Sir Edward has spent so much time in his adopted French estate he has imbued a rich dark mahogany colour.
The heavy sweet caramel overtones suggest it is not natural.
Sir Edward also seems to have given up the cigars – or perhaps even the Gauloises – as despite saying Smoky on the attractively designed label – I could only pick out the merest hint of peat to give some character to this otherwise inoffensively smooth yet basically bland blended offering.
I was slightly disappointed – but at only €12 for a 1 litre bottle – and a very well presented bottle at that – the fact Sir Edward is actually pleasantly palatable is probably a plus.
It also happens to be one of the most sought after whiskies in the world with prices going through the roof & distilleries cancelling sales of age statement malts to conserve stocks.
Which is all a bit of a conundrum for sticklers of whisky rules and regulations – as Japan has none.
Doesn’t seem to have damaged their reputation for making fine malts by my reckoning.
Anyway – I’m in this bar – The Rag Trader in Dublin if you need to know – and I’m looking for a whisky I’ve not tried before. Nikka All Malt – in a rather unusually designed bottle – catches my eye – so a glass is duly ordered.
Now the All Malt is a blend of 3 types of malt from the Nikka empire.
Miyagikyou distillery malt, Yoichi distillery malt – which tends to be peated, and Coffey malt – that is barley malt which has been distilled in a Coffey still. Makes for a lovely combination in my book.
I’ve had some Yoichi Single Malt in the past and enjoyed the smoky peat flavours. Coffey Malt also impressed me. Partly because of it’s unusual manufacture – but I found the taste quite appealing. So I was looking forward to this one.
Now at 40% it’s probably chill filtered and colouring has been added.
It starts quite slowly. Soft, rich toffees & smooth. Some fruity notes appear before a lovely malt biscuity peat takes over. It’s not over powering – just very pleasant ashy smoke that raises the enjoyment of this lovely little All Malt for me. On the finish there are some more fruity notes to round things off.
A pleasingly pleasant easy sipper.
If you haven’t tried Japanese whisky before this is a relatively affordable expression to start with. It may not have that ‘wow’ factor – but there is enough flavour satisfaction to keep it interesting and certainly for me – very enjoyable.
Which translates as Kanpai – or Sláinte in Japanese.
Lots of it – over 2 million litres of pure alcohol last year.
Housed in a variety of sites spread throughout the pretty West Cork town of Skibbereen the distillery is rather nondescript – hiding – as it does – in a small industrial estate.
There is no visitors centre. The distillery isn’t exactly pretty. But by prior arrangement I was lucky enough to be shown round the operation by an enthusiastic & energetic John O’Connell who along with fellow friends Denis McCarthy & Ger McCarthy, set the business up in 2003.
After a rocky start, the team at West Cork Distillers are getting into their stride.
The combination of John’s research & development background with Denis & Ger being former fishermen means they are used to relying on their on ingenuity and skills to pull themselves through. It also shows in the rather unusual ‘Rocket’ still that they made themselves – along with a lot of other rather ingenious inventions that aid in the distilling process.
But what of the actual spirit?
Well a vast amount of it goes to third parties, supermarket own labels, pub bottlings & other non distillery producers. That’s not to say it isn’t good quality. Many awards have been won for these products & I’ve chosen a few of them on a blind tasting as my best in class.
They also release under the West Cork label with some innovative & fabulous expressions – but more of that later.
A strong sense of ambition, drive, innovation & ingenuity is evident on being shown round the various sites.
Working 24 hours a day 6 days a week means a lot of barrels to fill & a lot of warehouses to store them in. The three I saw were packed to the rafters. Luckily West Cork Distillers are currently engaged in building more warehouses on the outskirts of the town – along with plans to erect a very large Coffey still which currently looks like a giant copper jigsaw set! I’m confident however they will put it together & fabricate it to their own requirements.
Some of these requirements are a desire to use Irish sourced malt, grain and yeast.
The malt is relatively easily obtained.
