehash a song.
Aldi have released a quality Irish Single Malt at an affordable price – throughout their Irish stores at least.
It’s not just any old malt either.
It’s from one of the new breed of Irish whiskey companies that are throwing up new faces, new flavours & new styles into the market.
I eagerly queued up to purchase my bottle of Tipperary Watershed Single Malt.
It’s a sourced malt – whilst Tipperary Boutique Distillery plough on with plans to build a distillery on their own farm that provides the water to cut this whiskey down to a pleasing 47% ABV – and will provide the barley for future releases.
The colour is a pale gold with decent legs on show.
A fresh, lively, slightly metallic nose with hints of vanilla greets you.
A lovely warming mouthfeel pulls you in with more vanilla & caramel from the bourbon cask maturation.
There’s some enjoyable warming heat towards the finish which goes a pleasingly long way with the higher ABV presentation delivering a satisfying prickly sensation on the palate.
A great introductory malt from the Tipperary Boutique Distillery.
And a great single malt to pick up whilst doing your weekly shopping.
I commend both Tipperary Boutique Distillery and Aldi for pushing the Irish Whiskey category forward.
My recent travels through Dublin Airport happily coincided with the much heralded release of the Pearse 5 Year Old Cask Strength bottling.
It’s much heralded as it’s the first release from any of the new young bucks of Irish Whiskey Distilleries to hold such an age statement & to have been distilled by their own pot stills – even if in this case the pot stills were originally fired up in County Carlow before being moved into the marvelous surroundings of the magnificent Pearse Lyons Distillery in St James Church, Dublin.
That’s right – a church.
All praise be to whiskey.
The 12th Century church & graveyard was closed for worshipers in 1963 and subsequently fell into decay. It has been wonderfully & painstakingly restored by the Peasre Lyons Distillery team and you can read all about it here.
But back to the whiskey.
Despite being early in the morning – I accepted the sample proffered by the ambassador.
A big hit of cask strength whiskey to blow the old cobwebs away!
Plenty of spirit in this one – but not much going on in the flavour department for me.
Definitely one to be watered down a touch.
Thankfully on my return there was a little package waiting for me.
Many thanks to all at Pearse Lyons for the pretty sample bottle of Pearse 5 Year Old Single Malt at 46%.
Suitably pale in colour – there is no added caramel nor chill filtering in this ex-bourbon cask matured whiskey.
The nose is light, citrusy & fresh. I’d go so far to say a hint of lemon in here.
Soft malty freshness continued in the taste department with a slight spiciness & long mellow finish bringing up the finish.
This isn’t a whiskey that slaps you around the cheeks on first tasting. It’s a gentle, quieter introduction that smooths & caresses as it goes down.
You could say the subtlety and freshness is it’s strength.
Pity it’s a bit lost on me – I’m more a fan of big, bad & bold flavours.
If subtlety is your thing – there are only 1000 bottles of the Cask Strength & 4000 of the Single Malt out there. The Cask Strength is an Airport Exclusive – but happily the Single Malt is already available in the SuperValu chain of stores around the country.
Especially when Dublin is the departing airport with it’s marvelous display of Irish Whiskey – and other countries whiskies too.
A bonus is to try out some of the latest new releases and travel retail exclusives.
By good fortune Bushmills were showcasing their Steamship Collection – including the latest and what seems to be the last bottling of the trilogy.
Named after the SS Bushmills steamhip which supplied the thirsty American market back in the late 1800’s – the trio are all triple distilled single malts presented at 40%.
The first Sherry Cask release didn’t seem to be well received at the time. I felt it lacked a flavour punch myself – but was otherwise a decent sherry bomb style of whiskey and despite initial criticism – seems to be selling well.
The Port Cask release was much more suited to my tastes. Rich sweet dark cherry notes. Nice!
I would have predicted the Port Cask to be my favourite – but then I tried the Bourbon Cask.
The enticingly fruity warm vanilla & caramel notes associated with re-charred casks instantly won me over. There was added depth & flavour to this expression. A lovely warm glow enveloped my palate.
The results of re-charring the casks may not be to everyone’s tastes – but the boosted notes certainly work on me.
