Even before Teeling Whiskey Distillery opened in 2015, I eagerly attended a guided tour of the nascent facility by none other than master distiller & blender Alex Chasko himself.
I’ve been avidly watching the rebuilding of Irish Whiskey – especially the role Teeling plays in that growth – ever since.
Teeling’s 5th Anniversary took place during COVID – and like many events – moved online.
So instead of a lavish party inside the fabulous distillery itself – it was me, my computer & 5 samples of Teeling Whiskey made in that very distillery.
Alex Chasko was again present – along with brand ambassador Robert Caldwell – to regale us with tales of those 5 years. From a dream to reality, a building site to a fully functioning whiskey distillery and from brewing beer in Oregon to distilling whiskey in Dublin.
To date most of the Teeling bottles on the shelves are sourced product – and very good they are too!
Alex is responsible for maturing that stock, choosing the casks, finishing, blending and releasing a wide variety of styles & flavours.
Now before me are 5 differing samples drawn from casks distilled at Teeling’s Distillery in Dublin itself.
This is the dawning of a new age in Irish Whiskey.
So what does it taste like?
A trio of Single Pot Stills started the show. All triple distilled using a 50/50 malted/unmalted mashbill presented at 46%, non chill filtered & natural colour.
SPS Bourbon Cask
The combination of rich vanillas, bourbon sweetness with a joyful youthfulness followed by an attractive prickly spice just won me over.
SPS Virgin Cask
A more tannic, sawdusty element with a sharper spice came through. Still enjoyable – if less balanced.
SPS Sherry Cask
Milder, mellower & more subtle & sweeter than the other 2. Not my favourite.
The 3 casks demonstrate the influence wood has on the whiskey. They also show the building blocks Alex uses to blend together to achieve a relatively consistent product for the Single Pot Still release which can iron out any excesses within the individual components.
A wonderful insight into the world of the blender.
Next came a duo of single malts – Crystal & Peated – which demonstrate the role raw ingredients play in developing flavour.
Crystal Single Malt
Crystal malt is commonly used in craft beer circles to boost flavour, depth & colour. A throwback to Alex’s brewing days.
Crystal malt has been roasted for longer – allowing richer, darker flavours to come through.
I found a farmhousey saison type of nose, rich vanilla on the palate with a gorgeous spice on the finish.
Peated Single Malt
Well anything with peat in it is a winner for me – and Teeling’s didn’t disappoint!
Very well balanced from start to finish.
A sheer delight!
A wonderful way to celebrate Teeling’s 5th Anniversary with such delicious whiskeys.
Having followed their growth along every step of the way it reassures me no end – the quality & diversity of whiskey being produced at Newmarket is a joy to experience.
Hats off to Teeling Whiskey – and all the team involved – Happy 5th Anniversary!
After disembarking at Galway Docks from successfully launching The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey the entertainment continued into the wee small hours. We were whisked away to one of the founding members of The Galway Whiskey Trail‘s bars – Sonny Molloy’s.
Drinks soon flowed – wines for the non-whiskey drinking brigade – cocktails for the more youthful contingent – and yet more whiskey for myself.
Being in Sonny’s surrounded by a stunning display of whiskeys allowed me to further explore the wonderful world of peated Irish whiskey.
Peated Irish whiskey.
It’s not a category everyone seems to be aware of – let alone be familiar with.
Connemara is the most well known example of this style. A Beam/Suntory brand from the Cooley Distillery in County Louth. It’s a fairly light tasting peated whiskey in its original non-age statement (NAS) single malt bottling but is also available as a 12 year old, a stunning 22 year old, a cask strength and if you look for it – a Turf Mor expression too.
A few years ago I tasted the 22 year old at it’s launch during the 2014 Irish Whiskey Awards held in Kilbeggan Distillery. I’m afraid to say peat wasn’t my strong point at that time so it was lost on me – but I have since developed a palate for peat and should go back to re-taste it again.
Contrary to Iain Banks eminently enjoyable whisky book ‘Raw Spirit’ who likens peated whisky to Marmite in that you either love it – or hate it – I think the charms of peat have slowly grown on me.
