Posts from the ‘Irish Whiskey’ Category

Phil’s Favorite Irish Whiskeys

Of course I’m giving the nominees for my favorite Irish whiskey on St. Patrick’s Day.  What other day would be appropriate?  Be safe, and try not to do something stupid.  St. Patrick did not approve of stupidity.  Without anymore chatter, here are my Irish whiskey nominees.

Name: Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve

Style: Blend

Age: No Age Statement

Batch: 2011 Release

Proof: 92 (46% abv)

Price: $300-350/750ml

Notes: Although this Jameson does not contain an age statement, this particular release was a blend of older grain whiskeys (the oldest of which was 31 years old) and younger pot-still whiskey aged in port pipes (the oldest of which was 15 years old), which is why the price point on this whiskey is so high.  This is a rich, creamy, expressive whiskey with a lot of different flavors going on.  The flavor profile works everywhere from espresso and mocha flavors to crème brulee and rich toffee sweetness.  This is a hard whiskey to find, but well worth it if you can find it.

Name: Redbreast 12 Year Cask Strength

Style: Single Pot Still

Age: 12 Years

Batch: B1/13

Proof: 119.8 (59.9% abv)

Price: $60-70/750ml

Notes: Most Irish whiskey has the reputation of being silky and smooth, but this is not that type of Irish whiskey.  Every year, Redbreast releases a limited edition of their 12 year-old at cask strength.  There are several batches of this juice that could have made this list, but this particular batch was my favorite.  This batch was aged exclusively in refill Sherry casks, and it yielded flavors of toffee, raisins, espresso, and rich vanilla cream frosting.  At cask strength, this is a big, bold beauty of a whiskey.  Although this is a limited release, it is available at higher end liquor stores with larger selections of Irish whiskey.

Name: Redbreast 15 Year-Old

Style: Single Pot Still

Age: 15 Years

Batch: N/A

Proof: 92 (46% abv)

Price: $80-90/750ml

Notes: This expression of Redbreast offers a different take on the Redbreast house style in that unlike most Redbreast whiskeys, this is aged in a combination of ex-Sherry casks and ex-bourbon casks.  The result is a whiskey with malty notes, reminiscent of Irish soda bread.  There are also orchard fruits present, dark chocolate, and some bitter orange peel, flavors not present in other Redbreast expressions.  This Redbreast drinks more like traditional aged blends of Irish whiskey, a great different take on Redbreast.  This one is readily available, and comparable in price with many single malt Scotches of the same age and casking.

Name: Redbreast 21 Year-Old

Style: Single Pot Still

Age: 21 Years

Batch: N/A

Proof: 92 (46% abv)

Price: $200-225/750ml

Notes: This expression of Redbreast is the same pot still whiskey that has always been a part of the standard 12 year-old, aged in the same Oloroso Sherry casks.  The only difference is 9 years, and those 9 years do wonders to bring forth rich baking spices, mango cream, and blackberry cream cheese flavors.  This is a difficult whiskey to find, but not impossible.  And, if you’ve got an Irish whiskey lover in your life, this makes one hell of a gift.

Name: Teeling Single Malt

Style: Single Malt

Age: No Age Statement

Batch: 2015 Release

Proof: 92 (46% abv)

Price: $45-50/750ml

Notes: Teeling has been sourcing and bottling great whiskeys for a few years now, and this expression is no different.  Although there is no age statement on this whiskey, the label states that there is whiskey as old as 23 years in the bottle.  There is also whiskey from five different cask types (Sherry, Madeira, White Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Port) in the final product.  The result is a stunning whiskey with flavors of fresh raspberries, white grape preserves, bread pudding, and fresh red apples.  This whiskey is hard to find because of its limited release in the United States, but it is not an especially sought-after whiskey, which makes it available for those who know where to look.

