It’s been well over a year since I first went out to purchase this whisky.
The idea of a budget supermarket branded single malt appealed to me. I had to find out for myself what it tasted like.
Inadvertently I walked into the wrong German supermarket store and came out with Aldi’s Glen Marnoch instead.
Now in this segment of the market you have to accept chill filtering & added caramel. There is no provenance – nor terroir. There isn’t even a Glen Marnoch or Ben Bracken distillery – let alone an actual physical Ben or Glen of the same name to visit. You get what you pay for – entry level single malt.
The Glen Marnoch Islay was fine – a decent hit of peat over a rather hefty dose of caramel.
I’d actually stopped looking for Ben Bracken.
It’s reach didn’t seem to make it across the Irish Sea – and there were far more entertaining bottles to bring back from the UK.
But when it appeared in my local Lidl store in Athlone – I couldn’t really give it a miss. If only to show no favouritism towards either store.
To kick off with there’s that dark ruby mahogany shade of added caramel – but on nosing – a refreshingly clean & clear smack of peat smoke greeted me.
I found it very inviting.
The initial taste was rather soft, watery & almost insipid – but then a big waft of peat just blows in and makes it sort of alright!
My peat baby is coming back to me!
The experience left a softly drying ashiness. Like a warm & cosy seaside fire rolling around on my palate.
I’d rate this higher than Glen Marnoch.
The caramel quota isn’t as pronounced – which allows a more powerful & peaty punch to shine through.
There isn’t much else.
It’s rather one dimensional.
But if like me you enjoy a smack of smoke in your glass.
There are a plethora of new players attracted to the market buoyed by the confidence of future growth.
From Conor McGregor’s Proper No Twelve at one end of the scale – to An Fear Grinn – a single malt, single cask offering from private bottler Whiskey Factor at the other end.
I welcome them all.
It would be a far more worrying state of affairs if there weren’t any newcomers investing in Irish Whiskey.
What unites both of the above releases is they are both representations of spirit distilled at existing distilleries. Until the new crop of distilleries have matured stocks of whiskey at hand – most new entrants have no alternatives.
Whilst Proper No Twelve is a decent enough standard blend banking on it’s celebrity owner’s popularity – or infamy as the case may be – An Fear Grinn is a single cask bottling from an unnamed Irish Distillery. It showcases a liquid not usually available to the public. A liquid that is normally vatted & watered down as a core range single malt – or even potentially used – in small quantities – to give added flavour to a standard blend – like the one above.
I very fortuitously obtained a generous sample from the Whiskey Factor for evaluation & enjoyment.
Now the first thing you notice is the colour.
It’s very pale.
This is a 16 year old single malt matured exclusively in a single ex-bourbon cask.
It represents it’s natural colour.
Without the use of added caramel – it’s what most of our whiskey should look like.
The simple act of pouring a measure into the Túath glass revealed a pleasing waft of warm vanilla.
Clearly no chill filtering either.
At 57% you’d expect a bit of a punch – yet the nose is very fresh & fruity with a hint of tannic woodiness in the background.
Surprisingly smooth on the palate. The rich tannins make their presence felt before the warm vanilla & citrusy fruits shine through.
It’s only on the finish the cask strength of this bottling makes itself known. An explosion of alcohol mixed in with fabulous flavours dances around in a prickly heat before slowly subduing into an oaky spiciness & fruit finale.
An Fear Grinn is only available via Whiskey Factor here.
With prices for whiskey going ever upwards – and punters bidding for bottles at eye-watering figures – I can’t but draw similarities to the Dublin housing market.
A market that is excluding the ordinary buyer who is effectively being priced out by speculators with larger pockets who appear to neither live in – nor drink their purchases.
Thank goodness for Aldi entering the market like a breath of fresh air!
Let’s go Aldi Way – to rehash a song.
Aldi have released a quality Irish Single Malt at an affordable price – throughout their Irish stores at least.
It’s not just any old malt either.
It’s from one of the new breed of Irish whiskey companies that are throwing up new faces, new flavours & new styles into the market.