Sonny’s also stock some lovely discontinued peated Irish whiskey.
Michael Collins 10 Year Old Single Malt is a lighty peated expression also from Cooley before the Beam takeover in 2011. Originally destined for the American market by Sidney Frank Importing Company lawsuits ensued after the loss of supply but luckily this brand may re-surface as part of the Sazerac portfolio. I certainly await it’s return – although I can still enjoy the odd dram now and then of the original in decent whiskey bars around Ireland.
The peated Irish whiskey that really tantalises my tastebuds however is Inishowen. It’s your standard entry level blend of young grain spirit mixed with peaty malt bottled at 40%. Cooley are responsible again for this delightfully smooth youthful yet fully peated whiskey.
I’d go so far to say this whiskey out performs the big Scottish guns of Johnnie Walker, Famous Grouse, Haig and Teachers et al – no sharp edges here with Inishowen. Just a wonderful aroma and taste of peat together with a lovely sweet refreshing grain finish. Pity it’s discontinued – as I love it’s simple charms – much like the youthful exuberance of my musical interlude.
In my merry state – I laid down 2 challenges.
1 – If any standard Scottish blend can match Inishowen I’d love to try it – I haven’t come across one yet.
2 – When will an Irish distillery release a blend to match Inishowen?
Now I know Teeling are already laying down peated distillate and Nephin Whiskey are planning a peated single malt – so I may not have to wait too long – but a plain ordinary everyday peated blend is what I’m looking for – not a premium product.
With my challenge set – I cheerily left what was developing into an Irish bloggers lovefest – rejoined Mrs Whiskey who had bonded with the wine drinking fraternity – and bid our farewells for the evening before things got messy.
I raise a glass of The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey as a toast of appreciation for the wonderful launch party
There are as many expressions of whiskey as there are people that drink and enjoy it, let alone the myriad of ways that it can be drunk.
Being a bit of a purist, I like to drink my whiskey neat – or at best with a little dash of water to bring out the aromas and flavours – especially so with ABV above 46%.
My ability to detect smells and taste isn’t as refined as what it could be – but I’m learning! Therefore I can’t profess to be an expert or give an unbiased assessment of the whiskeys I drink as others do. My personal preferences will no doubt shine through so I’ll explain my whiskey rating table – and show some examples too.
Whiskey Nut Ratings
A+ – Astounding
A – Awesome
B+ – Above average
B – Average
C – Awful
A+ This Knappogue Castle 2000 Single Malt Marsala Cask is a fine example of a dream whiskey. Rich strong spicy aroma followed through on the taste, with a long finish. At 46% a dash of water opens up the flavours even more. A delight.
A Penderyn Red Flag. A lovely story. A lovely whisky. Another fine example of a single malt finished in madeira casks.
B+ Now the B category by default will contain the bulk of blended whiskeys, single malts of no stunning distinction and any other combination of basically a decent drop of the good stuff. B+, as with this hard to get hold of Michael Collins Blend, a now discontinued Cooley product, is a very fine blend with a slight spicy aroma and taste. This raises it above the bar to gain a + symbol. Worth tracking down!
C Nowthis is where it gets a little rough. Despite Clan Campbell being a very popular whisky in the European market, it’s not sold in Scotland. Ever wondered why? I tried it on a visit to France along with a few other whiskies. The tasting panel of 2 rated this one least favorite. Now there were other similar blends on the panel. Label 5 actually scored a B, but then it’s main ingredient malt is from Glen Moray – which I like.
I have got a bit of a problem rating peated whiskey. I generally don’t like it. At the Irish Whiskey Awards 2014, Kilbeggan released a 22 year old single Connemara peated whiskey and a 21 year old Kilbeggan blend. I loved the 21 year old but the 22 was lost on me. Ardbeg’s Uigeadail came as a bit of a surprise when I sampled it at an airport recently therefore. Ardbeg is considered a heavily peated distillery, but despite having a heavy peaty aroma, the Uigeadail taste was pleasantly spicy and fruity. I may have just been converted!
If you find yourself enjoying the same expressions as me, and sharing my dislikes, we’ll get along just fine. Just remember my bias when I post a review!