Monday, December 12, 2011

Whiskey: In a different Glass.

As an additional supplemental review to buying Whiskey for Christmas I think it is also worth paying attention to glassware. Why spend hard earned cash on an expensive whiskey and drink it out of an old boot. If your afraid to buy your loved one whiskey you may consider buying some glasses.

Whiskey, like wine, comes in many different guises and has a debt of character all of it's own seldom seen in other spirits. It could even be argued that due to the myriad of whiskey out there that it is in fact the most diverse of all spirits. From colour to aroma to taste there is a never ending array of combinations out there in the world of whiskey (flavour spectrum here). So if you want to get the most from your whiskey you should also pay a small bit of attention to the glass you drink it from. Choosing the right glass for the right occasion can be half the battle. However like your whiskey a glass can just as easily be a very personal choice. So it could well be a matter of trial and error and you may find that one glass will heighten and intensify your experience greatly over another.  However there are a few basic rules that should be regarded before you choose.

As I have already said a glass can be a very personal choice and we all have very different likes and dislikes. So there will be people who like a certain size, shape and weight in their glass. However getting the aroma is one of the biggest pleasures of a top quality whiskey and if you can properly engage with the aroma it will enhance the the taste immeasurably.

What many may not know is that there is a basic industry standard for nosing whiskey. Left is a style of glass that you will find in the sample rooms of the majority of Distillery's. This is where the magic happens and master blenders use their finely honed noses to select the best whiskeys for the job at hand. Their weapon of choice is the blenders nosing glass.

About the size of a stemmed sherry glass these miniature sized wine glasses with their tulip shape are perfect to allow the aromas to collect in the empty space while the sides contain much of the aromas for your nasal pleasure. And why a stem? Well it is the perfect extension to swirl, agitate and release even more aromas. You can also cup the glass in your palm with stem through your fingers to gently warm the whiskey to release even more aroma profiles. Clear and un-embellished these are perfect for a clear view of the contents as a whiskey can be anything from a pale yellow straw to a deep mahogany colour.

These glasses may not evoke the stereotypical vision of a whiskey glass and possibly not one you would use to have a relaxing whiskey by the fire but if your looking to dissect a whiskey you can't do much better. However as a gifting option maybe not an easy sell but this is basically to explain the importance of shape.

With this in mind there are 2 glasses that possibly get the most attention in this regard. Both manufacturers have spent an amazing amount of R&D on developing their creations and both claim that theirs is the ultimate whiskey nosing glass. One from Scottish crystal company called Glencairn and another from Austrian premium glass maker Riedel. Rieldel, the epitome of glass perfection, create wonderful creations of an amazingly delicate nature and did similar for their whiskey glass. They both have made nosing glasses that tick many of the boxes. Specifically shaped for nosing and can be cupped in a hand to gently warm the whiskey. Just like Cognac/Brandy it is no harm to ward you whiskey gently as in doing so can release more of those wonderful aromas. The Reidel actually lips out but according to Reidel this and it's Petit size do the job perfectly. Also a desired fill level like that illustrated is another requirement as leaving enough space for the whiskey to "aromatise" the empty space is key.

The Riedel unfortunately comes at a cost, circa €40-50 a pair, but many swear by them. Glencairn on the other hand decided to develop a glass that was an excellent nosing glass, cheap (ish) and durable. So at circa €5-8 a glass is a much cheaper alternative and for me a better shape and significantly more robust. Even though both should be hand washed the Glencairn can easily withstand dish-washing but not the Riedel and unfortunately towel drying a Rielel can result in a costly disaster just as equally as they are quite delicate. On the other hand the Glencairn will withstand daily usage therefore for me the call is an easy one.

However many people do like a good lump of crystal in their hand. There is still the perception that a whiskey should be drunk from a heavy bottomed tumbler. In a way it is a comforting pleasure to be drinking your expensive whiskey out of an expensive piece of crystal. However some of these tumblers are like wide open buckets that let the aroma of a whiskey just fade off into the ether.

Whether right or wrong the tumbler is still is a very popular choice. So if your intent to sticking with a tumbler maybe it can still be achieved all the while retaining the principle of the nosing glass. The above are a selection of traditional glasses, with a Waterford Crystal at either end. However the issue with these is that they don't do much to maximize the aroma of a whiskey. Even a slight lip will help which the Waterford on the far right nearly achieves but not quite. So possibly a compromise would be something like below.

So again we have a Waterford at either end (John Rocca left and Lismore Right) then a Peugeot in the center with 2 stemless style glasses either side but both specifically listed as whiskey tumblers. These all have a lip with the Peugeot with the most pronounced lip.

