What excites me about entering a bar for the first time is discovering the whiskey selection on their shelves.
What excites me even more is discovering a few new whiskeys to try out!
The Blackbird Bar in Ballycotton happened to be that bar – and 100 Pipers was the first new discovery.
This big volume Scottish blend has been around since the late 60’s. Now part of the Pernod Ricard empire – the bottle still displays Seagram’s on it from the original brand owners.
A rather dark blend – added caramel is expected for this category – there is that sweet vanilla & caramel going on. Towards the end a pleasing touch of peat smoke gives 100 Pipers a bit of character. An easy going softly smoked blend.
Next up was a Japanese Single Malt – Hakushu Distillers Reserve.
My drinking buddy ordered the Dingle Single Malt Batch 2 at the same time to compare & contrast.
I found the Hakushu clean & fresh. A lovely deep vanilla from bourbon cask maturation which then slowly morphed into a gorgeously drying soft ashy peaty spice which danced off the palate.
Really enjoyed this one.
The Dingle Single Malt Batch 2 was more rich with dark fruitiness from the added Oloroso & PX cask maturation – and made for an interesting taste comparison.
The bar recommended the final offering – Auchentoshan 12.
Now Auchentoshan are an anomaly in Scottish Whisky – they triple distill!
This bourbon & Oloroso cask matured Single Malt was a fine example of that style.
Smooth delivery, good depth of flavours with a touch of oakiness too – and an enjoyably long finish.
The Blackbird Bar also stock an extensive array of Midleton Distillery output – as befits a bar less than half an hour away from the distillery itself.
Having had them all before – I chose to go for a delightful trio of new acquaintances.
Out of the 3 – Hakushu would come out on top.
The combination of a clean, almost herbal yet fruity start growing into a drying soft spicy peat hit definitely had me hooked.
Just like the warm hospitality & great whiskey selection of the Blackbird Bar reeled me in.
Big shout out to Mossie & all the crew – a fabulous spot.
There’s been a lot of interest in the new design for Paddy’s Irish Whiskey.
Sazerac have recently taken ownership of the brand from Pernod Ricard – it is still made in the New Midleton Distillery in Ireland – and are injecting some money & life into the marketing & labeling of this historic whiskey.
Die hard fans are not exactly enamoured by the rebrand.
The additional ‘s in Paddy, the additional ‘e’ in whiskey, the altered image of Paddy himself with bowler hat, clover and smile has all caused a degree of ire.
I see it as the onward development & change inherent within the whiskey industry.
Spotting some bottles in my local Dunnes store when out shopping – also with the extra ‘e’ – I thought it opportune to revisit this blend.
The nose has that sweet caramelly aroma common to many an entry level blend. It’s relatively grainy neutral otherwise.
The taste is soft & sweet, but develops into a noticeable heat with warming vanilla & caramel dominating.
It’s a robust little dram with a short finish & uncomplicated appeal.
What Paddy Flaherty was dishing out in his legendary sales adventures is in all probability nothing like today’s offering.
To begin with it wouldn’t have been chill filtered. That practice didn’t become common until after the 1940’s or 50’s.
The barley and/or corn raw ingredients were probably organic – as were all grains in a pre-petro chemical agri business environment.
The whiskey Paddy was plying would likely have been a pot still whiskey – a mix of malted & unmalted barley – and not a blend at all. Irish distillers were reluctant to embrace the new technology of the Coffey Still which kick started the modern whisky industry.
It also wasn’t until the 1920’s or 30’s that bottling Irish whiskey became the norm. Usually it was sold in barrels to pubs, bars & hotels who dispensed it straight from the cask – a large variation in quality could then ensue.
Even if Carol Quinn – Archivist at Irish Distillers – is sitting on an original Paddy Whisky recipe – it would be difficult to recreate.
The soils would be different, the water would be different, the air would be different, the processes have been altered, the wood for maturation would be different – all factors that in a myriad of ways would alter the taste, texture and flavour of the resulting whiskey.
