Tag Archives: Ireland

Kilbeggan Distilling Co Miniature Irish Whiskey Collection

Miniature gift sets make ideal gifts – they also make for an enjoyable tasting session.

Back to back comparisons very soon show up the range & diversity of flavours, styles & tastes from any whiskey distillery’s output – and the drinker will very quickly discern the particular flavour profile suitable for their individual palate.

I recently picked up the revamped Kilbeggan Distilling Co Irish Whiskey Collection at my local Kilbeggan Distillery in Westmeath – flag bearer to the Beam/Suntory owned sister Cooley Distillery in Louth where the bulk of the whiskey is made.

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Cooley Distillery name plaque c/othewhiskeynut

I got things rolling with ‘The Complex One’ – the Kilbeggan Single Grain.

Showing its new livery – along with the other featured brands – and a boosted 43% ABV with additional maturation in sherry & wine casks – this softly sweet Single Grain displayed a pleasingly varied range of flavours, a little prickly spice & warming heat on the satisfyingly long finish.

A great introductory single grain whiskey.

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Which one would you choose? c/othewhiskeynut

The ‘Sweet One’ came next. Kilbeggan Traditional Irish Whiskey – or a blended whiskey to you and me.

Now I must admit to having a soft spot for this blend. On blind tastings it always comes out vying for top spot within the category.

Easy, approachable, but with enough maltiness & depth of flavour to keep it interesting – this is an entry level blend that never disappoints.

The ‘Fruity One’ came in at 100 to 1 – or at least the famous horse the Tyrconnell Single Malt is named after did.

This is the non aged statement (NAS) version of a brand that has many cask finished & age statemented brothers & sisters to explore.

Ex bourbon barrel maturation only allows a warm fruitiness to shine through with a crisper, cleaner taste experience for my palate at least. Very nice.

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Old & new labels c/othewhiskeynut

The final offering is ‘The Smoky One’ – the Connemara Single Malt.

The Connemara range is sadly reduced to just this NAS – and the 12 year old. Gone for the time being are the fabulous 22 year old and Turf Mór expressions. Which is a pity – as peated Irish whiskey is an underrepresented flavour profile within the market.

The smoke in this single malt is rather dry & ashy, complimented by some gentle sweetness. There isn’t much complexity, but its a style I love – and I go out of my way to seek its pleasures.

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I got my Turf Mór! c/othewhiskeynut

There isn’t a bad whiskey in this range.

Just 4 differing styles & types of Irish Whiskey.

You have the single grain, the single malt & the blend combining both – along with that rare commodity in Irish Whiskey – peat.

I’d have to give my top pick to the smoky Connemara – even if the Tyrconnell has more complexity within its softer & subtler flavours.

Choosing between the Kilbeggan Single Grain or Blend is also a tough call – but I’d plump for the Single Grain. Simply because the wonderful flavours within showcase what a wonderful whisky a decent single grain can be.

Which one would you pick?

Sláinte.

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Natterjack Irish Whiskey, 40%, Blend

I first started hearing about Natterjack Whiskey about 2 years ago.

Such are the lead in times to get a brand to market – let alone building a distillery in Kilmacthomas, County Waterford.

Keen to try out this newcomer to Irish Whiskey – but conscious I’d break the bank buying every bottle – a bar was found.

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P Mac’s in Dublin c/othewhiskeynut

P Mac’s in Dublin’s city centre suited my needs perfectly.

A tempting stock of whiskey had me wavering – but a short window of opportunity between 2 appointments meant I only had time to kiss the toad!

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Have you #kissedthetoad yet? c/othewhiskeynut

I’ve enjoyed the marketing behind this brand.

It’s fresh, it’s novel and it’s exciting.

The Natterjack toad motif on the bottle is also eye catching – but what of the liquid inside?

A distinctively ‘sweet & sour’ mix on the nose.

It’s a note new to Irish Whiskey – but one I’ve encountered before – mainly on young corn whiskeys from America. That is whiskey containing at least 80% corn in the mash bill – according to US rules.

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The bold back. c/othewhiskeynut

As Natterjack is an Irish Whiskey – US rules don’t apply – and it would be called a blend here.

It’s an easy going smooth whiskey on tasting. The ‘sweet & sour’ is less prominent – but still there – before a softly growing spiciness dries out the silky barley.

The peppery spice attractively lingers on the palate at the finish.

It’s definitely a new flavour profile for Irish Whiskey.

Natterjack is bold, innovative & enticing.

Despite not fully setting my tastebuds alight – I wholeheartedly welcome this exciting new entrant into the growing market.