I eagerly queued up to purchase my bottle of Tipperary Watershed Single Malt.
It’s a sourced malt – whilst Tipperary Boutique Distillery plough on with plans to build a distillery on their own farm that provides the water to cut this whiskey down to a pleasing 47% ABV – and will provide the barley for future releases.
The colour is a pale gold with decent legs on show.
A fresh, lively, slightly metallic nose with hints of vanilla greets you.
A lovely warming mouthfeel pulls you in with more vanilla & caramel from the bourbon cask maturation.
There’s some enjoyable warming heat towards the finish which goes a pleasingly long way with the higher ABV presentation delivering a satisfying prickly sensation on the palate.
A great introductory malt from the Tipperary Boutique Distillery.
And a great single malt to pick up whilst doing your weekly shopping.
I commend both Tipperary Boutique Distillery and Aldi for pushing the Irish Whiskey category forward.
Last Year’s Xmas Special Irish Reserve 26 Year Old set the internet alight with whiskey fans scouring both Ireland and the UK to find a bottle of the gorgeous liquid.
They’ve followed this up with another Irish Reserve bottling – albeit a much more down to earth 4 year old at only €19.
It may not have the kudos of the 26 – but I had to give it a go.
The bottle comes in an attractive green colour topped with a red screw cap. The label is very similar to the 26 year old.
There is very little information given. It’s an Irish whiskey and it’s 4 years old. That’s all it really needs to say. If you want more information – expect to pay more.
What it doesn’t say is probably more revealing.
It doesn’t say it’s a blend, nor non chill filtered nor if added caramel is used – so presume it’s all three of these. At only €19 – what else are you looking for?
The nose is suitably mellow. A hint of sweet corn initially – that grainy clarity – before those familiar vanilla & caramel notes from ex-bourbon cask maturation kick in.
The taste is grand. Smooth, sweet, no real bite at only 40%, yet a pleasant mouthfeel & soft notes from the 4 years in wooden barrels.
The finish didn’t last too long – but left a lovely warmth on the palate.
There’s no complexity or depth here.
It is what it is.
An easy drinking straight forward honest to goodness 4 year old bourbon cask matured Irish whiskey.
I’d happily drink this bottle as an everyday sipper – unlike some other single malts from similar shelves.
Good on Aldi and the team behind this whiskey.
It sets the benchmark for what a no frills Irish whiskey should be.
It provides a standard to compare other – usually higher priced – bottles against. To check whether if you know the distillery of origin or not, whether it’s chill filtered or not & whether added caramel is used or not you can taste the difference.
Well I say French Whisky – as it’s actually mainly Scotch which has been shipped out in bulk to Bordeaux where – under the guidance of master blender John McDougall – it is finished in locally sourced sauternes casks before being bottled & presented non chill filtered at 45.8%.
There is nothing unusual in this. It’s a well trodden path for Scotch to send out loads of bulk whisky to many countries around the world where it is blended – often with locally produced spirits – matured, finished & eventually bottled to the recipients requirements before being released – mainly in the home market.
Many a Scottish distilleries output is destined for such bottlings – and it’s a big market.
It also allows an up and coming whisky brand – like Moon Harbour – to test the waters, hone their skills and develop their brand in the absence of a distillery which they may – or may not build at a later stage.
Moon Harbour seem to have plans for their own distillery in Bordeaux – so this blend looks likely to be a stop gap until they have their own whisky to sell.
Could it emulate the successful football team and win in a World Cup Whisky tournament?
Well – in a back to back with the Bastille Single Malt – I’m afraid Moon Harbour lost out.
It’s certainly packaged in an attractive bottle however – complete with box – has a ruby red hue and displays deep legs.
There wasn’t all that much going on with the nose though. A soft sweet malty biscuit with a hint of grain.
A bit slow to start. The sauternes sweetness swiftly followed by a spirity robustness – quite a nice contrast really.
It left an enjoyable dry prickly heat at the end – but was somewhat lacking in depth of flavour & character. Perhaps the sauternes finish was just too subtle for my tastes.
If it had been presented without ‘Premium’ on the label and at a lower price I might have been OK with the result.
