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.
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:
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.
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.