I look forward to the future development of this brand – along with the distillery in Kilmacthomas – and wish the Natterjack success!

Sláinte

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Bunratty Irish Poteen, 40%

I was going to do a one word blog;

Corny

But that wouldn’t do this poitin justice.

It’s corny in 2 ways.

Firstly from the rather ‘bigging up the blarney’ touristy offering,

And then the softly sweet new make smell of it’s main ingredient – I’d suggest anyway – corn.

It’s not a flavour profile I’m particularly fond of.

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Bunratty miniature c/othewhiskeynut

But Bunratty Poteen was one of the 1st commercial poitins – the more usual spelling – out on the market post the 1997 legalisation.

And for that it’s worthy of praise. For opening up the category to other entrants – which suit my palate better.

So I doff my cap to Bunratty Poteen for being a trend setter.

Even if I find it corny!

Sláinte

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Dolmen Irish Poitín, 40%

The attractively simple & clean design of this Aldi supermarket release matches the clear & fresh taste of the poitín inside.

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Dolmen Irish Poitín c/othewhiskeynut

Dolmens – or portal tombs – are found throughout Ireland. They date from 2,000 to 3,000 years BC and provide an insight into former civilisations that existed in Ireland.

Poitín is also a product of earlier times.

Times when there were no rules or regulations governing alcohol manufacture or consumption and poitín making was a locally based farm activity.

Today it is a growing category in the re-emerging Irish Whiskey scene.

It can be made from any grain – in either pot or column stills – and usually has not been aged in wood for added colour or flavour.

Dolmen Irish Poitín is quite a distinctive style of poitín.

Rather than displaying the somewhat oily & slightly sour taste experience I expect within this genre of spirit – Dolmen portrays a clean & refreshingly sweet bouquet to the nose.

This follows through into the taste which starts off rather soft & mild – easily approachable even – before a slowly warming reassuring heat makes it’s presence felt.

A pleasantly appealing &  palatable poitín.

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Poitín poetry c/othewhiskeynut

There’s a suitable storyline on the back label which combines history, myth, folklore and fancy and – unusually for a supermarket release – the distillery of origin.

Blackwater Distillery.

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Waterford Poitín c/othewhiskeynut

I look forward to future releases from this distillery.

The 21st whiskey distillery in Ireland to recently open for business.

Sláinte

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Whiskey 21C, Blend, 54.2%

Whiskey Live Dublin always throws up a surprise or two.

This years was the safely guarded release of Whiskey 21C.

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Whiskey 21C c/othewhiskeynut

This is a unique historical bottling of all the Irish Whiskey Distilleries that currently have stocks of matured whiskey in their possession.

The Celtic Whiskey Shop – not content with being the hard working organisers behind Whiskey Live Dublin – contacted all the distilleries with matured whiskey – asked for a donation of some of that precious liquid – proceeded to blend it – bottle it – sell it at the show on a strictly limited never to be repeated release – all for the Downs Syndrome Ireland charity!

Now that WAS a surprise indeed!

The 12 Irish Whiskey Distilleries who kindly donated to this project are – in the order they appear on the back label;

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The distilleries involved c/othewhiskeynut

Bushmills Distillery – Producers of the Bushmills range + other brands.

Cooley Distillery – Producers of the Tyrconnell, Connemara, Locke’s & Kilbeggan ranges – as well as numerous other brands.

Dingle Distillery – Producers of Dingle Whiskey

Echlinville Distillery – All current releases under the Dunvilles brand are sourced – yet Echlinville are sitting on 5 year old whiskey of their own making which has not yet been deemed ready for it’s public debut.

Great Northern Distillery – Producers of the First Born range debuted at Whiskey Live Dublin.

Kilbeggan Distillery – Producers of Kilbeggan Rye – the 1st Irish Whiskey containing rye for many a year and the 1st whiskey to be wholly produced at Kilbeggan since the micro distillery was commissioned there in 2010.

Pearse Lyons Distillery – Producers of Pearse 5 Year Old Single Malt. Some of the Pearse blends also contain malt made on the stills sited at the Pearse Lyons Distillery in Dublin.

Teeling Whiskey Co – Producers of Teeling Single Pot Still. All other current releases are sourced.

The Shed Distillery – Producers of Gunpowder Gin & Sausage Tree Vodka – yet clearly have whiskey waiting to be released.

Tullamore DEW – All current Tullamore DEW is sourced – yet they are obviously sitting on whiskey which has been produced at the new Tullamore Distillery.

West Cork Distillers – Producers of the Glengarriff range. Some of the WCD range is sourced + they supply other brands too.

