Anyone who ever asked me about getting “into” whiskey is always pointed in the same direction with one simple answer; Join a Whiskey Society. Be it the Irish Whiskey Society, The Aviators Society, Celtic Whiskey Club, Cork Whiskey Society, Kilkenny Whiskey Guild or the many other smaller ones around the country, each offers its members the chance to take part in detailed tastings at a very competitive price. As I unfortunately live in Cork (wife’s fault), Cork Whiskey Society is the one I am a member of but, it is one of the single best reasons for being in Cork (besides said wife!). The society have had some blindingly good tastings in the recent past with some of the rarest and oldest whiskeys appearing for members to taste. Last night was no different in terms of quality. We had the pleasure of a Teeling whiskey tasting lead by the Master Distiller, Alex Chasko.
On arriving at Reardon’s pub on Washington Street in Cork one thing was evident immediately. Alex has a huge presence! I don’t have to look up to many people being 6 ft….but the people I do look up at would have to look up at Alex! But even with him being 12 feet tall (that may not be perfectly accurate), he can only be described as a gentle giant. I only met Alex once before at a Whiskey Live master class two or three years ago and as with then, when we arrived he popped over to say hello and ended up staying chatting with us for nearly half an hour…..sorry Eric, we didn’t mean to delay the start! The usual tastings can be very formal and some even a little rehearsed. I get that and it’s not a bad thing. It’s something that a brand ambassador does over and over again, second nature really. This tasting however, was far from one of the normal ones. An easy, relaxed tasting that allowed us to meander through 7 of the Teeling brands extensive portfolio of whiskeys with no pre prepared script. Nothing rushed, just like a good whiskey being aged. Each dram savoured and chat between tables encouraged. The raw passion for his creations oozed from Alex with a beam of pride and yet, a humble demeanour was displayed throughout. No question too silly and no question unanswered, with a huge amount of transparency shown.
So let’s have a quick look at the whiskeys we tried starting with the Teeling trinity which is their core range of three whiskeys.
Matured for 5 years in Californian Cabernet Sauvignon casks made from French Oak, this grain whiskey is distilled from Maize using a Coffey Still. Bottled at a perfect 46%, this is the only one of the Trinity to be in a clear bottle. This was on purpose so as to show off the lovely reddish hew from the whiskey. Approximately €45.
Nose – Grapes, sweet with plums, spice and vanilla.
Palate – Sweet again but light with a nice spicy mouth feel. Some wild berry taste in there.
Finish – Medium that just allows those grapes to shine.
Teeling Small Batch
According to Alex, before it was decided upon this was trialed by the Irish Whiskey Society and three choices were used. Sherry which was guessed immediately by the group, Port which was again guessed and Rum which no one was able to pick up. With 85% of the group picking that rum finish, it was the natural choice for the small batch release. Again its at 46% and was finished for between generally between 6 and 9 months, but sometimes up to a year, in Rum casks. Being Small Batch the bottles are dated and no two batches are exactly the same. While Alex tries to keep them very similar, each batch really is bespoke and has its slight variations. Approximately €40.
Nose – Obvious rum, raisins, allspice and vanilla.
Palate – More vanilla, very sweet with a big wood influence. Touch of spice. Real rich and a lovely mouth feel.
Finish – Medium. More of a floral finish with a touch of toffee and maybe some pear.
Alex described this as literally “his baby”. This whiskey took him 9 months and 27 attempts to create as his brief from Jack Teeling was to make it the best. The result was a blend of Malts from White Burgundy casks for the nose with Maderia, Port and Sherry casks for the body. Remember those Cabernet Sauvignon casks that were used for the Single Grain? Well the used casks were then refilled with malt for sweetness. The results are fantastic. Approximately €55.
Nose – Malt, freshly melted chocolate, apples and loads of tropical fruit.
Palate – Cinnamon, Pepper and again loads of fruit. Apples, grapes, plums with vanilla and ginger.
