Tag Archives: NAS

Irish American Whiskey Trio Taste-Off

I couldn’t say goodbye to my latest selection of Irish Whiskey brands only available in America without a taste challenge.

Emptying what was left of the miniatures – and a pour from the 750 ml US size bottle – the first thing I noticed was the almost identical golden colour from all 3 whiskeys.

All 3 are NAS – non age statement – offerings at 40% ABV.

All 3 are sourced brands from unspecified Irish Distilleries and

All 3 taste remarkably different from each other.

I’ll kick off with Kilbrin.

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The attractive front of Kilbrin c/othewhiskeynut

This one immediately appealed to my palate. Fresh, lively & inviting. A gorgeous spicy kick towards the end endeared this blend to me.

Kavanagh was up next.

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Kavanagh Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

More malty – biscuity even. Hardly surprising as it’s a single malt. A smoother delivery – cultured perhaps – with a gentler spiciness adding some character.

Wolfhound rounded up the trio.

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The Gentle Giant c/othewhiskeynut

Compared to the others, I found the ‘roar’ of the hound a rather dull & muted affair. The honeyed sweetness just didn’t set my palate alight.

Without a doubt my clear winner – and rather surprisingly so – was Kilbrin Irish Whiskey.

It has character & attitude in abundance.

For me it captures the beauty of a good blend.

The balance of both malt & grain whiskeys compliment each other giving complexity to the palate.

Kudos to Kilbrin!

Sláinte

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Kavanagh Irish Whiskey, Single Malt, 40%

My final bottle of Irish Whiskey – from my American market only trio – is Kavanagh Irish Whiskey.

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Kavanagh Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

They release a range of attractively labelled whiskeys. Namely a Blend, a Single Malt, a Single Grain and a 16 Year Old Single Malt – all at 40% ABV – or 80 Proof in America.

This NAS (non age statement) Single Malt made it back to Ireland for me to sample.

The distillery of origin is not stated and Kavanagh seem to be a store brand for Total Wine & More – from where it was purchased.

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Kavanagh’s back! c/othewhiskeynut

The nose was soft & fruity – almost orchard like – with hints of honey.

The palate started off suitably smooth – yet gradually built up with warming vanilla & caramel leaving a welcome soft tingling spice on the finish.

A very easy & approachable single malt. Relatively simple with no great complexity or depth – but for the price point it delivers an enjoyable experience.

I’d happily go on to sample the other Kavanagh Whiskeys based on my findings.

Sláinte

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An A.D. Rattray Appreciation

A.D. Rattray are an independent bottler of fine standing in Scotland.

They happen to have a lovely Whisky Shop on the main access route – A77 – to & from the Irish ferry terminals at Stranraer & Cairnryan that I often use to cross the water.

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The AD Rattray Whisky Shop c/othewhiskeynut

Oddly enough on my last trip – January 2018 – it was the first time in well over a decade using this route I encountered armed police, a passport check, a personal check as well as a vehicle check – all for an internal crossing?

Brexit changes indeed.

The Whisky Shop itself is a treasure trove of whisky, some gins & local beers too. Predominately Scotch it has to be said – although there is a sprinkling of world whisky. There are also tasting classes, rare single casks to be had, a small museum and more to attract you in and delay your journey.

But as I was driving – I made do with an elegantly packaged & well presented 5 pack A.D. Rattray miniature selection.

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Miniature selection c/othewhiskeynut

Nearly a year later I eventually managed to sample them if only to mark Rabbie Burns Night – who happened to live nearby.

The standard Bank Note 5 Year Old Blend at 43% struck me as just being that – standard. Pleasant enough with it – but no stand out qualities to pull me in. I do like the label however.

Next up was the Stronachie Highland Single Malt 10 Year Old – also at 43%. With this A.D. Rattray branded malt you actually get the distillery of origin – Benrinnes in this case – unlike the blended offering.

Now 10 year old malts these days are often considered entry level – and I’m afraid my tasting experience only concurred with this hypothesis.

Smooth, easy drinking, well balanced butterscotch, honey & vanilla – just not enough character or oomph for my tastes.

Meanwhile the Stronachie 18 – also Benrinnes sourced but with a slightly higher 46% ABV – gained some lovely dry woody tannins from the extra years in maturation. I was pulled in with it’s suitably more complex , characterful & to my palate anyway – a much more appealing dram.

The next bottle – at least from the label – promised something special.

