I thought a ‘warm up’ tasting of this posse of poitín before the inaugural Dublin based event would ease me in.
I knew nothing about Hackler before purchasing this sample from Tiny Tipple. Turns out it was a late 1990’s launch by Diageo – distilled by Cooley – to build the Poitín market. On failing to meet ‘targets’ it was unceremonially dropped.
A rather shy nose, sweet & sour. Easy on the palate. A sweet warming spice on the finish.
A very pleasant easily quaffable poitín – if a tad too artificially sweet for my liking. Smacks as a bit of a crowd pleaser – not sure why it didn’t catch on?
Straw Boys, 46%
Connacht Distillery’s venture into Poitín is presented in a very attractive bottle.
Richly pungent, offering that sour new make nose I associate with poitín. Gently oily palate. Noticeable bite on the finish, leaves with a strong tingling sensation.
A classic poitín drinking experience.
The Big Field, 46%
Distilled using barley grown on Tipperary Distillery’s own ‘big field’ using a 50/50 mix of malted/unmalted barley it’s taken me a little while to sample this one.
A softly muted nose. Wonderfully oily palate. The finish bites with a healthy dose of spiciness.
An extremely varied tasting experience from this trio!
Can’t help thinking Hackler is a toned down poitín to appeal to the masses. Certainly makes for a very easy drinker. Pity it never caught on. Perhaps Diageo were ahead of the curve?
Both Straw Boys & Big Field are a bit more challenging yet offer- to me at least – a grounded authenticity.
With the former you have malted barley alone – while the later has that malted/unmalted mix giving added spice & an enhanced appeal.
It’s hard to pick one out from this diverse & very well delivered variety of poitín styles – but for me Straw Boys does it!
By fortuitous chance – and a little rearranging of travel plans – my trip to Oz coincided with Whisky Live Melbourne.
I couldn’t let such an opportunity pass by so booked my ticket online even before the flight plans had been finalised!
Held in the fine looking St Kilda Town Hall – I arrived early to find a queue of fellow whisky fans eagerly awaiting the delights inside. Having previously attended a similar show in Dublin last year I made sure I was well hydrated and fed before the event.
My original plan to sample as much Australian whisky as I could had to be revised as browsing the pre-show website it became clear not many Aussie distilleries were attending. They didn’t need to! Their limited releases usually sold out very quickly leaving little stock leftover for sampling at shows.
The only representative of the new crop of Aussie distilleries happened to be Melbourne’s own Starward whisky where I reacquainted myself with Paul Slater who had so eloquently guided me through their portfolio during his Starward Talk &Taste evening at Pilgrim Bar the night before.
The lovely Apera and Wine Cask releases were on display at Whisky Live – but Paul had something under the table new to me – New World Projects X .
The contrast between your minds perception of what a clear spirit should be like – and want you actually experience on tasting – is certainly an interesting experience. It’s definitely whisky – if a little more oily and sweet than the Solera release on which a 3rd distillation has removed the colour to obtain Project X.
In a similar vein, Glendalough – one of 3 Irish stands at the show – had their Sherry Cask Irish Poitin which I tried in an almost mirror effect to Starward. In this case the unaged spirit has rested for a short while in sherry casks to give a lovely rich brown colour to the liquid which upon tasting gave a sweetness to the rather young spirit in the bottle. I found both these expressions a rather novel approach which would certainly be a talking point if offered to guests from the drinks cabinet!
Leaving Australia behind, India was the next nearest whisky producing country to exhibit with Paul John Distilleries being the sole representative.
I’d read lots of rave reviews about their whisky so eagerly accepted an invitation to be guided through the range by an enthusiastic ambassador who passionately informed me of the manufacturing process as well as the greedy angels in Goa which result in the wonderfully rich fruity & very tasty single malts before me.
After 4 of these fine malts were tried I found it hard to pick a favourite between the Bold Edition at 46% or the stunning Select Cask Peated at 58%! Both we’re delicious and deserve all the praise they have attracted.
Following on from my 4th of July blog I thought I’d further explore the American contribution to whiskey by starting with 2 distilleries new to me.
Appalachian Gap Snowfall is an unaged Vermont spirit made with a corn,barley and rye mash. The sweet corn influence took the edge off the 54% ABV together with a pleasant rye spice which I liked and a slightly oily mouthfeel. Their Kaffekask 44% release whereby the whisky is filtered through coffee beans in a Lincoln County Process style certainly brought a coffee kick to the table but was too sweet for my tastes. I declined the Kaffekask Liqueur.
Dry Fly Distilling from Washington State had a slightly more traditional selection using 100% wheat mash offerings at both 40% & 60% cask strength as well as a Port Finish at 43%. The combination of vanilla sweetness together with a slightly harsh finish didn’t endear them to me but the Triticale Whiskey I found much more appealing. Triticale is a hybrid grain derived from wheat and rye varieties and Dry Fly claims to be the first using this type of grain in a whiskey. The sweetness was still there but softened by a smoothness and slight spicy rye finish.
Woodford Reserve had a stall – but I found nothing of note.
