Saturday, 1 April 2017

Dingle - Single Malt - Batch No.1 - Review

For years Irish whiskey has been relying exclusively on three main distilleries to produce a range of spirits to sell the world over and help build the now rejuvenated reputation of Irish whiskey.  These distilleries are obviously Midleton, Bushmills and Cooley.

In recent times though we have seen a new wave of Irish distilleries appearing on the scene, all with their own ambition to start to diversify the range of Irish Whiskey available to the general public.  One of these distilleries is Dingle.

Situated in the South West of Ireland, on the "Wild Atlantic Way", Dingle Distillery was created in 2012.  Using their three gorgeous pot stills, the first spirit to be distilled in Ireland, outside the big three of Midleton, Bushmills and Cooley, ran from their stills back in November 2012.

Reading through their website, you can see that a key point in their whiskey making process is the design of their stills.  They deliberately opted for spirit stills that would create extra reflux during the distilling process, allowing them to create a finer spirit to be filled into their ready waiting casks.

Their small, but "artisan", set up only allows them to create enough spirit to fill around two casks per day, so in their own words they understand they may never be a global megabrand, but having visited the distillery myself I can tell you that their passion, and will to succeed, is no less than any large distillery you would find anywhere on the planet.

With the main stills running, they set about creating single malt and pure pot still whiskey, and while waiting for these spirits to mature they also released their own brand of gin and vodka, which I'm sure many of you have already seen in a few bars, or off licences, around Ireland.

Now when it comes to maturing your own whiskey, a lot of people would have different views on how and when your first release should arrive.  Some may say that you should wait for at least 5 - 6 years, allowing the cask to mellow your spirit, before allowing the public to form any opinion about what you are producing but Dingle kicked that idea firmly into touch by releasing their "Batch No.1" in late 2016, when the whiskey would have been around a very late 3 years old.

Some may ponder if a much needed injection of funds was the driving force behind such an early release but, having tasted "Batch No1" myself, I would say it's nothing more than a solid vote of confidence behind the spirit and whiskey they are producing in Dingle.

The first release of "Batch No.1" was a triple distilled single malt and it arrived in two forms, one of which was bottled at a healthy 46.5% ABV while the other was a much bolder cask strength version. 

Needless to say, demand for both versions was phenomenal and most retailers saw their stock disappear before they could believe, but I now believe that a second release of "Batch No.1" is back on the shelves.

On a recent trip to Dublin I happened to pop into the whiskey shop attached to The Temple Bar itself.  Inside the store they had a nice selection of whiskeys along with many open bottles if you wished to purchase a measure.  As I'm sure you can guess I quickly spotted a 46.5% ABV bottle of the Dingle Single Malt "Batch No.1".

I've waited a long time to sample any official Irish whiskey, other than that of the big three, so naturally I purchased a glass and set about jotting down some tasting notes.

Now before I move onto my notes I'd like to point out, if it even needs to be said, that this is obviously very young whiskey and only an indication of where the distillery is at now and where it is headed in years to come.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Undeniably young with that peppery, new make, clove rock coming right through the spirit.  Once you let it settle a while you pick up lovely notes of citrus with lemon biscuits seeming to dominate.  The citrus is also represented by some light candied orange peel and a malted sweetness comes through also.  Now for the "Dingle" effect which is something I haven't really experienced in an Irish whiskey to date.  Running throughout the whiskey is a deliciously rich, salted butter undertone.  The salt note, I can only presume, has obviously come from that gorgeous North Atlantic air sweeping off the coast where Dingle is situated.  This is really good for such a young age.

Palate - Clean, crisp arrival that leads to more of the sweet malt and touches of pepper.  The citrus also continues along with the obvious bite of youthful new make.  At 46.5% ABV I was hoping for a much thicker coating around the mouth but the creamy butter element is still here to bring a little richness to the experience.

Finish - Crisp with lemon, apple and warming spices.