Tullamore Dew 12 Year Irish Whiskey Review

I do not know what the weather has been like this spring in your neck of the woods, but here in the mid-Atlantic, its been somewhat Irish.  Windy, rainy, cold, with just enough sun thrown in to keep the grass on the golf courses green.  So, today I am reviewing a lovely Irish whiskey – Tullamore DEW 12 year-old “Special Reserve.”

The Tullamore 12-year is a blended Irish whiskey aged in both bourbon casks and Oloroso Sherry casks, a classic double-matured style Irish dram.  It is distilled at Midleton, the famed Cork distillery.  This expression was originally a travel retail exclusive, but has now been released as part of the standard Tullamore Dew range.  It is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

The color has a orange-ish tint to it, a beautiful color in the glass.  The nose presents apples, white zinfandel, caramel, dried pineapple, and salted walnuts.  The palate is silky smooth, with dry sherry, green apples, milk chocolate, dried plums, and some bitter white chocolate.  The finish is medium and drying with pineapple, sawdust, and dry white port notes.

On the whole, this is exactly what one would expect from a blended Irish whiskey with a substantial amount of Oloroso influence.  It presents a simple, approachable mouthfeel with balanced sweet flavors alternating from both bourbon oak and sherry oak.  My grade: B+/B.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  If you like Irish whiskey, this will be a whiskey worth trying for you, especially if you are interested in trying Irish whiskey with some different aging techniques from standard Irish blends.

The Irishman Single Malt Irish Whiskey Review

Happy Masters week, everybody!  So many folks are talking about this as the year that Rory McIlroy breaks through at the Masters, so let’s reviews some Irish juice!

The Irishman Single Malt is a limited release whiskey that I believe is made at Cooley (but I could be wrong).  It is aged in both ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks, culminating in a rich golden color.  This particular review comes from Batch #1402/2014.  There is no age statement on this whiskey, and it is bottled at 80 proof.

The nose is rich and vibrant with fresh pears, toffee, white wine, and hazelnuts.  The palate is smooth and bodied, with toffee, vanilla, and green apples.  The finish is medium, dry, and sweet with orchard fruits and a whisper of oak.

Overall, this is a solid, well-built, tasty Irish whiskey.  It is exactly what I would expect from a single malt Irish whiskey, but it is hardly anything beyond that.  Only being bottled at 80 proof, it lacks some depth and punch, but it has a lot of pleasant flavors nonetheless.  My grade: B-.  Price: $40-45/750ml.  If you’ve got a friend that loves an Irish whiskey, drop them a bottle of this juice and make their day.  If you’ve got a friend that loves barrel strength bourbons, leave this one on the shelf.

Comparison Review: Teeling Single Malt vs. Teeling Single Grain

Saint PatrickLast St. Patrick’s Day, I reviewed a relatively new Irish whiskey, Teeling Small Batch.  This year, I am stepping it up with two new Teelings, the Single Grain and Single Malt expressions.  Before I go any further, it is important to mention the definition of a single grain whiskey, as it is rarely seen.  A single grain whiskey is a whiskey made at a single distillery from any cereal grain that may include, corn, rye, wheat, barley, or others.  A single malt must also come from a single distillery, but it must be comprised of solely malted barley.  But, that is not all that separates these whiskeys.  (I believe both of these expressions were distilled at Cooley in Louth, but I do not have confirmation on that hunch as of yet.)

The Teeling Single Malt is comprised of whiskeys finished in 5 different types of wood (Sherry, Port, Madeira, White Burgundy, and Cabernet Sauvignon).  There is no age statement on this whiskey, but according to Teeling, there is some whiskey as old as 23 years in it.  Like all Teeling whiskeys, their Single Malt is non-chill filtered and bottled at 92 proof (46% abv).

The color is pale orange.  The nose is full of white grape juice, backed by Concord grape jelly, corn flakes, and sweet bread.  The palate is full-bodied with red berries (rasp and straw varietals), red licorice candy, watermelon, red apples, and pumpernickel bread.  The finish is dry and long, featuring a revival of the red berries and white grape juice notes.  There is the slightest hint of white pepper and spiced pecans, adding a bit of spiciness.