The commonly used grain for distillation in Ireland however is corn. Ireland unfortunately doesn’t have the climate to grow distilling grade corn. The bulk of it is imported. West Cork Distillers have therefore bucked the trend and are using Irish grown wheat.
This has posed problems for the master distiller Patrick Harnedy. Wheat is a more ‘lively’ grain to work with which has resulted in an overflow of froth on a number of occasions. But they are soldiering on and honing their skills.
On the yeast front they were looking forward to developing a strain sourced from the wonderful West Cork countryside that would be unique to West Cork Distillers yet still allow them to produce award winning whiskey.
Any tour wouldn’t be complete without the all important tasting.
Many familiar brands & supermarket releases were on show. A lot of them I’d already enjoyed. I was drawn to to those I hadn’t tried before or enjoyed only fleetingly.
The West Cork Distillers Glengarriff range was one that stood out.
They are single malts matured in casks that have been charred – by West Cork Distillers home made charring machine – with either Irish Peat or Irish Bog Oak.
I’m all for the return of peat to Irish Whiskey and what West Cork Distillers have produced here is rather unique.
It’s the first modern Irish Whiskey to use Irish Peat in it’s manufacture!
Most other peated Irish expressions have to use malted grain imported from Scotland as the process to dry out the barley with peat smoke has died out in Ireland.
I was rather surprised by how much of a peat influence there was on the nose of this youthful & fresh malt just by the barrel being charred with Irish peat as the fuel source.
It followed through to the very enjoyable taste too. A mellow malt start with hints of vanilla from the charred cask evolved into the softly glowing embers of a peat fire.
Nothing in your face, just the warmth of an open hearth gently warming the palate. I should add it’s non chill filtered and natural colour too.
And it won’t break the bank to get your hands on one either. O’Briens are stocking it around the €40 mark.
A final mouth pleaser was in order.
Asked to sample a poitín I gladly took a sip. Yes it was strong, but possessed a clear fresh taste & satisfying appeal.
Only then did John laughingly reveal the bottle.
John O’Connell’s Poitín bottled at 72%!
It was one of the marketeers mad ideas.
Did I say West Cork Distillers don’t have a marketing department?
That is left to the many third parties that buy their spirit. Parties like Halewood International that are behind both The Pogues Irish Whiskey as well as Peaky Blinder Irish Whiskey.
Both of which I’ve bought & enjoyed previously.
Knowing the source & meeting the team that made the spirit just makes it all the better.
West Cork Distillers are one of the most dynamic & innovative whiskey distilleries in Ireland.
I wish them continued future success.
I’d like to thank John for the generous amount of time & enthusiasm he displayed showing me around the distillery sites.
Many thanks too for the poitín – a fun drink indeed!
I got a little tip-off there was a new kid in town.
The town is Tullamore.
The new kid is the Tanyard Lane bar on William Street.
Housed in the old Wolftrap building, Carrig Brewing Company have moved into running licensed premises in addition to craft beer brewing from their Leitrim base.
Mrs Whiskey and myself had an opportunity to call in on a Sunday evening for a night-cap.
The premises are large and roomy & spread out over 3 main areas.
A smallish snug area on the front left, a large lounge bar with dining area on the right with an attractive walled bar at the rear.
There is an extensive food menu, a large outside smoking area behind the snug, all equipped with a modern sound system & large sports screens which were thankfully turned down low when we visited.
Carrig craft beers were obviously to the fore. but a decent array of other beer brands featured too, along with an impressive display of gins, wines and over 40 whiskeys to choose from.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to walk into a bar & find a whiskey I’ve not tasted before. Tanyard Lane had a couple of Knappogue Castles to tempt me – but I settled on an Ardbeg 10 year old for a base-line Islay peat hit.
At 46% & non chill filtered – as most Ardbeg releases are these days – I found the familiar satisfying peat hit to be the only show in town. Maybe I was expecting more from this award winning dram? In contrast, my earlier experience of the non age statement Uigeadail release sang to me on many levels & had a longer finish. It left the 10 year old rather one dimensional in my book.
