Tag Archives: O’Briens

Luigi Francoli, Grappa Di Muscato E Brachetto, Barrique, 41.5%

It’s great to see the independent drinks specialist Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) launch a course in Ireland courtesy of Spirits Training.

When I completed my Spirits Level 2 module a while ago I visited the UK to sit the exam.

It shows a growing appreciation of and increasing demand for the spirits sector in Ireland.

My extra curricular training in Manchester proved to be very entertaining nonetheless! Visit my blog here.

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WSET Spirits L2 c/othewhiskeynut

The Spirits Level 2 course doesn’t just cover whiskey – all distilled spirit categories including Gin, Vodka, Brandy, Mezcal & more are explored.

Many I’d little knowledge of – let alone tasted – which is an integral part of training.

I grew to understand each sector has it’s own rules & regulations, history & customs,  as well as creative interpretations & representations of those traditions across the world.

At the end of the day however – it all came down to which spirits excited my palate.

One I’d never encountered before was Grappa.

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Long tall Luigi c/othewhiskeynut

Grappa – by definition – is an Italian based spirit distilled from grapes – the leftovers that is from wine production – or pomace as it’s known – and tends to be made by small producers.

The only grappa I could easily find in Ireland was by Luigi Francoli in my local O’Brien’s store.

Presented in an attractive bottle at 41.5%,  it stated the grape varietals used – Muscato e Brachetto – as well as ‘Barrique’ aged – in contrast to the usual unaged Grappa’s.

Oh – the distillery was founded in 1875.

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Italian Grappa c/othewhiskeynut

The grape influence was evident – but not in a sweet way – which usually puts me off – more of a nutty, earthy kind of experience.

A lovely soft mouthfeel grew in depth adding fruitiness & more of that nuttiness too – before finishing with a gentle spiciness to add character.

I’d happily enjoy one or two of these after a meal – which is the custom – and possibly explore other offerings as well.

If anything the WSET Spirits course has expanded both my knowledge of the spirits world & introduced my palate to a greater repertoire of tasting experiences.

Isn’t it about time you did the course?

Sláinte

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McAfee’s Benchmark, Old No 8 Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 40%

As it’s National Bourbon Day I thought I’d celebrate by cracking open a bottle that’s been sitting in my cupboard for some time.

When I first bought this bourbon I knew nothing about it.

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Old No 8 c/othewhiskeynut

My original impression was that as it has a large 8 emblazoned on the label it must be a step up from the 7 on a bottle of Jack?

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Old No. 7 c/othewhiskeynut

And on eventually getting round to a tasting – it certainly did satisfy my palate more.

A lovely golden hue complete with decent legs graced the Túath glass on a pour. Being a ‘straight‘ bourbon guarantees no added caramel in the mix.

Soft and gentle on the palate to begin with, the flavours & heat slowly grew in intensity giving a good showing of vanillas & sweet caramel mixed with darker hints of tobacco and a lovely growing spice towards the end.

For me the finish was the best bit.

The spiciness – suggestive of a decent rye percentage in the mashbill – slowly dried out leaving a gentle prickliness in the mouth – which I enjoy.

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McAfee’s Benchmark c/othewhiskeynut

Being an entry level bourbon – Benchmark is appropriately named as it does provide an exceedingly pleasing drinking experience from which other bourbons can be compared.

Only after I purchased this bottle did I find out it’s part of the Buffalo Trace portfolio from Kentucky.

Interestingly it shares the same mashbill as Buffalo Trace itself – along with the more aged Eagle Rare & George T Stagg offerings!

The only differences are the time spent in the barrel – they are all virgin american oak remember with the same char level – and which part of the rickhouse they were stored in during maturity.

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The 2017 Antique Collection – fabulous! c/othewhiskeynut

Having tasted the Eagle Rare 17 Year Old 2017 release at Whiskey Live Dublin – it would be folly to compare the 2 bourbons – but you can appreciate the solid foundations of the young Benchmark that with added maturity grew into the stunning Eagle Rare 17.

But then my local O’Briens only stocked Benchmark!

Sláinte

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Notorious Red IPA 5%

Bringing a whiskey to market is a long and arduous process fraught with setbacks & obstacles.

Getting planning permission for the distillery itself can be problematic – as the Sliabh Liag Distillery in Donegal have found out recently.

