Tag Archives: Irish Whiskey Society

Whiskey Live Dublin, 2017

Whiskey Live Dublin continues to grow every year. Not only in numbers attending this marvelous showcase of Irish Whiskey – but also the amount of exhibitors on display.

There are masterclasses held throughout the course of the day which provide access to the distillers, whiskey ambassadors, blenders & bottlers who are driving the current growth in Irish Whiskey. It was to one of those classes that I started my visit to this years show.

Alex Chasko – master distiller with Teeling Whiskey Co. – regaled us with the story behind the current Brabazon series of whiskeys – as well as introducing us to some choice single cask samples.

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Brabazon tasting time c/othewhiskeynut

I was particularly taken by the 2001 Port Single Cask – especially in the newly released Tuath Irish Whiskey glass which was provided to visitors at the event.

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Teeling & Tuath c/othewhiskeynut

After this highly enjoyable introduction – I joined the crowds in the main hall as I tried to sample my ‘hit list’ of whiskeys I’d either missed out on during the year – or were new releases appearing at the show for the first time.

The Glengarriff series from West Cork Distillers were on my list.

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Glorious Glengarrif whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

I was highly impressed by the Peat Charred Cask single malt. The influence of the peat was clearly evident on both the nose and taste – yet there was a lovely earthy savouriness element to the expression too. Beautiful!

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Dunvilles Three Crowns Peated c/othewhiskeynut

Talking about peat – Echlinville had their Three Crowns Peated on display – very appealing to my tastes. But what surprised me was their yet to be released peated poitin – Bán Barreled & Buried at 47.2% – now that’s a tasty innovation.

Now I’d heard Kilbeggan were showcasing some of their ‘experimental’ casks – as well as the current range of freshly re-branded (and even re-recipied in some cases) favourites too – so naturally I was excited by a 6 year old Rye Pot Still!

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When will this stunner be released? c/othewhiskeynut

Rich rye on the nose & taste followed with some creamy smoothness. Stunning!

Peter Mulryan’s Blackwater Distillery – which is currently under construction in Co. Waterford – chose to reveal their Retronaut 17 year old single malt at the show – a must try.

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Retronaut Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

I can confirm the whiskey is every bit as bold & brassy as the elegantly designed label on the very attractive bottle.

At this stage in the proceedings – with a few samples onboard – chatting away with fellow attendees & stall holders began to divert me away from my ‘hit list’ as I was tempted into trying some surprising expressions.

Cork Whiskey Society had assembled a fine display of whiskeys from times gone by.

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A bevy of beauties! c/othewhiskeynut

The Bushmills 5 year old single malt took my fancy and a sample was procured. Was it just me or did this bottle taste more bold & robust in flavour than some current releases?

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A tasty blend c/othewhiskeynut

The Irish Whiskey Society’s excellent private bottling range continued to impress with a delightful blended offering sourced from the Teeling Whiskey Company.

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A Single Cask Powers c/othewhiskeynut

The Powers range of single cask releases surprised me with the fine creamy single pot still character on this Celtic Whiskey Shop‘s 16 year old exclusive. I did miss the signature spice kick though.

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Powerful bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

I also couldn’t resist a powerful Blanton’s Straight From The Barrel Bourbon at 65.4% – my sole American sample at the show.

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Campbeltown’s Longrow Peated c/othewhiskeynut

Longrow‘s  Peated Single Malt didn’t disappoint either – being my only Scottish dram on the day.

Apologies to all those I didn’t get round to sample, visit or even chat to – there is simply too much to cover in one session – which is part of the fun.

There were a few that got away – but the one I missed the most was the return of the indulgent donuts on the Dublin Liberties Whiskey stall!

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Donuts! c/o@AlanWhiskey

Sláinte.

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Irish Whiskey Awards 2016 Picking The Winners

It’s that time of year when the great and good of the Irish whiskey world gather together in a celebration of distillation. This years event takes place in Tullamore with a visit to the new Tullamore Distillery and an awards evening in the Old Bonded Warehouse on October 20th.

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The new Tullamore Distillery c/othewhiskeynut

As part of the process to pick the winners – members of the Celtic Whiskey Club and the Irish Whiskey Society were invited to a blind tasting of the competing expressions.

I made my way up to Dublin for the day to add my scores to the collective pot and found myself in a basement hotel room carefully laid out with 38 identical whiskey bottles – along with a half dozen barrel aged beers – to rate.

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Let the judging commence! c/othewhiskeynut

The bottles were arranged in their respective categories;

Irish Blends up to 60.

Irish Blends over 60.

Irish Single Pot Stills.

Irish Single Casks

Irish Barrel Aged Beer

The only way of differentiating them was the bottle code for scoring, the colour and the very subjective taste preferences of the judges.

All entrants have to be commercially available in Ireland in October. Other than providing the required sample bottles to The Celtic Whiskey Shop by the allocated date there is no entry fee and ticket sales for the evening are forwarded to charity.

I started with the entry level blends.

What struck me straight away was the uniformity of colour on display.This saddened me. The variety and differences in blended whiskey are what excite me – both visually and taste wise – yet presented here to all intensive purposes were 15 bottles of identical dark golden brown liquid.