The bar staff were very friendly & helpful and I got chatting with the bar manager Con who was keen to expand on his whiskey selection – which was music to my ears.
The walls were well adorned with pictures of old Tullamore, whiskey mirrors and old drinks adverts.
Kinahan’s made an appearance, along with a Three Swallow ad for Powers and a blatantly sexist ad from Old Dublin Whiskey which you’ll have to visit to see as I refuse to reprint it here.
Whiskey drinking is for both men and women.
Thankfully both were well representing drinking & eating at Tanyard Lane.
A welcome addition to the Tullamore pub scene.
I wish Con & all the crew future success.
As of November 2018 Tanyard Lane is under new management & has rebranded itself as William St.
My blog was written in April 2017. I cannot vouch for any changes that have taken place after that date.
At Brooklyn I booked myself into one of Kings County Distillery tours in the grand old Paymaster Building inside the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard. Located only a short walk from either the York St subway or the iconic Brooklyn Bridge itself – it’s easily accessible for anyone staying in New York.
Dave – our tour guide on the day – entertainingly took us through a potted history of whiskey distillation in Brooklyn taking in topics such as civil war, taxes, legal & illegal production, alcohol consumption, Irish immigration, prohibition as well as many other related – or not – subjects & then tied the whole lot up together with the founding of Kings County Distilling itself in 2010.
I’ll repeat that year again.
Because that makes Kings County Distillery the 1st legal whiskey distillery in New York City since prohibition.
History has long tentacles.
We were shown the whole whiskey making process from the mashing of the grains in open fermenters,
To the distillation in copper pot stills,
To the maturation of the spirit in virgin american oak casks in the upstairs warehouse.
Kings County Distillery have chosen to go down a a fairly traditional route in that they produce a predominately high corn mash bill bourbon with only a small amount of barely from Scotland.
The use of small casks allows a shorter maturation period – generally less than 2 years – before it is deemed suitable for release. Some larger casks have also been laid down for future expressions & I couldn’t help noticing the ‘rye’ mark on some casks indicating a welcome addition to the current range at some date.
Tasting the actual product of all this hard work and silent development in the wood is obviously the highlight of any tour.
Kings County Distillery treated us to 4 expressions from their current range.
Starting with the Moonshine release at 40%.
The nose was the classic oily & slightly rotten fruit smell I associate with an unaged spirit. The taste followed through as expected with no real surprises. A perfectly fine & smooth example of this style of spirit which is often released by new distilleries as a showcase and money maker whilst the real bourbon or whiskey slowly matures.
The Bourbon release came next.
At 45% ABV this high corn bourbon with added barely, aged for 2 summers, gave a classic caramel sweet bourbon nose & taste together with a little bite. Another perfectly fine example of it’s style which hasn’t gone unnoticed by discerning drinkers as well as whiskey judges by the the amount of awards won.
The Winter Spice Whiskey at 40% had me a little confused. It’s basically the standard bourbon release above infused with a mix of baking spices normally associated with Xmas – cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves along with others – but yet it doesn’t have that sweet honey mix of many a liqueur nor can it be a whiskey with the non conventional additives. There is a market for this type of flavoured whiskey however. I couldn’t say it would be my cup of tea though.
A choice of Chocolate Whiskey or Peated Bourbon was offered for the last sample.
It should be obvious which one I went for.
I found the Peated Bourbon the most interesting and satisfying expression at Kings County Distilling.
At 45% the addition of peated barley from Scotland gave a welcome waft of smoke to the sweet bourbon caramel which raised the resultant spirit to a more entertaining yet vaguely familiar flavour profile.
Of the 3 Brooklyn distilleries I visited, Kings County Distilling seem to be the most established outfit producing a fairly traditional style of bourbon which is gaining many admirers. They also do a cracking distillery tour which certainly engages you with the whole whiskey making process.
I can’t say they set my palate alight – but I do wish them future success – they are a welcome addition to the whiskey distilling world.
One thing is for sure – I eagerly await any future rye expression they intend to produce from the casks I spotted on the maturation floor!