So a purchase of a nice pair of glasses and possibly a small water jug may also be worth bearing in mind.

Riedel & Glencairn are available at The Celtic Whiskey shop but don't appear to be on line so please contact them for availability. Also Amazon would be another source for some of the more uncommon makes like Peugeot. Enjoy the full experience.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Shopping, but it's not just for Christmas.

Well it is that time of year again ... racking the head to find that unusual gift for so and so!?!?! Well, whiskey has been a standard buy for gifting to business associates over the years but it has always been just a standard Jameson, Paddy or Powers. However whiskey can be so much more than that and you can make it an exciting and unusual gift. What's more is that a premium bottle of whiskey should last long after the Christmas holidays as these whiskeys should be savoured over time. So if you are looking for a few ideas read on.

My personal favourite for this year is the brand new Powers 12yo bottling released by Irish Distillers early this year. This is a whiskey that harks back to the old days when Powers was a heavier whiskey than it is today. Not necessarily for the novice due to it's complexity and full flavours but undoubtedly one of the best Irish Whiskeys on the market today and marks highly from world whiskey experts. An added bonus is a large pull out picture sized image of the Power's Distillery and a recount of the distillery on the reverse from 1885 inside. An engrossing insight into whiskey distilling of the 19th Century.

NOSE:    An abundance of earthy aromas, leather, tobacco with layers of charred wood, dark chocolate and treacle toffee.
  Full bodied spice front followed by vanilla, honey and dried apricot.
FINISH:  Lingering honey sweetness on toasted oak.

Circa €55 at The Celtic Whiskey Shop and other specialist Off Licenses. If your you a bit afraid of this  whiskey plumb for the regular 12yo which is lighter but still a good choice for any Powers fan. 

If you know someone that prefers Jameson why not take a step up in quality and expand their experience with a more refined and flavourful whiskey. In the Jameson tradition there are a few to chose from.

 The Jameson 12yo is a lovely step up and is a much fuller and richer whiskey compared to the regular Jameson. And at under €40, and cheaper if found on special, is widely available is an easy find.

NOSE: Warm, spicy, assertively complex.

TASTE: Sherry richness, nutty flavour, mild woody undertones.

FINISH: Rich and lasting.

 However there are other whiskeys which have their roots in the Jameson line up which on the face of it is not apparent and are a bit more unusual but should still keep the Jameson drinker happy.

The highly regarded Greenspot has been beautifully updated and modernised. This has gained cult status amongst Irish Whiskey drinkers in the know. It would grace any drinks Cabinet and maybe even cause a talking point due to it's more exotic label, for an Irish whiskey.
Circa €45 @ The  Celtic Whiskey Shop

NOSE: Fresh aromatic oils and spices with orchard fruits and barley on a background of toasted wood.

TASTE: Full spicy body. A hint of cloves along with the fruity sweetness of green apples, rounded off with toasted oak.

FINISH: Lingering flavours of spices and barley.

 Redbreast 12yo is another cracking whiskey at a reasonable price. Possibly my favorite of the 3 but not greatly as all 3 are very good whiskeys for the price.

Nose: A complex spicy and fruity aroma with toasted wood notes evident.

TASTE: Full flavoured and complex; a harmonious balance of spicy, creamy, fruity, sherry and toasted notes.

FINISH: Satisfyingly long, the complex flavours linger on the palate.

Widely available circa €45. However if you want something even more special feel free to go for the 15yo at circa €75 per bottle and certainly worth the extra investment.

However maybe he's into scotch  ... well with the economic times that we are in why not keep it Irish anyway. So for something totally different with a bit of a kick and plenty peat why not go for a Connemara. 

Nose: Smokey peatiness balanced by hints of honey and dried fruits

Taste: Silky smooth with a honey sweet start, followed by malt and fruit flavours giving way to full bodied peat.

Finish: Long and glorious with golden honey notes and a deep peaty finish.

A good substitute for the likes of Ardbeg, Lagavulin or Laphroig, try this. Available in most good independent off licences for circa €35 or if you want to go a bit further the Cask Strength version is circa €55 and much better in my opinion.

If your worried about the Connemara being too peaty try something a bit subtler like Locke's 8yo which is an excellent substitute as a lightly peated whiskey. 

A smooth medium bodied single malt that ticks all the boxes and easy to drink.

Nose: Light & smooth sweet malt, Pear Drops, Orange squash

Taste: Boiled Sweets, pear drops again, Apricot. And a quick spice burst.

Finish: Dusty and dry spice, White pepper, slight anesthetic Smoke(light).

Circa €35 at well stocked independent off licenses.

