The Tyrconnell 16

So lets set the scene. Its early Summer last year. I’m in Dublin (sigh….)  and I know I won’t make my train back. I’ve an hour to kill in the city centre before I can catch the next one. Whatsoever will I do! Easy…..I’ll visit two shops! Not just any shops of course, whiskey shops! Anytime I’m in Dublin I try to make time to pop into Celtic Whiskey and Mulligans. The lads are always welcoming and knowledgeable in both shops and it’s generally where I leave money after me! This day I ended up in Mulligans where Mark introduced me to Tyrconnell 16. “Have a look at this wee beaut” he said as he took an open bottle from under the counter. Now if I’m honest, I had gone off Tyrconnell. The NAS Single Malt had always been a little “meh” for me. Just flat if I’m honest (The newer NAS Single Malt I’ll review shortly….it’s a big improvement with the added 3% ABV.!). So here I was, in a shop surrounded by countless bottles thinking to myself, “does he not have anything decent to let me try!!!”. But boy was I pleasantly surprised. At first I thought it was just that my expectation was low but after a second wee drop, I knew we had a winner. I left the shop with a bottle. Mark – 1, Omar – Nill. I’ve since moved onto a second bottle and it’ll soon be a third I reckon! img-3151.jpg

So Tyrconnell 16 itself is one of five from the Tyrconnell range of whiskeys. Double distilled in Cooley Distillery, it is bottled at 46%, which personally, I find is best for most whiskeys. Cooley Distillery was founded in 1987 by the famous John Teeling who converted an old potato alcohol plant into the distillery we see today. Kilbeggan, Greenore, Connemara and Tyrconnell are the notable inhouse brands but as most people will know, they also provide spirit for several bottlers outside of this. Tyrconnell is a brand that stopped production in 1925 but was revived by Cooley in 1988 after they acquired the rights to it. The previous owner of The Tyrconnell, Watt Distillery was founded in 1762, a date that still remains on bottles today. A little misleading in all honesty but they do have “Andrew A. Watt & Co. Est. 1762” written as part of the label so Cooley themselves are not claiming to be established in that year. Make your own minds up on that one. The Tyrconnell name itself comes from a famous racehorse of the same name who won The National Produce Stakes in 1876 at odds of 100 to 1. Even today the racehorse is still shown on the label as is the motto “Victory against all odds”. I like the link to history myself and really like the motto. Bonus points for them retaining it on the bottlings. Cooley itself was sold in 2012 to Beam Inc. who subsequently become Beam Suntory in 2014.

So more importantly than the history lesson, how does it taste??

Nose – Wonderfully fruity nose that explodes out of the glass. Freshly pealed green apples, Honey, Melon and Vanilla. Obviously, a malty nose but seems to be a little buttery also.

Palate – Oily mouth coating. Orchard fruits, caramel and honey shining through followed by vanilla, oak and malt. Addition of water opens up a stronger  more malty taste and seems to cover up some of those wonderful fruitily notes.

Finish – Long with a spicy end that lingers in my mouth and not my throat. Drying towards the end but it feels like a dram that could last forever with only a sip needed to top up that lovely finish each time.

Overall – I really like this expression! The 46% ABV works a treat, so much so that I think any reduction would ruin it. I recently read that a new 16 was coming out and I hope the taste profile doesn’t change too much, it really would be a shame. While it seems a little pricey at €95, it’s not too bad when you compare it to other 16yr olds on the market. And this really is its own beast, a very worthy dram to have on your shelf.

Now with all that done I’ll leave you with the quote from the tag on the bottle……till next time, sláinte!

“Here’s to the unexpected, the underestimated and the unpredictable. Here’s to the ones you never see coming, who fly out of nowhere and take victory by storm. Here’s to those who dare to defy the odds…..because they are the ones you never forget”

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Greenspot Cháteau Léoville Barton (B1)

So obviously I like Whiskey. That’s kind of apparent, at least I hope it is. If it isn’t then I must really be doing something wrong with this blog! But before my thriving love of the water of life, I developed a healthy liking for wine. Mostly white in the form of Sancerre, Chablis and Touraine but occasionally I do partake in red wine also. Hard to beat a good Malbec which incidentally, was once the most popular grape in Bordeaux, the region we are looking at tonight. In the world of wine, just like with whiskey, there are big names. And in Bordeaux in France, Cháteau Léoville Barton is one of those. Founded over 200 years ago by an Irish emigrant Thomas Barton, it holds Grand Cru class for over 160 years. We may recognise the name from the whiskey world, but dare I say that in France, their primary thought is red wine. As a useless fact for a whiskey related table quiz you might be at someday……Cháteau Léoville Barton (CLB) doesn’t actually have a Chateau! It is part of a bigger estate of several wineries and Chateaus in the Léoville portfolio. The name “Léoville Barton” is coined from Thomas Barton’s acquisition of land from the Léoville Las Cases vineyard and his own surname. Today it is still a very successful brand and very collectable.

