Last 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!