For those wishing to spend a bit more on something special there is plenty to choose from also. Impress your loved one with some top class whiskey and excellent packing to boot. Not pictured but worth a mention is the Writers Tears Cask strength gift pack including 2 nosing glasses. All available at The Celtic Whiskey Shop on Nassau St Dublin 2 between €95 and €165. They also can courier to anywhere in Ireland for a reasonable fee.Pick of the bunch here is the Midleton Bary Crockett Legacy and the dearest of the bunch too. However this Midleton is a master class in refinement and an exceedingly drinkable whiskey with plenty of character. 

Irish Man's Cask Strength - Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy - Bushmills 21yo - Kilbegggan 18yo

Then we have the Super Premium Category where Money is no object. These are the heavy weight whiskeys that only a few ever have the opportunity to try so all very very special. 

The Jameson RVR is possibly one of the best whiskeys released by Irish Distillers in Decades. However at a premium of €370 a bottled to be savoured. Then we have 2 whiskeys from long closed distillery's. Because of this they command a premium immediately. The Coleraine 34yo is a rare single from the now defunct Coleraine Distillery. Distilled in 1959 and bottled in 1993 this has been long sough after by aficionado's of whiskey and commands a constant high price at auction, price an eye watering €1600. The Knappogue Castle 1951 is a whiskey originally from the Tullamore Distillery in Co Offaly. This has the most wondrous nose of Toffee and Bananas but it very light on taste so needs to be savoured on a clear palate, €600. Lastly a collectors bottle from Cooley a limited edition from Connemara Range, this heavily peated whiskey has been matured in a cask which has used thousands of year old oak reclaimed from an Irish bog. A truly unique maturation technique and the Connemara Bog Oak will cost you circa €250. Again all available at The Celtic Whiskey Shop in shop or via special delivery.

Jameson Rare Vintage Reserve - Coleraine 34yo - Knappogue Castle 1951 - Connemara Bog Oak

If all that is enough to make you cry in these times of cut backs and fiscal rectitude you may want to be a bit more cash conscious. However at the same time it would be nice to give your recipient a bit of a choice so why not get one of the many gift packs available. These are generally a selection of 5cl mini bottles.

 From left to right Clontarf Trinity (Classic Blend, Clontarf Reserve & Clontarf Single Malt), The Irish Man duo with shot Glass (A Single Malt & Irish Man 70 which is a unique blend 30% Pot Still and 70% malt whiskeys), Tyrconnel Single Malts with Glencairn nosing glass (Regular Tyrconnel, Sherry Finish & Port Finish) Connemara Range with Glencairn nosing glass (Connemara regular, Cask Strength & 12yo single malts) & the Jameson Selection (Crested Ten, Regular Jameson & 12yo). There is also a cooley collection not pictured which contains a Connemara, Greenore, Kilbeggan & Tyrconnell (I think). All in the €10-15 euro range. Tyrconnell & Connemara packs are the best value as you get 3 mini's and a glencairn tasting glass which is usually over the €5 mark on it's own.

These are just some of the wonderful Irish whiskeys that are on the market today and only reflect a limited view of what's available. Feel free to pop into you local Specialist whiskey store and ask for their recommendations.  I'm sure they will be delighted to talk to you about the multitude of choice out there.

Keep the spirit Irish this Christmas and happy shopping.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Presidents Selection

Thursday 24th of November saw the 2011 Presidents Selection tasting for the Irish Whiskey Society. As the last formal tasting of the year for the society this is where the president of the society can take a few liberties with an increased budget and totally dictate what line up is to be.

The night was entitled "The President's Selection 2011: A Journey Through Time with Irish Pot Still Whiskeys"  which gave us a small but inconclusive hint of the tantalising whiskeys that were to come.

First up was a 1995 Midleton Single Cask Pot Still exclusively bottled for The Celtic Whiskey Shop. This first fill bourbon cask was typical of this style on the nose ... big vanilla, cotton candy, honey and a nice touch of oak. The taste did not disappoint either as with the nose plenty of vanilla and honey but lovely ginger and some wood spice. For me the finish was quite dry after all that sweetness which was a nice balance. An excellent pot still to whet the taste buds. This originally retailed at €200 but is long sold out.

Next up was the Jameson 15yo Pot Still Millennium edition which is firmly in the iconic class but possibly slightly over shadowed by the cult status that the 2005 Redbreast 15yo has claimed. I have been lucky enough to own a few of these with one currently open so I was well aware of what this stellar whiskey had in store. The nose is wonderful and full with rich sherry notes of mix dried fruit and raisins there is also a musty note to this which seems to have been a hall mark note of pot still whiskeys of old. The taste is just as rich and explodes in the mouth with big fruit flavours and well integrated spice notes. A lovely long and mellow finish completes this rewarding whiskey.