The Single Malt expression is dripping with class and elegance, tame and univocal in its direction.  I could see detractors arguing that it is too singular and one-tricked, and it is until the finish, but there is a spiced character that underlines the sweet fruit and wine characters that dominate the whiskey.  If you find this one, you won’t be disappointed if you give it a try.  My grade: B+/A-.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  It flexes muscles well outside the category of Irish Single Malt whiskies.

On the other hand, the Teeling Single Grain expression is matured exclusively in Cabernet Sauvignon casks from Sonoma County, California.  The result is a darker color in the resulting whiskey.  There is no age statement on this whiskey, nor is there a description of what grains have gone into the mash-bill (I suspect it is primarily a mix of corn and barley).  But, a little mystery never hurt anybody, and this whiskey certainly stands on its own without a detailed backstory.  Like the Single Malt, it is bottled without chill filtration at 92 proof (46% abv).

The nose is slightly alcoholic and boozy, with cinnamon, hard cider, fresh bread, and cloves.  The palate is silky delicious with cloves, cinnamon, red apples, and red grapes.  The finish is long and dry with cinnamon, allspice, and cloves coming through a drying oak note.

Overall, the Single Grain expression brings a lot of potential and flavor, but it is a little more unpolished and rough around the edges.  Nevertheless, the flavor is complex, with all sorts of spice and sweetness to kick around in your mouth even if the alcoholic content comes through a little more.  My grade: B+/A-.  Price: $40-45/750ml.  Like the Single Malt, this transcends the category of Irish whiskey into something wholly unique.

To conclude, both of these whiskeys are among my favorite Irish whiskeys.  Both are worth seeking out and worth trying if you see them while you’re on  the town in your favorite whiskey bar.  If I had to choose, I enjoy the mouthfeel of the Single Malt better, but I like the flavor and price point of the Single Grain a little better.  Too close to declare a winner, but it is safe to say the winner is the consumer if Teeling stays on this pace.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day, y’all!  Be safe and let it ride!

Jameson 12 Year Select Reserve Irish Whiskey Review

Well, the Masters is underway, and of course, the top-ranked golfer in the world is the story this week.  Will he get the career Grand Slam?  Will he head to Chambers Bay in two months with a Rory Slam on his mind?  Those questions are yet to be answered, but his opportunity this week seemed like a good reason to review another Irish whiskey.Rory McIlroy

Today, I’m reviewing Jameson 12-Year Select Reserve, a blended whiskey with a slightly higher percentage of pot-still whiskey than the standard Jameson label.  Another difference between the 12 year-old edition and the standard Jameson blend is that the older of the two has a bit more sherry-aged stock than its younger sibling.  The result is a whiskey that has a woodier, darker take on the standard Jameson profile.  Jameson 12-Year Select Reserve is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

The nose is definitely oakier than standard Jameson, taming some of the fruity alcohol notes. The nose here still yields pears, red apples, and vanilla, but also brings forth red wine notes, oak, and raisins. The palate is soft and creamy, with vanilla, whipped cream, sandalwood, pears, sweet and tart apples, walnuts, and oak. The finish is short, sweet, fruity, and slightly tannic.

Overall, this is a definite improvement on the standard Jameson blend.  There is a good bit more depth to this, and it seems that the wood has influenced this whiskey a great deal more than in younger Irish whiskeys.  The classic flavors of Jameson remain, but this has more depth and body to it.  My grade: B-.  Price: $60-70/750ml.  This is a very enjoyable whiskey, easy-drinking and pleasant all the way through; there are better value buys at this price point, though.

The Irishman Founder’s Reserve Irish Whiskey Review

One fine Irishman deserves another.

One fine Irishman deserves another.