So now we move on to 2015, the middle of the Irish whiskey revival. Single Pot Still is back with a bang and the punters are loving it once again. Greenspot is an old favorite of most Irish whiskey fans. Produced by Irish Distillers LTD and distributed in Ireland by Mitchells & Son, it is a whiskey that most people will remember through the ages in the same way as they remember Redbreast. So when I heard that a new Greenspot finished in red wine barrels was coming out, I remember I was skeptical. Wine and single pot still whiskey? Sure why ruin a great whiskey I said! It didn’t stop me getting a bottle (or two) though! Greenspot itself is a Single Pot Still aged for between 7 and 10 years and made up of a marriage of ex-bourbon cask and ex-Oloroso sherry cask matured whiskey. For Greenspot CLB, this whiskey is then placed in ex wine barrels from the vineyard and allowed to further mature for between 12 and 24 months. The end result was then bottled at 46% and released onto the world. So, onto the tasting.

Greenspot CLB tasting

Nose – Perfume, Caramel, grape/wine notes shine over the usual delicate Greenspot nose.

Palate – Pot Still spice, vanilla, butter, toffee, green apples, red wine giving much more complexity and layers than the standard Greenspot. Creamy mouth feel with obvious influence from the French oak. A drop of water revealed a slight malty taste.

Finish – Medium to long. Nice mellow spice. French oak again shining here. More of a Sherry influence apparent. Finish remains the same with the addition of water. Pointless to have added any for me in this case!

Overall – So yes, I am a Single Pot Still fan and yes, I like Greenspot. Sure, it is more easy going than other robust pot stills such as Powers John’s Lane or Redbreast, but it has its place on my shelf and most likely always will. This wine finish just makes it better. I love how they work together. I sometimes struggle to locate the influence of the finish in some whiskeys but this isn’t one. Instantly you can get the red wine influence and in short, its superb. The legs on the glass also go on forever! It should be noted that this is batch 1 that I am reviewing. Batch 2 hit the shelves last year and I was able to taste it in Cork in October. I found that the wine influence had been dialed back and it and that, for me, was a bit of a disappointment. Everyone to their own and all  but I enjoyed the instant recognition of red wine when tasting the Greenspot CLB. I’ll have to put batch 1 and 2 side by side and do a comparison…..you know, in the interest of research!! Till next time, happy dram’in!!

Look at the legs on that!!

Dingle Single Malt Batch 1

“Where an Inch is a mile. Where a Goat is the king. A Rose is a beautiful girl and a Dolphin is a man’s best friend”. By god I hated that Kerrymaid commercial, but like it or loathe it, they got one thing right…..Kerry really is the kingdom! And if it is then Dingle is one of the crown jewels. There really is something special about the place. The welcome and the craic, the sights and the smells, the people and the places. It truly is hard to beat the place. Yes, of course, being a Kerryman myself I am biased but I rarely meet people that have a bad word to say about the place. Even less so in Whiskey circles. And this isn’t just due to the fantastic whiskey bars like Dick Mack’s, who have featured as Munster and overall Irish Whiskey bar of the year in 2014, 2015 and 2016, with a Gold medal in 2017. It is in part due to the renaissance that is taking place on the Ventry road out of the town. May I present, The Dingle Whiskey Distillery.

Dingle Distillery

Founded in late 2012 by Oliver Hughes, Liam LaHart and Peter Mosley, the distillery has quickly won the affection of both whiskey enthusiasts and collectors. It is arguably one of the driving forces behind so many other distilleries now joining the Irish Whiskey revival. Founded in a corrugated shed that I believe was once a saw mill, it now houses 3 small custom designed copper pot stills for whiskey distilling, a mashtun and 5 wooden washbacks. The stills themselves incorporate a boil bowl which allows reflux to occur ensuring that the spirit is more refined and “smoother” by a constant process of rising, condensing and rising again. Due to the size of the stills the distillery can only turn out two casks of whiskey per day during production making it truly an artisan distillery. In fact, the distillery’s own website state they know they will not become a megabrand, they do not wish to. Their aim is simply quality over quantity. The distillery tour, which I took back in 2016, is a fantastic experience as you get to walk right around the working areas, much like you get in a lot of Scottish distilleries. But that I’ll leave for another day and another installment of the blog as it’s an excuse to return again for research!