Camera Shy Cork Distillery – The only whiskey producer not mentioned is Midleton. Could this be them?

A small sample of Whiskey 21C was also offered to Whiskey Live Dublin attendees!

I found it a young, fresh & fruity blend. Approachable & easy despite it’s 54.2% strength. There was no mention if it was either a blended malt or a malt & grain mix – nor the percentages of the distilleries involved in the project. I was just extremely pleased to get a chance to taste the future of Irish Whiskey!

A big thank you to all the hard work of the team behind Whiskey Live Dublin AND Whiskey 21C.

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A toast to the future of Irish Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

May your glass be ever full!

Sláinte

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Jameson 18 Year Old, New Label, 40%, Blend

Oh dear!

What can I say?

This whiskey just didn’t wow me.

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The back label c/othewhiskeynut

Despite having hints of warm vanilla & a little bit of woody spice commensurate with it’s age – it lacked the freshness & vitality of some younger malts I’ve been lucky to sample lately.

Now I know it’s a blend.

But I usually find the grain element gives a welcome clarity to the mix.

If anything this whiskey wasn’t clear.

I found the flavours rather muted for it’s age – whilst the spirity kick at the end came over more powerful than it’s 40% strength.

It left me disappointed.

Sláinte.

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Transparency And Whiskey

Transparency is a bit of a buzz word in whiskey circles these days.

Everyone says they are in favour of it.

I’m not convinced.

It makes no difference what is or isn’t written on the label – it’s the contents that count.

You can have a whiskey that tells you everything you’d like to know; who made it, how it was distilled, barley variety used, cut points and so on – yet it just might not suit your palate.

Conversely you can have a bottle that simply states ‘Whiskey’ – and tastes fabulous.

Obviously knowing why one whiskey tastes better than the other can only be determined by some of the information given in the first example – but if it’s not provided – does that colour your tasting experience?

However – there is a different style of transparency raising it’s head now.  It’s called the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 – in Ireland anyway – which is currently being discussed in the Dáil. Read more here.

What it effectively means is clear and unambiguous labelling outlining the health dangers of alcohol consumption on every bottle.

Health Bill
As taken from the amended Bill available here.

If this blog is deemed as ‘advertising’ then it too will also have to carry a health warning.

That’s pretty clear and transparent isn’t it?

Having said that – the great tasting whiskey you had last week will still be great – whatever has to be printed on the label.

I wonder which type of transparency has most chance of making it into law?

Sláinte.

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The Scotch Whisky juggernaut is running out of road.

All is not well in Scotch Whisky.

The fastest growing whisky making countries in the world do not include Scotland.

They do include Ireland, Japan and Canada.

So Scotch Whisky chooses to attack these countries in a series of articles and posts across various media platforms.

The common thread in all these articles revolves around the fact these countries manufacture and market their own whiskies in a manner not compliant with Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) rules.

Now I don’t know about you – but I must have missed the meeting when it was decided SWA rules applied worldwide. It shows a complete lack of respect for those countries indigenous rules, customs and practices.

The fact customers are seeking out those countries whisky products obviously means it has nothing to do with the rules – it must be something else.

Whisky from it’s very inception has never been about the rules.

Whisky has a long tradition and rich historical vein of tales involving illicit poitin & moonshine distillation, smugglers avoiding the gaugers on Highland trails and bootlegging during prohibition to name a few. It’s in the very DNA of what whisky is and has shaped the development of the spirit to this day.

Perhaps it’s about the taste?

Perhaps Scotch’s strict adherence to the rules comes at the expense of new and exciting tastes?

Perhaps those customers boosting non-Scotch making expression sales are seeking out those new tastes and the rules are not as important as they are made out to be?

I know I certainly am.

But there is an even larger threat looming round the proverbial corner. It’s a threat not of Scotch Whisky’s making.

Brexit.

Now the Scotch Whisky juggernaut needs a lot of space to manoeuver. It’s a cumbersome beast with it’s own inertia and inflexibility. It may not be able to negotiate the tricky corners ahead.

The Irish, Japanese and Canadian vehicles are smaller, more adaptable & nimble. They might be better equipped to handle the twists and turns thrown up by Brexit – as well as the US tariff fiasco.

The irony of Britain leaving Europe – and Scotch Whisky’s biggest market too – as it did not want to be dictated to by Brussels whilst Scottish Whisky tries to dictate to some of it’s competitors.

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Brexit Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

I think I’ll have to have a glass of Brexit Whiskey – a proudly non SWA rule produced very tasty Austrian Whiskey – and ponder over Rabbie Burn’s famous words;

‘O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.’

From where I’m sitting it isn’t looking pretty.