To conclude the month of March, I thought I might work another Irish review into the mix. Today, I am reviewing The Irishman Founder’s Reserve a small batch Irish whiskey blend. The Irishman is a whiskey company that does not distill any of their own stock, but does bottle some lovely whiskies. The Founder’s Reserve label is comprised of 70% single malt whiskey and 30% single pot still whiskey (which I have heard rumored to be sourced from Cooley). The Founder’s Reserve is triple distilled and aged exclusively in ex-bourbon casks. It comes in at 80 proof (40% abv).

The nose is a classic Irish nose, with pears, apples, big floral notes, honey, malt, and potpourri. The palate is light and sweet, with a good dose of honey, vanilla, malt, orchard fruits, and a little floral twinge. The finish is slightly drying (of oak), sweet (butter cream), and medium in length.

Overall, I am rather fond of this whiskey. It is pleasant all the way through, and very approachable. However, there is enough complexity to keep it interesting and avoid the dread moniker of “smooth.” Whiskey and Rob Thomas songs only rarely mix, you know. The fruit characteristics work well with sweet and dry flavors from the bourbon cask to form a fine Irish dram. My grade: B-. Price: $30-35/750ml. The Irishman Founder’s Reserve is soundly better than any other Irish blended whiskey I have had in its same price range.

Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey Review

Teeling Small Batch 750ml WhiskeyWell, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, and when you have a whiskey blog, you are supposed to review an Irish dram. That is just the way of things. So today, I am reviewing Teeling Small Batch, a wonderful Irish whiskey from Teeling in Dublin. I have yet to determine whether all of the whiskey in this batch was distilled in Dublin or not, but I have heard rumors that this blended whiskey uses about 65% malt compared to only 35% grain whiskeys. So, if anyone out there can help out a misguided American on St. Patrick’s Day, I’d be much obliged.

What I do know is that the bottle I am enjoying was bottled in May 2014, and it was finished for 6 months in ex-rum casks, although there is no age statement on the bottle.  However, what I like most about this whiskey is the craft presentation; it is bottled without chill filtration at 92 proof (46% abv).

The nose is wonderful, with apples, cinnamon, gingerbread cookies, molasses, pears, honeysuckle, and potpourri. The palate is medium-bodied and quite dry, but it still maintains the classic silky smooth Irish whiskey texture. The flavors that emerge are spicy and sweet, with some clove, cardamom, cinnamon, apples, molasses, and sawdust. The finish is sweet with pears, vanilla, and a bit of honeysuckle, lingering with some drying orange and lemon flavors.

Overall, this is a gem of an Irish whiskey. The rum finish adds a drying spiced quality to the spirit that beautifully complements the sweet flavors of the American oak aging. As I have worked through this bottle, it has opened up pleasantly, revealing deeper and more complex flavors. Teeling does have a few other whiskeys released, but so far, this iteration is the only one available in the U.S. I did receive this bottle as a St. Patrick’s Day gift, but I would absolutely purchase another bottle. My grade: B/B+. Price: $40-45/750ml. There are a lot of Irish whiskeys around this price point, but I have yet to come across one that I enjoyed as much as this one.

Redbreast 12 Year Cask Strength Irish Whiskey Review

In my protest against the debauchery of St. Patrick’s Day, I waited until after March 17th had passed to review one of my favorite Irish drams – the Redbreast 12 year-old, bottled at its full cask strength.  I reviewed the standard Redbreast 12 year last year, and was left wanting more.  Having tried a few different batches of the Redbreast at its cask strength, I am quite satisfied.  This inculcation of the Redbreast’s single pot still whiskey is aged exclusively in ex-Sherry casks, and is non-chill filtered.  This particular review is of Batch B1/12, which comes in at 117.2 proof (58.6% abv).

On the nose, this whiskey is dense with barley, banana peels, dark chocolate, wood sealant, lemon-lime soda, fresh red apples, and some old driftwood.  The nose is a unique, funky blend of spirit and cask, only hinting at its lifetime in ex-Sherry wood.  The palate reveals the sherried character a little more.  It is an oily and full-bodied palate, with notes of red apples, Amontillado and Fino sherry, dark chocolate, white chocolate, raisins, and dried blackberries.  The finish is long and warming, with a wonderful combination of sherried character, mocha, vanilla, strawberry, and a soft, oaky woodiness.

