Nov 082017
 

The third day at the Whisky Show is the trade day, and us whisky bloggers were invited to a liquid breakfast by Billy. At the breakfast, we were informed that The Whisky Exchange itself will now be seeking to be more active in bottling independent bottlings. We tasted three bottlings, a 27 year old 1990 Irish, a Cognac – which is planned to be a special focus of TWE going forward, with the thought of making cask strength quality Cognac available to whisky drinkers, and a 1977 Strathtisla, bottled by Gordon and MacPhail at 40 years old. I’ll have more on that one when I taste the G&M Highland Park I just got in a nice care package from The Whisky Exchange.

In that care package that came today, there was also a sample of the 1990 Irish whiskey bottled by German independent bottler The Whisky Agency. So basically, I learned that there were two casks bottled, and Iwhile I tasted the 1989 at an event, so my notes are not perfect, they’re definitely representative of the dram, and will help you decide if either of these bottles (or both) are for you.

Both bottles only state that they’re Irish, but given the time of distillation and the fact that a bunch of casks from that era were left with the Teelings when Beam bought Cooley, I’d venture a guess that this liquid was distilled at Bushmills.  Of course, nobody will confirm this to me directly, but I’d put money on it.

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

The Whisky Agency and The Whisky Exchange 1989 Irish Whiskey, 27 Years Old, Ex Bourbon Barrel, Yield 146 Bottles (46.8% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold, slow legs.

Nose: Full of fruit, with an emphasis on green fruit, fresh apricot, star fruit, thyme and a hint of moss.

Palate: Fizzy, peaches and some pepper.

Linger: Mossy and fruity with honey, sweet citrus and a bitter note.

Conclusion

While I tasted this bottle much earlier than the 1990 bottle, it will actually be released only in December, and is expected to cost £285.

 

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

The Whisky Agency and The Whisky Exchange 1990 Irish Whiskey, 27 Years Old, Ex Bourbon Barrel, Yield 150 Bottles (51.3% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Golden, thin necklace creating droplets that barely move. This is viscous stuff….

Nose: Warm honey with pepper and some green vegetation. A hint of mustiness, but it’s pretty subdued, with a some canned peaches. A bit of mint leaves, with a hint of not fully ripened banana and baking bread.

Palate: Spicy and green, with pepper and a lot of tropical fruit. I get mango, passion fruit and papaya, as well as black pepper, hint of cinnamon and honey.

Linger: Mango and spice, medium length, with spices remaining down the gullet. The inner cheeks are dry and there’s a residual sweetness on the tongue, with pepper all around the mouth, together with a lovely bitter note.

Conclusion

This is an excellent example of the type of whisky that whisky lovers will enjoy regardless of where they fall in the fandom of Irish whisky. This is complex and beautiful and is definitely a bottle you’d be happy to have in your cabinet.

Jan 032017
 

After a somewhat extended holiday vacation (the first half of it forced by a cold, the second by a winter vacation in New York City), we’re back in business. Happy new year to one and all, may 2017 be all that you wish for.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I’ve had a hard time with Irish whiskey. It’s soft, it’s smooth, it’s triple distilled, and I just can’t seem to fall in love with it no matter how much I try. I think it’s something in the triple distillation process, but I don’t really know. I will, however, never stop trying, and Teeling’s new 24 Year old seems to be a great opportunity to start a new page with Irish Whiskey for me, especially given that I’m a big fan of Sauternes casks, and am really curious to see how this finish works with the whiskey.

Photo Credit: Teeling Whiskey

Teeling’s story is, in many ways, the story of Irish whiskey. It starts in 1987, with the founding of the Cooley Distillery in Louth by John Teeling. Yes, the Teeling family has roots in Irish whiskey since 1782, but the Teeling we’re drinking today harks back, for the most part, to Cooley. Cooley and Kilbeggan – which was brought back to operation in 2007 (would my “Jura rule” apply here? See this post to ponder it), and was sold with Cooley to Beam in 2011, making them part of the Beam Suntory empire. But John’s sons opened their own distillery in Dublin, back in June 2015, and this is the first distillery to open in Dublin proper for 125 years. The distillery itself is equipped with six washbacks (two wooden and four stainless steel ones) and three stills. Obviously, it will still be a bit longer before we get to taste the whisky coming off these new stills, but Teeling is going strong as it took the stock from Cooley when it was sold to Beam. I’m not sure where the whiskey for the 33 year old came from (not that there are too many options for whiskey distilled in Ireland in 1983, as only the New Midleton Distillery and the Old Bushmills Distillery were in operation then), but this expression came from Old Bushmills according to Ruben Luyten, of the canonical Whisky Notes blog, and this particular batch is only double distilled.

This expression is a single malt, not your regular Irish potstill whiskey. In here, you’ll find a touch of peated whiskey, was matured in ex bourbon casks. The product of these ex bourbon casks was then married in Sauternes casks. Sauternes casks usually impart a very fruity effect on the whisky (or whiskey, in this case), with the addition of subtle spices and some nuttiness. Let’s see how the Teeling does:

Photo Credit: Teeling Whiskey

Teeling Vintage Reserve 1991 24 Year Old – Sauternes Finish, 5000 Bottles (46% ABV, NCF)

Appearance: Deep amber, rather thick legs running down, then tapering into slow droplets coming off a residual necklace.

