The Irish Whiskey Awards 2105 were held at the fabulous new Teeling Whiskey Distillery premises in Newmarket Square, Dublin on the 15th of October.
The awards – which are now in their 3rd year – have quickly established themselves as the premier event on the Irish Whiskey scene. Most of the movers and shakers – new entrants and old stalwarts from within the industry – as well as bloggers – imbibers and whiskey fans from all round the world make a beeline for the highly enjoyable evening exploring the best that Irish Whiskey has to offer.
Organised by The Celtic Whiskey Shop – the awards choose their winners by a blind tasting panel made up of members from both the Celtic Whiskey Club and the Irish Whiskey Society. Samples can also be packaged abroad for members overseas. As a member of the former Club – I had an opportunity to take part in the judging process – read my blog here – and add my scores – along with about 200 others – to give the final results.
Sadly I prevaricated in booking a ticket for the show so they were all sold out before I made my decision to go.
Undeterred – I decided to hold my own Whiskey Nut Awards 2015!
Now these awards are based purely on my own preferences and in no way reflect on the prestige of the official awards. As not every category was tasted – my results are somewhat shorter – but they give an insight into my tastes as well as my ability to spot – or not as the case may be – a winning dram.
On tasting day there were 13 drinks categories of which 8 pertained to whiskey. I managed to score 5 of these whiskey categories along with a beer one too. My awards are therefore based on the results of those 6 tastings.
The Whiskey Nut Award 2015 for Irish Single Grain Whiskey
Teeling Single Grain came out a winner with 83 points.
There were only 3 entrants into this category and despite being familiar with the drinks I was unable to correctly identify the Teeling Single Grain from the Glendalough Double Barrel which came in only 1 point behind. This result is inline with my preference for an additional finish to the usual bourbon barrel maturation and clearly the use of Californian wine barrel ageing helped Teeling to pip the post.
The official winner was Kilbeggan Single Grain.
Teeling Single Grain
Kilbeggan Single Grain
Glendalough Double Barrel
The Whiskey Nut Award 2015 for Irish Blended Whiskey (60 euro or less)
Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey came out tops in this packed field of 15 with 83 points.
There is an advert doing the rounds just now with a tagline of “Nose blind” . Halfway during this sampling I believe I became “Palate Blind” as I failed to spot the lovely rum finish of Teeling Small Batch nor the spiciness I enjoy in Powers Gold Label and St Patrick’s Oak Aged Irish Whiskey. Despite scoring well – Tullamore Dew Cider Cask also failed to register apple notes with me. Nonetheless Kilbeggan stood out from the crowd.
I was a little surprised by this win – but also proud as Kilbeggan is only a half hour away from me!
I did revisit this drink after giving it top marks and can only say that it is a deserving winner. I have obviously overlooked this lovely blend in my hunt for new expressions. Ironically it was this blend that ignited my passion for whiskey. A few years ago a bottle was purchased at Dublin airport enroute for a birthday party in France. The Kilbeggan went down very well with the assembled guests who all gave it the thumbs up. So sante to Kilbeggan!
The official winner was Tullamore DEW 12 Year Old which is also a local distillery to me.
Tullamore DEW Original
St Patrick’s Oak Aged
Jameson Black Barrel
Jameson Crested 10
Writer’s Tears Copper Pot
Wild Geese Classic Blend
Teeling Small Batch
Powers Gold Labe
Wild Geese Rare
Tullamore DEW 15 Year Old Trilogy
Tullamore DEW Cider Cask
Tulamore DEW 12 Year Old
The Quiet Man
The Whiskey Nut Award 2015 for Irish Blended Whiskey (60 euro or more)
Jameson 18 Year Old came out a clear winner with 92 points.
All 5 entrants into this category started their scores level with the winner of the previous tasting reflecting that a bit more money does indeed get you a finer whiskey – at least in this example anyway.
My acquaintance with this exquisite dram started at my Jameson Dublin visit and continues here. Unlike the beer world – where new entrants are bringing in tastes and flavours far superior to those of the established brewers – Midleton – where Jameson is distilled – continues to show the new whiskey entrants the benchmark they have to attain. A fabulous whiskey indeed!
The official winner was Midleton Very Rare 2015.
Kilbeggan 21 Year Old
Wild Geese Ltd Edition
Jameson 18 Year Old
Midleton Very Rare 2015
Jameson Gold Reserve
The Whiskey Nut Award 2015 for Irish Single Cask Whiskey
Celtic Cask 13
Unlucky for some – this Celtic Cask 13 stood out from a small field of 3 to come home with 83 points.
The official winner was An Pucan Teeling Whiskey.
Celti Cask 12
An Pucan Teeling
Celtic Cask 13
The Whiskey Nut Award 2015 for Irish Cask Strength Whiskey
Tullamore DEW Phoenix
Before anyone says I’m biased towards distilleries in my home county of Westmeath and close neighbour Offaly – as in this Tullamore DEW – I will again point out this was a blind tasting!
This expression won as it exhibited a bit more spice on the tongue which I like. 87 points.
It also was the official winner so I am “on trend” with this category.