Overall, this is a deep and powerful dram that opens up beautifully with a drop or two of water.  Not all Irish whiskey is soft and smooth; this one opens up with both barrels, and does not give up easy.  It is also delicious and intriguing from start to finish.  If sherry-aged Scotch is your thing, give the Redbreast Cask Strength a try, and let it ride.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  My grade: A-.  Price: $60-70/750ml.  With this only being about $15 more than the standard Redbreast, I’ll go for this one every day of the week.

Knappogue Castle 12 Year Irish Whiskey Review

ESQ010114_030Well, its March, and everybody’s favorite Irish holiday is right around the corner.  In honor of good ol’ St. Patrick, I’ll be doing a bit with some Irish whiskey in the next two weeks.  Today’s review is of Knappogue Castle 12 year-old single malt Irish whiskey; it is also a review with my good friend, William, from A Dram Good Time.  Single malt Irish whiskeys are not as common as Irish blended whiskeys like Jameson, Kilbeggan, and Powers, but you can find them if you know where to look.  Like single malt Scotches, single malt Irish whiskeys are distilled entirely from malted barley at one distillery and aged a minimum of 2 years in oak barrels.  The biggest difference from Scotch is that single malt Irish whiskey (like all Irish whiskey) is triple distilled, whereas most Scotch whiskies are double distilled.

The Knappogue Castle brand name is currently owned by Castle Brands, Inc., but Knappogue Castle has had a complicated past.  The actual whiskey in the bottles has been distilled at almost every distillery in Scotland, making it a hard whiskey to keep track of.  To the best of my knowledge, the Knappogue Castle single malts are currently being distilled at Cooley Distillery on the East coast of Ireland.  The 12 year-old is the standard expression in the Knappogue Castle lineup, but there are also some delicious older expressions of Knappogue available in the states.  The 12 year-old is aged exclusively in ex-bourbon casks and bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

This whiskey looks beautiful in the glass, with its beautiful pale gold, white wine color (there is no caramel coloring added to Knappogue Castle).  On the nose, it is light and sweet, with pears, lemons, daisies, lilacs, and some barley.  The palate is medium-bodied and pleasant, with malted barley, pears, oak shavings, and fresh white grapes.  The finish is medium in length with some dry oak, marshmallows, barley, floral notes, and citrus peels.

Overall, Knappogue Castle 12 year is an easy-drinking quality Irish single malt.  It is crisp and clean all the way through, with flavors reminiscent of white wine, making it a great whisky for those looking to try an Irish whiskey beyond Jameson without going for too much complexity.  My grade: B-.  Price: $30-35/750ml.

Here are William’s tasting notes, but you can check out his full review over at A Dram Good Time:

Color:  Light Gold / Straw – somewhat reminds me of peach white tea.

Nose:  Light, pleasant and full of fresh fruits right out of the gate – apples, pear, pineapple – twigs, honey, touch of vanilla and wood spice, minerals, dry grass, and now more on red apple peels.

Palate:  At 40 percent and triple distilled, this whiskey is pleasant and smooth from start to finish. Much like its aromas, the palate is also full of fresh fruits – again, apple and pear but also a little peach and hints of tangy citrus now – hay-like grassy notes, barley, honey, light oak and a touch of peppery spice.

Finish:  Moderate in length with a bit of that peppery oak, honey and apple peel.

This is a very fresh, soft and creamy Irish single malt. It’s not all that deep and the sweet and gentle qualities definitely make it an entry-level whiskey, but it’s nicely balanced and one I’d gladly toast with this St. Paddy’s day.

