Archive for the ‘Irish whiskey’ Category

“Pure” Pot Still Irish whiskey is now “Single” Pot Still

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

In case you missed it.  Pure pot still Irish whiskey is now being described at single pot still Irish whiskey. (See the label on Redbreast 15 year old.)

I used the old term during a recent issue of WhiskyNotes and Brendan Buckley, Category Development Director for Irish Distillers, was kind enough to remind me in an email he sent me. I’m posting it below because he explains why the change was made.

Hi John,

Just perusing the latest newsletter and I noticed that you described the latest Midleton releases as ‘pure pot still’ in your byline.

While the term ‘pure pot still’ has been the custom and practice of the Irish whiskey industry for, oh let me see, 200 odd years, it would appear that the TTB has taken umbrage with usage of the term ‘pure’ as it pertains to food and beverages.

This came to a head a few years back when we introduced Redbreast 15 to the US at which time we were obliged by the TTB to drop the prefix ‘pure’.

Arising from this, we opted to use the more industry (and arguably consumer) friendly prefix, ‘single’ to designate that the whiskey was a pot still whiskey from a single distillery.  Therefore, if you pick up a bottle of Redbreast 15 you will notice that the label reads ‘single’ rather than ‘pure’.

As a consequence, all of our new pot still releases are now described as ‘Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey’.

Redbreast 12 is still marketed in the US as a ‘pure pot still’ but this has been permitted under a grandfather ruling.  I should note that as part of a packaging upgrade project currently underway on Redbreast 12, we will in time transition all labels over to the new descriptor ‘single pot still’.

In truth, the TTB may have done us a favour by encouraging us to adopt a more widely recognised frame of reference and indeed this will be enshrined in new industry regulation which in underway under the auspices of the Irish Spirits Association.

Brendan Buckley

Thanks Brendan for the update and clarification!

Review: Connemara Turf Mor

Friday, January 21st, 2011

One thing for sure: this will be a very polarizing whiskey. My guess is that you will either like it or loathe it.

Connemara Turf Mor, 58%, $80

Connemara is the peated Irish whiskey from the Cooley distillery, and this one is their (and Ireland’s) smokiest offering yet. This is the first time I ever detected dung (albeit subtly) in a whiskey — and only on the nose, thankfully. It’s curiously intriguing. The style of peat used, along with the youth of this whiskey, has a distinct impact of the whiskey’s flavor. It’s sweet and smoky, which works well. Throw in some bacon fat, diesel oil smoke (like at a boat dock), anise, ginger, honeyed malt, barley, lime, and pear. Underneath all that peat lies what seems like a fairly young whisky, because it is very brisk and vibrant, but not excessively so. Bonus points for distinctiveness.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 88

Irish whiskey lovers: two rare Midleton single casks

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

 Over the many years, I’ve often asked my friends at the Midleton Distillery (makers of the annual vintage release of Midleton Very Rare, Jameson, Redbreast, Power’s, Paddy, etc.) if they could bottle the Midleton Very Rare at a higher strength than 40% ABV. Well, they’re doing it now, but you are going to have work at getting a bottle. (Especially considering I’m a little late getting this information to you. Sorry about that.)

They have introduced two new single cask Midleton Very Rare whiskeys. One is available in Terminal 2 at the Dublin airport, while the other is available at Dublin’s Celtic Whiskey Shop.

A producer always takes a risk when introducing single cask whiskies (Highland Park and Glenfarclas come to mind), because each cask varies in flavor and might alienate  some enthusiasts. I think, in the long run,  we are all the better for it.

I hope we see more interesting releases from the Midleton Distillery–and with broader distribution. They have the potential to make so many great whiskeys (with so much variety). The more the merrier.

I don’t normally post up press releases, but I”ll do it here (along with a photo).

Post update: One thing I forgot to emphasize initially–and this is important: these two new Midleton whiskeys are Pure Pot Still whiskeys. They are not a blend of PPS whiskeys and grain whiskeys, like the standard annual Midleton release. So, in this regard, these new Midleton releases are a kin to Redbreast and Greenspot.