Tullamore DEW Phoenix
Midleton Dar Ghealach
Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength
The Whiskey Nut Awards 2015 for Whiskey Aged Beer
Independent Whiskey Stout
For years beer was my alcohol of choice. The darker – heavier and stronger the better. Independent Whiskey Stout takes me back to certain ales of my youth. It also gave the best whiff of whiskey both on the nose and palate which helped its way to be a winner with 80 points.
The official winner was O’Haras Barrel Aged Stout.
Independent Whiskey Stout
O’Haras Barrel Aged Stout
The Whiskey Nut Awards 2105 for Overall Irish Whiskey
Jameson 18 Year Old
Out of a total 63 whiskey samples I managed to score 32 on my judging day. This expression garnished the most points from that reduced field.
A comparison can’t be made with the official winner as it didn’t feature in my tasting categories.
So there you go.
Many thanks to all at The Celtic Whiskey Shop for organising the awards and a special thanks to all the distilleries who entered their expressions for the blind tasting.
My awards – my tastes – my preferences all laid bare.
Tullamore DEW is another one of those iconic Irish Whiskey Brands that are well represented across the globe. On my last trip to Germany it was everywhere – and from sampling some German whisky I can see why the light, smooth triple distilled dram goes down well there. It is a pleasantly approachable blend appreciated neat – or mixed – according to your taste.
Formerly made in the Irish Midland town of Tullamore – where there was a booming whiskey industry in the 19th Century. The 1837 Ordnance Survey map lists no fewer than 2 distilleries along with 3 breweries – as well as the associated maltings. However – by the 1950’s only Tullamore DEW survived – and it too succumbed to economic pressure to close – along with many others in the Midlands by 1954.
Unlike it’s close neighbour Kilbeggan – which was turned into a piggery after it closed at one stage but now holds one of the original pot stills used at Tullamore – the Tullamore DEW brand continued to be produced at other distilleries – mainly the Midleton New Distillery. The brand changed hands a few times – eventually ending up being bought by the Scottish William Grant & Sons in 2010.
Grants – one of a few family owned drinks business in Scotland and worthy of a blog all of their own – brought about the rebirth of distilling in Tullamore by investing over 35 million in building a new plant on the N52 bypass so after a 60 year hiatus – whiskey can now flow again in Tullamore.
Interestingly – in Dundalk – at the northern extremity of the N52 – John Teeling is currently building his Great Northern Distillery!
Anyway – a trip to the Tullamore Visitors Centre on Bury Quay is a marvelous experience. Built in the former bonded warehouse it now contains a fabulous restaurant – worthy of a meal regardless whether you do the tour or not – the ubiquitous shop – as well as many original artefacts, photos and whiskey material collected from the rich history of distilling in the Midlands.
For those that want to delve into that history a little more need only to walk up the attractive canal a few steps to the Offaly Historical Society shop where many an article, book or pamphlet has been written on the whiskey trade – as well many other subjects relating to County Offaly and the Midlands.
Tullamore town literally drips with whiskey heritage. If the former distillery head office on Patrick Street – derelict maltings at the back of the Bridge Shopping Centre at Water Lane – Distillery Lane itself leave you thirsty – then call in at The Brewery Tap pub which graces the “Give every man his DEW” sign outside and Tullamore’s finest whiskey expressions inside – where you can relax with a dram browsing a whiskey book bought from the nearby Midlands Books.
And talking of a dram – at the end of the informative tour in the visitors centre a dram – or 3 in this case – is exactly what you get!
On the day of my visit my fellow guests and I were guided through the following expressions;
The flag bearing Tullamore DEW Original blend. A light, smooth blend which sets the benchmark for other Irish blends.
The Tullamore DEW Phoenix. The name can be both attributed to the rise in fortunes of whiskey in Tullamore due to the new distillery building – or – according to some sources – the 1st aviation disaster in the world occurring in the town in 1785! The whiskey packs a punch at 55% ABV so a little water may be required.
The Tullamore DEW Old Bonded Warehouse was my favourite. Smooth fine tasting with a nice body to it. The fact that it can only be acquired at the visitors centre is also a draw – so I got 2 – one for myself and the other for my Dad on Father’s Day!
There are other releases; a 10 year old Single Malt, a 12 year old Special Reserve are listed on the website – but the 12 year old sherry finish single malt is not – despite being sold at the visitors centre as well as Dublin Airport. Is it because it was made at Bushmills? – and therefore not part of the “in crowd”. It seems to be popular in Germany – so I’ll let Horst tell you all about it as I’ve just got back from a whisky trip there.
The new expression yet to prove it’s mettle is the Tullamore Dew Cider Cask. Only available at Dublin Airport for a limited period I have yet to sample a dram. It isn’t currently on sale at the visitors centre. Said to be the 1st whiskey aged in cider casks in Ireland – this is a bold experiment in taste, style and content – I certainly admire Tullamore for releasing it. Whether it’s any good or not will have to wait and see – but the feedback I’m getting is positive.
Grants – the new Tullamore owners – have been innovative and bold distillers in their time. Cider Cask may have something to do with the new owners. It isn’t as yet spirit from the New Distillery – that will be a few years yet – but could be “premiumisation” of Midleton stocks secured in the sales deal – or simply keeping the brand in the market.
Whatever the reason – Tullamore DEW whiskey has a bright future.
The expressions are good.
The Visitors centre is great and as we say in Ireland,