Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Connemara - 22 year old - Review

As the excitement builds towards Whisky Live "Dublin", now is the perfect time of year for Irish whiskey distilleries and companies, apart from Bushmills, to come up with something new to grab our attention whilst walking round the Mansion House this Saturday coming.

There promises to be quite a lot of new bottlings on show but, to get their foot in the door first, The Kilbeggan Distilling Company have laid down the first marker by releasing their latest Connemara only a couple of weeks ago....Connemara 22 year old.

Now, those of you in the know with Irish whiskey, will be well aware that Connemara has always been produced at Cooley distillery in County Louth and that recently this distillery has found itself with a quick turnaround of owners.  From Beam Inc. taking over in 2011, to Suntory taking over Beam Inc. earlier this year, the distillery, and it's workers, could be forgiven for wondering what direction the future was headed, but now it seems that they are back on track and readying a vast number of releases to please their ever growing fan base.

All good indeed.

To give you a little insight into Cooley I can tell you that it was founded in 1985 when John Teeling acquired the building, which was a former potato alcohol plant, and converted it into a working whiskey distillery.  The distillery itself has both pot and column stills and sets itself apart by practising only double distillation as opposed to the traditional Irish triple distillation as displayed in the likes of Bushmills.

Over the years they have become famous under a variety of releases and brands including - Kilbeggan, Tyrconnell, Connemara (peated malt), Greenore (Single Grain), Locke's, Feckin', Michael Collins, Titanic and being partly responsible for Writer's Tears (the malt part).

This has allowed their style and flavours to reach far and wide and in my opinion would have a lot of people being a fan of Cooley without knowing they were a fan of Cooley.

With regards to their Connemara my previous experiences have been a touch varied.  At times I've found it either being a big peaty beast, slapping you about the face, or a gentle tame smoky softy that just caresses at your love for all things turf.

For me, this Connemara 22 year old, is bang in the middle.

Bottled at 46% ABV, costing about £140 / €170 and un-chilfiltered, here's what I thought:

Nose - The initial feel is that this is not a peat monster.  There's a lovely mix of peat smoke, earthy turf and green notes of fruit and herbs.  Smooth cereal and malt with a touch of pepper.  Wood smoke.  Light vanilla.  Fresh green apple, lemon oil and fresh oak.  Quite youthful for a 22 year old in my opinion.  With time the smoke turns to that smell you get from your clothes the morning after standing beside an open fire the night before.

Palate - Sour arrival, very sour, bitter lemon becoming sweet with plenty of clove and more pepper.  Again, this is not a peaty beast but the rather the smoke interacts nicely with the spice and fruit flavours which continue with green, and now some red, apple.  Toasted malt, some chilli but not hot.  More lemon, now with orange, and some ash with a background of a damp burnt wood note, which isn't as unpleasant as it sounds.

Finish - Nice length with fruit being more dominant than anything resembling peat, but it is still there either in the background or walking alongside the fruity flavours as it's "little brother".

Overall this is very smooth and highly enjoyable.  I've had powerful Connemaras in my time, and this is certainly not one of them, but the lighter side this displays allows the smooth fruity character of Cooley to shine through.  I'd say that the longer maturation has caused the taming of this peat monster but it certainly has not diminished the whiskey.  

If this had of been bottled at 40% ABV it could have been a disaster.  Full marks to the Kilbeggan Distillery Company for presenting this just right.

All that said, I have to finish by stating that this quite simply doesn't take my breath away.  Undoubtably this a good whiskey, well made and well finished with good character, but I just can't say that I absolutely need to have it in my life.  I can't put my finger on exactly why that is but maybe with a bit of comparison, this Saturday, I can work it out....or maybe with a closer examination all will fall into place?

Who knows?  All I know is that this is why I love the world of whisky so much.  Just when you think you've got one thing figured out it sneaks up behind you and shows you a different side which can completely alter you opinion.

Well that about wraps things up for another review, and this shall be the last before I head down to "Whisky Live", but be sure to follow along on my Twitter page @Whisky_Belfast, this Saturday, as I shall (battery permitting) be tweeting my days adventures which will include, a tour of the Old Jameson Distillery, a quick look around the Dublin whiskey shops, a Benromach masterclass and of course the show itself where I'll be sampling as many new releases as I can and hopefully taking just as many notes to bring them all straight to you in Whisky Belfast review form.