With Whiskey number 3 we were stepping up into the super premium price category. A 30yo 1964 Dungourney was unveiled and was received with great expectation. This however was a totally different style from the previous offering. Delicate is a good word to describe this whiskey and certainly one to spend plenty of time over. This seems much lighter than the years would suggest and their is an airyness to the sweet maltiness of the nose. Going by nose one would think bourbon cask but because of age it could well be a well reused sherry cask. The taste is on a similar par with the sweet sugar and sweet malt to the fore. The shortest finish of the lot so far for me but maybe in different quieter conditions one could get more.

Following on from that we were greeted with an odd curiosity of the 15yo Old Irish Gold Pure Pot Still Irish whiskey. This unattributed Irish whiskey is a sad indication of what happened to the remaining struggling distilleries in Ireland during the 50's. The 1950's saw the closure of several distilleries and the dispersal of stocks to all and sundry that had the means to purchase whiskey whole sale. This particular whiskey found it's way to a bonded warehouse in Scotland and eventually to a buyer in Germany. Between all the various pit stops it somehow lost it's distillery of origin. Bottled in 1972 and stated to be over 15years old would indicate that this would have been distilled at the latest in the year 1957. So what about the whiskey ... would this be a hidden gem waiting to be rediscovered? Well the rear label proclaiming a recipe for Irish coffee was probably a hint of what was a head. In no way was this offensive but it certainly did not stand up in the same class of the previous 3 whiskeys for the majority. Sweet and citrusy was the name of the game here and a strange astringency to the finish. This intriguing whiskey of unknown origins was still an experience that people should savour as it is part of the history of by gone Irish Whiskey.

1953 was the year of our next distillate ... Old Comber 30yo. This long closed distillery was renowned for it's sherried whiskeys but imbibers of this whiskey 60 years ago would have been used to a more modest age statement of 7years old as standard. The nose is wonderfully sherried and full of those rich fruit cake aromas that we associate with sherry cask. However for Irish pot still fans there is always an extra dimension to the fruit in the nose. The taste delivered on the nose equally and this could well have been a stellar whiskey worthy of the high kings of Ireland but for the finish. There is plenty of positives in the finish but there is an elephant in the room also and that is the big slap of wood in there also. This is where we can see what over aging can do to a whiskey. Even though it is only at the very end of the finish that is totally dominated by wood this alone proves its down fall. This was a wonderful experience and rewarding experience but at €600 a bottle it is hard to justify the price for it's faults. However if you could get this for a fraction of the price it would be well worth it and an amazing experience faults and all.

Lastly we jaunt back close to a century to the distillation date of circa 1914. Another Jameson but from a totally different distillery altogether from that of famous John Jameson. Many may never have heard of a whiskey called William Jameson but yes another Jameson distillery existed many moons ago and they were just as well known as JJ&S at the turn of the 20th century. However this bottle was not even an official bottling by this distillery. Once again we have a distillery in distress and serious amounts stocks which were sold en-mass to the US. This was because the US was always it's main market and mainly due to Prohibition in the US it was the start of the end for the William Jameson distillery in Marrowbone Lane in Dublin. As the William Jameson name was highly regarded in US already a new company bearing the same name was established US and 20yo William Jameson whiskey was blended with young Kentucky whiskey for the newly reopened US market. It seems to have been a success however what is it like today. Well this piece of Irish and American history was amazing to behold. However it has very little light to shed on Irish style whiskey. The young American whiskey totally dominates and is very much a bourbon/rye style whiskey however the 20year old Irish whiskey does express itself on the nose. A wonderful experience but not Irish Pot still whiskey as we knew or know it.

The hands down winner on the night was the Jameson 15yo Pure Pot Still taking nearly half the votes but all whiskeys were received appreciatively and all were enjoyed for their respective qualities.

An amazing line up of whiskeys from a historical point of view and a wonderful night spent with an appreciate audience. Many thanks to Leo Phelan the 2011/2012 Irish Whiskey Society president for a wonderfully informative night following pot still back in time. A once in a life time opportunity to taste all these whiskeys every one of which are now being slowly but surely cast into the annals of history.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rediscover The Original Irish Whiskey

IDL on Friday 16th of September launched their new whiskey site, The site is solely dedicated to Single Pot Still Irish whiskey and the home page boldly proclaims "Rediscover The Original Irish Whiskey".