Finish – Medium to long. Caramel sweetness coming to the fore here from the cabernet sauvignon casks.
The stout cask is similar to the Jameson Caskmates release. Teeling collaborated with Galway Bay Brewery and provided them with used casks in which they aged their 200 Fathoms stout for 6 months. These casks, once emptied, were then returned to Teeling where they were filled with Small batch whiskey for 6 to 9 months. The end result was 6,000 bottles of complex yet balanced whiskey. It was explained on the night that if you have a bottle of this, there is some yeast sediment in them and that it is perfectly normal and safe to drink. Approximately €50.
Nose – Chocolate and coffee with a touch of spice.
Palate – Cherries, caramel and vanilla.
Finish – Medium. More caramel and Terrys chocolate orange.
Brabazon 2nd Release
The first of the Brabazon series was finished in Sherry casks whereas this was finished in Port casks. Tawny and white port casks were used to pump out this 49.5% creation. I’m normally a sherry fan but I think this was better than the 1st one! Approximately €80.
Nose – Sweet with figs and raisins. Some chocolate and honey.
Palate – Nice malt and spice kick. Poached pears, wild berries, cloves and some oak tannins.
Finish – Medium to Long. The chocolate from the nose comes out here with some burnt brown sugar.
The revival series has given us some fantastic whiskeys and Volume 4 is no different. This one is finished in a Muscat Cask and bottled at 46%. Muscat itself is an aperitif wine with a heavy grape taste and smell. Alex said this was his way of bridging the gap between wine and whiskey and showing how well they work together. It was a chance to show the light approachable nature of Irish Whiskey. Personally, I think this is the best of the releases so far but with Volume 5 coming in May, who knows what that will bring taste wine……finish wise it will be a cognac/brandy finish. Approximately €120.
Nose – Fruity, perfume and fresh cut grass. Some boiled sweets, maybe pear and lemon drops.
Palate – Spice, vanilla, nutmeg and a pinch of chocolate that is all wrapped up in a creamier than expected mouth feel.
Finish – Long. More of those boiled sweets towards the end with a flavour that keeps going and going.
Vintage Reserve 24yr old
This 24yr old was originally aged in bourbon casks before being finished in Sauterne wine casks and bottled at 46%. Alex explained that these casks are very difficult to source and they had a tremendous influence in this bottling but that it was “better to be lucky than good” and man O man were they lucky with this gem. Alex wished they had 100,000 of these casks but alas, they only had 15. Approximately €350.
Nose – A very mellow hint of peat. Loads of boiled sweets again, linseed, chocolate, marshmallow and some apricots.
Palate – Very smooth with more chocolate here. 7up (lemon and lime), spice and a bit of rock salt in there.
Finish – Medium to Long with honey now appearing.
Overall I had a great night at this tasting. I must admit, I may have given out a small bit previously with regard to the amount of different expressions that Teeling were bringing out but to be fair, I stand corrected and my eyes are now wide open. It’s very obvious the passion that both Alex and the Teeling brand as a whole have. Alex stated that they do not wish to compete with the biggest in the industry but that they can give Irish Whiskey a twist and man are they doing that. Very few tastings were as enjoyable as last nights. The range of the flavour profile on show was excellent with each one complemented the next, and I don’t think it was planned that way. As you scan through the reviews above you’ll see that most are very affordable and my pick of the night may surprise most. I would expect everyone to think it’s the 24 year old that i’d pick but that would be too obvious of a choice. It is a phenomenally delicious whiskey of course, but, looking at price point vs quality my whiskey of the night was the Small Batch. Seriously, if you haven’t tried it, you have to and its the cheapest of the range which makes the mind boggle. You may have actually seen it as my #FridayNightDram a few weeks back and to much excitement, Alex tells me there is a litre bottle for travel retail. And since today is a Friday…..I may just have it as my dram tonight! Sláinte!