An Irish ExplosionFebruary 18th, 2013
Dominic Roskrow, Whisky Advocate magazine contributor, shares details of an Irish whiskey boom.
When I announced Yellow Spot as Irish Whiskey of the Year, I predicted that The Teeling Company would be bringing some of the Cooley sparkle back to the Irish category. And I was right.
What I didn’t predict, though, was that Irish Distillers would seek to take ownership of the unique style of Irish whiskey known as Single Pot Still, and it would do so in such dramatic fashion. After a quiet 2012, it’s all kicked off in Ireland. Not even two months into the new year, there have been an amazing fourteen new release announcements—that’s four times as many as the whole of last year from Ireland. Incredibly, eleven of them are from Irish Distillers, and all of those eleven are pot still whiskeys at cask strength.
The bad news for fans of the style is that the releases are all in limited quantities and have been offered to specific outlets or retailers on an exclusive basis. The first went to The Irish Whiskey Society and is already all but sold out, and the other ten have been sold exclusively under the Midleton brand name to retailers in Ireland, the UK, France, and Germany. If you manage to get anywhere near them, expect to pay upwards of $350 a bottle.
While we might only dream of tasting these sorts of whiskeys, we should be encouraged by the willingness of Irish distillers to release pot still whiskey in this form. It surely adds weight to the growing view that the company is set for more mainstream single pot still whiskey releases, and that it has reasonable levels of stocks of them.
Meanwhile, Jack Teeling and former Cooley whiskey maker Alex Chasko responded to my calling them ‘mavericks’ when announcing the Irish Whiskey of the Year by giving us a sneak preview of six whiskeys from the Teeling Whiskey Company.
Three samples were works in progress, and may never see the light of day, but the other three are set for release. They are a Premium Blend, which has a high malt content, and has been married in rum casks and bottled at 46% with no chill filtration; a beautiful and classic cask strength Irish single malt whiskey; and the oddest of the lot, a very unusual and groundbreaking cask strength 21 year old single malt finished in Sauternes wine casks, which will be the first release of a new series to be known as Vintage Reserve Single Malt.
With Bernard Walsh, the man behind The Irishman and Writer’s Tears whiskey ranges, set to re-launch some brands and keen to drive an Irish style that mixes single malt and pot still whiskey, and The Teeling Whiskey Company already promoting a Scotch and Irish whiskey Hybrid, Irish whiskey looks set for a roller-coaster year.
“There needs to be innovation,” says Jack Teeling. “Otherwise we, as a category, will not be interesting enough for consumers who are spoiled for choice from other categories which have a much more developed range of expressions to choose from. We have a very exciting few months coming up with the launch of some of our first Irish whiskeys and new taste profiles to both the Irish blended and single malt categories. Expect great things.”