Click on Picture to go to the single pot still site

It's been a few months in the coming but boy was it worth the wait. The site appears to be very well put together and insightful. The first section is titled "What is Single Pot Still" which in my opinion is one of the best explanations on SPS I've read to date. It does have the usual explanations on the whole distillation process but when describing what single pot still is it is quite detailed but beautifully simplified in easy to understand language. So on that pretence alone this is a great piece of work. A very interesting chapter with in this section is the Maturation chapter and shows the importance of wood. This is obviously important for any whiskey but later in the film section it also shows how much time and energy IDL put into wood selection.

The History section is interesting but don't expect a dissertation as it just skims through the centuries for a nice light read. However it covers a lot of ground and is quite objective in it's comparisons of the Scotch industry too.

The Whiskeys section covers the 4 SPS brands that IDL have on offer. This is a brief section with general tasting notes, however there is the bonus of being able to select links that take you individual  satellite sites these brands. These are Green spot, Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy, Powers John's Lane & Redbreast 12 & 15yo. These sites contain even more information on the specific brands and a nice touch was giving each site it's own separate style. Particular mention has to me made for the Redbreast site of which a lot of research was submitted by Irish Whiskey Society president Leo Phelan. Plenty of reading for any SPS Fanatic.

The Films section is a nice added bonus. There is a 40min film which is excellently hosted by whiskey writer Peter Mulryan. It clearly highlights the enthusiasm and commitment that the Masters in IDL hold for their whiskey as well as added incite to the amazing lengths IDL go in their pursuit for perfection in regards to the wood selection process.

The Still house is where the SPS Irish Whiskey fan can sign up to become Stillmen (or site members) for added content. There is initially a promise of a little gift for those signing up now. This area has the News section just like the main area but the Films section hold bonus content. There is also a gallery where you can see various pictures of  the original founders of the SPS brands. There is also a section where members upload their own photos if the fancy takes them. Lastly is the download section which has a tasting Mat and more detailed fact sheets for the brands.

The Distillery Section gives brief overview on Midleton and also brief biogs on the Midleton Masters. Plus links to the Visitor centres.

Over all this is a fairly substantial piece of work and very well put together in my opinion. It is possibly the best and most detailed web site published by the Irish Whiskey industry and is a very welcome offering for eager Irish Whiskey fans. Going on this it looks like IDL have moved a few eggs from the massive Jameson basket and are making a good effort to promote their SPS brands.

A hearty congratulations to IDL on there new site and hopefully we are well on our way in renewing Single Pot Still as a serious category as it deservedly should. So lets all "Rediscover The Original Irish Whiskey".


Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Hard Week And Some Easy Choices

I've been neglecting my hobby for the past couple months due to work loads and family commitments. Even worse I've not had much whiskey in the time either but this past week has been a long hard week in work and it played right through my week-end. Not to worry though as I'm busy and it's good to be busy in these times.

I was fairly wrecked at the days end this past week and it called for a single large one on more than a few occasions just to unwind. I find when I'm like that I usually know what I'm in the mood for before I even try to think about it. More often than not I go for a Laphroaig of a Coal Ila but for some reason not this time.

On Monday I went straight for my Knappogue 1951 ... I don't know whether I was too tired or has the bottled turned but I did not enjoy it at all and struggled to finish it. It seemed slightly bitter in a bad way and had lost a lot of it's characteristic toffee and banana. There's only about 2 inches left and I opened it about 14 months ago for my son's Christening. I must remember to go back to that one and see if it really is turning.

Tuesday night had me reaching for a Powers John's Lane 12yo Single Pot Still ... aaahhh that's much better. Still really loving this as it really is quite different from any other pot still on the market but I was so tired I could not finish it. The power (excuse the pun) and heaviness of this pot still in comparison to other Irish pot stills may surprise some but this is what the Powers legacy was built on. A heavy pot still with a strong character. 

Wednesday night I finished the Powers John's Lane and then it was the regular Powers 12yo's turn. Uummm this is lovely in a much sweeter way and just suited my mood to a T. John's Lane still gets the nod for flavour but I was really surprised how much I really enjoyed this and was perfect for total relaxation. 

Thursday night saw me hitting the Redbreast 12yo. Yes good stuff but both of the Powers are above it this week. Whiskey is a funny thing day one is your favourite and another day a different one is but that is also it's beauty of whiskey.

Friday I took a break and had a couple beers :lol:

Tonight I went straight for Jameson 12yo Midleton Distillery Reserve. A Jameson 12yo bottled specially and exclusively for the Jameson Visitor centre in Midleton.  This bottle just keeps getting better and better for me and by far the best Jameson 12yo I've had. A bit like the Powers 12yo it just makes for a great relaxation drop but there is plenty to get my teeth into also. This is definitely a good reason to visit the distillery and luckily for me I bought a spare bottle of this the last time I was down in Midleton.

