Posts tagged ‘Irish whiskey’

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.

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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

 

Concannon Irish Whiskey Review

Concannon Irish WhiskeyThis 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.

Redbreast 12 Year Irish Whiskey Review

Redbreast 12Today, I am reviewing Redbreast 12 year, a single pot still whiskey from the Midleton Distillery in Cork.  A single pot still whiskey is very similar to a single malt, with the only difference being that a single pot still whiskey includes both malted and unmalted barley in the mash bill.  Like other Irish whiskeys, Redbreast is triple distilled.  The Redbreast label is also home to a 15 year edition and a 12 year cask strength bottling in addition to the standard 12 year, which is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

On the nose, Redbreast is a quite sweet spirit.  There are notes of Red Delicious apples, honey, some light caramel, all backed up by a background mix of floral notes and barley.  The nose is rather complex for how light it is.  Unfortunately, I think this whiskey trails off after the nose.  The palate is very light with some sweet malt and caramel bread pudding notes.  The finish is short and slightly malty, with a hint of apples.  But, I really had to go seeking for flavors on the finish.

Overall, this is a fine whiskey, one of the finer Irish whiskeys I have had.  This one is beyond drinkable, and I suspect that would make it a great compliment in a Hot Toddy.  However, if you are looking for something to sip slow, this one lacks depth.  The tasting experience is pleasant, but not very original in my opinion.  I definitely like this whiskey, but I think its drinkability holds back its depth.  The 12 yr. cask strength is very high up on my whiskeys to try, though.  I am anxious to see what could happen to this spirit at a higher proof.  My grade: C.  Price:  $40-45/750ml.  This is a good whiskey, but it is definitely not my favorite.  That said, if you enjoy a light, fruity, malty spirit, Redbreast 12 could be your new cabinet staple.  Give it a try for yourself and let it ride!

The Tyrconnell Irish Whiskey Review

The Tyrconnell NASToday, I am kicking off a three-part mini-series on Irish whiskey.  I will be showcasing the three primary styles of Irish whiskey, single malt, blended, and single pot still.  Today’s review is of The Tyrconnell single malt Irish whiskey, with reviews of Redbreast 12 yr. and Concannon to follow.  A single malt Irish whiskey is the same as a single malt Scotch, just made in Ireland.  The Tyrconnell is made entirely from malted barley at a single distillery (Cooley Distillery in County Louth, Ireland).  The Tyrconnell brand is available in several different age statements, including a 10 yr., a 15 yr., and a variety of single cask bottlings and finished bottlings.  The whiskey I am reviewing today is from The Tyrconnell’s standard no-age-statement (NAS) single malt.  It is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).  Special thanks to MK for the sample.

The color is a light gold, but I suspect that coloring is added to this one.  The nose presents a nice balance of fruity and floral notes.  I definitely smell young Bartlett pears and some floral notes reminiscent of an American IPA.  The nose is pleasant, but not especially complex.  The palate is very light and drinkable with those pear notes re-surging along with some stale bread.  The finish is also pretty malty and rather short.

On the whole, The Tyrconnell is a straight-forward single malt Irish whiskey.  It is very smooth and drinkable, but it lacks depth and complexity.  It tastes nice, but if you don’t pay close attention, you might miss this whiskey.   The finish is usually my biggest complaint with Irish whiskeys, and this one holds up that trend.  The finish is too short, and I hardly know I drank anything.  That said, if you are looking to introduce someone you know to a whiskey that doesn’t burn, The Tyrconnell single malt is worth trying.  Personally, I would love to give their finished whiskeys and their 15 year a try.  The makings of a very good whiskey are evident in The Tyrconnell’s NAS bottling.  My grade: C-.  Price: $30-35/750ml.  This is a good indication of what to expect from single malt Irish whiskey, smooth and drinkable, but not deep or complex.  This is very reasonably priced, but there are whiskeys I prefer at this price point.

Jameson Irish Whiskey Review

Today, I am reviewing Jameson Irish Whiskey.  I have had several requests for a review of this whiskey, so I am finally getting around to it.  Jameson is one of the most famous whiskeys in the world, and definitely the most famous Irish Whiskey.  Simply put, Irish whiskey is just whiskey from Ireland, just like Scotch is whisky from Scotland.  Irish whiskeys are typically made from malted barley, and they are often triple distilled.  Triple distillation means that there are three processes of distillation required/used to separate the water content from the mash during the boil.  There are some Scotch whiskies that are triple distilled, but most of them are double distilled.  The primary result of triple distillation in the finished whiskey is a smoother taste, although it does not  mean the whiskey will taste better, just different.

The first thing you will probably notice after you pour a glass of Jameson is the color.  Jameson is a rich gold, much different from the amber color of bourbon.  On the nose, Jameson is beautiful.  There are notes of agave, candied yams, cereals, dense honey, and light florals.  The palate is where Jameson takes a disappointing turn for me.  The palate is light-bodied, and the honey and floral notes are dominant with some heather and cereal in the background providing some heft.  The finish is smooth, but very short.  Some of the cereal grains remain briefly, but that is it.

Overall, Jameson is a fine whiskey, and it is usually available for $25-30/750 ml.  I really like the nose on this one, but the palate and finish don’t do too much for me.  The whiskey is bottled at 80 proof, and it is very drinkable.  It sacrifices complexity for smoothness, which makes it a great choice for somebody looking to buy their first bottle of whiskey.  My grade: C.  Price: $25-30/750ml.  This is a favorite of many, and I enjoy it, but it is usually a few dollars more than I am looking to spend on a whiskey of this quality.