Tag Archives: Pearse Whiskey

Confessions Of An Irish Whiskey Judge

One of the highlights of my whiskey year is being able to participate in the annual Irish Whiskey Awards blind tasting sessions.

There are no labels, no brands and no preconceived ideas of what particular expressions you like. Just row upon row of identical bottles filled with varying colours of the brown stuff for you to sample & score.

The only markings are the codes to donate which category the whiskey is in and it’s number.

I managed to make 2 out of the 3 judging sessions that were held in Dublin back in late August, early September. Only after the Awards Ceremony itself in October are the names of the actual expressions revealed – and it has thrown up some interesting results!

Confession No 1. I’m not a trained whiskey taster.

Simply by being a member of the Celtic Whiskey Club or Irish Whiskey Society you get an invite to the sessions. By taking part you very quickly learn to spot which expressions you enjoy – or those that you enjoy less – and mark them accordingly.

Whiskey tasting for me is very subjective. It’s about what I like and enjoy. I’m not judging to spot a winner or to stock a bar – it’s just down to me and my palate.

Now the only ‘control’ at the session is a gentleman who happens to score diametrically opposite to me – his top scorers are my bottom markers, and vice versa. This pattern has remained consistent for the last 3 years. Which is reassuring.

The first days judging consisted of Irish Blended Whiskey under 60 euro and blends 60 euro plus. It proved to be a very packed field.

Confession No 2. Despite only sipping a small sample, using the spittoon & drinking copious water in-between – I got rather tipsy towards the end.

The session ended up being a bit of a ‘speed tasting’ event simply to get through all of the whiskey! I did recover after however with a hearty meal & a calming cup of tea.

I had a clear winner in the blends under 60 – Hyde No. 6 Special Reserve.

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Hyde No 6 Special Reserve c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Now I know there has been a bit of controversy with this brand as to whether they are simply bottlers or a distillery – but they currently source their spirit from a third party and from my experience in trying out a few of their expressions – they do a good job in finishing the product.

There were a further 7 expressions up to 2 points behind this top scorer & interestingly for me – all of them were from new entrants into the Irish whiskey scene. Whether they be actual distilleries or bottlers, the careful selection of casks to mature the whiskey in combined with skilled blending clearly appealed to my tastes.

Obviously my tastes are a little bit leftfield as the actual winner on the night – Jameson Black Barrel – didn’t grab me.

In the blends 60 and over I had a tie situation with 2 clear winners. Now usually I would re-evaluate the scores with a head-to-head tasting but,

Confession No 3. I just didn’t have the capacity for anymore whiskey!

The winners were JJ Corry The Gael,

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JJ Corry The Gael c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

and Pearse Coopers Select.

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Pearse Coopers Select c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Again I picked out the next generation of Irish whiskey entrants and was not in line with the winner on the night – although JJ Corry did get a Gold Award.

The second judging session found me in better form. I had a meal during the tasting which meant I had the capacity to re-appraise any tie situation – which happened to occur in the first Irish Single Grain category.

My eventual winner in this enlarged field over previous years was Hyde 1916 Single Grain.

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Hyde 1916 Single Grain c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

I’m not surprised by this choice – this whiskey grabbed me on first tasting it soon after it was released.

The whiskey that just missed out happened to be the recently re-recipied Kilbeggan Single Grain. And it goes without saying I didn’t pick the actual winner – Glendalough Triple Barrel.

Now the 14 entrants into the Irish Single Pot Still category represent to many the creme de la creme of Irish distilling. Midleton distillery dominates this field with their Redbreast, Powers, Spots & Midleton releases.

So what did I pick as my winner?

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Dingle Single Pot Still c/o@whiskeytalk2U

Dingle Single Pot Still. The only non Midleton product in the field – & I pick it out.

I’m gobsmacked!

My only tasting notes are a brief ‘different’.

And that to me is the excitement of what the new Irish whiskey companies are bringing to the market – difference.

