Ever since the split between Walsh Whiskey & Illva Saronno over the direction of produce distilled at Royal Oak Distillery – premiumisation vs mass market in my estimation – I’ve noticed far more glowing coverage of Walsh Whiskey – now a sourced brand – over and above Royal Oak – who are one of only a few Irish Whiskey Distilleries able to distill all 4 styles of Irish Whiskey – Blend, Single Grain, Single Malt & Single Pot Still – under one roof.
Normally there’s a ‘hoorah’ over a new distillery’s first offerings – but for Royal Oak it was a mere whimper.
The Busker range is widely available in the US.
For now in Ireland it remains in specialist shops.
I was waiting for it to appear in my local supermarket – but opted for a sampler pack from Dick Mac’s Bar instead.
The Busker range is entirely Royal Oak’s own distillate – which I’ve yet to witness on the shelves – and is a marvelous milestone in the growing diversity of Irish Whiskey.
The livery of the bottle is bold, striking & contemporary – a refreshing modern look.
The Busker range is available for the attractive price of €40 for the singles & €30 for the blend.
So how did I find them?
Triple Cask Blend, 40%
Triple distilled, triple cask – bourbon , sherry & marsala – a blend of Single Grain, Single Malt & Single Pot Still.
Quite a rich & fruity aroma. The sherry influence appears to dominate. Juicy fruitiness on the palate – like wine gums. An enjoyable tingling spice on the finish which gradually dries out.
Lovely complexity at a pleasing price.
Single Grain, 44.3%
Bourbon & Marsala cask matured.
Gentle & subtle. Hints of woodiness. Clean & fresh palate. Dries out on the finish with a frisson of spice.
A characterful & engaging single grain.
Single Malt, 44.3%
Bourbon & Sherry cask matured.
Smooth maltiness. Lovely sweet juicines on the palate. A delightful drying spice on the finish.
Easy & engaging.
Single Pot Still, 44.3%
Bourbon & Sherry cask matured.
Captivating sweet spiciness. More of those wine gums. More body & woody depth showing through. Lip smacking finish.
There’s a common sherry influenced theme running through all these whiskey. A pleasing sweet juiciness followed by a drying spiciness – but for me the added complexity of the single pot still wins out on the day.
A very welcome addition to the growing diversity of Irish Whiskey.
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!
The long anticipated release of Irish Whiskey from the Royal Oak Distillery in Co Carlow finally seems to be over.
Bottle & label designs have been approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in America.
The Busker range appears to consist of a Single Grain, 44.3%.
Single Malt, 44.3%.
Single Pot Still, 44.3%,
and a Blend, 40%.
As yet the only information available is from these labels – which may differ from the actual releases in various regions.
I find the bold design quite refreshingly striking – and can’t wait to have the actual bottle in my hands.
Especially as it will allow me to taste the all important Irish Whiskey inside!
After the parting of waves between Walsh Distillery founders Bernard & Rosemary Walsh and Royal Oak owners Illva Saronno– it appears the division was between a ‘premiumisation’ strategy versus a more mass market approach.
This is played out in the Irish Whiskey community too.
In an expanding & more diverse Irish Whiskey market both strategies are possible.
I’m certainly looking forward to sampling the fruits of Royal Oak’s labours – at a hopefully palatable price!
I recently had the pleasure of revisiting Clonakilty Distillery.
Unlike the building site of my previous visit – Feb 2018 blog here – this time the gleaming copper pot stills were in full working order & the rich smells of distillation were ever present during the highly informative & enjoyable tour.
Clonakilty Minke Gin is already available – but it will be a while for their own whiskey to mature.
In the meantime a varied range of sourced whiskeys – with added maturation & finishing at Clonakilty Distillery’s own warehouses on the Wild Atlantic Way – are available at the distillery shop.
I bought a couple of miniatures – part of their core range – as well as taking away some extra samples – I was driving – to enjoy later.
Clonakilty, Single Grain, Bordeaux Cask, 43.6%
A clean, sweet & delicate fruity little number that lulls you in with gentle flavours before delivering a healthy spirity kick by way of entertainment leaving a soft fruit finish on the rear.
Clonakilty, Small Batch, Double Oak, 43.6%
Warming, more malt biscuity. There’s a fruity sweetness from the recharred ex-wine casks which give this blend a juiciness followed with a dry prickly spice from the virgin oak casks too.
Clonakilty, Cognac Cask, 43,6%
A limited edition at the distillery.
Rich warm dark fruits with a touch of nuttiness to boot. Dries out towards the finish with a pleasant spiciness.
Clonakilty, Single Malt, Single Cask, Distillery Exclusive, 43.6%
If you ever need an excuse to visit a distillery – the chance to sample an exclusive bottling is always a bonus.
Warming vanilla enticed me in. A gentle rich maltiness tinged with dry tannic spice caressed my palate. A wonderfully balanced & elegant bourbon cask matured malt.
Clonakilty, Single Pot Still New Make, unknown ABV.
A rare treat indeed!
Using the traditional – as in malted & unmalted barley only mash bill – that signature oily & slightly sour new make nose was evident. A clean & fresh feel was enjoyed before the high ABV kicked in leaving a prickly heat with a touch of spice on the finish.
A well crafted spirit for the wood to work it’s magic on.
Interestingly this new make has already won awards.
All bodes well for Clonakilty Distillery.
The stunning signature building, the lovely cafe, the enjoyable tour and the increasing use of barley from their own farm in future distillations yet to come.
There are now 16 working distilleries that have matured stocks of spirit old enough to be called whiskey.
All of them contributed to create this special limited edition 21C blend unveiled at Whiskey Live Dublin 2019.
Luckily I managed a taster.
A fabulously rich & complex nose. Full bodied on the palate. A long lasting satisfying finish.
From my recollections of 21C 1st Edition – blog here – this was a vast improvement. Perhaps reflecting the growing maturity of Irish Whiskey in general – a better blend of ingredients – older stocks added – or a combination of all factors.
Whatever – it made a great whiskey.
The new additional distilleries to have matured whiskey are below – taken in left to right, top to bottom order as printed on the back label.
Shortcross Distillery have yet to release their 1st whiskey – a single pot still by all accounts – but have built up a strong following with their Shortcross Gins.
Connacht Distillery are also waiting for their own whiskey to age further before release. In the meantime they have some tasty & innovative sourced whiskey under the Spade & Bushel, Ballyhoo & Brothership labels.
Waterford Distillery are following the above 2 in waiting for their own stock to age before committing to market. Unlike the others – they have not sourced any whiskey prior to that release.
Royal Oak Distillery in County Carlow have not released their own whiskey. Previously called Walsh Distillery – a split with the 2 companies involved means Irishman & Writer’s Tears will remain as sourced brands.
In addition to last years 21C – some distilleries have recently entered the market with their own stock.