New Exclusive Single Pot Still Whiskey Releases from Midleton

Midleton is synonymous with its annual vintage releases of the exquisite Midleton Very Rare blend but the renowned Co. Cork Distillery has now added to its limited releases of Single Pot Still whiskeys under the Midleton brand name with two new expressions which have been launched this month.

Both whiskeys are Single Cask bottlings destined for two individual retailers – the new Irish Whiskey Collection shop at the recently opened Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport and for the Celtic Whiskey Shop on Dublin’s Dawson St.   The two casks were personally selected by Master Distiller, Barry Crockett, as outstanding expressions of the Midleton pot still style.

The Terminal 2 release is a 19 year old pot still whiskey which was laid down in November, 1991 in a first fill American bourbon barrel and has, in a new departure for the Midleton brand, been bottled at cask strength (53.7%).  The cask strength affords the whiskey connoisseur the rare opportunity to experience a Midleton pot still whiskey as it emerges directly from the cask.  The tasting notes for the whiskey reveal a dark, fleshy fruit character in perfect balance with the underlying pot still spiciness.   The impressive presentation box includes a portion of stave from the barrel in which the whiskey spent its life maturing so that on opening the box, one can literally smell the whiskey.  Only 200 bottles were yielded from this Single Cask.

The Celtic Whiskey Shop release was laid down in December, 1996, also in a first fill American bourbon barrel and has been bottled at 46%.  This is a slightly lighter style pot still distillate with green apples and banana to the fore.  270 bottles were realised from this particular cask. 

Each bottle is individually numbered with the Terminal 2 expression retailing at €260 and the Celtic Whiskey Shop expression retailing at €225.

Reviews: Redbreast 15 yr. old vs. Redbreast 12 yr. old

Friday, September 17th, 2010

I’ve been waiting for this new 15 year old release to come to the U.S., and here it is!  I wanted to like it better than the 12 year old, but I don’t. Don’t get me wrong: the 15 is a great whiskey! It just doesn’t have the polish of the 12, which is a classic.

Redbreast, 12 year old, 40%, $40
Very elegant, complex and stylish. Honeyed and silky in texture, with toffee, toasted marshmallow, nougat, maple syrup, banana bread and a hint of toasted coconut. Bright fruit and golden raisin blend in nicely with the layers of sweetness.  Impeccable balance and very approachable. Classic Irish whiskey!

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 96

Redbreast, 15 year old, 46%, $75
Redbreast 12 year old is a classic pure pot still Irish whiskey, so where can one go from here? This new 15 year old expression is more muscular (bottling at 46% and not chill-filtered certainly helps.), but there are trade-offs. It’s a bit closed on the nose (like a great Bordeaux wine that’s too young). I do enjoy the silky/oily texture, the bold resinous oak spice grip on the finish, and the rich nutty toffee, fig, black raspberry, chocolaty, chewy nougat throughout the palate. Still, it’s not as eminently drinkable, refined or balanced as the 12 year old. (Imagine the 12 year old on steroids.)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 92

Review: Knappogue Castle, 12 year old

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Knappogue Castle, 12 year old, 40%, $42
Past bottling were distilled at the Bushmills distillery or Cooley distillery (excepting the rare, original 1951 Vintage, which was from the old B. Daly distillery). You can consult my secret decoder ring here. This one is triple distilled, so think Bushmills. (Cooley distills their whisky twice, not three times.) In the past, I’ve notice a lot of flavor development in Bushmills from 10-12 years old. This Knappogue 12 year old is a fresh, clean, smooth Irish whisky, displaying a nice creamy texture. I’m finding honeyed vanilla, toasted marshmallow, and lots of fruit (citrus, pineapple, coconut, and peach). A soft, dry oak finish shores up the sweetness and adds a peppering of spice. A pleasant, entry level Irish single malt.

(Additional note: Knappogue Castle has historically been a  whisky with a vintage, not an age statement. While it will be nice to have some consistency here, I will miss the subtle differences that each of the previous vintage offerings provided.)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 84

Kilbeggan Distillery releases first whiskey in 53 years

Friday, June 18th, 2010

It’s great to see the whiskey industry growing worldwide–including Ireland! This press release just came in earlier today.