Overall this has really impressed me.  Without doubt this is a young whiskey but it is already starting to display a tasty richness in the spirit and is, in my opinion, already starting to take on some coastal elements from the maturation process.

This, as a first release, is one to look out for and try for yourself.  I honestly don't think Dingle Distillery could have asked for more to come out of this whiskey. 

You can clearly see that their commitment to producing quality whiskey is there in the glass and, for me, this is a whiskey that is only going to get better, and better over time.

They will obviously be restricted to do this, but I hope they can bring out some form of release year on year so that we can all see exactly how well this delicious spirit is progressing.

It has always been a concern, of every lover of Irish whiskey, to see if all these new distilleries could actually walk the walk after talking the talk, but if you can manage to get a glass of Dingle Single Malt in your hand you can taste for yourself that Dingle are firmly on two feet and already walking in the right direction.

Until next time,

Sláinte

SI

Friday, 17 February 2017

Midleton - Very Rare 2016 - Review

Time flies when you're having fun!!  It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting myself down to enjoy a sample of the Midleton Very Rare 2014, the first to be bottled under the watchful eye of Master Distiller Brian Nation.

Fast forward to the present day and we now have Brian's third release of the iconic Midleton Very Rare.

First launched in 1984 the Midleton Very Rare is a yearly release of 50 exceptional casks that have been handpicked by the Master Distiller and blended together to showcase all that the distillery has to offer.

Since taking over the role of Master Distiller I know that Brian Nation has already overseen many other new releases, across the whole Midleton portfolio, but with the Midleton Very Rare, being so revered the world over, it will be interesting to see if he is starting to make his mark on this famous whiskey.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Upon first pour I immediately pick up some vibrant orchard fruits with fresh green apple to the fore.  Once this settles down there's a gorgeous mix of pot still spices and cream.  The spice is prickly with a touch of ginger and pepper.  The creamy vanilla is deliciously smooth and binds the nose together.  The orchard fruits become slightly more stewed and combine with the grains to give a sense of apple crumble.  As it develops I now get some of the tropical notes I've noted in previous Very Rare releases with light banana / foam banana sweets.  A very classic Midleton nose.

Palate - Clean and crisp with green apples continuing from the nose.  Spicy pot still character also comes through and combines with the grain to play around the mouth.  Cask influence adds an extra dry spice whilst enhancing the vanilla notes.  Throughout the whiskey there is a underlying toffee sweetness but this is kept in check by the grain spirit which seems to be a major player in this whiskey.  With time a little stewed orange comes through and the experience becomes a lot richer.

Finish - Dry, spicy and very fruity.

Overall this is another excellent addition to the Very Rare range.  Thinking back to my previous experiences this 2016 release doesn't seem to have just as much citrus, as what I may have experienced before, but this seems to have been replaced with an fresh orchard element.

Whilst the sweetness is still easily found within this whiskey it feels like it has taken more of a back seat to allow the natural spirit to shine through.  This is applicable for both the pot still and grain elements with both combining well to hold the whiskey together.

For me this is the quintessential Irish whiskey showcasing the perfect blend of spirits to achieve something that is much more than the sum of it's parts.  I certainly get the sense that Brian Nation is making his mark on this whiskey and it's a taste journey that will develop brilliantly over the years.

Until next time,

Sláinte

SI

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

West Cork - 12 year old Port Cask Finish - Review

Having first started in 2003, West Cork Distillers are a company I have heard different stories about without actually ever getting a chance to try any of their whiskeys.  I was therefore only too happy when I recently got the chance to get a couple of samples and see exactly what they have to offer.

Like I said the company has been on the go since 2003 and in 2013 they moved their distillery into larger premises based in Skibbereen, West Cork.

They are responsible for a range of whiskeys, vodka and liqueurs with brands such as Drombeg, Two Trees, Lough Hyne, Kennedy and of course their West Cork Whiskey.

With regards to the whiskey side of things, they can boast an ever increasing range with two blends to accompany a range of aged and finished malts.