What I find strange about this whole week is that I went with my gut instinct and it was pretty much Irish Distillers Ltd all the way. The quality of all their out put it just so high and constant that you'll never be disappointed. Now that I've got that off my chest I must stop neglecting my whiskey duties.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Whiksy Live Dublin

      Well it's been quite a couple of weeks for Irish Whiskey. Verging on historical with momentous new releases and announcements. IDL with 2 fabulous new and much welcomed Single Pot Still offerings and Cooley with the re-introduction of their tradition of distilling Pot still also.

      Just when we were catching our breath Saturday 14th of May saw Whisky Live arrive into Dublin. This is the first time that Whisky Live has been hosted in Dublin and possibly the first time that there has been a dedicated whisk(e)y expo in Ireland. It was held in the round room of the beautiful & historic Mansion house built in 1821 and located in the centre of Dublin. The event was officially opened by the Dublin Lord Mayor Mr Gerry Breen who is not unknown to have a glass of the golden nectar himself. So it was with great interest that he attended this event in his official capacity. He was presented with various bottles from a multitude of Industry representatives. I think I may run for the position next year just for that alone.

Dublin's Lord Mayor Mr Gerry Breen officially opens Whisky Live Dublin

      I was there on two levels. Firstly on a personal level to taste all the sumptuous whiskey on display and secondly wearing my official Irish Whiskey Society (IWS) shirt and manning the stand for a short while to try and entice people to join. The IWS stand turned out to be very successful. People seemed quite surprised that there was a Society for such shenanigans but all thought it was a great idea and we got a great reaction. Drinking is very much a pub orientated past time in Ireland a few would have thought of whiskey in a more structured way.  Through all the efforts of the IWS Volunteers we were able to extol the benefits of such a society and garner some real interest around the wonderful past time of whiskey and whiskey tasting.

 The Irish Whiskey Society's Stand

     However the real work of the day was tasting the whiskeys on offer and chatting to all the industry guys. I've been at a couple Whisky Live in the UK and the Dublin effort was definitely on a par in the organisation stakes if slightly smaller but hey whiskey is not that big in Ireland... yet. All the major Irish brands were represented, Bushmills, Connemara, Jameson, Kilbeggan, Midleton, Tullamore & Tyrconnell. So too were strong brands like Greenspot (Mitchell's), Knappogue Castle, Powers & Redbreast. However it was also good to see some of the new kids on the block putting in good representations to the Irish Public. Brands like Inis Turk Beg, Irishman, Slane Castle, Wild Geese & Writers Tears. These are brands that the public will largely be ignorant of so a big well done for turning up. It is through events like these that we maybe able to awaken a more general passion of whiskey in Ireland aside from the bog standard pub fare.

      It was not all Irish though and we had a nice easy selection of scotch distilleries too. No heavy handed Islay's were really present (Except maybe a few Independently Bottled ones), possibly the Irish palate needs to be broken in gently? What we saw though was some of the more approachable brands of Auchentoshan, Benriach, Bowmore, Edradour, Glen Dronach, Glen Garioch, and the 3 sisters of Hazelburn, Longrow & Springbank. Not a huge selection as far as Scotch goes but a good start for the Irish market. We also had  Signatory and Duncan Taylor stands who independently bottle various different distilleries, mainly in single cask offerings, which are always very welcome. Then bringing up the reargard for a bit of variety we had Nikka Japanese Whisky & Jefferson's Bourbon for good measure. All in all not a bad selection for what is a new style of event in a yet to be exploited Irish market. Irish Distillers had great stands that were very striking and a totally new set up for the new Single Pot Still series of Redbreast, Greenspot, Midleton SPS & Powers John's Lane SPS and it was probably the best looking stand at the event, I wonder did that have something to do with the whiskey... However all exhibitors made the day and the over set up looked good.  All offerings through out the fair were then on sale at the Celtic Whiskey Shop (CWS) stand which was wonderful. Nothing worse than finding a cracker and not being able to buy it there and then.

Celtic Whiskey Shop or Aladdin's Cave?

      What was evident at Whisky Live was the enthusiasm of all the exhibitors and the willingness to chat about all things whiskey. I hope to follow up some conversations with articles in their own right at a later date. More over there seem to be a very interested public who seemed to be enjoying the warm and relaxed atmosphere of this particular Whisky Live. Everything seemed to move at a nice pace and there was very little over crowding at stands which always is a bonus. We had the usual live cooper demonstrations which were quite interesting for most novices even though I did see a few surprised glances when unsuspecting WL goers with their back to the proceeding heard the clang of the coopers hammer. There was also a separate  chocolate and food stands with whiskey pairing opportunities.

