Mindful of my own advice to not store whiskey too long before consumption, I looked into one of my storage cupboards – dark & at constant temperature – to find a shocking amount of bottles.
The Ballechin was one that attracted me.
It had a few things going for it.
To begin with – it was a small bottle that wouldn’t be around for long after opening. More pertinently it bore 3 phrases pleasing to my palate; unchill filtered, natural colour & heavily peated.
The nose was a mixture of peat smoke infused with dark stone fruits.
Rather than a dry ashy peatiness – a luscious smooth & engaging fruitiness eased me into a warming peat fire which wrapped me in it’s cosy embrace.
A gorgeously engaging whiskey to savor.
Emanating from Edradour Distilley in the Highlands – the Ballechin is a run of peated malt they do.
Interestingly, for the first 160 years of it’s existence from 1825, there were no single malt bottlings. All product was used for fillings in the highly successful blended scotch market. Only in 1986 did Edradour start releasing their own single malts when that category began to rise in popularity.
All this information was gleaned from Charles MaClean’s Whiskipedia book.
Which is a mine of information on Scottish Whisky Distilleries.
W.D. O’Connell are part of the next generation of Irish Whiskey brands/bottlers/bonders and distillers that have exploded onto the scene.
Labelling themselves as ‘Whiskey Merchants’, W.D. O’Connell source their spirit from existing distilleries – and have it finished to their own requirements.
Showcased for the first time at Whiskey Live Dublin 2019– where I had a quick sample – as well as a tweet tasting I missed – I did get a couple of sample bottles for my tasting pleasure.
Bill Phil, Peated Series, 47.5%
Peat – or turf in Ireland – is a flavour profile that has been absent in Irish Whiskey for too long. It’s a style I enjoy & I celebrate with open arms any newcomer’s reinterpretation of this distinctive character.
That lovely warm smokiness just captivated me straight away. Clear, crisp & slightly meaty. A joy to behold.
Delightfully young & fresh on the palate. The ashy peat smoke develops into an all embracing toastiness that wraps you heartily like a turf fueled fire.
A frisson of nutmegy spice dances merrily on the finish.
A stunner of a malt.
17 Year Old PX Series, 46%
A much more ‘traditional’ Irish style.
Cooley malt matured in ex-bourbon casks & finished in Pedro Ximenez barrels for 6 months.
A dark cherry sweetness on the nose.
Lucious fruitiness on the palate – more stone fruits than orchard apples – with a gentle spiciness to enliven the whiskey – finished off by a softly drying prickliness.
Classic stuff indeed – and very well done.
Without a doubt – Bill Phil.
It’s young, it’s fresh, it’s exciting.
It marks the welcome return of peat to the Irish Whiskey cannon.
W.D. O’Connell sourced this one from the Great Northern Distillery. Hopefully it will be the first of many interpretations using peated malt from this distillery.
What would make it even more outstanding was if Irish turf was used to dry the barley.
There’s been an explosion of Irish Whiskeys finished in a growing variety of Irish Beer Casks.
I welcome the diversity & exploration of flavours emanating from these collaborations – especially when the beers in question tend to be locally produced craft beers such as the Cotton Ball Stout used in this new Hyde #8 release.
Now I usually like to taste the donor beer – but in this instance the closest I got was this lágar from Cotton Ball Brewing.
Rather than picking up the bitter or slightly burnt notes often found in a stout – Hyde #8 has a noticeable sweet caramel nose together with a smooth & rich honeyed palate rounded up with a darker & heavier biscuity malt feel.
I won this lovely bottle of whiskey courtesy of the Celtic Whiskey Club and Walsh Whiskey themselves – very much appreciated.
Celtic Whiskey Club is an open invite whiskey club organised by the Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dublin. You can follow the link to their website.
Whiskey samples are sent out regularly – both Ireland & abroad – to members who are then invited to participate in tweet tastings. Drinking whiskey with others – even at the end of the internet – is far more entertaining.
On this particular occasion – a double bill Writers’ Tears release from Walsh Whiskey – 2 participants won a bottle each. I happily obtained the Double Oak – my preferred choice.
So how was it?
A gorgeously warm ‘Bear Hug’ of a whiskey with dark sweet cherry notes contrasting with gentle prickly oaky spiceiness. Cue video!
Double Oak is a blend of single pot still & single malt whiskeys finished in a combination of ex bourbon & ex cognac casks to give it that deep dark sweet character with plenty of warmth & added spice.
Along with other Writers’ Tears releases Double Oak is presented at 46% with non chill filtering allowing the full flavours to shine.
Another fabulously tasty release from Walsh Whiskey.
It’s not everyday you get a whisky sample sent through the post – especially one as outstanding as Highland Rye Single Grain Whisky from Arbikie Distillery in Arbroath, Scotland.
To begin with, this is a farm to bottle operation.
The grains used – barley, rye & wheat in this instance – are grown in the fields around the distillery.
There is also no chill filtration nor added colouring to mute the fabulous flavours within.
And it’s a rye.
The first for many a year Scotland has produced.
Rye at one stage was a common grain used in a mixed mashbill distillation by both Scottish and Irish distillers as testified by a certain Mr Jameson at the 1909 ‘What is Whisky’ enquiry.
It happens to be a grain I’m very attracted to.
It adds a bit of bite, a dash of dry peppery spice, a certain boldness, a touch of character and a degree of complexity to any whiskey.
Rye has no legal definition in either Scotland nor Ireland. Yet in America – often seen as the home of rye – it must have a mashbill content of at least 51% rye to gain the title – which this Highland Rye does.
So what’s it like to drink?
The nose captures the classic dry peppery spice augmented by elements of cherry sweetness from the PX cask finish.
The barley & wheat bring a silky smoothness to begin with, coating the palate in a warm snug of dark fruitiness before the rye makes itself known.
The palate gradually dries off into a wonderfully prickly peppery spice with hints of cherries dancing around on the enjoyably long finish.
The PX finish adds another layer of depth & complexity to this rye.
On a back to back tasting with its 2 year old sibling – which I purchased on first hearing Scotland had produced a rye – the youthful exuberance & freshness resulted in a cleaner, more classic peppery spice experience balanced with a barley smoothness.
The PX finish of the 3 year old – which is still a relatively unusual style of rye even in America – boosts that joyful youthfulness with richer, darker elements.
Arbroath – more famous for stovies & smokies – can now add rye to the culinary & quaffable delights on offer.
My thanks to all at Arbikie for the opportunity to taste this gorgeous rye whisky.