Moving on to this review, one of the samples I recently received was of the West Cork 12 year old Single Malt - Port Cask Finish.

From looking about online, it's pretty hard to get much detail behind the whiskey but it seems that it has had a short finish in a port cask before being bottled at 43% ABV.  They are very clever to neglect to mention whether the malt is double or triple distilled so as to obviously disguise the origin of the original spirit.

I am not sure where the company are at with their own distilled spirit but I would probably guess that the current range may have started it's life in Co. Louth (if you know what I mean).

As with a lot of other new Irish whiskeys I've no doubt that West Cork are carrying out the finish themselves so there is still a lot of room for them to stamp their own flavour onto the whiskey.  The question is can they deliver?  Let's find out.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Initially this is a bit tricky to get to grips with as the obvious tropical notes battle with the port finish for dominance.  As it develops the tropical flavours win the battle with fresh banana, banana cream, a little green apple and a touch of lemon zest zing.  The Port still finds time to come through with a little blackcurrant and raspberry.  It would almost put you in mind of "Fruits of the Forest" yoghurt with the cream notes still coming through also.  Any idea of spice is very restrained with only the mildest of pepper lingering under the fruits.  With time the darker Port fruits marry with the citrus element to bring out a little orange.  Very nice actually.

Palate - Initially it's all more of the same with citrus and banana giving way to red berries and a little more spice.  Deeper lemons and oranges are to the fore with the black pepper and clove coming through nicely.  The berries are also a lot deeper with distinct blackcurrant tailing off into a little more green apple.  The fruits on the palate are definitely a lot more richer in nature and I have to say this works really well.

Finish - Deep, juicy, Port wine berries, a little dry spice and sour apple sweets to finish.

Overall I have been pleasantly surprised by this whiskey.  Like I said I had heard a lot of different things about West Cork Distillers but it's only when you actually try a product should you form your own opinion.

What I've discovered is that they certainly seem to have good malt whiskeys under their control and they also seem to know how to pack some extra flavour into them with good finishes in good casks. 

The price point is also very decent too with the 12 year olds setting you back about €50, or about £45 at current exchange rates.

At these prices I'd definitely recommend this whiskey and West Cork Distillers are a company I shall be keeping a close eye on as they move forward.

Until next time,

Sláinte

SI

Monday, 13 February 2017

Teeling - Revival Volume II - Review

Well over a year ago Irish whiskey lovers were treated to something special from the Teeling Whiskey Company as they released their first ever "Revival" bottling. 

This first release was a 15 year old single malt, matured exclusively in rum casks, and was introduced to mark the opening of the new Teeling Whiskey Distillery in Dublin city centre.

Moving on to the end of last year and we witnessed as Teeling released "The Revival - Volume II" to mark the one year anniversary of the Teeling Whiskey Distillery.

This "Second Coming" is a 13 year old single malt that was distilled in 2002 before being initially matured for about 12 years in ex-bourbon casks.  It was then finished for a further 12 months in an ex-Calvados, French apple brandy, cask.

It has then been bottled at 46% ABV and without chill filtration.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Orange, lemon, cut grass, honeyed lemon with lovely wafts of sweet malt barley.  Clean and distinct.  A little tropical banana with a nod towards banana ice cream.  Orange marmalade, dried orange, candied lemon peel.  Not a lot of spice going on here which allows it to come across as a fruit explosion.  Green and red apple which come across both as fresh and stewed.  Beautiful mix of sweet fruit salad.

Palate - Rich malt with a seriously rich citrus undertone.  Sweet orange and lemon combine with a little spice which arrives with the feeling that it's more from the casks than the spirit.  Apart from that the oak influence is restrained with the flavours from the Calvados having a lot more of a say.  Ripe red apples and a little more of the green, cut grass note from the nose.  The sweetness is almost overpowering on the palate but the savoury green element, along with a minor amount of spice, just about hold it all together.

