Lambay Island is located off the northeastern corner of Leinster in the Irish Sea. Famous in Ireland for having a colony of Puffins and Wallabies (yes, I said Wallabies!), a castle was built on the Island using the remains of a 16th century fortress by the Baring family in the early 1900’s who to this day own the privately held Island. Complete with a dock, old coastguard cottages and event space, it appears to be a fantastically picturesque Island.
Over a year ago we saw the release of two whiskeys baring the name Lambay; a single malt and a blend. The whiskey itself is liquid from the West Cork Distillers but according to Lambays own website, it has a connection to the island. The first connection they suggest is that Lambay Whiskey is “crafted” using the islands own Trinity Well water. The word crafted, unfortunately, is not protected in Ireland nor is it in the Technical File and therefore use of the word allows some flexibility. For instance, the blend is 5 years old. I sincerely doubt that over 5 years ago tankers of Lambay well water went down to West Cork to be used in it’s production. It would have to be a fairly large quantity of water!! And at that point, that’s the only place where water is permitted to induce flavour. In fact, water quality is very important at that stage. However, we know that Lambay water is not used in production so it would lead me to believe that it must be used to “cut” the whiskey from its cask strength down to it’s bottled 40%. The technical file clearly outlines that water used for this must be demineralised so as “to preserve the organoleptic characteristics”. And that’s where crafted comes in. I’ve no doubt an amount of Lambay water is used, but what is would have no affect on the whiskey as it would have to be demineralised. Now to be ultra clear, Lambay never actually said that their Trinity Well water influenced the whiskey, but, it’s implied by saying “crafted” and by the fact that the bottle label says the whiskey is “blended” with the well water.
The second link to Lambay is no doubt correct. The cognac casks of whiskey are taken, by boat, to the island’s own bonded warehouse and stored for finishing in the cognac casks. Once ready, they are returned to the mainland for bottling. It creates a good link to the Island and must be an impressive talking and viewing point for guests on the Island.
So what makes Lambay different? It’s their casks. Lambay have partnered with Camus, a renowned rich Cognac who provide some of the best de-gorged cognac casks available for use in finishing the whiskey. And to polish that partnership off, Camus own Patrick Léger takes the mantel of master blender for the whiskey.
For issue 6 of the Irish Whiskey Magazine I got the chance to review the Lambay Single Malt so the tasting notes below are a reproduction from that fantastic publication. The whiskey itself is bottled at 40% and RRP is just under €60.
Nose – Light and soft nose to this. Decent amount of malt complimented with some pear drops, unripe bananas and floral notes.
Palate – I was expecting some heat but there is none for me. Real soft, delicate mouth fell that makes this easy to drink. Touch of coconut in there that’s overpowered by the malt.
Finish – Sweetness enters with a very slight dryness to reveal hints of brown sugar and vanilla. An unusual note of pencil shavings towards the very end. Overall a short to medium finish.
Overall – An easy to drink, uncomplicated whiskey. The cognac casks that were used are obviously top class. They have just the right finish that didn’t overshine the West Cork Distillate.
I have to wonder if that was at 46%, or higher, would it shine even more. Hey Lambay…….i’d seriously like to see this at Cask Strength! The spirit and cask quality is obvious and I really think the higher ABV will bring them out even more. Regarding my comments above that went on and on about the well water, I yearn for transparency in the Irish Whiskey sector. For me I cant fathom why people try to create links when there is no need. Call it Lambay because of the finishing carried out there. Call it Lambay because that’s where the owners are from. Call it Lambay because it’s a pretty cool island. But lets drop the rouse of the well water having any impact on the finished product. Just keep putting out decent whiskey for us.