I must admit to not being too surprised by the reveal. It sort of confirms my palate preferences.
The easy peater won out over and above the intriguing flavours of Goldly’s – which despite being a single grain was most definitely not silent. Cask strength in and of itself is not enough and Speysiders –at least the non-peated variety – don’t do it for me.
“About a week ago I saw a post on Twitter by a whiskey reviewer, @2DramsofWhiskey of Westmeath Whiskey World, in which he showed a picture of some vials of whiskey and informing us that he was going to be doing a blind whiskey tasting. I replied to his tweet asking what was a blind whiskey tasting and how does one go about doing it. Not really expecting an answer, I was more than pleasantly surprised when I got a reply telling me that it could easily be arranged!
This was followed with some private messages in which I then had to admit that I know next to nothing about whiskey (which may surprise some of you, considering I sell whiskey stones but how and ever…)
That didn’t put the reviewer off and before I knew it, here I was with 3 samples of whiskey to try out.
I have to admit, it took me a few days to get around to doing it and a certain amount of mental preparation (don’t know why but I was quite daunted by this task!).
Anyway, today was the day. I got out the samples, I found three glasses, got a spittoon glass at the ready and a bottle of water to clean my palate between tasting.
I got a pen and paper out ready to make some notes and cracked open Sample D. I poured some into a glass and first took note of the aroma, which struck me as quite sweet. I sipped and let it rest in my mouth, closed my eyes and thought for a moment about the flavours. The two flavours that struck me the most was citrus and wood. I then added a wee drop of water to see what flavours this would release and the sweetness became more intense. I found this sweetness too much for my liking to be honest.
I washed my mouth out with some water and proceeded to try out Sample E. Again, the first thing I noted was the aroma. This time I could almost detect the freshness of the sea. (probably not remotely a technical whiskey tasting term but it fits for me). This whiskey had a very pure taste and I found it very pleasant indeed.
On to Sample F I went. As soon as I opened the bottle, I could catch a hint of peatiness. I like peat but not too much of it so I was wary. However, this was not overbearing at all. I tasted. Wow, what an explosion of flavour in my mouth. There was an almost orange tang of it but it was a little sharp for me. Having said that, I think this would be an amazing after-dinner tipple.
I gathered my notes and what you have just read is my semi-coherent interpretation of them.
So, there you go. My first whiskey tasting. I actually really enjoyed it and it was a good challenge to write about it too!”
Many thanks to Irish Whiskey Stone Company for sharing their thoughts.
One aspect of the growth of Irish Whiskey is the proliferation of new brands hitting the shelves of American liquor stores.
Many will be familiar to drinkers in Ireland – Jameson, Bushmills & Kilbeggan – to name a few.
Others not – Kavanagh, Kilbrin & Wolfhound – for example.
Generally the 2nd list are non distillery producers selecting sourced Irish Whiskey then labelling & marketing it under their own brand names.
For the last few years this has been a growing business.
The number of Irish Whiskeys seeking approval from the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has risen from 120 in the 2016-17 period to 204 in the 2019-20 time frame. Data courtesy TTB Online search page available here.
Clearly this reflects an increased appreciation of Irish Whiskey – as well as a ready supply of Irish Whiskey Distilleries willing to cater for this demand.
It’s marvelous to witness the growing marketability of Irish Whiskey.
I welcome each and every one of these new brands into the ever increasing & more diversified Irish Whiskey category.
There is however still a long way to go.
Scottish Whisky registered 1188 labels in the same 2019-20 period.
In what felt like the ‘last hurrah’ before impending restrictions increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic – Sonny Molloy’s Bar in Galway held an impressive evening celebrating the launch of the highly esteemed Redbreast Whiskey range’s latest addition – the 27 Year Old.
The numbers attending were slightly reduced from previous events – and a certain awkwardness regards hand shaking & social distancing were always in the background – yet the company, the whiskey and the gorgeous food won out!
There were 3 whiskeys on offer. All introduced by the Irish Distillers Brand Ambassador – Ger Garland.
The first one was a bit of a mystery.