Finish - Long and juicy with a little hint of dry wood spice.  This then disappears into a heady blast of ripe red apples.

Overall I have to say, I prefer this much more to the first release.  This is one fruit beast of a whiskey.

A full fruit salad is on display with top notch sweet malt.  Cask influence is restrained but having just enough of a say to bind everything together with a little cream from the oak.

This is a seriously good Irish whiskey and has classic notes which are now found regularly throughout the Teeling range.

Think I may have to splash the cash on a bottle of this, very impressive.

Until next time,

Sláinte

SI

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Dunville's - Three Crowns - Review

"Until recently the only place you could find a bottle of Three Crowns was at auction.  Now, we’re reviving this great whiskey to bring its flavour to a new generation."

Bold words indeed, but these are the words that greet you on the Echlinville webpage dedicated to the upcoming re-launch of this once revered Dunville's brand.

Since 2013, when they received the first Northern Irish distillers licence in around 125 years, Echlinville Distillery has been going from strength to strength with their new distillery / visitors centre and the introduction of some fine whiskey and gin to local market.

This has been further backed up with their PX finished 10 year old single malt being awarded "Best Irish Single Malt (12 years and under)" at the recent Irish Whiskey Awards.

Exciting times certainly lie ahead and we won't have to wait too long to enjoy what they have to offer with the upcoming launch of Dunville's "Three Crowns".

As Shane Braniff, founder of Echlinville Distillery, proudly states on their website - "It is one of the founding goals of our new distillery to bring Dunville's whiskey back to the world."

The original "Three Crowns" was introduced way back in 1830's and lasted around 100 years before being discontinued.  Many bottles are still in circulation and the original style of the whiskey was similar to Dunville's "VR" with the "Three Crowns" using more sherry casks for the maturation.

Fast forward to the present day and what "Three Crowns" delivers this time around is a fine blend of malt and grain whiskeys. 

Echlinville are very kind in letting us in on some of the detail by stating that the whiskey is made up with 4 year old grain, 10 year old malt and 15 year old malt finished in Oloroso casks. 

The whiskey has then been bottled at 46% ABV, which I'm sure you will agree is a pleasant surprise for a blended whiskey.

Thinking about the original style of "Three Crowns", I've no doubt that the use of the Oloroso finished malt, in this modern interpretation, is possibly a small nod to the whiskey that came before.

I for one have been waiting a while for this whiskey, ever since I first knew about it's impending release, as I know the people at Echlinville are extremely passionate about what they produce and I am hopeful that this blend delivers as expected.  Let's see.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Initially sweet with malt but this quickly gives way to fresh, crisp, grain spirit.  Crisp green orchard fruits, lemon biscuit and light toffee.  The sherry element is light but evident, with a little dark fruit gently wrapped around the fresher notes.  A slight hint of old oak comes through and this brings a certain richness to the nose.  You get the sense that the higher strength has benefitted this whiskey.  A little stewed orange and light pepper, which feels like it has arrived courtesy of the casks.  This displays a great balance and you nearly forget it's a blend you are nosing.  All the while the spirit retains a nice intensity and with time the sherry has little more of a say with a dash of dried fruit.

Palate - Initially sweet with malt barley, and you get a little more of the older oak, before the crisp grains and gentle spice take over.  Light citrus orange, lemon and green apples.  Pepper and clove are the main protagonists when it comes to the spice and these are backed up with a hint of dry wood spice.  The sherry element is harder to find, than on the nose, but appears towards the end in the merest of forms.  The palate is all about the younger grain spirit, which is vibrant and challenging, in a good way.  You need to take your time with this whiskey.  Don't go rushing in to it as you would with a basic supermarket blend, allow it time to open and use a little water which will allow more of the sweeter malt to shine through.

Finish - Medium to short with green apple, sour green apple and a decent dry sweetness.