As to the whiskies ... there was nothing that I tasted that I disliked but there were some I liked more than others. Cooley had released a Tyrconnell 11 year old sherry finish especially for the event and for my money a far superior version of the regular 10yo Sherry finish, I am guessing that extra year has paid dividends but then I tend to like my sherry influence a bit heavier than some. Powers John's Lane was another highlight and was delighted to relieve the Celtic Whiskey shop of two of these. Lastly was a young Signtory Bunahabhain which really impressed me, definitely on my list to get one next time I'm in the CWS.

My overall impressions of Whisky Live Dublin is that is was a great success and a thoroughly enjoyable experience so here's to hoping that it will be back in the future.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cooley refire the true Spirit of Kilbeggan

      Wednesday 11th May 2011 saw the Chaser venturing into the centre of Ireland to visit the Kilbeggan Distillery also known as Locke's Distillery. This distillery is a wonder to behold and a step back in time complete with the workings of 19th century distillery on display. The Kilbeggan Distillery Museum is definitely well worth a visit but that is not only reason to visit.

      The Distillery like many before it closed in 1957 but had ceased production since 1953 and went through various indignation's from a multitude of owners that breezed through it over the next 30-40 years. Redemption was found though when Cooley Distillery Limited acquired the site and used it as their main maturation site for the whiskey they were producing in their more modern Riverstown operation in Co Louth. All output from there is either Single Malt or Grain whiskey and not Irish Pot Still for which the Locke's Distillery had become famous. Cooley unfortunately, who only establish in 1987, were the new kids on the block and did not have the resources to refurbish the Kilbeggan Distillery in the early years and it remained a warehousing site. However Cooley have gone from strength to strength and in 2007 Cooley started distilling in Kilbeggan once again to the acclaim to Irish Whiskey enthusiasts every where. It did not matter that it was Malt whiskey, what was important was the emergence of a fourth distillery on the Island of Ireland.This resulted last year in the release of the Kilbeggan Distillery malt. A 3 year old whiskey that was part distilled in Cooley HQ there fore cannot be called a Single Malt and eventhough possibly slightly young, this is a historic release and a definite collectors item for the future. However it also As the years go by we will be able to see the progression

      The aroma of distillation once again hung over the Locke's distillery but something even more special has been rekindled this month. For the first time in over a half century the distillery is producing Pot Still spirit which will become Single Post Still whiskey in 3 years time. Alex Chasko, the affable American and inovation manager in Kilbeggan, has resurrect an old Locke's mash bill of 60% malt 35% spring barley (which is stone ground by the way) and 5% oats. Oats has long since been dropped by IDL as part of their distilling method so Kilbeggan are in a way making a truly unique pot still whiskey and the true spirit of Kilbeggan is alive once again.

A Pot Still Mash Containing Oats.

      While there I got to taste the new make which was quite flavoursome, lovely light fruity and a sweet spirit which is surprisingly very drinkable straight from the still. This bodes well for a matured product in the long run. In tandem they are going to do some pot still in the Riverstown plant also so it will be interesting to see what differences there will be between the 2 new spirits. So now all there is to do is wait ...

      I was also lucky enough to sample the new Kilbeggan 18yo, this for me is much better than the award winning 15yo Limited version that was released for Kilbeggan's 250th anniversary. Comes in a very similar bottle which I am told is actually lighter and more slimline but still very striking.If you liked the 15yo you will love this.

Kilbeggan 18yo

Friday, May 13, 2011

Irish Distillers Launch 2 New Whiskeys

      I am delighted to write my very first post on a significant announcement in the Irish Whiskey Industry. On Thursday 5th of May 2011 I had the pleasure of attending an Irish Distillers Ltd (IDL) launch of 2 brand new Whiskeys. That in itself may not seem significant but the fact that these are 2 new Single Pot Still whiskeys is a major development. Why? because it was a real possibility that the Pot Still style could have died out all together but Mitchell's (Greenspot) & Gilbeys (Redbreast) managed to keep the style alive against the odds. Then earlier this year we had a new dawning in relation to these brands with a major overhaul of Greenspot livery and an updating of Redbreast. Then on Thursday in one fell swoop we suddenly have double the brands in the Single Pot Still category with the addition of the Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy and the Power's 12yo Johns Lane Release. Both bottles are celebrating 2 very important cogs in the IDL wheel. Barry Crockett Master Distiller who is literally a living part of the Midleton Distillery having been born on the old Distillery site and the Powers 12yo John's Lane Release celebrating the ancestral home of Powers.