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Egan’s Vintage Grain, Single Grain, 46%

There is an outpouring of new Irish Whiskey releases marking the growing interest in the category both by consumers – as well as companies trying to enter the market.

Egan’s  are slightly unusual in that they are a company re-entering the market after a long absence.

Back in the mid 1800’s – when Irish Whiskey would have been the world’s most popular – P & H Egan built up a sizeable business in their home town of Tullamore importing wines, maturing & bottling whiskey, malting & general groceries – which you can read about here.

Former generations of the present day Egan family – who have released this bottle in question – were a well respected & prosperous company in the Midlands of Ireland. They added to the architecture of the town by building the fine Bridge House Hotel as their head office. The building now proudly adorns their latest offerings.

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Egan’s Vintage Grain c/othewhiskeynut

Whilst many of Tullamore’s bars proudly display Egan’s products of the past.

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Egan’s advertising in The Brewery Tap c/othewhiskeynut

Following on in the family tradition, the 21st Century Egans also do not distill their own whiskey – they source it from third parties – but they do wrap it in a visually attractive label that proudly displays their heritage & connections to Tullamore.

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The Bridge House Hotel c/othewhiskeynut

This Vintage Grain offering is a single grain presented at a powerful 46% with no chill filtering.  Always a bonus in my book.

Now single grain may need a bit of an explanation. ‘Single’ implies it comes from one distillery. Not as many assume made from one type of grain. Different types of grain may be used – usually barley, corn, wheat or rye – but they all must be distilled in a continuous, or commonly called, Coffey Still.

The resultant distillate is usually of a higher strength with less taste & flavour of the batch distilled malt whiskey and consequently spends more time in wooden barrels to impart those lovely aromas that are released upon nosing & tasting the whiskey.

Vintage Grain is matured in ex-bourbon barrels for between 6 to 8 years to impart those lovely vanilla & soft caramel notes associated with this type of ageing.

Both the nose and initial tasting is fresh, clean & clear, which suggests no added caramel to my palate – another bonus for me.

The smooth vanilla notes slowly morph into a soft peppery spice which gently fades to a wonderfully warm finish.

This is a worthy addition to the growing Irish single grain category which definitely benefits from it’s higher strength and more natural presentation.

Couple that taste with the wonderfully  rich historical back story of the Egan family and you have a winning combination.

I certainly raise a glass to the present day Egan family and wish them future success in re-establishing their name in the proud annuls of Irish Whiskey’s ongoing story.

Sláinte.

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I’d like to thank Killian & Jonathan Egan for the generous sample provided for the purposes of this review.

Caribou, Wood Quay, Galway

Choose one of the following.

1 – Caribou, a four legged animal prone to herding during annual migrations across it’s North American range. Mainly eats lichens.

2 – Caribou, a recently opened bar in the Wood Quay area of Galway that stocks an amazing array of craft beers, gins & whiskeys.

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A wall of whiskey, beer & gin c/othewhiskeynut

Pick your poison.

a) Craft Beer as in Commotion Lotion.

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Commotion Lotion c/oL.Phelan

A delightfully fruity easy summer drinking lager from the Wexford based Yellow Belly Beer in collaboration with pop punksters King Kong Company.

b) Whisky as in Scapa Skiren.

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Scapa Skiren c/othewhiskeynut

A sweet, smooth honey laden single malt from the Orkney Islands in the far north of Scotland.

Throw in a hard working yet friendly & informative bar crew.

Fill with an eclectic mix of;

i – Herds of bearded hipsters gathering – like the aforementioned Caribou – to graze on the amber nectar of craft beers along with their tattooed love birds.

ii – Whiskey geeks discussing the merits of non-chilled filtration & the de-merits of added caramel whilst sniffing, nosing & actually getting round to drinking the expressions before them!

iii – Music fans chilling out to the funky tunes played on the sound system contrasting the perfectly professional yet perfunctory performance of Radiohead at Glastonbury with the wild youthful exuberance of Otherkin at Slane.

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Bar & menu c/othewhiskeynut

Finish with a solid wooden bar filled with craft beer taps, comfortable tables, chairs & the odd sofa to relax in, board games to play with & a lovely floral display outside.

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Choose yer poison. c/othewhiskeynut

I choose Caribou – the bar.

I choose to sample both poisons – and more from an excellent range.

I choose to go back after my first visit on the ‘Hit The North‘ whiskey distillery tour.

I choose to be that whiskey geek accompanied by the music maestro enjoying the best Caribou has to offer.

I choose life.

I choose ceol agus craic.

What would you choose?

Sláinte

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