Well, if your gonna do Burns Night you might as well open something special.
This Burns Day 2017 Spirit from the Eden Mill Distillery in Fife, Scotland, was part of a trilogy marking the coming of age of their own distillate.
I picked it up whilst visiting the distillery in Guardbridge a few years ago.
It has a number of things going for it.
The use of different malt varieties – Crystal & Brown malts have had additional roasting to boost flavour – as well as virgin oak maturation – would suggest this is an eminently quaffable & flavoursome spirit.
In other jurisdictions – America – this is whiskey. Just as it would have been in Burns day before the advent of age rules. So I cracked it open to sample the delights within.
First off – the colour.
In keeping with Eden Mill’s ethos, I’m banking this is natural colour from both the toasted malt & virgin oak barrel.
Second off – it’s young, it’s fresh & it’s very engaging!
A lovely strong vanilla from the virgin oak casks comes through with a bit of bourbony toastiness – and a spirity kick.
On the palate it starts off smoothly. There’s not much body or depth – but the flavours are clean, fresh & lively!
There’s a slight tannic spiciness on the finish leaving a pleasant prickly tingling.
For a 2yo – there is no new make aroma – this possesses the rudiments of a lovely young malt.
Looking forward to future releases from Eden Mill.
On my last visit to Eden Mill – which is a combined Brewery & Distillery operation on the banks of the Eden River in Guardbridge, Scotland – the opener for the distillery tour was a bottle of their fine Whisky Barrel Aged Beer.
It certainly loosened up the tongues of the mixed bag of visitors on the day – and was a novel way to introduce the rich variety of drinks including beers, gins & whiskies made at the facility.
Bottled at 6.7% the dark beer delivered a gentle aroma of malt. The carbonation wasn’t too strong – more in the style of a traditional Scottish Heavy Ale – with a great outpouring of flavour comprising of caramel, burnt molasses, a hint of dark chocolate & coffee too.
There is also a limited edition Bourbon Barrel offering – slightly sweeter & heavier if possible – with a younger 68 day age statement as opposed to the 93 of the Whisky Barrel Beer.
Whatever your poison – Eden Mill have a drink to satisfy.
If anything – Irish Whiskey is late to this social media led personality trend – and I’d be more worried if there wasn’t an Irish celebrity wanting to get involved.
Right from the beginning however – even before it’s release – I posted a piece with the headline ‘We need to talk about Conor’ and got the following response;
“No we don’t”
Kind of sets the tone for what followed when Proper Twelve was launched.
“It’s barely legal”
Well at 3 years old it is legal.
Funny though – that issue never came up when punters were outbidding each other to get hold of ‘barely legal’ Dingle or Teeling whiskey when it was first released.
Then comes the condemnation.
“Heavily adulterated with caramel”
Yes there is added caramel – it says so on the label. Caramel is a legally allowed additive both within Irish Whiskey and Scottish Whisky. The same criticism can be levelled at virtually every Jameson product, Bushmill bottle, Johnnie Walker whisky and many others as they all contain caramel. Why single out one offender?
Then you start to get to the heart of the matter.
“See, Bono’s doing it right….he’s supporting the build of an ACTUAL distillery!”
Since when did you need a distillery to build a brand?
The Spot whiskeys started out from a grocers. So too did the best selling Johnnie Walker. Many a big brand of today began as non distillery producers – it’s a well trodden path.
And then you get plain old bias.
“I have no intention of ever trying it.”
Which is probably just as well – as blogger after blogger lined up to do a hatchet job on the liquid. The best described the whiskey as;
Now in all probability Proper Twelve was distilled at Bushmills for the malt content and Midleton for the grain. There is no law in either Irish or Scottish rules stating you must name the distillery which made the blend.
So effectively the same teams that make all Bushmills product – from the White Bush blend to the lauded 21 Year Old Single Malt – as well as the folks that make all the Jameson, Powers, Paddy’s & Midleton products have somehow dropped their standards to allow ‘toilet cleaner’ to be made in their stills, stored in their barrels and blended in their tanks?
I don’t think so.
What I found on tasting was a very easy going, approachable blend with a slight charred cask influence and a hint of spice.
It sits very well among the other Irish whiskey blends out there.
But then what is getting people irate – from what I can see – is not really the whiskey – it’s the man behind it – Conor McGregor.
The idea that a somewhat colourful & controversial kid from Crumlin can just swan in with his millions and release a whiskey that has the whole world talking – buying – and drinking – is obviously too much to bear .
It upsets the cosy consensus that assumed ‘premiumisation’ was the way to go – or that ‘transparency’ is key.
For a whiskey that sold out 6 months worth of stock within a matter of weeks – I think it just proved there was a vast untapped market out there waiting to be filled. It’s a marketing master stroke and something of a social media phenomenon.
But of course – when all else fails – slag off the customer.
“There are just enough rednecks and hooligans out there that will actually make this crap a success.”
I find it ironic that those who criticize Mr McGregor the loudest seem to descend to his level of pre-fight ritual lambasting.
Which is a pity.
As Mr McGregor and his Proper Twelve brand have just pulled off a massive publicity stunt that is getting Irish Whiskey instant worldwide recognition and potential sales far beyond anything that has gone before.
It is without doubt my Irish Whiskey of the year 2018.
All quotes in italics are from social media posts by various whiskey fans. They are by no means the only ones. I have chosen the milder variety.
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.
As well as having a good array of local craft beers, gins, wines & chocolates – they also do whisky – mostly Scotch. (I should add the wines are definitely from further afield.)
Not having tried any GlenDronach before – I was intrigued by their peated expression.
Now GlenDronach are usually associated with sherry bombs – which many hold in high regard – but that reminds me of putting ketchup on your chips. I’m more of a brown sauce man myself – more spice, more bite & to my tastes at least, more flavour. So the peated bottle made it into my carry-on flight bag.
GlenDronach Peated is presented at 46%, non chill filtered and no added colouring, which is always a bonus. It’s still finished in sherry casks like it’s stablemates – peated malt being the difference.
The peat was actually quite muted on the nose. The sherried notes still came through – though with a bit of a spirity kick. Perhaps being a non aged statement there were some young malts involved.
The taste was quite crisp & clear – perhaps a little sharp – with more of that lovely soft smoky peat fire quietly mingling with those sweet fruity sherry elements. Rather than competing with each other – they came across balanced & co-ordinated.
A lovely dry mouth feel – I find characteristic of PX or Oloroso cask finishes – slowly faded at the end.
Just lacking that something special to make it stand out from the crowd.