Very sweet on the nose – almost liqueur territory here – quite light on the palate – someone suggested cream soda – before the cask strength made it’s presence felt – leaving the pleasant softer flavours dancing away on the finish.
I was very pleased to hear it was an oat whiskey!
Oats were formerly a common ingredient in Irish Whiskey and it’s marvelous to see it’s return into offerings such as Kilbeggan SPS, Drumshanbo Inaugural – as well as experimentation at Killowen Distillery – and quite clearly at Midleton too!
Just how the results of this experimentation will end up in an actual final product are yet to be decided – but clearly exciting times indeed!
The second offering – also at cask strength – was a much more contemporary affair.
Midleton Dair Ghaelach, Knockrath Wood, Tree 3, 56.6%.
The use of virgin Irish Oak casks – as well as ex-bourbon casks – had accentuated the dry tannic spiciness over and above the initial rich warming vanilla notes to the front capped off by a prickly tingling from the high ABV.
I really enjoyed this one.
The grand finalé?
Redbreast 27 Year Old, 54.6%.
Unlike other Redbreasts – the 27 has seen maturation in ruby port casks.
This has given it a darker, even richer fruitiness. I’m thinking plums, figs & raisins here. The high ABV kicked in at this point & I’d need the addition of water to calm things down a touch.
To be honest – I wasn’t bowled over.
I didn’t find it an easy whiskey to appreciate – and I’m not just talking about it’s €495 price tag. I found it a bit of a challenge.
Redbreast 27 – not for me.
I’d like to thank all at Sonny Molloy’s for the warm hospitality on the evening.
When your country estate already pulls in a substantial amount of visitors to the stunningly ornate gardens with magnificent views of Sugarloaf Mountain behind.
When a 5 Star hotel graces your grounds along with 2 championship designed golf courses laid out in the beautiful Wicklow scenery.
Not to mention the history, tales and adventures contained within the walls of the grand 18th Century mansion of Powerscourt House itself.
What exactly would be the icing on the cake?
Well a single estate whiskey distillery wouldn’t go amiss now would it?
Discreetly built onto the old estate sawmill, Powerscourt Distillery is fully operational busily laying down casks of single malt Irish Whiskey to mature in it’s nearby warehouse.
The 3 resplendent copper pot stills – made by Forsyths – sit majestically in a modern clean & bright open plan space allowing visitors a close up look, feel & smell of the whole grain to glass process of whiskey making.
Noel Sweeney has brought his many distinguished years of knowledge as Master Distiller to Powerscourt overseeing the production of both single malt – as well as single pot still distillate – to this exciting distillery.
It will be a few years before Powerscourt Distillery’s own spirit is fully mature – but in the meantime a trio of whiskeys released under the Fercullen label – the old name for the lands Powersourt Estate sits on – are available.
Unusually in this instance Noel probably had a hand in distilling these sourced whiskeys from his days at Cooley & Kilbeggan Distilleries under a number of different owners.
Tours include a tasting of all 3 whiskeys in one of Powerscourt Distillery’s sumptuously laid out rooms.
The 10 Year Old Fercullen Single Grain Whiskey was offered first.
Now there aren’t that many single grains on the market – which is a pity – as this one shows up the light yet delicately balanced sweet & fruity flavours within a great single grain. Far from being silent there were notes of honey, citrus and a gentle woody spice too.
Very approachable & easy on the palate.
The attractively priced Fercullen Blend was a bit of a pleaser too.
It displayed a complex set of notes from soft fruitiness to darker oaky tannins within an extremely well balanced mix.
A blend you can happily sit back & savour.
The pride of place meanwhile went to the Fercullen 14 Year Old Single Malt.
Packing extra ABV at 46% – as opposed to the 40% of it’s siblings – the 14 Year Old had added depth & boosted character from the exclusively ex-bourbon cask maturation used in all 3 offerings.
When many a distillery relies on additional finishes to give the spirit a lift – Fercullen demonstrates the beauty of what to many is a simple standard of Irish Whiskey.
A very impressive range of whiskeys for a very impressive distillery.