Until next time,



Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Whisky Live Dublin 2014 - Preview

With just under two weeks until the big day I think it's about time that I touched base with you all to highlight what is by far the premier whisk(e)y event in Ireland.

On Saturday 25th October whisky lovers from all over Ireland, and further afield, shall converge upon Dublin for the annual showcase that is "Whisky Live".

Run by Ally Alpine, who is also the owner of the truly excellent Celtic Whiskey Shop (which I've mentioned from time to time), Whisky Live - Dublin has become a must for anyone with a love for Irish whiskey (or any whisky for that matter).  

The event, as with the other Whisky Live shows around the world, allows fans to get up close and personal with their favourite drams whilst getting some real insider knowledge from the many exhibitors that are present and this year's show has certainly got plenty to offer.

As mentioned the show itself takes place on Saturday 25th October at the Mansion House, Dawson Street, Dublin which is in a very central location not far from Grafton Street and there will be two sessions available to choose from.  The early session takes place from 2pm - 5:30pm with the later session taking place from 6pm - 9:30pm.

Tickets must be purchased in advance and cost €37.50 with €10 going towards Downs Syndrome Dublin, a very worthy cause I'm sure you'll agree.  

These can be bought either by calling into the Celtic Whiskey Shop itself at 27-28, Dawson Street, Dublin or by telephoning 01 675 9744 (if in the Republic of Ireland) or 00 353 1 675 9744 (if calling internationally).  

In addition tickets can also be bought by visiting https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/whiskey-live-dublin-2014-tickets-12176392919

With regards content, all exhibitor stands were sold out weeks ago with the following highlighted on a recent e-mail circulating details of the big event.  

Midleton are in attendance showcasing their Single Pot Still range and "hopefully a new release or two", while "The Kilbeggan Distilling Company" shall be presenting their brand new Connemara 22yo (which I shall be reviewing later this week) alongside their even newer Kilbeggan 21yo.

These powerhouses shall be ably supported by: Bushmills, Tullamore Dew, Teeling, Knappogue Castle, Echlinville Distillery, Blackwater Distillery, Dingle Distillery, Green & Yellow Spot, Irish Whiskey Awards, Jack Ryans, The Palace Bar, Alltech Distillery, Walsh Whiskey, Dubliner, Glendalough and the Celtic Cask range which will teasing us with upcoming releases of Seacht, Ocht and Naoi.  

For some more info on the Celtic Cask range feel free to check out a previous review of the "Sé" release by clicking right here.

From Scotland we will see Arran, Glengoyne, BenRiach, GlenDronach, Glenglassaugh, Gordon & McPhail, Benromach, Bowmore, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch plus others and from further afield Suntory, Nikka, Alltech, Jim Beam, Bulleit, Jeffersons, and more TBC, shall all be treating us to their finest releases.

As with most whisky shows there will be plenty of masterclasses on the day for those wanting to either improve their knowledge, get some real insight into a certain distillery or simply get more samples under their belt.  

Four masterclasses will be open to the public with each costing €10 and taking place at the Whiskey Bar, 37, Dawson Street, Dublin.  The public masterclasses are as follows:

1pm - 1:50pm - "Benromach distillery - A classic Speyside"
2pm - 2:50pm - "Benriach Distillery Company - A Decade of Discoveries" 
4pm - 4:50pm - "How to utilize Irish Whiskey in a world class beverage" by Jack McGarry from "The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog" bar New York.
5pm - 5:50pm - "Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey from Midleton Distillery"

Each masterclass is limited to 25 people and can only be booked by, again, either by calling into the Celtic Whiskey Shop or by telephoning.  These tickets are not available online. 

As if all this wasn't enough there will also be a presence from a number of top Dublin restaurants who will be on hand to highlight some fine food pairings to go with your favourite whiskies and the show shall also be partnering with Dublin's top chocolate company "Cocoa Atelier" to again bring some whiskey / chocolate pairings to tantalise the taste buds.

Well......that certainly is one hell of a show they've got planned.  

It goes without saying that I shall be in attendance and after taking part last year, and knowing what to expect, I'm really looking forward to the event and hopefully a lot of you can come along where I'll join you all in raising a glass to a fine day in Dublin.

Until next time,