My first real introduction to Dingle’s produce was on the 2nd of July 2015 where I walked into the Dingle Whiskey Bar in Dublin with another whiskey enthusiast, Mike Thompson, after an AC/DC concert to be greeted by the ever-knowledgeable Tom O Connor, a man I’ve known for years from meeting him in Ballybunion. As we chatted and ordered a few drams, Tom produced a bottle of clear liquid and asked us to have a try. The liquid? You guessed it, distillate from the Dingle Distillery at 65%. Even in those early days, I was very impressed by the raw spirit. With no aging and at such a high ABV it was relatively easy to drink……it could only but impress me. The impatient wait was on for their first release……

Tom O Connor, Myself and Mike Thompson
Excuse the bottle…..its Greenspot CLB!

I didn’t have long to wait really, at least not as long as I expected. In 2016 a batch one Single Malt was released and bottled at 46.5% ABV. The 7,000 or so bottle first release quickly flew off the shelves with shops such as Celtic Whiskey only allowing two bottles per customer. I was lucky enough to get some from Jp Walsh in Fine Wines in Limerick. As an aside, at the same time as the Single Malt release there was also a Cask Strength released in a batch of 500 and like its brother, they flew off the shelves. Again, I was lucky enough to pick up a few bottles of it. Just goes to show how important it is to support your local off licences. It pays off dividends in times like this! The Single Malt bottle itself is very distinctive and I must say, one of the nicest on the market. The glass work is smashing (no pun intended) with the distillery logo by the neck and the name around the heavy glass base.  Now before we go any further, you’ve done the maths haven’t you? First spirit ran in late 2012 which was for the Cask 2 release and founding fathers. So this batch one release can only be 3 years and a bit old. Barely legal. Considering most whiskeys are at least 6/7 years old before they are released onto customers, it was a bold move by Dingle. But they weren’t aiming it at taking on those matured whiskeys. This is a show of what they can, are and will be doing. Of course, we can now see the unfortunate consequence of their fast-found following is that the value of these bottles has sky rocketed with a Batch one cask strength now making between 5 and 600 euro whereby they sold originally for €120. Due to the price people now expect it to rival a Midleton Very Rare in taste! I mentioned its just 3 years old right? Just because the market has dictated a huge collectability aspect to the series does not mean it suddenly jumps to the pinnacle of Irish whiskey taste and flavour. But, that aside, for a 3 year old whiskey it is a seriously interesting dram. My tasting notes will follow but remember, if you get your hands on this to try, remember what you’re trying. A three-year-old Single Malt. If you are unsure on how to get the full taste from your whiskey, why not have a look here on how I drink my drams. A lot of people roll these bad boys right back the center of their throat leaving a nasty burning sensation that puts them off the whiskey and that’s just simply not how its meant to be done. So, lets try the Single Malt B1.

ABV – 46.5%

Nose – Cut grass. Lemon sherbet sweets which is always a surprise for me in whiskey. Fruity. Very light malt when water is added.

Palate – The young spirit leads a slightly fiery charge that mellows after a moment. Slight linger of spicy pepper that makes way for a little bit of richness. Surprisingly, with addition of some water I found that the mouth feel became oilier and covered more.

Finish – Medium in length with a warmth expected from a young whiskey. A pleasant warmth that releases more lemon flavour. The water added a sweetness and slight green apple flavour.

Overall – A truly lovely dram show casing what is to come from the distillery. It is not complex in anyway so don’t expect it to be. If you’re only starting out drinking whiskey, then maybe you should steer clear and wait for the later releases and more aged stock. The youth of the whiskey could easily be confused as being harsh or nasty when in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Single Malt Batch 1

Dingle now has 6 publicly launched whiskeys on the market. Single Malt Batch 1, Single Malt Cask Strength Batch 1, Single Malt Batch 2, Single Malt Cask Strength Batch 2, the SuperValu release and their Single Pot Sill. I expect huge things from Dingle in the next 10 years. Personally, with the expressions already on the market, I feel I’ve already seen huge things from them.