Standing outside the Whiskey Live Dublin event after the first session – shooting the breeze with a few fellow attendees – a gentleman passed by whistling away to himself. Only when he stopped to chat did we realise it was none other than Pat Cooney, founding father of the Boann Distillery in Drogheda, County Meath, and after whom their sourced range of single malt whiskeys are named!
It reminded me I never actually got round to sampling the 2 miniature malts I was given as part of my very enjoyable & informative tour of the distillery last summer!
At the time of my visit the Green Engineering stills were in situ and made a very impressive sight contrasting with the glass & wood of the statement building.
The pipework meanwhile hadn’t been connected – although I now believe it has – and I’m certainly looking forward to the start – or should that be re-start? – of distillation in Drogheda.
In the meantime – to bridge the gap – the current unnamed sourced range comprises of the 7 & 10 year old – my 2 samples – as well as a cask strength 7 year old. There are other expressions outside of Ireland too.
All are non chill filtered & presented naturally coloured at 46% – or a powerful 59% for the cask strength which certainly packs a punch.
The 7 year old – otherwise known as The Blue Note – comes over very subtle on the nose for me. A hit of alcohol faded to reveal gentle vanilla followed by a dry metallic sherry influence.
The 10 year old – otherwise known as How The Years Whistle By – provided a softer, smoother & more woody influence with it’s extra 3 years maturation.
The tasting continued in this vein. Both were crisp & clear expressions with orchard fruit notes merging into that dry prickly sensation I enjoy. Again the 10yo exhibited more warming vanilla & caramel from the bourbon cask maturation which elevated the flavours – cue for a song.
Both had suitably long finishes with enjoyable heat.
I found them rather safe standard bearers of bourbon cask matured, sherry finished Irish single malts exhibiting that delightful orchard fruit feeling with subtle sherry notes intertwined. A lot of people like them – awards have been won too – but I must admit to preferring something a bit more bolder & stronger flavoured. The softer sublime & more subtle – perhaps even more balanced notes – are a little lost on me.
What isn’t lost on me however is the quiet determination & hard work all the Cooney family have put into the Boann Distillery site. Behind the gleaming copper, glass & wood of the actual distillery is a large working brewery which produces some tasty beers & ciders under the Boyne Brewhouse & Cooney’s Irish Cider brand names.
There is also a very large modern bottling facility which was hard at work on the day I visited.
I also cannot fault the hospitality & warmth of the Cooney family members. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting them on a number of occasions. They all display a well deserved sense of pride & passion in what they are trying to achieve & build with this combined distillery & brewery project just off the main M1 motorway north of Dublin.
I congratulate their present achievements and wish them continued future success.
It also happens to be one of the most sought after whiskies in the world with prices going through the roof & distilleries cancelling sales of age statement malts to conserve stocks.
Which is all a bit of a conundrum for sticklers of whisky rules and regulations – as Japan has none.
Doesn’t seem to have damaged their reputation for making fine malts by my reckoning.
Anyway – I’m in this bar – The Rag Trader in Dublin if you need to know – and I’m looking for a whisky I’ve not tried before. Nikka All Malt – in a rather unusually designed bottle – catches my eye – so a glass is duly ordered.
Now the All Malt is a blend of 3 types of malt from the Nikka empire.
Miyagikyou distillery malt, Yoichi distillery malt – which tends to be peated, and Coffey malt – that is barley malt which has been distilled in a Coffey still. Makes for a lovely combination in my book.
I’ve had some Yoichi Single Malt in the past and enjoyed the smoky peat flavours. Coffey Malt also impressed me. Partly because of it’s unusual manufacture – but I found the taste quite appealing. So I was looking forward to this one.
Now at 40% it’s probably chill filtered and colouring has been added.
It starts quite slowly. Soft, rich toffees & smooth. Some fruity notes appear before a lovely malt biscuity peat takes over. It’s not over powering – just very pleasant ashy smoke that raises the enjoyment of this lovely little All Malt for me. On the finish there are some more fruity notes to round things off.
A pleasingly pleasant easy sipper.
