Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Teeling Single Cask - Cask 926 - Madeira Finish - Review

As Irish Whiskey continues to grow it is obvious to many that The Teeling Whiskey Company are right at the forefront of it's growth.  Since their formation, in 2012, they have set a high standard with excellent general releases and the opening, in 2015, of their brand new distillery and visitors centre.

As mentioned, the general releases coming from The Teeling Whiskey Company are of a very good standard and this has allowed them to build a solid reputation, but if you want to delve deeper into the treasure trove of whiskeys they have in their possession then you should look a little further.

A more detailed internet search will reveal a wealth of other bottlings that should rouse the interest of any whiskey lover.  The main bulk of these bottlings are single malt, single casks that have been finished in a range of interesting woods and it is one of these type of bottlings that I wish to talk about.

Back in July 2015 the Celtic Whiskey Club sent it's members out a sample of such a bottling.  This was a sample of a Teeling Single Cask that had been finished in a Madeira barrel.  Initially distilled in 2002, at "an undisclosed distillery in the North of Ireland", the spirit was matured in a refill Bourbon barrel before being finished in a Madeira barrel for a period of a year.

The cask was number 926 which yielded 315 bottles at a natural cask strength of 55.9% ABV.  These were obviously bottled without chill-filtration and without the addition of any colouring.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Sweet with the malt and Madeira.  Distinctly "North of Ireland" and much like the Bushmills 10 year old.  Slight grassy note and quite green with green apple and unripe banana.  Wood influence is slightly understated.  Feels like the Bourbon barrel was quite tired and the Madeira barrel has had more of a say with some sweet, dried fruit and a little damp, dusty note.  Subtle clove and black pepper.  We now get more of the Madeira notes with some orange oil and over ripe red apple.  The spirit still has a nice vibrancy and the balance isn't too bad.  With time a little creamy vanilla comes through and binds the flavours together.  With water the experience instantly becomes more like Christmas cake with touches of cinnamon.  The madeira influence is coming into it's own and works well with the malt.

Palate - Sour, bitter arrival.  Moves towards the sweet momentarily before jolting into pepper and clove.  As the heat eases we drift back to sweet red apple and orange but the spice continues to linger in the background.  With water the sour arrival is balanced out towards the sweet fruits.  Emphasis is on red apple, red currant and old wood.  The spices still try to have their say but are much more subdued.  The light vanilla also makes an appearance on the palate and again brings it all together.

Finish - Decent length with more red apple and dry spice.  Fruity to the end and becoming fresher, with water, as the spice seems to die first giving the dram a moreish feel.

Overall this is a good, decent dram.  Classic young Bushmills with a nice Madeira touch, almost like a younger brother to the Bushmills 21 year old.  When poured neat, the spirit is a little on the feisty side.  It definitely takes a little water to calm it down and bring the flavours together, but it's very worthwhile to get a new Bushmills experience.

This sample was of particular interest to me as I have a very similar bottle in the house, except my bottle comes from cask number 935 and was bottled at 55.5% ABV, and the whole time I was sipping at this sample I couldn't help but think that cask 926 just wasn't quite as good as cask 935. 

This, however, only backs up what I have said before in that this is what makes single cask bottlings so interesting.  Never will you get two casks the same and this will lead to each cask delivering a different experience into each bottle that comes from that cask.  For me, this alone is reason enough to seek these bottles out.  What I find excellent, others may find slightly disappointing or vice versa, but this only adds to the enjoyment of whiskey.

Lastly I would like to make one other point.  While I have been mentioning Bushmills, quite a lot through this "Teeling" review, I would like to heap praise upon The Teeling Whiskey Company. 

Everyone should be obviously aware that Teeling are a new distillery, and naturally can't have their own spirit at this age, so therefore they have to have stock from other distilleries in order to get their name out there.  But what they also have is the skill and expertise in order to make sure that the liquid in a "Teeling" bottle lives up to the reputation they are aiming for.

As we have seen, a little too often, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to obtain stock from elsewhere and throw it into a hastily released product.  But what we have also seen is that this only leads to poor quality products which reflect badly on an industry that is trying so very hard to make a strong name for itself.

What Teeling are doing, however, is ensuring that, through excellent cask management and innovative ideas, they are strengthening the name of Irish whiskey and one can almost be certain that this will continue long past the time when their own spirit will be ready for bottling.

Until next time,



Monday, 18 April 2016

Redbreast - Single Cask 1999 - Review

For many years now people have asked me what my favourite Irish whiskey is and while it may change occasionally, depending on my particular mood, the answer they usually get is "Redbreast 12 year old".  I've always found myself drawn towards the Redbreast family for their superb use of sherry maturation combined with some of the finest Irish Single Pot Still whiskeys you could find.

I've attended many a tasting, sat in many bars and have even been lucky enough to taste some samples straight from the barrel, and I'm always taken aback by the wonderful flavours coming from the Redbreast whiskeys.  From the smooth and creamy 12 year old to the heavy hitting cask sample of 17yo, Oloroso matured, Single Pot Still, that bordered on the meaty side of the flavour spectrum, they all have their place in the Redbreast family.

Last year we were treated to a new release in the form of the Redbreast "Mano a Lámh", a dram I've still to review, and this year those at Midleton, and The Whisky Exchange, haven't let us down, although they may have let our bank managers down.

In March 2015 Billy Leighton, master blender at Midleton Distillery, brought two Redbreast single barrel samples over to the staff at The Whisky Exchange and after hosting a tasting, with their customers, barrel #30087 was selected to be bottled and exclusively sold through the online retailer.