Our tasting consisted of these 4 brands with Redbreast 12yo 40%, Greenspot 40%, Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy 46% ncf and the Powers 12yoJohn's Lane 46% ncf in the line up. The RB12 & Greenspot are at this stage well respected so their new cousins had a lot to live up to and it was good to be able to taste all 4 against each other as it really emphasises the differences in the whiskeys. The Greenspot definitely comes across in this company as fresh and youth full and the RB12 being full of rich fruit and spice.

So what did the new guns on the block have to offer ... well I'm not going to write detailed notes but will try and give you a flavour of what to expect as these really need to be tasted personally to appreciate them to the full. Any detailed break down from me could do them an injustice as they did not disappoint.
The Midleton Barry Crocket Legacy pretty much uses all bourbon first fill cask with the exception of the tiniest amount of virgin matured Pot Still to round it off and it contains a mixture of whiskeys between 15 - 22 years old. Even though full of flavour and a slightly heavier mouth feel this is a very elegant whiskey and will fit into the Midleton stable very comfortably. There is plenty of sweetness with lots of Vanilla and soft ripe fruits so if you are a fan of Midleton VR you should really enjoy this and at circa €165 it offers excellent value for the Midleton drinker especially for the step up in quality.  

The Power's 12yo John's Lane Release was the revelation of the day though. This is a big whiskey and built in the old Power's style. Heavy earthy aromas and the big pot still flavours are driven by the distillate which is curiously made up from refill as well as first fill casks. Again the majority is Bourbon but there is a small percentage of sherry in the single figures but what really marks this whiskey is the use of Mod Pot 4 which is IDL code for a heavy style of Pot Still. Even regular Powers drinkers who will recognise the spice and wood may be surprised by the robustness of this whiskey and I must say it is a breath of fresh air. At circa €50 a bottle this I feel offers wonderful value for money and could easily become a main stay of one's whiskey drinking selection. So do not hesitate and get your skates on as they have only bottled circa 600 cases in this the first batch but surely not the last for such a great whiskey. Obviously depending on reaction of the rest of the whiskey drinking public but I feel that this has all the traits to become an Irish classic.

      Over all a wonderful and possibly historic day. Could this be the dawn of a new era? IDL have what seem like very ambitious plans for the future and that is to release at least one new whiskey every year for the next 20 odd years (and no I don't mean yearly issues of Midleton Very Rare). What this actually means is that we may see the Redbreast & Greenspot brands expanded as well as possible additions to the other family brands. So now IDL have really upped their game and we will have something to look forward to on a more regular basis.


In 1999 during a trip to Scotland I paid a visit to The Scotch Whisky Experience on the royal. Eventhough at the time I was a confirmed whiskey drinker I was not blown away by some of the scotch I tasted but I was totally in awe of the sheer scale and variety of the worlds number one whisky. It was then that I realised that I was pretty much a single brand Irish Whiskey drinker and I really did not know much about my own native drink or whiskey in general. This was the light bulb moment and the catalyst that was to launch me on a quest to explore Irish Whiskey. I have been on this adventure ever since and have learned to love and appreciate whisk(e)y of all types counting many scotch, Japanese and American whiskies amongst my favorites.

Even back just a decade ago Irish Whiskey had a very low profile and was not being exploited to it's full potential. Therefore I was fearful that it was just a handful of the usual suspects that existed. I dived in head first and went in search of as many brands of Irish Whiskey as I possibly could find and luckily I found that there was a burgeoning underground of other brands also. From an Irish prespective on the ground in Ireland IDL was the giant in the field with the Jameson Paddy & Power brands totally dominating. Then you had Bushmills being popular also but far from wide spread and then Tullamore which may come as a surprise to some but was even more aloof in Irish pubs. And even though back in 1999 these possibly accounted for 90% of all irish Whiskey being sold in Ireland it was only the tipof the ice berg in relation to different brands.

I had come on the sceane just in time to see Cooley begin to blosom and totally dominate the production of Independent bottles of Irish Whiskey for various companies as well as build their Kilbeggan, Lockes and Connemara brands and later Greenore. However the there was so little information I started to catalogue any different brand or bottling I came across. This eventually resulted in the IrishWhiskeyChaser website which is basically an archive of Irish Whiskey. However, in the last 3 to 4 years we have seen a real explosion of quality new bottlings from all of the Irish Distilleries and because of the fact that I have basically done the major work on my archive site I now only need to update it. Therefore I now feel I can try my hand and write about my favourite subject whisk(e)y.

I am no expert just a regular Joe Soap who really enjoys his whiskey and I spend many hours reading and researching my favorite pass time. Futher I am no Journalist nor Oscar Wilde so don't expect Pulitzer prize quality writing.

So without further adieu let the odyssey continue ....