Before Whiskey Live 2019 W.D. O Connell Whiskey Merchants were relatively unknown. And why would they be known. They have not released whiskey to the market, their founder, Daithí O Connell was not known within the whiskey circles and the brand itself was only just launching. When I heard the week before Whiskey Live that my pal Chris Hennessy from the Dylan Whisky Bar in Kilkenny would be manning the W.D. O Connell stand, it peaked my interest 10 fold. Chris doesn’t throw his name behind just any auld whiskey. I had a feeling this would be a different brand, and I’m delighted to say, it is.
On their first release, W.D. O Connell launched a 17 year old PX finished Single Malt from Cooley distillery along with a Peated Single Malt from Great Northern Distillery. Notice something within that? I named both distilleries that Daithí sourced his whiskey from. Transparency has arrived in abundance. Lets face it, there are some questions that could be asked about transparency within Irish whiskey, particularly when you seen a very open Bonder getting slapped on the wrist for displaying the make up of a blend. I’m delighted to see the likes of Kilowen, JJ Corry, and W.D. O Connell hit the ground running with complete transparency, where allowed. It’s becoming more and more important as we, the customers, hold suppliers to account. For Daithí O Connell, it’s evident that it is part of his ethos. Each bottle clearly states where the liquid is from and from speaking to Daithí, non disclosures are a deal breaker for him. Daithí is a bottler, and he is dam proud of it. And why wouldn’t he be? Douglas Laing, Boutique-y Whisky Company and North Star Spirits……..just three very well respected Independent Bottlers in Scotland. No shame in it. In fact, it can lead to some spectacular whiskeys! Which leads us onto this review of Daithí’s Batch 1 Bill Phil.
Batch 1 of Bill Phil is actually its second release. Released after Whiskey Live, the first Bill Phil was a Single Cask bottling of 300 odd bottles. Some of you might remember a TalkDram tasting we did in December where a lucky few tried both Whiskeys in an online tasting. Well it trended Number 1 in Ireland and with good reason. Bill Phil was a clear winner. Peated Whiskey has long been like Marmite; you either love it or hate it. Since that online tasting, Bill Phil has been credited with converting many many people to drinking peated whiskey who would never have even dreamed of trying it before. We have a long tradition in Ireland of peated whiskey by the way. The whole idea that peated whiskey is just certain Scotchs is nonsense. Yes in recent years we have only had one peated whiskey brand in Ireland (Connemara) but with the entire west coast of Ireland having ample access to bogs, it’s no surprise that Turf was used to dry Malt in years gone by.
The name Bill Phil seems like a strange one for a whiskey, but it has a meaning that is close to Daithí’s heart. In typical Irish fashion, in some areas nicknames are given to families. In South Kerry, the O’Sullivan clan are a perfect example of this with literally hundreds of family nicknames to tell them all apart. Daithí’s family originally comes from Mountcollins in West Limerick. It is a village I pass (or used to pass before this lock down) every time I drove home to Kerry. Within the village is an unusually large amount of O’Connell families and due to that, nicknames were used. Daithí’s family became the Bill Phil’s.
Batch 1 Bill Phil itself is a triple-distilled, peated single malt, matured in first-fill bourbon barrels and bottled at 47.5% ABV, non-chill filtered and limited to 600 bottles. So, onto my tasting notes;
Nose – Fresh, meaty, fruity and sweet. Immediate cereal notes followed quickly by apples and oranges. Peaches and pink lady apple skins comes to mind. Toasted marshmallow too.
Palate – Oily mouth feel. Briney sea salt makes way for a milk chocolate and citric note; Lemon sherbet maybe? Red apple skins return.
Finish – Medium finish that lingers nicely with a white pepper spice that tickles and prickles your mouth in the most pleasant of ways. A pleasing warmth. Slightest hint of coffee in there somewhere.
Overall – Obviously this has a smokey, campfire note throughout, but nothing is overpowering. I find it very well balanced. At just over 3.5 years old, one would expect a very harsh, spirity whiskey. This is the opposite of what you expect. In much the same way that Octomore is a young whisky, young peated whiskey just seems to work well (Octomore is one of the highest level PPM peated whiskies in the world). For anyone considering dipping their toe into the Peated Whiskey world, this is a must try. If you don’t like this, I doubt you’ll enjoy any peated whiskey.