As it was it promised more than it actually delivered.
I do hope Moon Harbour get the distillery going however. I find it entertaining sampling all whiskies – especially new brands with a local twist – and welcome the diversity created by new distilleries.
It’s why I enjoy whisky, and despite not being a football fan, I did get a buzz of excitement watching the cup final on a sunny afternoon in a Parisian hotel garden with congenial company washed down with a whisky or two.
Aujourd’hui I’m covering un whisky francais et peppering le blog avec mon mal French.
Pourquoi? You might ask.
Well on 14th July 1798 a certain building was besieged by a crowd demanding liberté, égalitié et fraternité. All very noble aspirations that I like to bring to my whisky tastings.
Liberté in that any country is free to fabriqué whisky in any style and manner they wish.
Égalitié, I like to taste all whiskies from wherever and whomever they hail from in an unbiased & non prejudiced way as possible et
Fraternitié in that whisky brings people together & is enjoyed on a worldwide basis
Je vous donne;
Bastille 1789 Single Malt.
Fabriqué dans Angoulême by Jean-Marc Daucourt – le fils of une mère Irlandais et père Francais – I’d like to think some of that celtic heritage came through in the whisky.
Maison Daucourt use French barley mixed with local water for the distillation. This is then combined avec Limousin oak that has previously held a variety of the finest French wines for the maturation to give le whisky a unique terroir & taste magnifique all of it’s own.
A deep, dark almost earthy malt nose – as if from la sol francais – starts the experience off.
On first sipping a delicious mouth coating erupts in a frisson of flavours which roll around the palate. Fresh & floral yet earthy & rich. There is a certain depth & gravitas to this malt that just pulls you in.
The long finish leaves a lovely drying prickly heat with a soupçon of spice at the end.
Incroyable – as they say.
This whisky may mark a revolutionary event of the past where the old order was overturned. But for me it marks a revolutionary event of the present where the current accepted order of world whisky is being challenged by new entrants.
French whisky is growing très vite – there are up to 50 distillerie listed in a blog francais ici.
If Bastille 1789 Whisky is anything to go by – the old order needs to worry.
There are various interpretations of ballyhoo on the web, publicity, frivolity or fun. They can all be distilled to one attractive package for me however.
An Irish Whiskey released by the Connacht Whiskey Company of Ballina, County Mayo. There isn’t much information on the very attractive black bottle with distinctive embossed silver labelling – but a trip to their website here reveals a bit more.
A single grain Irish Whiskey made with a 93% corn 7% malted barley mix distilled in a Coffey still at one un-named Irish whiskey distillery. Connacht haven’t been around long enough to release their own whiskey – yet – so this sourced grain is made elsewhere & finished in port casks at Connacht’s own facility.
Grain whiskey doesn’t have the allure of it’s stablemate malt – which is a pity. Grain is the very backbone of the modern whiskey industry. Up to 90% of all whiskey sold worldwide contains grain as part of the mix in blended whiskey. Showcasing the best grain whiskey has to offer is always welcome in my book.
Pouring a glass it quickly becomes apparent this is an extremely pale whiskey. A decent amount of legs are also present. Both signifiers that no added caramel nor chill filtration have been used in this expression. Very commendable.
At only 4 years old this is a young, fresh grain whiskey.
The nose is gentle & sweetly attractive. Soft vanillas combine with an enticing floral bouquet which probably emanates from the rather unusual – and possibly unique for a grain whiskey – port cask finish.
It’s very mild in the mouth. No rough edges here. A bit of corn influence, that sweet grainy lightness builds with deeper notes from the combined bourbon barrel maturation & port cask finish in a perfectly balanced mix.
There is no complexity here. A very easy, simple, smooth & eminently attractive grain whiskey that slowly fades to a pleasingly warm finish.
Whiskey as it should be.
Fun, frivolous, tasty, naturally coloured & non chill filtered.
It certainly floats my boat.
An album by Echo & The Bunnymen. Their song Bedbugs & Ballyhoo is the perfect accompaniment to this delightful grain whiskey.