Whiskey finished in an ever increasing array of fancy casks appears to be de rigueur right now – so it’s always refreshing to get back to basics with an ex-bourbon cask only Irish Whiskey.
Even if ex-bourbon maturation only became a ‘thing’ due to American Bourbon legislation which states new – or virgin – American oak casks must be used in the production of bourbon – resulting in all those once used casks being shipped to Ireland to be refilled to mature our whiskey.
When your country estate already pulls in a substantial amount of visitors to the stunningly ornate gardens with magnificent views of Sugarloaf Mountain behind.
When a 5 Star hotel graces your grounds along with 2 championship designed golf courses laid out in the beautiful Wicklow scenery.
Not to mention the history, tales and adventures contained within the walls of the grand 18th Century mansion of Powerscourt House itself.
What exactly would be the icing on the cake?
Well a single estate whiskey distillery wouldn’t go amiss now would it?
Discreetly built onto the old estate sawmill, Powerscourt Distillery is fully operational busily laying down casks of single malt Irish Whiskey to mature in it’s nearby warehouse.
The 3 resplendent copper pot stills – made by Forsyths – sit majestically in a modern clean & bright open plan space allowing visitors a close up look, feel & smell of the whole grain to glass process of whiskey making.
Noel Sweeney has brought his many distinguished years of knowledge as Master Distiller to Powerscourt overseeing the production of both single malt – as well as single pot still distillate – to this exciting distillery.
It will be a few years before Powerscourt Distillery’s own spirit is fully mature – but in the meantime a trio of whiskeys released under the Fercullen label – the old name for the lands Powersourt Estate sits on – are available.
Unusually in this instance Noel probably had a hand in distilling these sourced whiskeys from his days at Cooley & Kilbeggan Distilleries under a number of different owners.
Tours include a tasting of all 3 whiskeys in one of Powerscourt Distillery’s sumptuously laid out rooms.
The 10 Year Old Fercullen Single Grain Whiskey was offered first.
Now there aren’t that many single grains on the market – which is a pity – as this one shows up the light yet delicately balanced sweet & fruity flavours within a great single grain. Far from being silent there were notes of honey, citrus and a gentle woody spice too.
Very approachable & easy on the palate.
The attractively priced Fercullen Blend was a bit of a pleaser too.
It displayed a complex set of notes from soft fruitiness to darker oaky tannins within an extremely well balanced mix.
A blend you can happily sit back & savour.
The pride of place meanwhile went to the Fercullen 14 Year Old Single Malt.
Packing extra ABV at 46% – as opposed to the 40% of it’s siblings – the 14 Year Old had added depth & boosted character from the exclusively ex-bourbon cask maturation used in all 3 offerings.
When many a distillery relies on additional finishes to give the spirit a lift – Fercullen demonstrates the beauty of what to many is a simple standard of Irish Whiskey.
A very impressive range of whiskeys for a very impressive distillery.
With it’s warm inviting open fire – dark wooden fixtures and furniture – mirrored whiskey displays and cosy snugs – you certainly feel at home in Blake’s Corner Bar.
From the impressive 50+ range of whiskeys on offer I chose a single malt from one of the new breed of Irish distilleries – Glendalough 7.
The Double Barrel Single Grain release from this Wicklow based distillery had impressed me and I’d added a bottle of Glendalough 7 to my growing collection by cashing in my loyalty card rewards at my local O’Briens off licence. Something I do on an annual basis now – a sort of whiskey Xmas present to myself. As that bottle still remains unopened – I thought now would be a good a time as ever to sample the expression.
This was a different taste experience to my previous 2 samplings. A lighter – sharper – even clearer mouth feel followed through with a hint of spice and a lovely warm finish. Being unadorned – a straight single malt flavour profile contrasted with the barrel finished and/or blended malts I’d had earlier. At 46% unfiltered the stronger alcohol content would explain the extra bite at the beginning of this double distilled single malt.
Let me indulge myself here – but careful now – this PiL video contains rude words – as is typical.
I paired this malt with a tasty burger and chips from the extensive dinner menu – being after 12 – I’d just missed the breakfast service of a Full Irish I originally wanted to soak up the increasing alcoholic buzz that was starting to make itself felt.
Blake’s was doing a roaring trade with other folks popping in for meals – teas or coffees – pints or drams in between their shopping. Some had even stopped by to watch the sport on the screens dotted around the premises.
As the Tottenham vs Sunderland match was about to begin – and not particularly being football mad – I finished up my meal – relished the last drops of Glendalough 7 – and drank the glass of water accompanying my burger to help stop me dehydrating from the whiskey intake.
I fired off a few snaps with the camera – chatted to the ameniable locals and bar staff before heading on to my next destination on the Galway Whiskey Trail.