Finally, It would be remiss of me to complete my first Dingle review without a hat tip and dedication to Oliver Hughes, the driving force behind the distillery. In July 2016 Oliver passed away suddenly leaving a massive sadness in the industry. A man who was a visionary not only for Dingle whiskey, but for the Porterhouse chain that we see today. I have no doubt he would be tremendously proud to see how the Dingle brand has progressed today, driven on by his family, friends and colleagues. It is a fitting tribute that his name is on each bottle of Dingle Whiskey. Tonight’s dram of Dingle is dedicated to Oliver’s memory. Our loss is undoubtly heavens gain.

Garavan’s Grocer’s Choice 10yr old Single Malt

So I’m in Galway today and after seeing the release of Garavan’s own “ Grocer’s Choice” 10yr old Single Malt on Monday evening I said I just had to pop in for a dram which has lead to this unplanned blog entry.

Garavan’s Grocer’s Choice

For anyone who has experienced the bar they will understand the warm welcome you get from not only the staff, but the regulars too. The snugs, the low light and the décor is fantastic. With a massive selection of whiskey/whisky, I’m sure I would have been left trying to decide for an age on what to have, but today, I was on point for their own release. I didn’t really have enough time to be able to savour it to do a proper review so I’ll make this brief and hopefully in the future I can call back in! At 10yrs old and bottled at 46% this is undoubtedly a Cooley Malt.

Nose – Sweetness with floral and malt notes. Floral notes in it make way to cut hay on a summer day (hey that rhymes!).

Palate – It is almost chew-able. Orange zest, vanilla, butterscotch and something reminding me of oak shavings (can’t remember ever eating oak shavings though……).

Finish – A lovely long lingering one. Just right. img-2876-e1516815651531.jpg

No water was needed for this dram and even though I added a drop after I had half of it gone, I regretted it as it did nothing for it. Now on second review, that may change, but it’s a dram that didn’t need anything else. 3 hours later and I’m still regretting adding the water! The new Tyrconnell Single Malt has gone from 40% to 43% which put it back on my radar last year. Unfortunately, Tyrconnell’s entry Malt had been written off by me in times gone by until the addition of the 3% ….it makes a huge difference. This Garavan release adds 3% to that and an age statement which puts it right in the direction of the Tyrconnell 16 territory! At €7.25 a measure it is slightly on the expensive side, but only slightly. I would hazard a guess that, if entered,  it could easily make an appearance at the Irish Whiskey Awards next year…….. For me, I’ll be back to try it again if nothing more than to make sure my palate wasn’t adversely affected by the Galway air!

Garavan's 24th January 2018

 

 

Bushmills – Black Bush

So as some of you will know from social media, I came home from work this week to a wonderful surprise from Bushmills. Black Bush Presentation boxA presentation box of Bushmills Black Bush with two Bushmills glasses. To say I was blown away was an understatement. Contrary to some belief out there, I didn’t start a blog for “free stuff”. But that’s a whole other post which I may just throw together shortly (I just deleted a 10 line rant!!). So to arrive home to the package was truly fantastic, especially due to the fact that it had a nice little note with it and that it was a staple Irish whiskey that I’ve no doubt was sent for me to just simply enjoy. So I said why not give it a quick review!

Black Bush is one of those whiskeys that is remembered through the ages. Jameson, Powers, Paddy and Black Bush are my earliest memories of whiskey on the shelf of my uncle’s pub in Ballybunion. Black Bush evolved from the Bushmills Special Old Liqueur Whiskey which was released in the 1930s. Back then, a lot of people couldn’t read and took to calling for whiskey in a bar by their label. For instance, before Cork Distillers called their whiskey “Paddy”, after Paddy O’Flaherty the salesman, the label had a map of Ireland on it, just like it does today. People who wanted that whiskey usually called for a “map of Ireland” whiskey. For Bushmills Special Old Liqueur Whiskey it was simple. It was a Bushmills whiskey with a black label and hence people started asking for a Black Bush.

Triple distilled and bottled at 40% ABV., the present-day blend contains about 80% Malt matured in ex Oloroso sherry casks and 20% grain whiskey. This ratio makes it more of a malt whiskey than a blend when tasting. Now I must confess……. I do enjoy a sherry influenced whiskey. I hope you do too!

Nose – Malt, baked apple pie, slightly sweet sherry. Hint of cider.