Sliabh Liag Distillery owner says Ardara move is necessary

Says Highland Radio here.

Hopefully they will have better luck in Ardara.

If you manage to build your distillery the next issue is warehouses to store the new make distillate for the required 3 years until it becomes whiskey. Great Northern Distillery are still on the hunt for storage after their plans were knocked back in County Louth.

Teeling looks outside Louth for €20m whiskey warehouse

Says Irish Times  here.

If you manage to overcome these hurdles – yet more await.

What are you going to call your whiskey?

A certain well known Dublin personality had hoped to call his whiskey ‘Notorious’ – but there happened to be a beer already on the market with that name.

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O’Hara’s Red IPA c/othewhiskeynut

What else could I do but pop down to my local O’Briens to purchase a few for tasting?

O’Hara’s are one of the original craft beer makers in Ireland. Founded in 1996 they were ahead of the pack and have grown with the times. Now a major player in the craft beer market they produce a varied range of porters, lagers, ales & IPA’s – as well as opening a bar in Kilkenny.

Their Notorious Red IPA is an amalgam of 2 popular styles of beer.

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Tasting Notorious c/othewhiskeynut

Red Ale is a relatively light ale usually showing a reddish hue. Notes of malt, soft caramel with a gentle smoke from the roasted malts often used coming through too.

IPA – or Indian Pale Ale to give the original definition – is the hot ticket in the craft beer world. The high hop content displays varying degrees of bitterness ranging from fresh citrussy summer notes to deeper almost woody pine flavours.

I must admit my palate is not a fan of IPA – the bitterness puts me off – but I do enjoy a Red Ale now and then.

So with that caveat in mind – how did I find the Notorious Red IPA?

A decent Red Ale ruined by the hoppy bitterness.

I did reach out to a self declared IPA fan – in the interests of balance – to get a view from the other side.

O’Hara’s Notorious, it’s a Knock Out!

Says Simon here.

Which I suppose it is.

Whiskey a no-go: McGregor suffers KO to brand plan

Says the Independent here.

Beer 1 – Whiskey 0.

Sláinte.

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A Dingle Duel, SuperValu Release v Batch 3, Single Malts, 46.5%.

Dingle have been the darlings of the new breed of Irish Whiskey Distilleries.

Their initial limited release batches marked the beginnings of a rebirth in Irish whiskey and fetched both high acclaim – as well as high prices.

Not being a collector – I prefer to enjoy the contents of the bottle – I did not get involved in entering a lottery to purchase an expression at extravagant cost. Nor auctions to acquire the first bottle off the line.

I generally taste at whiskey shows, media events and bars.

If I’m impressed with what I’ve experienced – and when the cost is more affordable & easier to obtain – I might be tempted to purchase.

The initial bourbon cask matured Dingle’s did not tempt me.

They were young, fresh – even exuberant – single malts from a new company. But taste wise they followed a well worn path.

The PX finished single pot still did impress however. I gave it top spot in a blind tasting event over and above all the Middleton releases at the time. It was new, innovative and grabbed my palate’s attention long before it’s identity was revealed to me.

So when a port cask limited release for supermarket chain SuperValu hit the stores I hungrily hunted down a bottle to savour the contents.

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Dingle SuperValu Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

No flipping for me.

Subsequent to that – a 3rd Batch release was announced. The Cask Strength offering is as rare as hens teeth, yet the Single Malt – again including port casks – was available in my local O’Brien’s and SuperValu stores.

Was this expression just a relabelled SV release?

I had to find out.

So the Dingle Duel was born.

In the left corner, the SV release, limited to 678 bottles. ‘A Marriage Of Port And Bourbon Casks’. As it says on the tin.

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A marriage indeed! c/othewhiskeynut

On the right. Batch 3 Single Malt. A far healthier release number & ‘A Marriage Of Bourbon And Port Casks‘.

Mmmmm. Not much to go on there then.

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Batch 3 back label c/othewhiskeynut

There is a slight difference in colour though.

Now Dingle don’t do added caramel nor chilled filtration – so what you see is what you get – and the SV release was noticeably darker.

On the nose it’s clear these are 2 unique & individual bottlings. The port influence on the SV release is just more pronounced.

It seems Dingle fully mature in the respective casks to begin with and marry the results at a later stage. There must be more Port cask used in the SV release and for me at least – it is more enjoyable for it.