My fears of added caramel were confirmed as in one expression after another the dominant – and at times overwhelming – note encountered was sweet. My poor scores reflected this disappointment. A few did have some pleasant fruit notes coming through together with  a welcome spice. Some were rough – most were smooth – but there wasn’t much that excited me.

I expected a noticeable increase in flavour and quality in the blends above 60 category as experienced last year. Despite the average scores being slightly higher at 66 as to the former’s 63, that all important “more bang for your bucks” wasn’t forthcoming. At least the colour variation was more pronounced.

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Colour variation c/othewhiskeynut

Oh dear! Perhaps my 3 weeks in Australia tasting some knockout single malts, ryes, bourbons and wheat whiskies had jaded my palate.

I moved onto the barrel aged beers.

Now I must admit to a benchmark brew in this style which all others are judged on. Trouble is – it’s not Irish! There was one dark beer that came out close however. It had a noticeable whiskey nose together with less carbonation giving it a more heavy feel – much to my liking.

I should point out my method here. Out of an average 3ml sample I possibly tasted and swallowed half. The other half ended up in the spittoon after having been swirled round the mouth for further evaluation. In between each sample a full measure of water was consumed to cleanse the palate and rinse the glass. I must have drank about 2 litres of uisce during the process. A hearty lunch and some hot tea also split the session in two and aided to my relative sobriety at the end of the day.

It was after that lunch I attempted la creme de la creme of Irish whiskey – the Single Pot Stills.

Using a combination of malted barley and unmalted barley in the mash, I was looking for – and happily found – the signature soft spice together with some rich fruity notes. The variety was much more pronounced in terms of colour, flavour profile as well as strength. I distinctly thought one entrant was simply a watered down version of another! The average scores rose to 73 for the packed field of 13 entrants.

Only in the big reveal on awards night will all my hunches be either confirmed – or more likely dashed. The new Redbreast Lustau release was rumoured to be in the mix somewhere. Was it one of my winners?

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Redbreast Lustau c/omaltymates.com

For me however – the best was yet to come.

The Single Casks had only 5 entrants. All scored highly with a 77 average and one stood out.

Fuller of flavour and richer in style, I dispensed with the spittoon to immerse myself in their beauty. My winning dram on the day happened to be the smokiest entrant and I fear I’m turning into a peathead!

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Peat c/othewhiskeynut

A further sample of this expression went down equally delightfully as the first – well – I did have to re-check my initial scores!

The craic agus ceol was mighty during the session. Judges came and went but all added their penny’s worth to the growing banter and collective scores.

If you haven’t already joined either the Celtic Whiskey Club or Irish Whiskey Society – isn’t it about time you did?

Slainte

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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My Whiskey Awards

The Irish Whiskey Awards 2105 were held at the fabulous new Teeling Whiskey Distillery premises in Newmarket Square, Dublin on the 15th of October.

The awards – which are now in their 3rd year – have quickly established themselves as the premier event on the Irish Whiskey scene. Most of the movers and shakers – new entrants and old stalwarts from within the industry – as well as bloggers – imbibers and whiskey fans from all round the world make a beeline for the highly enjoyable evening exploring the best that Irish Whiskey has to offer.

Organised by The Celtic Whiskey Shop – the awards choose their winners by a blind tasting panel made up of members from both the Celtic Whiskey Club and the Irish Whiskey Society. Samples can also be packaged abroad for members overseas. As a member of the former Club – I had an opportunity to take part in the judging process – read my blog here – and add my scores – along with about 200 others – to give the final results.

Sadly I prevaricated in booking a ticket for the show so they were all sold out before I made my decision to go.

Undeterred – I decided to hold my own Whiskey Nut Awards 2015!

Now these awards are based purely on my own preferences and in no way reflect on the prestige of the official awards. As not every category was tasted – my results are somewhat shorter – but they give an insight into my tastes as well as my ability to spot – or not as the case may be – a winning dram.

On tasting day there were 13 drinks categories of which 8 pertained to whiskey. I managed to score 5 of these whiskey categories along with a beer one too. My awards are therefore based on the results of those 6 tastings.

The Whiskey Nut Award 2015 for Irish Single Grain Whiskey

Teeling Single Grain c/o whiskeynut/celticwhiskeyshop
Teeling Single Grain c/o whiskeynut/celticwhiskeyshop

Teeling Single Grain came out a winner with 83 points.

There were only 3 entrants into this category and despite being familiar with the drinks I was unable to correctly identify the Teeling Single Grain from the Glendalough Double Barrel which came in only 1 point behind. This result is inline with my preference for an additional finish to the usual bourbon barrel maturation and clearly the use of Californian wine barrel ageing helped Teeling to pip the post.

The official winner was Kilbeggan Single Grain.

Entrants;

Teeling Single Grain

Kilbeggan Single Grain

Glendalough Double Barrel

The Whiskey Nut Award 2015 for Irish Blended Whiskey (60 euro or less)

Kilbeggan Whiskey c/o whiskeynut/celticwhiskeyshop
Kilbeggan Whiskey c/o whiskeynut/celticwhiskeyshop

Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey came out tops in this packed field of 15 with 83 points.