But we can sit down today and enjoy a glass of Paddy’s Irish Whiskey.
I raise a toast to his memory and the fabulous tales therein of the original brand ambassador.
One emerging market everyone is keen to get in on is Africa – Nigeria in particular.
With a population estimated at 200 million – making it the 7th most populous nation in the world – and an alcohol sales figure of 2.84 billion dollars in 2014 – who wouldn’t want to have a slice of that cake?
Indian whisky is to the forefront here – at least until Nigeria develops it’s own distilling industry.
India produces mass market blends usually consisting of imported bulk malt from Scotland – augmented with Indian grain – plus a dash of added caramel.
All the big players – Diageo, Pernod-Ricard, United Spirits & others all have their own particular brands in this category. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a few here, here & here.
They retail – in Lagos at least – for about €5 per 750ml bottle of Nigerian strength – 43% – whisky.
My latest acquisition – via my Nigerian correspondent – is Black & Blue Premium Whisky.
The name is entertaining.
A play on the successful Black & White Scotch mixed in with the premiumisation associated with Blue (a la Johnnie Walker Blue) – and the unfortunate association attached to ‘battered black & blue.
It’s not clear as to the origins of this brand.
The label has a London address – a rather drab office in Kingsbury NW9 – and oddly a phone number – which rang out when I called.
Oh – I think ROI in this instance means Republic Of India.
I’ve not yet encountered any Irish whiskey in this segment of the market.
So what does ‘the finest oak aged matured malt blended with Indian grain spirit’ taste like?
Well – there is a burnt quality to the nose. I couldn’t describe it as smoky or peaty – yet it’s rather attractive. Mainly as it dampened down the sweet caramel influence.
This followed through into the taste – which didn’t offer much regards depth of flavour or complexity – but it was smooth & approachable.
The burnt note returned on the finish – which along with the 43% strength left a decent degree of heat & warm feeling on the palate.
It certainly didn’t leave my insides black & blue.
Just pleasantly intoxicated.
Sure at only a fiver – what can you complain about!
Brazil is a big whisky drinking country. Not only was it once the 5th biggest export nation for Scottish whisky – it also produces it’s own versions.
After a recent economic crash in Brazil, Scottish Whiskey profits worldwide experienced a dip. You can read all about it in a Scottish Whisky Exports Review here.
Now a significant amount of that export order takes the shape of ‘bulk exports’. Simply put, this is tank loads of Scotch sent abroad where it is decanted, blended, bottled & labelled for the domestic market.
Often this process takes the form of added caramel, added spirits locally produced – referred to as ‘ethyl alcohol’ in a wonderfully informative report with the snappy title ‘Chemical Composition Of Whiskies Produced In Brazil Compared To International Products’ available here – and watered down to the legal minimum of 38%.
As my better half recently visited Brazil, my natural curiosity and intrigue to taste some of this ‘nacionais’ whisky was an opportunity too good to miss – so some bottles made it back to Ireland.
Now calling your whisky ‘Wall Street’ – and coupled with a bourbon looking bottle – sends out messages that run counter to the ‘Maltes Escoceses’ on the label. But this is no fake or phony whisky – this is an official Pernod Ricard Brazil bottle. So could there be some Glenlivet, Scapa or Aberlour in this blend?
The back label is also interesting. It lists a lot of information you don’t normally see on Scottish or Irish labels – ‘corante INS150A’ for example – and if you don’t trust the label – why should you trust the one on Glenlivet, Scapa or Aberlour? It’s the same company after all.
So what does it taste like?
Well my first problem was getting round the tamper proof bottle top. I’ve not encountered this device before and found it infuriating. Unusual methods were resorted to to get a decent pour!
Finally getting the whisky in a glass allowed me to inhale a cloying sweetness combined with a gentle grainy element.