Rating:  B

Dram Good Time B

 

Whisky Live Boston 2013

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend Whisky Live Boston, a massive alcoholic drinks exhibition in downtown Boston.  For nearly four hours, vendors, brand ambassadors, and sales representatives discuss their products, while hundreds of patrons sample the aforementioned products.  Most of the exhibits are whiskeys of some kind (bourbon, Scotch, Irish, Australian, etc.), but rum, tequila, vodka, gin, and cocktails of all kinds can also be found at Whisky Live.  It is a great event to try new spirits, socialize with other whiskey enthusiasts, and eat some very good food cooked with whiskey (Four Roses supplied the entrées this year).

If you ever get the chance to attend Whisky Live (or another similar event), I highly recommend it.  However, an evening at Whisky Live requires planning and pacing.  If you love whiskey as much as I do, it is too easy to become overwhelmed and go crazy.  This usually results in irresponsible drinking, a rough night, and an even worse morning.  But, if you pace yourself, drink plenty of water, and make your rounds well, you can have one of the best evenings of your calendar year!  Here are a few of my highlights of Whisky Live Boston 2013.

William Gemmell (of A Dram Good Time) and I at  Whisky Live Boston 2013

William Gemmell (of A Dram Good Time) and I at Whisky Live Boston 2013

I got to try two bourbons from Heaven Hill that I have wanted to try for some time – Parker’s Heritage Collection Promise of Hope and Elijah Craig 12 yr. Barrel Strength.  Previous editions of Parker’s Heritage Collection have been some of the best bourbons released in the last decade, but I was disappointed in this particular edition.  That said, it is still a worthy investment, since 25% of the proceeds from every bottle goes to ALS research.  The Elijah Craig Barrel Strength is quite a bourbon.  It is nearly black in the bottle, but it takes water very well and equals a very good bourbon in the end.  I am definitely going to be looking for a bottle to review this fall/winter.

I also got to try two very good rye whiskeys that I will be reviewing in the next few weeks: Angel’s Envy Rye and George Dickel Rye.  Stay tuned to the blog for more information on these fine ryes.

Now, for my whiskeys of the evening…  The three whiskeys that really won the evening for me were Glenmorangie Signet, Redbreast 12 year Cask Strength, and Sullivan’s Cove French Oak Port Cask (if you are reading the blog and thinking about present ideas for me this holiday season, take a hint).

Glenmorangie Signet is a wonderful single malt Scotch that is made with 20% chocolate malt in the grain bill, and then batched together with older Glenmorangie barrels.  It truly is a wonderful sip, with a lot of dark mocha notes, as well as some Sherry influence, and a warming sensation that will warm you up even on the coldest nights.  It is not a cheap or easy to find whisky, but if you find it, it might be worth it to bite the proverbial bullet ($225 or so) and grab a bottle, because this is damn good juice.

Redbreast 12 year Cask Strength is simply a cask strength offering of the single pot still Redbreast 12 year.  At 119.8 proof, this sherry-aged Irish gem leaps out of the glass and across the taste buds with dark fruits, floral notes, sherry, and coffee.  This whiskey is the best Irish whiskey I’ve experienced to date  (although the Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve at Whisky Live came close), and it is usually around $70 for a bottle, making it a great choice for the holidays.

Last, but certainly not least, Sullivans Cove French Oak Port Cask is a Single Cask Malt Whisky from Sullivans Cove Distillery in Tasmania.  This juice is very hard to find in the United States, and it usually sells for about $150 per bottle, but it is some phenomenal whisky.  It is a single malt, aged exclusively in a French Port pipe, which lends the spirit dark chocolate notes, plums, port sweetness, all with an upright malted backbone that comes through with some burnt toffee and vanilla pound cake.  This stuff is really good, and its limited availability means you should pick up a bottle if you ever find one.  (Much thanks to Terry from Drink Insider for recommending this one; otherwise, I probably would have never ventured over to the Sullivans Cove booth.)

Those are my thoughts on some whiskeys that impressed me at Whisky Live.  What whiskeys have impressed you lately?  What whiskeys are you looking forward to trying this fall (whiskey season)?