There is an advert doing the rounds just now with a tagline of “Nose blind” . Halfway during this sampling I believe I became “Palate Blind”  as I failed to spot the lovely rum finish of Teeling Small Batch nor the spiciness I enjoy in Powers Gold Label and St Patrick’s Oak Aged Irish Whiskey. Despite scoring well – Tullamore Dew Cider Cask also failed to register apple notes with me. Nonetheless Kilbeggan stood out from the crowd.

Nose Blind c/o febreze
Nose Blind c/o febreze

I was a little surprised by this win – but also proud as Kilbeggan is only a half hour away from me!

I did revisit this drink after giving it top marks and can only say that it is a deserving winner. I have obviously overlooked this lovely blend in my hunt for new expressions. Ironically it was this blend that ignited my passion for whiskey. A few years ago a bottle was purchased at Dublin airport enroute for a birthday party in France. The Kilbeggan went down very well with the assembled guests who all gave it the thumbs up. So sante to Kilbeggan!

The official winner was Tullamore DEW 12 Year Old which is also a local distillery to me.

Entrants;

Tullamore DEW Original

St Patrick’s Oak Aged

Kilbeggan

Jameson Black Barrel

Jameson Caskmates

Jameson Crested 10

Writer’s Tears Copper Pot

Wild Geese Classic Blend

Teeling Small Batch

Powers Gold Labe

Wild Geese Rare

Tullamore DEW 15 Year Old Trilogy

Tullamore DEW Cider Cask

Tulamore DEW 12 Year Old

The Quiet Man

The Whiskey Nut Award 2015 for Irish Blended Whiskey (60 euro or more)

Jameson 18 Year Old c/o whiskeynut/celticwhiskeyshop
Jameson 18 Year Old c/o whiskeynut/celticwhiskeyshop

Jameson 18 Year Old came out a clear winner with 92 points.

All 5 entrants into this category started their scores level with the winner of the previous tasting reflecting that a bit more money does indeed get you a finer whiskey – at least in this example anyway.

My acquaintance with this exquisite dram started at my Jameson Dublin visit and continues here. Unlike the beer world – where new entrants are bringing in tastes and flavours far superior to those of the established brewers – Midleton – where Jameson is distilled – continues to show the new whiskey entrants the benchmark they have to attain. A fabulous whiskey indeed!

The official winner was Midleton Very Rare 2015.

Entrants;

Kilbeggan 21 Year Old

Wild Geese Ltd Edition

Jameson 18 Year Old

Midleton Very Rare 2015

Jameson Gold Reserve

The Whiskey Nut  Award 2015 for Irish Single Cask Whiskey

Celtic Cask 13 c/o whiskeynut/celticwhiskeyshop
Celtic Cask 13 c/o whiskeynut/celticwhiskeyshop

Celtic Cask 13

Unlucky for some – this Celtic Cask 13 stood out from a small field of 3 to come home with 83 points.

The official winner was An Pucan Teeling Whiskey.

Entrants;

Celti Cask 12

An Pucan Teeling

Celtic Cask 13

The Whiskey Nut Award 2015 for Irish Cask Strength Whiskey

Tullamore DEW Phoenix c/o whiskeynut/celticwhiskeyshop
Tullamore DEW Phoenix c/o whiskeynut/celticwhiskeyshop

Tullamore DEW Phoenix

Before anyone says I’m biased towards distilleries in my home county of Westmeath and close neighbour Offaly – as in this Tullamore DEW  – I will again point out this was a blind tasting!

This expression won as it exhibited a bit more spice on the tongue which I like. 87 points.

It also was the official winner so I am “on trend” with this category.

Entrants;

Tullamore DEW Phoenix

Midleton Dar Ghealach

Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength

The Whiskey Nut Awards 2015 for Whiskey Aged Beer

Independent Whiskey Stout c/o whiskeynut/celticwhiskeyshop
Independent Whiskey Stout c/o whiskeynut/celticwhiskeyshop

Independent Whiskey Stout

For years beer was my alcohol of choice. The darker – heavier and stronger the better. Independent Whiskey Stout takes me back to certain ales of my youth. It also gave the best whiff of whiskey both on the nose and palate which helped its way to be a winner with 80 points.

The official winner was O’Haras Barrel Aged Stout.

Entrants;

Jameson Stout

Independent Whiskey Stout

O’Haras Barrel Aged Stout

The Whiskey Nut Awards 2105 for Overall Irish Whiskey

Jameson 18 Year Old c/o whiskeynut/celticwhiskeyshop
Jameson 18 Year Old c/o whiskeynut/celticwhiskeyshop

Jameson 18 Year Old

Out of a total 63 whiskey samples I managed to score 32 on my judging day. This expression garnished the most points from that reduced field.

A comparison can’t be made with the official winner as it didn’t feature in my tasting categories.


So there you go.

Many thanks to all at The Celtic Whiskey Shop for organising the awards and a special thanks to all the distilleries who entered their expressions for the blind tasting.

My awards – my tastes – my preferences all laid bare.

What were your winners?

Slainte,

Whiskey Nut