Jack Daniels were next door with 5 releases for the Australian market. Not being a fan of Old No.7 I went straight for the No.27 Gold. At 40% this expression took me by surprise. The lovely pronounced spicy finish had me hooked. Even better than the Gentleman Jack release which I’m partial to. The Jack representative on the stall reliably informed me the double mellowing through 10 foot of sugar maple as well as additional barrel finishes provided the flavour boost. In this instance Sinatra didn’t sing for me!
Having called in at Glendalough I thought I’d better say hello to both Hyde and Tipperary.
Hyde had 3 offerings which I have tried before and enjoyed very much.
Tipperary meanwhile had eluded me with their Rising release so I gave it a go. Oh dear! Far too sweet for my liking.
My last port of call before turning to the largest contingent of the show – Scottish whisky – was to Sigrun, an Australian importer of Scandinavian malts. Mackmyra & Box from Sweden, Floki from Iceland and Teerenpeli from Finland were in attendance.
Sheep dung is used to dry the 100% Icelandic barley Floki is made with. It’s an unaged offering at 47% which gave a characteristic oily mouthfeel together with a slightly off-putting sour note for me. Pity – as I really enjoyed my visit to Rekyavik a few years ago. Maybe further ageing will mature it to my tastes.
Teerenpeli Rasi appealed to me instantly with it’s lovely well balanced light smooth taste. I must try out more of these Scandinavian expressions!
My remaining time at the show – along with staying hydrated from the water coolers placed handily around the hall and partaking in some tasty snacks from the centrally placed canteen buffet – consisted of Scotch.
I challenged my peat tolerance by going for the peat monster that is Octmore 7.1. Wow! Peat then spice and an explosion of flavour. Now I get it.
A trio of Finlaggan expressions from an unnamed Islay distillery – or even distilleries – were all very engaging with the cask strength coming out tops.
The Glenrothes rep impressed me very much by keeping a large audience enthralled with his sales patter as he went through a series of releases AND topping up all the glasses at the same time. By this point in the evening I couldn’t quiet keep up with him and my tasting notes were becoming illegible! Suffice to say the one that stood out for me – Glenrothes Vintage 1992 2nd Release had the most balanced nose complemented by a complex cacophony of taste – happened to be one of the priciest.
Despite there being a large shop at the back where eager whisky geeks could purchase rare or hard to find expressions – I simply immersed myself in the wonderful opportunity Whisky Live events provide in sampling a wide variety of styles, strengths and regions of whisky production throughout the world. Conversations soon flow as to the merits of NAS vs Age Statements, Bourbon vs Whisky, to chill filter or not and even to add water or not.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Whisky Live Melbourne.
If ever a Whisky Live event comes your way – make a beeline for it.
You won’t be disappointed.
Oh! Don’t over do it.
The combination of drinking plenty of water inbetween samples as well as topping up with a lovely goat curry from the wittily named iCurry restaurant on St Kilda Road afterwards ensured I woke up relatively bright and cheery to face yet another day of adventure in Melbourne.
Despite there being another judging session for the upcoming Irish Whiskey Awards going on in Dublin, it had been decided a trip down south to visit friends for the weekend was in order.
Accepting the revised schedule I checked out what was on.
My luck was in!
The Midleton Food & Drink Festival just happened to be on celebrating the rich diversity of food & drink grown or made in the East Cork region. Midleton Distillery plays a large role in this festival and fortuitously had two events which I cold attend.
The Art Of Making Barrels by none other than Master Cooper Ger Buckley was being held in the Old Distillery whilst David McCabe – Head of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey Academy – was introducing 3 new super premium Jameson whiskeys as part of a talk & taste session.
I couldn’t let this opportunity pass and duly booked tickets for myself.
The drive down the M8 heightened our enjoyment as the sun shone down on the fields and stunning mountains of the Galtys to our right and the Knockmealdowns on the left on whose lower slopes the Tipperary Boutique Distillery farm gathers the water for their lovely Watershed and Knockmealdown releases.
Arriving at our destination we caught up with our friends and chatted over tea & biscuits. Forgetting all about time in the convivial company I left it too late to make Ger’s cooperage display. Chastising myself I endeavoured to make it in time for David McCabe’s talk.
The Old Midleton Distillery was originally built in 1825 on the banks of the Dungourney River and produced whiskey in the heart of Midleton up to the mid 1970’s when the New Midleton Distillery was built behind the original site to produce all the brands of the combined Irish Distillers Group – Powers, Jameson and Paddy being the most popular. The old site now houses the visitors centre where tours, tastings, dining and shopping for whiskey fans from all around the world flock to enjoy the delights within.
Arriving early I had a little time to wander around and explore before the talk. I was pleased to see you can bottle your own cask strength black barrel whiskey on site. I always like a distillery exclusive!
Ushered into a former warehouse, now a plush auditorium. David McCabe introduced himself and eloquently guided us through an informative history of both Midleton Distillery as well as the art of making whiskey. I picked up a few whiskey facts I’d not known off before.
Did you know Midleton only uses non-GM (genetically modified) barley and maize for it’s mash bill?