Nose: Clearly Irish with the telltale mustiness when first poured, with a hint of toasted coconut. Then the Sauternes comes up with fresh apricot and some dusty pepper, with the apricot concentrating into an apricot preserve, with some honey on the comb and some chalkiness. After some time, the sweet wine and the peat combine to an almost briny nose. This dram really develops if you let it sit for a bit.

Palate: Spicy hit, with peat, some sharp spices on a very soft spirit coats your mouth. A hint of dried fruit (dried apricot?) and the signature mustiness with the little bit of peat, together with a hint of cardamon.

Finish: Peat, a wine like dryness (not surprising, even though the Sauternes is sweet) and a lot of spice remaining on the tongue. The top of the gullet is awash with spices and some smokiness returning to coat the tongue. The finish is pretty long, and will leave your mouth dry with some spice on the tongue. On the very end of the finish, you’ll have some of the fruity sweetness on your tongue again.

Conclusion

You probably won’t mistake this single malt for Scotch, as it has it’s country of origin all over it’s nose. This is a very complex whiskey that will develop in your glass very nicely, with the interplay of the bourbon and Sauternes casks keeping your nose on its toes (I’m not sure what that would look like physically, but hey….). I especially liked the very strong and clear apricot you get on the nose.

Did I utterly fall in love with Irish whiskey? Not yet, but this is a bottle I would definitely be happy to have in my cupboard. Without going into a tirade about whisk(e)y prices in 2017, I will say that while the €300 price tag seems to be more or less in line with the market price for 25 year olds, I still did a double take when I looked at the price of the bottle. Am I just getting old?

Official sample provided by the Teeling Whiskey Company.

Dec 042015
 

Saint Patrick is the fourth century saint who brought Christianity to Ireland, using the shamrock to explain the trinity and driving all snakes off the island. We’ll complete the Redbreast core trinity today, and move on to a very promising sample I received from Douglas Laing, with a story all to its own.

Photo Credit: Irish Distillers

Photo Credit: Irish Distillers

The Redbreast 21 is yet another creation of Billy Leighton, Irish Distillers’ master blender who, together with his predecessor Dr. Barry Walsh, uphold both the tradition and the future of the single/pure pot still Irish whiskey, advanced through the company’s four brands of the style. It’s worth mentioning that Redbreast was a brand owned by a Dublin wine merchant, Gilbeys of Ireland, who filled new make spirit from the Jameson Distillery in Dublin. The decline of Irish Whiskey and Jameson’s closing of the Dublin distillation operation almost drove Glibeys’ Redbreast into extinction, were it not for the Midleton team who revived it in 1991, following the Pernod Ricard takeover.

The Redbreast 21 was too heavily musty for me, a sherried version of the very vegetal Green Spot and Yellow Spot whiskies, but I can understand why some of my friends sing this dram’s praises, as it does open up quite and gets somewhat lighter with the sherry coming out over the mustiness.

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Redbreast 21 (46% ABV, NCF)

Appearance: Amber, thin legs form with a lot of droplets that remain on the glass.

Nose: Starts off very musty, classically Irish nose which is somewhat dirty and very acetonic. Hints of lemon, herbal notes, hints of dried fruit and some leather and musty cereal. The time in the cask really took the triple distilled pot still style to its fullest. This is a complex dram, that needs time to breath, as it does the mustiness abates and makes way for the spice and sherry.

Palate: Musty and acetonic, with a sour cereal note. Spice (pepper, white pepper and some faint yet sharp cinnamon) come through with a bitter citrus rind note that comes through as well.

Linger: Sweet with bitter overtones with spice layered behind it and the signature mustiness stays long in the mouth.

Conclusion

Heavy, musty and vegetal, this could have easily been the top “Spot” whisky (say “Red Spot”) above the Green Spot and Yellow Spot. Very complex and interesting.

As with all the Midelton Pot Still whiskies, the quality is very apparent, and for fans of the style, this is a fabulous dram!

I wish to thank Kirsty Clarke and Stewart Craigon of the Whisky Corner for sharing this beauty with me. To friendship!!

 

 

Dec 032015
 

We’re in the midst of a flight of Irish whiskey, having so far tasted the very surprising Jameson Caskmates (reviewed here) and the Redbreast 12 (reviewed here). The 15 year old is, in my opinion, the best of the age stated Redbreast expressions, and is much more harmonious than the 12. It was initially released as a limited edition, and was later added to the regular core range.

This expression is made of whiskey matured in both Oloroso sherry and bourbon casks, in an unspecified ratio. The 15 year old is presented at 46% and is non chill filtered. As I mentioned while reviewing the 12 year old, there is a lot of craftsmanship (or should it be craftpersonship?) and skill that went into crafting these whiskeys, and I think this expression is the standout.

