This is the third and final installment of my reviews on Irish whiskey. Today, I am reviewing a quite new product, Concannon Irish Whiskey. Concannon Irish Whiskey is a blended Irish whiskey, named after the California vineyard where it gets the Petite Sirah casks that help age this whiskey. Concannon Vineyard has been producing wine since 1883, the oldest Irish-American vineyard in the United States. In January 2012, Concannon revealed a new product, a blended Irish whiskey.
Like a blended Scotch, a blended Irish whiskey is comprised of some combination of malt whiskey and grain whiskey. Specifically, Concannon is comprised of a blend of single malt Irish whiskey and Irish corn whiskey. All of the whiskey in Concannon is distilled at Cooley in Ireland, and aged at least four years in ex-bourbon casks. What makes this whiskey unique is that some of the single malt is transferred over to Concannon Petite Sirah casks for at least four months before blending. As explained by Cooley’s Master Blender, Noel Sweeney, the intention was to add the dark berry fruits of a Petite Sirah to a light, sweet spirit, which the vineyard has dubbed “The Concannon Effect.” The Concannon Effect did impress some folks upon its introduction, winning the award for the Best New Irish Whiskey at the 2012 International Spirits Competition. Like the other two Irish whiskeys I’ve reviewed, Concannon is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv). Unfortunately, this whiskey is not available nationwide just yet. I have yet to see it here in Boston, so a special thanks goes out to Laura at The Baddish Group for sending a few samples my way.
On the nose, Concannon presents fresh bread and sour apples. On the whole, it is a much drier spirit than other Irish whiskeys I have had. There are also notes of light honey and blueberries, but there is the occasional whiff of acetone that is off-putting. The body is light, but there is some good complexity here. Vanilla, red and green apples, honey, lilac, blueberries, and white toast are all present. The finish is warming and longer than I expected. It is a very dry finish, with pleasant honeyed notes, bready qualities, and acidic blueberries.
Overall, Concannon has been my favorite of the three Irish whiskeys in my mini-series. As you might have gathered, Irish whiskeys are not my favorite whiskeys. I usually find them light and drinkable, perfect for a warm summer day, but I think the drinkability often leads to a decline in the depth and complexity of the whiskey. I think the use of wine barrels to the aging process adds a backbone of drying berries to the spirit, just as Noel Sweeney hoped it would. This whiskey sips nice on its own, but it is a very nice food compliment as well. My Grade: C+/B-. Price: $25-30/750ml. At the price point, I would much rather drink Concannon over other blends like Jameson or Bushmill’s. It is a light, drinkable, complex spirit that achieves a lot in four years of aging.