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Cambus 26yo Single Grain c/othewhiskeynut

A single grain whisky from a closed distillery – Cambus – matured for no less than 26 years  & presented at 59.9% with no chill filtering nor added colouring. – kind of suggests the other bottlings perhaps had added e150 or chill filtering as it wasn’t stated on their labels?

Part of the A.D. Rattray Cask Collection – which changes regularly – I was very happy to try this single grain.

It’s a category of whisky many people dismiss – which is fine – all the more for me to enjoy!

It’s fresh, it’s lively, it’s full of flavour, it’s got character, it’s got strength, it’s got lucious drying tannins & velvety vanilla which just explode in the mouth.

A wonderful whisky.

The final miniature was Cask Islay – an non aged statement (NAS) non disclosed distillery single malt presented at 46%.

Now normally an Islay influenced dram floats my boat – but not this sweet peat. I think I prefer dry ashiness myself.

Perhaps the cask strength offering of earlier had influenced my findings. But I had cleansed my palate after each sample, left a gap in-between & then re-sampled later. All to no avail.

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An outstanding single grain! c/othewhiskeynut

The Single Grain Cambus 26 Year Old is clearly my top of the pile – a stunning drop.

Stronachie 18 Single Malt is a close runner.

The others didn’t make the cut.

Sláinte

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Gainsborough Bar, Derry & A Trio Of Peat

Despite doing a quick internet search before venturing up to Derry – I’d failed to uncover anything that got close to my definition of a Whiskey Bar as described in my blog here.

That’s not to say Derry doesn’t have some lovely bars that happen to sell whiskey.

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Gainsborough Bar c/othewhiskeynut

An attractive looking corner bar with decorative windows caught our eyes off the Guidhall Square – so we went in.

A fairly simple open square space adorned with nick-nacks & packed with friendly customers greeted us. I happily spotted a selection of Scottish malts to try & started out with a Talisker Skye.

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Scottish Malts c/othewhiskeynut

Being an NAS – non age statement – brother of the 10 Year Old I wondered if it would hold up to the bold peat I’d experienced and enjoyed with the aged expression.

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Talisker Skye c/othewhiskeynut

The peat certainly still satisfied – but a soft sweet note at the start tamed down the overall experience which left me preferring the 10 Year Old.

A collection of colourful characters inhabited the bar and we enjoyed the jovial comings & goings as well as the friendly banter that ensued.

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Inside Gainsborough c/othewhiskeynut

I spotted a Laphroaig Lore on the shelf & went for it.

This is another NAS release from a big peat hitter finished in Oloroso casks in this instance.

Again I found the peat hit had been softened by this finish to  a more soft & mellow smoke which gave it a more rounded & complex taste than the benchmark Laphroaig 10.

2 – nil to the age statements.

Mentioning there was a Wetherspoon pub near to our hotel we decided to have a last one there for the evening.

Now I frequented many a ‘Spoons’ bar when I lived in London and their dedication to craft beer & ales is certainly well received – but there were only a few whiskeys on offer.

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Soft peat from Jura c/othewhiskeynut

A Jura 10 Origin neatly provided a peated trio for the evening.

Oh dear!

Yes there was still peat – but the dominant note of vanilla sweetness let me down.

Big, bad & bold is what I was looking for – but all I got was soft, smooth & sweet.

A bit too much added caramel I think.

A bit like Girls Aloud’s Nadine Coyle who hails from Derry

Interestingly both Talisker & Laphroaig add caramel too – which would explain the sweet notes I detected. I just don’t understand why they have to do this with single malts. The sweet notes turned me off all 3 expressions.

But when it comes to your age statements versus NAS – Jura came bottom of the list.

The Talisker Skye came out tops – even although I’d prefer the 10 Year Old.

I generally don’t look down on an NAS bottling – but I’m increasingly looking down on added caramel – the proof of the pudding is in the eating however. All 3 of these whiskies tasted overly sweet to me – the Jura decidedly so – which was more of a deciding factor rather than the NAS or age statement issue.

Meanwhile the more variety of styles, tastes, finishes and ages – or not – out there the better in my book.

By trying them all out you begin to appreciate the differences & start to hone down your own particular style.

If you find a whiskey you like – embrace it – regardless of what others say.

We are all individuals with our own taste preferences and idiosyncracies – much like the whiskeys we drink.

Sláinte.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Credit to Nancy Hands for the top image.