The taste was surprisingly soft – I had been given dire warnings from an amusing vlog below – smooth & yes, sweet. No real strong flavours or character. Reminds me of a more gentle single grain. No sign of malt in this.
The finish was about the only ‘joy’ in this whisky as a pleasant softly warming burn on the palate hinted to the origins of this drink.
Overall it is an inoffensive, approachable easy drinking tipple that lacks any real bite, spirit or flavour that would grab my attention. The added caramel & ethyl alcohol have stripped the ‘Maltes Escoceses’ of any inherent character. It would make an excellent base for cocktails, adding coke, lemonade or ginger & lime to give it a bit more zing.
Having said that – as the average weekly income in Brazil is only about 135 euros – paying 10 euro for Wall Street as opposed to 23 for Jameson & Johnnie Walker Red – or even 91 for Glemnorangie Original – would soon concentrate your mind.
Ye takes yer money & ye makes yer choices.
I’m glad I chose Wall Street – if only to taste what other blogs shy away from.
My thanks to Iris for sourcing this whisky.
It has come to my attention there is a Wall Street Whisky in Vietnam of similar style to the Brazilian one. Diageo seem to own the Vietnam one according to a blog here.
Something was clearly amiss when the bartender replied;
‘We don’t have that one.’
Even after I’d spotted the distinctly garish – even kitsch – labelled bottle on a shelve of whiskeys.
A little game of,
‘Left a bit, right a bit, down one, BINGO!’
ensued to retrieve said bottle – whereupon the same bartender proceeded to shovel loads of ice into a tall glass.
The ice was duly discarded – after I asked for my whisky neat – and a shot promptly poured in.
‘Oh dear’, I thought, before common sense prevailed and the drink was decanted into a more suitable – if not ideal – tumbler.
Forget ‘A Horse With No Name’ – this was the pub with no name!
It transpires the pub formerly known as ‘Whiskey Fair‘ – and which I’d chosen as a suitable watering hole to meet a friend whilst in Dun Laoghaire for the day – had recently changed hands. We even had trouble finding it as although the old name had been removed from the front facade – no new title proudly embellished the now empty display.
With Irish Whiskey experiencing growing sales figures – I did ponder the managements decision to forgo the whiskey snug as the previous owners had obviously attempted to make a go of it. The premises were in a state of transition to something else – something not including a whiskey bar. Clearly I’d timed my visit during this change and been served by staff who obviously had no real knowledge or appreciation of the remaining whiskey stocks still evident behind the bar.
So what about Stewart’s Cream Of The Barley?
Well it’s an old standard Scottish blend dating from the 1830’s & currently owned by Pernod Ricard after their buyout of Allied Domecq back in 2005.
A rich golden brown colour smacks of added caramel – common in entry level blends.
The nose was sweet with a hint of malt.
The rich velvety malt on taste surprised me – although it soon diminished with an overly sweet overture & a short finish.
Very pleasant, very smooth, very aptly named & actually quite a decent blend for an afternoon chat.
The Old Jameson Distillery Dublin has made a great tourist attraction out of what was once one of Dublin city’s biggest trades – whiskey distilling – but that trade succumbed to a perfect storm of prohibition, blended whisky, civil war and the rise of Scotch to eventually close in 1971 when Jameson and Powers of Dublin – together with Paddys of Cork – retreated, regrouped and amalgamated into Irish Distillers where all production moved to Midleton in County Cork – bringing to an end whiskey distilling in Dublin. That is until the opening of the Teeling Distillery of only last month!
Midleton continues to produce a fine array of whiskey to this day as part of the Pernod Ricard Group – The Old Jameson Distillery showcases Jameson’s contribution to the parent group – and what a fine contribution it is!
Chosen as a Strategic Premium Brand – Jameson has seen phenomenal growth in sales in the last decade to become Ireland’s leading whiskey brand – outselling the next brand – Bushmills – by a factor of 10. Even Lady Ga Ga credited Jameson on her Born This Way album!