The World’s Oldest Distillery Launches a New Whiskey

Kilbeggan Distillery releases first new whiskey in over 53 Years

For over 200 years, the Kilbeggan Distillery produced some of the finest whiskey in the world.  In 1957 the stills ran dry but 50 years later Cooley Distillery, the multi-award winning independent whiskey distiller, breathed new life into the world’s oldest distillery and today, the first new whiskey to be distilled at Kilbeggan in over 53 years was officially unveiled at an intimate gathering at the Kilbeggan Distillery in Co. Westmeath.

The Kilbeggan Distillery Reserve Malt, the latest addition to the Kilbeggan family of fine whiskeys, is produced from the oldest pot still in the world which dates back to 1830. The Kilbeggan Distillery itself was established in 1757 and is the oldest distillery in the world.

Fittingly the local heritage group was in attendance to witness the launch of the new whiskey as they played a key role in ensuring the survival of the distillery during the years it lay dormant.  Also in attendance were distillery employees, without whom the world’s oldest still could not have been brought back to life.  All gathered at this momentous event received a signed bottle of the first batch.

The whiskey world has waited in anticipation for half a century for the first new bottling from the historic Kilbeggan distillery.  Distilled from 100% malted barley, the Kilbeggan Distillery Reserve, due to the distinctive narrow necks of the ancient pot still design, is an exceptionally smooth and flavoursome Irish Malt whiskey of distinctive character.

John Teeling, Chairman of Cooley Distillery commented at the launch, “This is another significant landmark in the rejuvenation of the great Kilbeggan distilling tradition.  A huge amount of hard work by Cooley employees and the local heritage committee has gone into getting us to this day.  It is a labour of love to re-establish the Kilbeggan Distillery as a centre of distilling excellence.  Heritage and tradition are vital elements in whiskey.  Great whiskeys come from great distilleries.  Today’s whiskey, though young, has a distinct character both smooth and flavoursome; a character that will only improve with age.  And why wouldn’t it, being distilled by the world’s best distillers, in the oldest working pot still in the world and matured in 200 year old granite warehouses.

Today’s launch also marked the unveiling of the recently rebranded Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey.  Currently sold in over 35 international markets, the Kilbeggan brand is Cooley Distillery’s flagship Blended whiskey.  The rebrand project involved creating an over-arching identity for the Kilbeggan Irish whiskey brand and the Kilbeggan Distillery.  This highlights both the unique provenance as the oldest distillery in the world and the high quality of the whiskey. The Kilbeggan 15 Year Old Irish whiskey was honoured recently as the Best Whiskey in the World at the 2009 International Wine & Spirits Competition in London.

Jack Teeling, Managing Director of Cooley Distillery said, “We are delighted to be able to accompany the release of the first new whiskey from the Kilbeggan Distillery with the unveiling of the rebranded Kilbeggan Irish whiskey range.  The new packaging pays homage to the rich heritage and quality of the Kilbeggan brand while also maintaining a contemporary look and feel.  We look forward to seeing the trade’s and consumer’s reaction to the new look Kilbeggan Irish whiskey.

The rebranded Kilbeggan is being rolled out in Germany and the US with all other markets following suit over the next few months.  This will be followed by the release of a range of brand extensions including a Super Premium Kilbeggan 18 Year Old.

Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey loses vintage, becomes a 12 year old

Monday, June 7th, 2010

You will most likely recognize Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey as a vintage, given there have been many releases over the past decade from various distillation years.

Well, it’s now going to be a 12 year old, without a vintage statement. I’ll be getting a review sample and full press release shorlty, but here’s an email I received from their importer, Castle Brands:

How quick is your mental math?  If someone was born in 1994, how old would they be today? Answer:  16 years old depending on the month they were born.  Knappogue Castle, the original vintage dated Irish Whiskey, feels that most consumers find it hard to calculate the age of the product by looking at the distillation date on the label.  Instead of chancing that consumers will miss important information about the age of the product, Knappogue Castle is moving to age designation and stating the product’s age boldly and proudly on the label thus eliminating the need for mental math.