Palate – Light and a little oily. Sweetness from the sherry and grain but not overly sweet. Slight spice with vanilla and some toffee notes.

Finish – A lingering medium, bordering on long. Some Liquorice towards the end.

Overall this is a lovely dram to sit back and sip in the evening. At under €35, it is a real gem of a whiskey. I had almost forgotten how much I liked it with the vast influx of new whiskeys on the market overshadowing it in recent years……but then again, this whiskey has been around for over 80 years and it’s easy to see why. For the price point, it would be hard to beat it. Big thanks again to Bushmills for sending the package.

The first drop......

So that’s the whiskey done, but……what about the glasses? So for me savouring whiskey at home is an experience. Its having the drop of water in a nice jug. Sitting back on the chair in front of the fire. Relaxing and having the whiskey in a nice glass. For me, glassware is very important. The swirl, checking out the legs, the nosing, the feel, the thickness of the glass rim……they are all important. Alas, I must say that I was underwhelmed by the Bushmills glasses. Modeled on the bottom of a Bushmills bottle, it is a novel idea which looks great. But for me, personally, I need to swirl the whiskey before nosing it. Hey, maybe it’s just a habit and you’ll all ridicule me from here on in……but that’s just me. Have you ever tried to swirl a liquid in a square glass?? Well let’s just say it doesn’t work out great. My dogs did enjoy the drop or two that landed on the ground (please don’t anyone tell my wife!!). After completing a tasting in the Bushmills glass I reverted to my copita to re taste it just to be sure to be sure……research and all that!! While my notes remained the same, I’m sorry to say that the experience was better. Pretentious or what……

Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition

This is the latest Jameson release and the second in the Caskmates range. While only 2,000 or so bottles were initially released in September 2017, I believe there may be plans to introduce this full time as part of the Jameson portfolio. Having initially tasted this with the Cork Whiskey Society before release, I picked up a bottle to re taste and immediately returned and got another 5! It was that good! So before we look at the IPA edition…..where did Caskmates come from?

Our story starts back in 2012 at the Franciscan Well Brewery and pub in Sunday’s Well in Cork City. It was here that Dave Quinn, Midleton’s Master of Science meet for a pint with Shane Long, the founder and Brewer of the Franciscan Well and formed a plan to create a Franciscan Well Stout seasoned by Jameson casks. Midleton distillery sent over some used casks that had been emptied of Jameson, which were then filled with Stout. By Christmas 2012 Franciscan Well Jameson Stout was released and soon afterwards, the used casks were returned to Midleton where Dave Quinn took advantage of these casks which were now imparted with the taste and notes of Stout. The casks were filled with blended Jameson and left to mature for 6 months. The final result? A whiskey so good that it passed the high quality standards of Irish Distillers Limited (IDL) and in 2014 was bottled as Jameson Caskmates Stout edition. At the time it was released in early 2015 it was a 3,500 bottle batch and has since become so popular that it is now part of the IDL Jameson line up.

But our story doesn’t end there obviously. Being ever adventurous the Franciscan Well once again took possession of Jameson Casks and this time, filled it with their India Pale Ale (IPA). Once completed, these IPA seasoned casks returned to Midleton and once again the experiment continued with Jameson whiskey being filled into the casks and left to mature. The end result? A fantastically successful whiskey that retains Jameson’s signature smoothness, but oozes fresh citrus, with a touch of hops and floral notes. Both of these releases are a testament to IDL’s commitment to try bold new ideas and their willingness to work with other top notch producers such as the Fran Well. Dave Quinn stated “If it wasn’t for the curiosity, collaboration and conversations that took place that night and the expertise, passion and dedication that followed, we may have missed out on what has become a staple for innovation within the Jameson family”. I hope that the Jameson Caskmates IPA edition is becoming a staple of the Jameson family. It really is a treat.

Here are my tasting notes of the Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition. Remember, taste is subjective so if you were lucky enough to get a bottle, see what you can pick up as your tasting notes. And why not pick up a can of the Franciscan Well Chieftain IPA while you’re at it and try them side by side. They are “mates” after all.

Nose: Immediately you can get the hops. Floral and at the same time a nice fresh citrus zing to it.

Palate: Jameson’s smoothness is there. Hops and a light citrus note throughout with a spicy undertone.

Finish: Lovely lingering finish that leaves me tasting Satsuma Mandarin which I adore!

 

IPA and beer

Photo provided by Irish Distillers Limited – 2017