Jameson Original is the flagship blend – ironic in that the Irish distillers reluctance to move to blended whiskey with the arrival of Aeneas Coffey’s new continuous still was one of the factors in the demise of Irish Whiskey – is a perfectly fine balanced – triple distilled – smooth Irish Whiskey – but there are many other expressions which the Old Jameson Distillery opens you to.
Built in the historical Smithfield area of Dublin – the first thing you notice on entering are the 2 massive Jameson bottle chandeliers – a lovely feature – I just hope the maker didn’t drink all the content before assembling the pieces!
There is also a Hobby Horse – an early type of bicycle – as used by John Jameson in the late 1800’s – attached to the wall – sure where else would you park yer bike?
The second thing you notice are the queues. Be advised this is a very popular tour so book in advance online. I didn’t originally book so missed out until another trip up to Dublin enabled me to sail to the front of the queue to start the tour within minutes of stepping off the train with my pre-booked ticket.
As whiskey tours go Jameson guides you through the history, manufacturing , maturing and the all important tasting of the aqua vitae.
What I liked about the sampling was the choice of 3 brands from 3 whiskey making countries representing the different styles each place has traditionally used to produce their spirit.
First up was Jack Daniels – America’s No. 1 brand. I must admit I found this too sweet for my liking with very little finish. It’s a problem I have with most bourbon due to the corn used in the mash bill which imparts the sweetness – but rye bourbon has more bite so is much more up my street.
The Jameson delivered the familiar smooth tasty dram expected whilst the Johnnie Walker Black Label impressed me with the extra bite the smoky peat content delivered to the blend giving it just the edge to make it my best of the 3 on offer.
I don’t think Mr John Jameson would have been too disappointed as he was a Scotsman by birth – and being a canny Scot – he saw an opportunity in Irish Whiskey – much like Grant’s have done over 200 years later by buying up Tullamore DEW!
For an extra price – there is the opportunity to sample 4 of the Jameson Family Reserve Whiskeys. This is an excellent way to get to grips with other Jameson expressions which show a variety of ages, cask finishes and styles – all very fine drams making it hard to choose a winner.
Jameson Limited Reserve 18 year old – an excellent aged blend with sherry finished notes.
Jameson Gold Reserve – aged in new oak casks.
Jameson Select Reserve Black Barrel – aged in heavily charred bourbon barrels and
Jameson Distillery Reserve – aged in Oloroso Sherry casks.
It was very hard to choose a bottle as they were all fine drams but I eventually went for the Distillery Reserve – partly as I’m a sucker for distillery releases – partly for the rich, smooth sherry notes coming through on the nose and taste which I very much like – and partly for the price – it’s hard to pay double the cost for a bottle you find equally as good a lesser priced one.
Anyway – I do have a soft spot for a sherry bomb – as long as it’s done right – and the Distillery Reserve certainly is a fine example of that term – Cherry Bomb as sung by The Runaways has a different meaning!
What’s good about this extra tasting session are the fellow whiskey fans you meet whilst imbibing the excellent drams. It’s not long before tales, tips and whiskey stories ensue. Have you tried this yet? Have you tried that? Where is your next distillery visit? You should go there……..and so on. It also helps to have added input into the nuances of wood finishes, cask strengths, ages statements ….. all the things whiskey buffs chat about. I hope Alice from Australia enjoyed her further immersion into Irish Whiskey!
Sadly glasses empty, folks depart for further whiskey adventure and sustenance is required. Thankfully the 3rd Still Restaurant is only a short walk upstairs where you can enjoy a fabulous meal whilst soaking up the atmosphere – as well as the alcohol! Before heading off on your next whiskey quest.
You won’t go far wrong making The Old Jameson Distillery your next whiskey visit. Just remember to book in advance. Linger a while to savour the history, fine food, good company, great craic and above all – excellent whiskey!