Midleton's Four Styles of Pot Still Whiskey Photo Credit: angelshare.it

Midleton’s Four Styles of Pot Still Whiskey
Photo Credit: angelshare.it

Midleton produces four styles of single (or pure) pot still whiskey: The full bodied Redbreast with distinct sherry influence; Midleton is a more delicate whiskey – with a very interesting experiment going on with Irish oak in the Dair Ghaleach series of which I tasted whiskey from tree 9; The Spots – Yellow and Green – highlight fruity and vegetal notes; and the Powers range is supposed to highlight spice. I have not yet had the opportunity to taste any of the Powers.

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Redbreast 15 Year Old (46% ABV, NCF)

Appearance: Copper, slow legs with a lot of residue.

Nose: Far gentler than the 12, much less of the bourbon like nose, less “Irish”. There’s dried fruit, honey, some acetone very far in the background with some mustiness, but overall this dram is far more harmonious.

Palate: Much mustier than the nose, with a deeper sweetness. There’s dried fruit and light wood spice with a plastic like feel in the mouth, with hints of bourbon and pepper.

Linger: Sweet, with some bitterness on the back of the tongue. Slightly mouth drying, with a sweetness that comes out over a layer of spice.

Conclusion

This is a very harmonious dram, sweeter than the 12 year old and more balanced. If you don’t mind (or even like) the mustiness brought on by the triple distillation, you’ll absolutely love this whiskey.

Dec 022015
 

Who invented whisky is a question that will probably forever be contested between the Irish and the Scots. There is, however, no contesting the fact that while the Irish whiskey industry led the field during the 18th and 19th centuries, to the point of being able to choose a different spelling for the product, yet came dangerously close to extinction in the 20th. At the same time, Scotch whisky rose to global prominence.

In fact, the signature Irish style of whiskey, the single potstill – created to avoid paying tax on malt – almost died out completely for not adopting to the times and making blends with grain whisky (or whiskey) made in patent stills. 1909 is the year in which the Royal Commission found in favor of grain whisky being considered, well, whisk(e)y, further boosting the Scottish blends. Given that blended whisky was taking over the world, the Irish industry was simply in no condition to compete, especially in the face of World War I, the Easter Rebellion of 1916 and the subsequent Irish War of Independence, cooperation with Prohibition in the United States (which was the largest export market for Irish Whiskey) by not supplying the black market through bootleggers and the Irish Civil War. The true death knell came in the 1930s when the Economic War (also know as the Anglo-Irish Trade War) blocked Irish exports from all markets in the British Commonwealth and the Great Depression prevented the industry from bouncing back from the horrible 1920s, leaving a decimated industry behind, comprising of only three distilleries in the Republic: Jameson, Powers and Cork Distillery. They merged to form Irish Distillers Ltd. in 1966, with Bushmills, a UK company, joining in 1972.

By 1975, there were two distilleries in Ireland, both owned by Irish Distillers – Bushmills and Midleton, in Cork. Irish potstill whisky was still made at Midleton, but was wholly used in Jameson Blended Whiskey, which was to become the cornerstone to the resurgence of Irish whisky in the 1990s, following Pernod Ricard’s purchase of Midleton (Jameson) and their throwing their marketing power into the promotion of Irish whiskey, a move followed by Diageo’s purchase of Bushmills. Also, the establishment of an independent distillery by John Teeling in 1987 marked the first new distillery on the island in over 100 years.

Photo Credit: http://www.shelflife.ie

Photo Credit: http://www.shelflife.ie

The 1990s and especially the first decade and a half of the 21st century were really good to Irish whiskey, and its popularity surged, prompting the return of the most iconic Irish whiskys to the shelf – the Single Pot Still Whiskey.

This style of whisky is made at Midleton and is marketed under several brands like Redbreast, Powers and the Green Spot and Yellow Spot. It contains both malted and unmalted barley (but no other grain) and is triple distilled. The brands differ in the ratio of malted to unmalted barley and probably in distillation practices such as the cut and the speed of distillation, creating their distinct characters.

I tasted four expressions of Redbreast Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey (the fifth one I tasted was the 12 Year Old Cask Strength I tasted at the Show, but don’t have notes for it) in this flight.

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Redbreast 12 Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey (40% ABV)

Appearance: Copper, thin legs that run down glass rather quickly.

Nose: Cereal, note of sherry, some baked fruit (though not overly sweet), caramel, stone fruit that’s maybe not fully ripe with white pepper and clove in the background with a whiff of perfume and the lightest musty note. I expected more of the mustiness here, but it’s not overly prominent in the nose.

Palate: Sweet and lightly musty with an almost bourbon like sweetness (tastes like the influence of corn, despite the fact that none is used in single pot still whiskey). The grain influence of the unmalted barley is strong. There’s a hint of chocolate and some saw dust.

Linger: A musty sweetness, some spice in the back of the throat with a long finish that’s not overly complex.

Conclusion

It’s very Irish, so I guess the guys and Midleton did a good job 🙂 I liked it better than both the Green Spot and Yellow Spot, and surprisingly less than the Jameson Caskmates (reviewed here).

This is an obvious case of de gustibus, as there can be no doubt as to the craft and quality that has gone into this whiskey, and my own non excitement over triple distilled whiskey is truly my own.