Knappogue Castle Single Malt Irish Whiskey will be a 12 year old product on a consistent basis going forward.  A new label design reflects this change and reinforces the product’s premium quality and elegant taste. 

It’s just the superior whiskey to savor at the end of a long day.  It has a bright, light, lemon-orange color (no caramel coloring added) and a mildly spicy, citrus taste. That elegant, fruity and spicy flavor makes it an excellent choice in mixed cocktails like the “Peach Smash” developed at Vintry’s or the “Castle to Castle” developed at Death & Co. in New York. 

I can think of many reasons for going to an age-statement whiskey rather than a vintage, which we can discuss. (There was actually was one age-stated release, a 15 year old, back at the end of 2008. )

And FYI: KC has been from both Cooley and Bushmills in the past, but the email didn’t suggest one or the other.

Stay tuned…

Tullamore Dew gets a new home

Friday, April 30th, 2010

C&C, the Irish drinks company, is selling its spirits arm to William Grant. This includes Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey and Irish Mist whiskey liqueur. Drinks International reports about it here.

William Grant, as you know, owns the Balvenie and Glenfiddich single malt scotch brands. This will be their foray into Irish whiskey.

I’m not sure what the impact will be on you. Here in the U.S., Tullamore Dew is currently imported by Skyy Spirits. I would imagine that the brand would now be brought in by William Grant.

Review: Powers 12 year old blended Irish whiskey

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Powers, 12 year old, 40%, $35
After being around for about a decade, it’s nice to see this whiskey finally being sold in the U.S. Soft, sweet and silky smooth, with creamy vanilla, caramel, toasted marshmallow, and honey-kissed tropical fruit (mango, pineapple, coconut). I get most of the barley on the front of the palate, with the grain whiskey components more on the finish. Something seems slightly missing for me to elevate this whiskey to classic status (some more pot still character, perhaps?), but it’s still a wonderful blended Irish whiskey. And it’s so drinkable. Gather a bunch of friends and throw away the cork!

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 91

What is Irish whiskey, really?

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Other than the fact that it is distilled in Ireland and aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels, what is Irish whiskey?

Most of the time when you read in general media how Irish whiskey is defined, they will say that Irish whiskey is different from Scotch whisky in that it’s not smoky like Scotch whisky. And, they’ll say that Irish whiskey is distilled three times, while Scotch whisky is only distilled twice. (Many times they will continue this train of thought with the comment that, because Irish whiskey is distilled three times, it’s smoother than Scotch whisky.)

If I had a dollar for every time I read these generalizations, I could afford to buy a couple bottles of Redbreast 12 year old.

But, as most of you know, these generalizations are not completely accurate. Most Scotch whisky is not smoky, and there are triple distilled whiskies in Scotland (e.g., Auchentoshan).

In Ireland, whiskeys distilled at Cooley are only distilled twice, and they make smoky whiskeys there too (Connemara). In fact, I have heard of the Cooley distillery referred to as “a Scotch distillery that just happens to be located in Ireland.”

Plus, I have enjoyed smooth Scotch whiskies, and tasted some harsh Irish whiskeys over the years. So, the whole “Irish whiskey is smoother than Scotch whisky because it’s distilled three times” statement isn’t exactly accurate either.

Some enthusiasts more “in the know” will point out that what differentiates Irish whiskey from Scotch whisky is that Irish whiskey is made (at least in part) with “pot still” whiskey (i.e. from a mash containing both malted AND unmalted barley), rather than Scotch whisky which uses a 100% malted barley mash bill in its pot stills. Some Irish whiskeys (e.g., Redbreast, Green Spot) are 100% pure pot still whiskeys.

It’s true, if you look at the Irish whiskeys made at the Midleton distillery in County Cork (Jameson, Powers, Paddy, Tullamore Dew, Redbreast, Green Spot, etc.), there is a pot still component in these whiskeys. But, you won’t find “pot still” whiskey in Bushmills or the whiskeys produced at Cooley.

So, what is Irish whiskey, really?