If you haven’t tried Japanese whisky before this is a relatively affordable expression to start with. It may not have that ‘wow’ factor – but there is enough flavour satisfaction to keep it interesting and certainly for me – very enjoyable.
Which translates as Kanpai – or Sláinte in Japanese.
Well I – and a host of others – eagerly awaited the Irish launch of this much anticipated whiskey in the fine surroundings of The Rag Trader bar in Dublin’s fair city.
The actual Dead Rabbit bar is in New York. It’s the creation of founders Sean & Jack from Northern Ireland. Despite being only a stones throw from the mighty Hudson River, when you enter, it’s like being transported back to a local watering hole by the banks of the River Shannon.
Awards have been won, there are queues to get in, there is some slick & clever marketing & it’s a very enjoyable experience drinking and dining inside the friendly establishment.
And then there’s the rabbit.
To celebrate their 5 years in business the Dead Rabbit have launched their own whiskey. Not surprisingly it’s a 5 year old sourced blend. This follows a long tradition of pubs & grocers releasing their own distinctive whiskeys which are a mixture of spirits from a variety of sources blended to their own requirements.
So does it match the hype?
In one word – yes!
Now there were plenty of cocktails around – but I’m an old fashioned – ahem – kind of guy – so neat Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey it was for me.
A lovely woody nose enticed me in. The virgin oak finish had worked it’s charms.
The palate began softly. Gentle fruity notes developed into more robust woody tannins with a lovely rich spice which tingled on the tongue as it slowly faded away.
Suitably robust yet soft & spicy all at the same time.
The Dead Rabbit’s done good.
Many thanks to Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey for the invite & use of the Rabbit image for the blog.
There has been an explosion of new Irish whiskeys in recent years. A trend that is likely to increase as the next generation of Irish whiskey distilleries begin to release their own produce.
Another phenomenon of the re-birth of the Irish whiskey scene is the growing number of whiskey bars releasing their own bottlings.
Local to myself in the Midlands, Hugh Lynch’s Bar in Tullamore & Sean’s Bar in Athlone have both released approachable & enjoyable blended Irish whiskey offerings under their own label – both produced for them by West Cork Distillers.
Generally these releases are only available in their bar of origin. Which makes a good excuse for a journey to sample them in their natural habitat – in the pub full of ceol agus craic. Always a bonus in my book!
However when passing through Dublin Airport a while ago I did notice a quartet of whiskeys under the Temple Bar logo.
Not content with releasing the obligatory blended offering – Temple Bar have taken it a step further and are offering a trio of age statement single malts at 10, 12 & 15 years old.
I didn’t ascertain where they were sourced from – there are only a few choices at this age – but they were all what I’d call standard bourbon matured Irish whiskeys.
That’s not to say they weren’t good – all of them are far better than the blend offering a richer, smoother & more flavoursome experience for the discerning drinker.
There were subtle differences between all 3 – but for me the 12 year old proved to be the sweet spot.
The combination of rich vanilla & caramel notes from the bourbon cask combined with some woody tannin notes from the oak barrel won me over.
Having a taster in the airport lounge before a long flight wouldn’t be the ideal spot to really savour these malts. That will have to wait for a visit to the actual Temple Bar in Dublin where a flight of all 4 whiskeys in the comfortable lounge area can be truly appreciated.
Factories, farms, garden sheds or industrial units in which whiskey is manufactured.
They come in all shapes & sizes.
And they are as attractive to whiskey fans as bees are to honey.
To see them, feel them, touch them & smell them.
To experience the characters & the stories that lie behind them.
And to engage with them in their natural environment whether it be surrounded by fields of barley swaying in the wind, salt laden breezes on the wild Atlantic coast or gently rolling green countryside. The environment that ultimately shapes & molds the whiskey into the wonderful array of tastes & smells of the spirit in your favourite glass.
To this end I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to try and put together a trip encapsulating all the new, planned & existing whiskey distilleries in Ireland in one big tour.
Logistically & timescale wise this proved to be a bit of a whiskey marathon spaced out over a week – so a game of 2 halves was suggested.
Hit The North is the inaugural first half covering the Irish distilleries north of an arbitrary line from Dublin to Galway.
Look out for my future posts covering how the trip went!