Overall I have to say I'm really impressed with this blend.  The nose starts off all malt before moving into the lighter spirit notes of fresh fruit.  The addition of the older, Oloroso finished, malt is a smart move as it brings enough richness to balance the whiskey out while maybe rounding off some of the slightly rougher notes, that may have been found prior to it's addition, but hey that's one of the reasons behind blending.

In my opinion the nose is, without doubt, superior to the palate but don't let that worry you, the palate holds up perfectly in it's own right.

What this presents is a whiskey that delivers a little more than you would expect from the majority of other blends.  This isn't a whiskey to quaff at your leisure, but one that demands a little  more time and attention.  The higher strength is definitely a major player behind this, and I for one I'm happy it's at 46% as 40% might have flattened this whiskey.

What we have here is another fine example that Echlinville have arrived onto the local whiskey scene meaning serious business.  They are determined to make their mark by producing whiskeys that pack serious flavour and I for one think they are getting it spot on.

I can't wait to see how things move along when their own spirit is ready for release, I think it could be something very special indeed.

Until next time,

Slainte.

SI

Monday, 30 January 2017

Redbreast - Lustau - Review

Towards the end of 2016 Midleton distillery, once again, flexed its muscles as we were all treated to another new release from those people behind Redbreast.

Over the last few years, compared to the other established Irish distilleries, namely Bushmills and Cooley, we have been treated to a number of new offerings coming out of Midleton distillery and, as I'm sure you may have noticed, the Redbreast name has been popping frequently up amongst these new expressions.

In 2013 we had the Redbreast 21 year old, in 2015 we had the limited edition Redbreast "Mano a Lámh" and earlier this year we had a Celtic Whiskey Shop exclusive in the form of a Redbreast 1999 single cask.

Each of these had their own unique selling point yet people may have thought the 21 year old to be a little bit too expensive for their wallets, the "Mano a Lámh" a little bit too limited to get hold of and the 1999 single cask a little bit too much of a combination of the previous two.

Moving forward to present day and now Redbreast have released a new, permanent expression that will be widely available to all.

Redbreast "Lustau" is a single pot still Irish whiskey that has been finished in hand selected, first-fill sherry butts, with the aim of celebrating the iconic sherry influence found throughout the Redbreast range.

Matured initially in a combination of ex-Bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks, for about 9-12 years, Redbreast "Lustau" has been wholly finished for one year in sherry butts from the Spanish sherry house "Bodegas Lustau" and has come about a result of the long standing relationship between the bodega and the distillery in Midleton.

Redbreast "Lusatu" has been bottled at 46% ABV, without chill-filtration and at a recommended price point of £55.

Now while you may be thinking this is a little steep for a NAS whiskey, I'd like to firstly say that you may be able to get this a little cheaper if you shop around and, secondly, I'd like to reiterate the mention of an initial maturation of 9-12 years. 

I feel that the only reason they are leaving an age statement off the bottle is that they may need to dip a little younger, or maybe even a little older, in the future, but what can be guaranteed is that the team behind the release will always aim to ensure that the quality shall remain the same.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Interesting mix of older sherry cask and fresh red fruits.  The slightly older notes have a nice, deep, dried fruit complexity with Christmas cake and winter spices.  The fresher notes, however, keep the heavier feel in check with touches of strawberry jam, and stewed strawberries with cream.  I know the stewed element may not seem so fresh but when up against the likes of deep raisin you see where I'm coming from.  The pot still distillate is evident and seems like it's gently wrapped in a red berry coating.  The spice comes through showing that the spirit has not lost its way and the younger notes give the overall mouth-feel a nice edge to it.  A little touch of oaky vanilla lies beneath the strawberries and cream element and I have to say it's all very inviting.

Palate - Again a fantastic mix with the fresher elements appearing first.  Dark berry coulis and jam is followed by the rich fruit cake of the longer sherry maturation.  Spicy black pepper, that's almost dry red chilli in nature, reminds you of the style of whiskey you're enjoying and it brings the whole glass together.  Delicious.