The port influence smoothed over the young bourbon cask matured spirit giving a rather warmer, richer feel. A lovely dry, prickly heat came through at the end too – which suited my palate just fine.

The youthfulness of Batch 3 shone through both on the nose and taste. That’s not to say it’s a bad whiskey – it is want it is – a young fresh even lively whiskey with a decent port cask dressing showing itself in a more balanced, subdued kind of way.. Others may prefer this expression.

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A duo of Dingle’s c/othewhiskeynut

Having both back to back was a very enjoyable way to taste two lovely new Irish Whiskeys.

I look forward to future releases and further developments from this fabulous distillery.

Sláinte.

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Oh! Dingle  may be moving away from the cult collector status that has sustained it’s earlier sales and transitioning into more general purchases. This may not be plain sailing judging from the discounted Batch 3’s in my local store.

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Come and get it! c/othewhiskeynut

 

Whiskey & Chocolate

December 21st is the shortest day of the year – or Winter Solstice.

To mark the occasion – a short blog is in order.

Whiskey & chocolate make an excellent pairing. Especially when they happen to be in the same package!

Kilbeggan Handmade Chocolate generously sent me a couple of their Walsh Whiskey infused products.

The chunky 70% Dark Chocolate Irishman Founder’s Reserve bar combines a delightfully hard exterior with a sensuously soft centre infused with gentle hints of whiskey.

The Writers Tears Truffles were sweeter, softer, more complex and yet balanced all at the same time.

The perfect indulgance for those dark winter nights!

Slàinte.

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Kilbeggan Chocolates are available online via their website here – or pop down to your local O’Briens off-licence where you can purchase both the chocolate and the whiskey!

 

 

 

Jameson Caskmates, IPA Edition, 40%, Blend

You’ve gotta hand it to Irish Distillers – the largest producer of whiskey on the island of Ireland – for constantly coming up with new & innovative expressions for our delight & delectation.

The very successful Jameson Original blend is by far and away the biggest selling Irish whiskey in the world – but to be brutally honest – I find it rather bland & characterless.

The surprise hit of Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition gave the Original blend a welcome dose of character by it’s final maturation resting in casks that previously held stout from the Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork.

This has led to further collaboration with craft brewers around the world with limited releases of Jameson Caskmates in various regions to add more flavour & depth to the Original blend.

The latest incarnation of the Caskmates series takes it’s lead from the hirsute hipster’s darling drink of the craft beer scene – IPA.

You could say it’s bigger than Hip Hop!

IPA – or Indian Pale Ale to give it the original title – is a style of beer characterised by the varying degrees of bitterness provided by the inclusion of hops in the recipe. It currently fuels the growing interest in craft beer with an explosion of new tastes, new flavours & new styles.

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IPA Edition c/othewhiskeynut

Jameson has taken a leaf out of the craft beer scene to age their latest Caskmate in IPA casks – also from the nearby Franciscan Well Brewery – to provide new tastes, new flavours & new styles to the whiskey world.

So does it work?

Well – the back story and the flavours in the Stout Edition had me hooked so on hearing O’Briens had a limited run of 2000 for a trial period – I was first in line for a bottle!

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In O’Briens c/othewhiskeynut

But what does it taste like?

The dark colour struck me first – perhaps I was taking the IPA influence a bit too much in expecting a pale yellow offering!

On the nose it was relatively soft with a hint of citrus, quiet nice actually.

The taste came over crisp & dry. The bourbon maturation notes faded quickly to leave a pleasant dry lemony tart finish.

Novel & intriguingly enticing.

The overall experience was of a well balanced blend with subtle flavours throughout – perhaps just a bit too subtle for me.

But the hint of hops at the end together with a sprinkling of spice won me over.

You’d better ‘hop to it’ if yer after a bottle!

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Blake’s, Galway.

With it’s warm inviting open fire – dark wooden fixtures and furniture – mirrored whiskey displays and cosy snugs – you  certainly feel at home in Blake’s Corner Bar.

From the impressive 50+ range of whiskeys on offer I chose a single malt from one of the new breed of Irish distilleries – Glendalough 7.