Having said that – this was also a tied category which required a head-to-head duel. The one that just missed out happened to be the Midleton Dair Ghaelach Bluebell Forest release. Now that’s another whiskey showing something different by being matured in Irish Oak barrels.

So would the final Cask Strength category give me a full house of winners from the new breed of up and coming Irish whiskey companies?

You bet!

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Burke’s 15yo Cask Strength c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Now this release is also a single cask – but I don’t know which one I tasted. It’s also a sourced whiskey for John Teeling’s new venture in Dundalk – the Great Northern Distillery – whilst his own new make spirit matures.

So there you have it.

I may not be able to pick out the actual winners on the evening.

But I have an uncanny knack of picking out what’s new & exciting in the Irish whiskey scene!

Interestingly all of my winners are non chill filtered, all produced for or by new Irish whiskey companies and as far as I can ascertain – none have added caramel.

In a blind tasting situation all you are going on is ultimately the taste.

I believe I tasted the future of Irish Whiskey.

Slàinte.

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My thanks to all the staff at the Celtic Whiskey Shop for organising the judging sessions as well as the Awards night itself.

My thanks also to all the entrants who gave freely of their whiskey for the judging.

Fantastic!

 

 

SuperValu Premium Irish Whiskey Selection

On Wednesday 11th October SuperValu – an Irish owned retail store, part of the Musgrave Group with 223 shops nationwide – officially launch their new Premium Irish Whiskey range at an event in Dublin.

Being unable to attend – I did pop down to my two local SuperValu stores to see what all the fuss was about.

I must say I got quite excited about the breadth & depth of the range of Irish Whiskey on offer. Especially as it encompasses many of the new entrants into the resurging Irish Whiskey scene – as well as a couple of exclusives.

All the big 3 distilleries – Bushmills, Cooley & Midleton – are well represented with their familiar flagship brands.

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Supervalu Whiskey Cabinet c/othewhiskeynut

A clutch of new entrants offerings are also on display – Dubliner, Glendalough, Hyde, Teeling & Writers Tears whiskeys. All of which are currently sourced from the big 3 distilleries above – until the distillate from their own stills is old enough to be called whiskey.

The exciting dimension comes into play with the inclusion of three new distilleries who are actually old enough to produce & market their own whiskey.

Pearse Lyons Distillery only opened the doors to their marvelous facility in the former St James Church in August 2017. But prior to that their current stills – Mighty Mollie & Little Lizzie – had been fired up in County Carlow laying down single malt distillate which is now included in the two blended offerings of Pearse Original & Pearse Distiller’s Choice Whiskey – both included in the SuperValu range.

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West Cork Dhá Chasca c/othewhiskeynut

West Cork Distillers have had a somewhat rocky relationship with the whiskeyratti – but have been busily laying down distillate, releasing a slew of tasty own label expressions as well as innovative 3rd party brands too. They are actually old enough to release their own whiskey – but have never shouted about it if they are. The 10 year old single malt would be too old to be their own stock – but the new West Cork Dhá Chasca – a non age statement double barreled single malt just could be.

It’s also a SuperValu exclusive.

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Musgrave Exclusive c/othewhiskeynut

How cool is that!

So I bought a bottle for later evaluation.

What is even cooler is the poster child for the resurgence of Irish Whiskey – Dingle Distillery – have also released a SuperValu exclusive.

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From the SuperValu Premium Whiskey booklet

Dingle single malt whiskey matured in both port casks & bourbon barrels has been married together to produce this limited edition release.

Sadly it wasn’t in either of the shops when I visited – but wouldn’t it be great to pick up the cream of new Irish whiskey whilst doing your weekly shopping?

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Paddy for sale c/othewhiskeynut

And if you’re really lucky – like I was – you might also bag some of the remaining stock of classic whiskey from the recent past!

If that doesn’t make you excited – you’re not excited by whiskey!

Sláinte.

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