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.

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