Did you know all the barley – both malted and unmalted – is grown locally?
Did you know the maize element for the grain spirit is grown in France?
I didn’t – but was pleased to hear of the non-GM stance even if I couldn’t taste the difference. As for the french maize – it seems there is just not enough sunshine in Ireland to grow maize of suitable quality for whiskey making.
David then introduced us to the 3 new premium Makers Series blended whiskeys. Each expression was chosen to highlight a particular attribute integral to the art of making whiskey.
Distiller’s Safe is the locked copper and glass construction where Head Distiller Brian Nation decides which cut of the raw spirit straight from the still will be used in the final blend. A combination of single pot still whiskey with light grain whiskey matured in ex-bourbon barrels gives a fairly delicate nose followed through by vanilla taste combined with a little spice from the single pot still element.
Blender’s Dog is a tool used by Head Distiller Billy Leighton to sample the spirit as it matures. This is a relatively young blend of single pot still whiskey with a soft light grain whiskey to highlight the complex art of blending.
Cooper’s Croze is a tool Head Cooper Ger Buckley uses to cut a groove in barrel for the ‘head’ to sit in. The blend celebrates the use of wood in maturation and uses 1st and 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrels as well as virgin oak and sherry barrels in a satisfying complex blend.
All of the whiskeys I found quiet light & delicate. Not really my taste preference. However they are a step up from the standard Jameson Original though and are probably exactly what Jameson intends them to be.
Offered at 43% ABV and non-chill filtered for the flat price of 70 euro each, the Makers Series would be a lovely collection of the different influences of the distillate, the wood and the blend in each expression.
Meanwhile my tastes would take me to the unblended single pot still offerings of Green Spot or John’s Lane Release which offer much more bolder and spicier flavours at roughly the same price level. I did also wonder if the Makers Series was entered into my judging panel of the previous week which I didn’t rate too highly?
David McCabe did a super premium talk to introduce the Makers Series.
The narrative behind all 3 expressions is also super premium down to the fingerprints on the label.
It’s just a pity my individual palate didn’t appreciate the actual premium whiskey .
I’d been aware of the Tipperary Boutique Distillery and their Rising whiskey release for sometime but hadn’t encountered it before.
Unexpectedly coming across a Tipperary Distillery stall at Whiskey Live Melbourne brought a smile to my face and had me humming the famous song. Sung here by Count John McCormack of Athlone – who happened to have links with the Kilbeggan Distillery in Westmeath.
The ditty was still going round in my head as I entered the sumptuously wooden lined Bowes Whiskey Bar on Fleet St, Dublin for the launch of 2 new expressions from the Clonmel based whiskey company.
Having recently been decorating at home I’d found it hard to get a tin of yellow paint. Gorse, Turmeric or Coltsfoot were offered instead. Much how the paint names try to transpose you into a field of flowers – Tipperary Boutique Distillery have called their whiskeys after the beautiful scenery surrounding the farm based business. Drinking Knockmealdowns or Watershed brings you closer to a sense of place, time or feeling far more evocative than plain 10 year old or NAS – non aged statement.
The Knockmealdowns – for those that don’t know – are a fine range of mountains which divide the counties of Tipperary to the North and Waterford to the South. Having walked a few of them I can attest to their magnificent scenery and rugged beauty.
The Knockmealdowns are also a watershed for the rains that fall on the hills and flow down into River Suir in Tipperary and the Blackwater in Waterford.
So did drinking these fine whiskeys transport me to the high ground?
I was a little apprehensive. I’d wanted to like The Rising – Tipperary Boutique Distilleries first offering – but found it a bit too sweet for my tastes. It wasn’t in bad company however as I found Jura Superstition to be of a similar style.
Tipperary Boutique Distillery MD Jennifer Nickerson opened proceedings by introducing us to the 2 new whiskeys. Her Director dad Stuart Nickerson ably took us through the actual first official tasting of Watershed.
At 47% Watershed gave a lovely soft vanilla nose followed through by more vanilla, some fresh fruits and black pepper with a lovely long finish. Very nice indeed. Knowing that water from the farm had been used to cut the casks added to the appeal as Tipperary Boutique Distillery doesn’t have it’s own stills – yet – and their whiskeys are made by a third party.
Knockmealdowns proved to be a much more wholesome, heavy and far more rewarding whiskey. Very apt as the actual mountain of the same name at 794 metres is the highest top in the collective range.
Full of flavour with hints of oak and pepper coming through the soft vanilla and citrus notes, this 10 year old surpasses the disappointment I had with The Rising. Very nice indeed! I had to have a few more sips just to make sure I wasn’t just kidding myself. I also took the liberty of asking a few of the other guests at the launch what their verdicts were. Unanimously the answer was Knockmealdowns. Thumbs up all round!
Tipperary Boutique Distillery are certainly one to look out for.
The combination of the wealth of experience gained over many years in the Scottish whisky industry by Stuart Nickerson, the youthful confidence and business sense of his daughter Jennifer together with the expert barley growing finesse of her fiancee Liam make this a formidable team.
I wholeheartedly wish them future success in their exciting venture.