Cask #30087 was first crafted back in 1996, at the Antonio Paez Lobato Cooperage in Southern Spain and was subsequently toasted and seasoned with Oloroso sherry at the Paez Morilla Bodega until 1999.  The cask then enjoyed a journey to Midleton where it was filled with Single Pot Still spirit and laid to rest, in warehouse M15A, until August 2015, some 16 years and 147 days later.

The whiskey was removed and bottled, without chill filtration and at a strength of 59.9% ABV, for sale through The Whisky Exchange's website.  It is now found online, after being fully released a couple of months ago, at the handsome price of £180 and it's also worth noting that this is naturally a limited release with only 576 bottles being made available for sale.

I've always suggested that I would be loathe to pay such a price for any bottle of whiskey but thankfully I managed to get a small sample of this awesome sounding dram for review.  As much I was looking forward to tasting the liquid I was also looking forward to seeing if this could change my mind and make me think that I'd spend such an amount on a bottle of my favourite spirit.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Rich and indulgent with intensely sweet sherry.  Alcohol soaked dried fruits, deepest, darkest Christmas cake.  Slight nuttiness, peppery red fruit and mixed berry compote.  A little delicate note of cream appears and gives it a slight blackcurrant cheesecake feel.  This is most definitely a sherry bomb and while not quite as "meaty" as the sample I mentioned earlier,  it's definitely on the right track.  With water the dram opens up to allow orange and apple to come through.  Water also gives the fruit a distinct freshness, almost like a fruit salad, while also bringing out older notes of the wood.  Impressive, very impressive.

Palate - Thick and velvety.  Fantastic mouthfeel like a thick berry coulis.  Nutty notes from the nose continue before moving onto intense peppery spice.  The spice seems to be a gorgeous mix of wood spice and the pot still elements.  You really need to "chew" through the sherry to reveal a little stewed apple, think apple and blackberry crumble.  Deep stewed orange and a little vanilla cream also come through.  With water the mouthfeel, naturally, thins out but it does not lose any of it's gorgeous flavours.  If anything it has softened the sherry down just enough to allow the red fruits to really come into their own and it still retains a lovely dry oak spice.

Finish - Is very good with spicy red fruits lingering on and on in the mouth.  Delicious.  A word of warning though, in my opinion this needs only a little water.  This is definitely a dram to take care with so start with very little water and work up the way if required.

Overall this is quite simply stunning.  It hits all the right notes in all the right places and you could easily spend a couple of hours with one glass, just to let it open up naturally and reveal all it's hidden depths.  Having previously tried, and enjoyed, the sample from the warehouse it's so good to see a general release that's in the same ballpark. 

Earlier I mentioned that it would be interesting to see if this whiskey could encourage me to spend £180 and do you know what?  I think it maybe just has.  It really is utterly fantastic.

Until next time,



Monday, 4 April 2016

Echlinville - Port Morant Rum Finish - Preview / Review

While attending last years "Whiskey Live Dublin" I was lucky enough, whilst chatting at the Echlinville stand, to nab a sneak preview sample of a whiskey they shall be hopefully releasing later this year.

Since establishing themselves, not far from Belfast on the Ards peninsula, Echlinville have been quietly going about their business.  Not only have they set about producing their own spirit, which is already maturing away in a range of casks, but they have also revived the much revered "Dunville's" brand.

This revival has continuously gathered momentum with the Dunville's 10yo PX Sherry Finish recently picking up the award for "Best Irish Single Malt - 12years & under" at the World Whiskies Awards......for the second year running.

Now they are planning to add to their range of finished whiskeys with a new release later this year.

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 seem to have pulled out all the stops and managed to get their hands on rum casks from the exclusive Port Morant distillery in Guyana.

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

The sample I received was after the whiskey had only been in the casks for a few weeks but the finished release will have seen the whiskey being possibly finished for up to a year which may make this a 15yo release.

For information the sample I received was at 50% ABV but it remains to be seen what strength the final release shall come out at. 

I would also just highlight that this is obviously no more than a general indication as to the quality of the whiskey, and how it may fare with a serious rum finish, and 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 - Initial note is of intense tropical fruit, banana, pineapple and a little melon.  There's also a little green apple going on in here.  Creamy vanilla combines delightfully with the fruit to give a sense of a glorious dessert.  Fruit salad sweets.  A little dusty old oak comes through and is almost sherry in nature.  There's also a little prickly spice but not too much and the whole experience is very well balanced.  Rum notes are present but are very subtle with rum and raisin ice cream.  Definite sense of dried fruit which only backs up the sherry feel.  With water the oak is toned down and the fruits seem to marry together like a stew.  Touches of orange also appear.

Palate - Rich and indulgent.  Initial hit is of serious oak maturation which is dry and spicy.  This gives way to more of the tropical fruit salad flavours.  Banana and green apple are to the fore.  We then move back to the wood influence with more dusty dried fruits that ease into a spicy dry pepper.  Quite complex and delicious.  With water the fruity notes of the spirit appear to be elevated with a distinct zing about them.

Finish - Fresh apple and dry spice with decent length.  A little buttered note appears right at the end.

Overall I'm impressed.  If this is a sign of where Echlinville is heading then they've got my attention.  It seems that with this 14yo, and the previously mentioned 10yo, Echlinville are getting their hands on some great whiskey and putting their own touch on it with some amazing casks. 

This whiskey has already taken on fine fine notes of tropical rum and could be an absolute beast of a whiskey come its release date.

The only thing to query is what price the finished product shall hit the shelves at?  My answer would be that, as along is it's not outrageous, it should be well worth it.

I'm genuinely starting to get excited about the direction Echlinville is heading.  All I can say to them is please give us more of he same and roll on the day your own spirit is ready for us all to enjoy.

Until next time,