Finish - As the alcohol dies down you are left with juicy red fruits and a lasting kick of dry oak spice.  This all leaves you with the suggestion to pour another glass.

Overall this is another fantastic addition to the Redbreast range.  It may not be as smooth as the 12 year old, but it's smooth enough.  It may not be as heavy hitting as the "Mano a Lámh", but it hits all the right notes whilst keeping them restrained through careful finishing in a fresh sherry cask. 

I can easily see this becoming a firm favourite within the Redbreast range.

As with the Powers "Three Swallow", it's great to see that Midleton are able to move effortlessly into the release of NAS expressions without reducing the quality we've grown to love.  Long may these releases continue.

Until next time,

Sláinte

SI

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Echlinville - Port Morant Rum Finish - Preview / Review - 1 year on

Last year I brought you all a preview / review of something very special that Echlinville Distillery are currently working on.  This was their single malt that is currently being finished in a Port Morant rum casks.  For anyone wishing to see the original update, along with tasting notes from last year, you can do so by clicking here.

For those of you that want to cut straight to the chase I shall recap.

In 2015 Echlinville acquired some 14yo whiskey, my guess is that it may be from Cooley, and set about placing it into some very interesting casks.  Echlinville pulled out all the stops and managed to get their hands on rum casks from the exclusive Port Morant distillery in Guyana.

The casks, that held the flavoursome rum for many years, are now transferring the aged flavours onto this Irish whiskey.

The first sample I received was after the whiskey had only been in the casks for a few weeks and the most recent sample I received was just over a year later, making this now firmly in the 15yo category.

For information the first sample I received was at 50% ABV, and this most recent sample was straight from the cask, but it remains to be seen what strength the final release shall come out at. 

As with the first review I'd just like to highlight that any notes listed below should be slightly different to the final release but, as you will see, I doubt there will much to worry about, with regards how the final release should taste.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Initially heavy with fresh green apple but this quickly moves into smooth vanilla wood, rum and raisin ice cream and even banana ice cream.  The fruit flavours are rich and intense, no doubt brought on by the cask strength nature of the alcohol, yet the smooth oak encompasses them beautifully.  Some deeper notes lurk in here also with stewed orange and a little hint of raspberry.  The balance between spirit, wood and rum influence is very nice indeed.  As the dram opens up the fruit flavours begin to dominate with further banana in the form of foam banana sweets and a little banoffee pie.  There's not much spice on the nose and I feel this may be the wood having a nice restraining effect.  Right at the end there's also a little touch of white grape.  With water the fruit is intensified and the oak vanilla becomes more prominent.

Palate - Intense, dry arrival and a lovely balance of fruit and oak spice.  The fruit comes in with more fresh green apple, banana cream, and more rum and raisin ice cream.  We now also have spice in the form of prickly black pepper which brings a nice extra dimension.  The influence bestowed upon this whiskey, by the cask, is big, bold and pretty darn good.  The oak has brought a lip smacking dryness that arrives from the first sip and lingers long after the dram is finished.  The intensity of the alcohol brings a hint of grappa which ties in with the white grape picked up on the nose.  With water the fruit is again softened down.

Finish - Medium length, dry yet juicy and extremely delicious.

Overall this is a seriously good Irish fruit bomb of a whiskey.  This is turning into the beast I had hoped it would become nearly a year ago.

The fruit notes are deep, rich and intense.  I feel that this whiskey is nearly ready to be taken from the cask and bottled for everyone to enjoy. 

When it is released I shall be interested to see what strength Echlinville end up choosing for the final bottling.  The two samples I have tasted are probably both higher in ABV, than how the final product shall be presented, but I hope they keep the strength high to show off all the rich ,intense goodness that is packed into this whiskey.

Echlinville are certainly moving from strength to strength, and gaining a lot of admirers on the way, and I have no doubt that once they release this Port Morant finished whiskey they will gain a hell of a lot more.

Until next time,

Sláinte

SI