Whisky Advocate

Review: Connemara Turf Mor

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

28 Responses to “Review: Connemara Turf Mor”

  1. I received a sample of that one too, and I was equally impressed. I didn’t get the dung in the nose, but I found it to be quite strangely intriguing as well. Too bad it is hardly available despite having been anounced for December. RMW seem to be the only ones offering the Turf Mor so far.

  2. WhiskyNotes says:

    I remember lots of farmy notes (such as dung) in peated Cooley expressions bottled by Cadenhead. Some of their single cask bottlings have that as well. In official large batch releases, I’ve never detected it.

    Turf Mòr is another great product anyway.

  3. John Hansell says:

    Just to prove my point about this being a polarizing whiskey, a very prominent whiskey writer emailed me after I posted this review and told me how much he dislikes this whiskey. And I mean he really dislikes it.

  4. Rick Duff says:

    mmmm diesel oil smoke… yum!
    seriously.. how is that (or dung) a desirable flavour ?

    • John Hansell says:

      Sometimes “bad” things in small amounts can be good. It adds complexity. Ever have a beer with wild bacteria and yeast (e.g., lambics)?

      • I absolutely agree, but it will always be a matter of taste. That’s pretty much the same with sulphur. Some like it when a little sulphur spices up a whisky and some are horrified by the faintest trace of it.

      • Another example, some of the best Pinot Noirs I have tried have had some very funky, farmhouse qualities on the nose that add to the nuances of the product. Can’t wait to try it.

  5. Matt J. says:

    For what it’s worth my last bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask was pretty farmy, especially with water– it was the whole barn, feed, hay, manure, and all. Growing up I spent a lot of time in horse barns, so the smell wasn’t really unpleasant… just a little surprising, at first.

    • JB says:

      Yes, some wines have this characteristic as well – I distinctly recall an employee at Binny’s describing the “poop-covered animal in a barn” nose in a particular wine. I passed.

  6. JC Skinner says:

    This one went down exceedingly well when the Irish Whiskey Society got a sneak preview of it last year. It was tasted up against some truly magnificent peaty Scotches and was ranked joint favourite of the tasting alongside the Bowmore 25 year old.
    It’s young alright, but vibrant, complex and rewarding, I thought. Mind you, I didn’t get the dung.
    http://forum.irishwhiskeysociety.com/viewtopic.php?f=37&t=896#p7792

  7. Bob Siddoway says:

    That actually sounds amazing. I love the heavily peated Islay whiskys with their smokey earthiness, so chances are I will like this. I don’t drink a whole lot of Irish Whiskey, mostly Black Bush in the past, so I am hoping to find a bottle of this. And at 116 proof, it seems even better!

    • I can assure you that this is about as far away from Black Bush as you can get, as far as Irish whiskey is concerned ;)

      • Bob Siddoway says:

        I don’t doubt that, but it still sounds good to me. Perhaps I am wrong, but by the description, it sounds more like an Irish version of Ardbeg, with a smokey earthy umami taste with some sweetness. I’m looking forward to trying it.

        • JC Skinner says:

          Very different to an Ardbeg, Bob. It’s Cooley spirit at the end of the day, and the signature Connemara notes of pear drop and vanilla custard are present, giving it a fruity sweetness that Ardbeg doesn’t generally offer. But it is definitely a hefty step up from the rest of the Connemara range in terms of phenols. It’s as smokey as many Islays, alright.

  8. Barry Jay says:

    I loved “like at a boat dock”. Guess John has one open on the table with a fan blowing across it to cure the drydock blues…..I love it…

  9. Brian Bradley (Brian 47126) says:

    John, you lost me at dung… I can only put up with so much crap, and I certainly don’t wish to find in in my whiskey.

  10. lawschooldrunk says:

    Dung makes an appearance many times in Bordeaux (or very earthy) wines. A terroir taste.

  11. Adam says:

    I’m curious if it is similar to the McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt? I think I may need to try this eventually but I will have to see if I could find a sample as I am not ready to put down 80 dollars on a bottle of something which includes aroma notes of dung. But I do like to see peat showcased in whisky that is not pairing it with a highly marine character.

    • JohnM says:

      It’s not like the McCarthy’s, Adam, but there’s a new Kilbeggan out that’s very like it, in my opinion. They stuff made at the Kilbeggan distillery, rather than the Kilbeggan made at Cooley…

  12. PeterD says:

    I’m quite eager to try a sample of this and I know *just* what to pair it with. There are a few cigars in my humidor that have what is best described as a “barnyard” aroma to them, and without fail, each is spectacular. I’d love to see how well these two tastes marry.

  13. JC Skinner says:

    John’s not the only one to find a farmyard aroma in a Connemara. Malt-teaser identified it in a Connemara Sherry small batch too, though not in the Turf Mor, which he considered ‘truly excellent’: http://www.whisky-emporium.com/UK/ActualTastingNotes/Cooley.htm#Con-SF
    I’ve always been wary of using certain descriptors which are sometimes misinterpreted by others. I once described a great Irish whiskey as having a nose of floor polish, which is a legitimate note often found in very aged old style Irish pot still whiskeys.
    But a lot of people were put off by that, because they understood me to be saying they’d be getting a mouthful of chemicals. In fact, I’d been trying to convey that the whiskey was reminiscent of potstill at its finest.
    Similarly here. The Turf Mor is a great wee dram. I’m not a major peat fan, but I really enjoyed it. John appears to like it too, and I’m pretty sure when he said that he got a hint of dung from the nose he wasn’t saying that the whiskey tasted like shit.

    • Murrell Kinkade says:

      JC, I think you are so right. I have not seen this offering in my local stores yet, but when I see it, I will get it. Reading all the posting, especially when Bowmore was mentioned, I had to find something. Even thought it was 083 EST, I opened a bottle of Bowmore 15 and took a couple of whiffs. First time ever this early in the day for a whisky sniff. I got a bit of farm, pasture in the spring and wet plowed ground. I rather liked it. Cannot wait to try the Turf Mor. Way to go JC, way to go John.

  14. Mr Claw says:

    I didn’t notice the poo when I tried it.

    I have to say the Turf Mor didn’t leave a terribly huge impression on me. That said, it *might* be because I tried it pretty much straight after having tried the most recent Octomore…

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