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Blake’s Bar Whiskey Shelf c/othewhiskeynut

The Double Barrel Single Grain release from this Wicklow based distillery had impressed me and I’d added a bottle of Glendalough 7 to my growing collection by cashing in my loyalty card rewards at my local  O’Briens off licence. Something I do on an annual basis now – a sort of whiskey Xmas present to myself. As that bottle still remains unopened – I thought now would be a good a time as ever to sample the expression.

This was a different taste experience to my previous 2 samplings. A lighter – sharper – even clearer mouth feel followed through with a hint of spice and a lovely warm finish. Being unadorned – a straight single malt flavour profile contrasted with the barrel finished and/or blended malts I’d had earlier. At 46% unfiltered the stronger alcohol content would explain the extra bite at the beginning of this double distilled single malt.

Let me indulge myself here – but careful now – this PiL video contains rude words – as is typical.

I paired this malt with a tasty burger and chips from the extensive dinner menu – being after 12 – I’d just missed the breakfast service of a Full Irish I originally wanted to soak up the increasing alcoholic buzz that was starting to make itself felt.

Blake’s was doing a roaring trade with other folks popping in for meals – teas or coffees – pints or drams in between their shopping. Some had even stopped by to watch the sport on the screens dotted around the premises.

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Blake’s Bar c/othewhiskeynut

As the Tottenham vs Sunderland match was about to begin – and not particularly being football mad – I finished up my meal – relished the last drops of Glendalough 7 – and drank the glass of water accompanying my burger to help stop me dehydrating from the whiskey intake.

I fired off a few snaps with the camera – chatted to the ameniable locals and bar staff before heading on to my next destination on the Galway Whiskey Trail.

Sláinte

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Fairytale In The Supermarket

It’s not everyday you pop into your local supermarket for some messages and come out smiling – but that’s exactly what happened to me the other day!

When I’m out shopping – whether it’s local or not – I generally always take a look at the whiskey shelves to see what’s on offer or changed since my last visit. On this occasion I was rewarded by a selection of new whiskey expressions at my local Dunnes. What caught my eye were a couple of whiskeys from one of the very few new Irish distilleries to have been around long enough to release their own product. None other than West Cork Distillers.

Now these Distillers have a bit of a reputation of being a little “unforthcoming” when it comes to whiskey aficionados about what they are up to down in Skibbereen – at least that’s what I’ve read. I don’t know why – but I do know their very bold and striking black bottle with simple white lettering on it stood out from the crowd.

Pogues whiskey

The Pogues The Official Irish Whiskey – are the stark words emblazoned across the front of the bottle.

Marketing a whiskey after such a band – with a lead singer who has a somewhat legendary relationship with drink – too much of it perhaps – is a bit of a brave move to say the least. But the packaging style of the bottle bucks the trend of being able to see the whiskey inside. The Pogues also bucked the trend of the time when they first appeared by combining traditional Irish music with raucous punk – and look at them now – world famous!

Anyway – I couldn’t resist buying a bottle.

Price wise at 33 euro it’s a bit above your standard blend range. For around 23 euro you can have Kilbeggan – Paddy – Powers or White Bush. Add some more and for 40 euro you can have the excellent Powers 3 Swallow release in the Irish Whiskey sale at O’Briens. But hey – it’s new – it’s bold – it’s striking. I gotta have it.

Oh – did I say The Pogues Irish Whiskey was a blend? There is no mention of it on the bottle – although the website does say so.

On pouring a glass – after putting away the shopping – I was struck the rich dark brown colour. A bit too dark for such a youthful expression? Three years and a day the bottle says – but hey what’s this?

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Farven justeret med E150a

To you and me it’s added caramel.

Question. When the whiskey is in a black bottle you can’t even see it – so why bother?

Does it affect the taste?

For a full appraisal of added caramel in whiskey I suggest you read Dramming’s Blog here and make up your own mind.

Despite all the above – the aroma was very pleasing. Rich and oaky to me. This followed through into the taste together with a little spice  – which I like – and a lovely long warm finish.

I was worried that using the Pogues name as a marketing tool would cover up a substandard expression. On sampling this whiskey I think I’m sadly mistaken as this is a very enjoyable tipple.

 

It certainly brought a smile to my face;

On spotting it at the supermarket

on reading about it and most importantly

on drinking it.

Quite what Shane MacGowan makes of it will have to wait for another time.

Good on ya West Cork Distillers. I’ll have to check out your other releases on the strength of this!

 

Slainte

 

Whiskey Nut