Tag Archives: Irish Whiskey

Glendalough 13 Year Old

Glendalough Single Malt Irish Whiskey Aged 13 Years
46% ABV
What the Bottler Says:
While we’re talking numbers and lucky numbers… Did you know 13 is Ireland’s luckiest number? For us it means a glimpse at Ireland’s heroic age, a new golden age and a perfect age for an Irish single malt whiskey. This very special whiskey herald’s a second coming of Irish single malt that’s been a long time coming. After almost a century of blends defining Irish whiskey, Glendalough brings you a 13 year old single malt that has put in the hard yards. The style of whiskey that first made Irish whiskey great. The style of whiskey your great grandad drank. And a stylish whiskey whose time to be great is once again. It comes to you with hints of spice, creamy vanilla, biscuity malts, and that unmistakable clout of dedication that embodies the outstanding spirit of Ireland.


The nose is deep butterscotch, honeycomb and rich lemon meringue balanced with citrus fruits and just a hint of a clove spice.

The taste. Jumps to the front with an intense vanilla fudge luxurious sweetness and almost rock candy mixed with touches of fruit – lemon citrus, peach and dried apricot.
This is followed by deep spices; red peppercorn and light cloves. A truly velvety mouth feel that just hovers on the palate.

The finish. The spice is left lingering with under-layers of robust malt characteristics and deep oak notes. And again vanilla fudge reoccurs with a finish that lasts an eternity.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Rich, with dark notes of stewed cherries, raisins, cinnamon, and caramel.
Palate: The flavors are very forwardly sweet. Heavily sugared dark chocolate covering a chocolate orange.
Finish: The finish is a mid length with vanilla cream and polished oak.
Comments: Wow, I’m really impressed with this offering. $90 a bottle is steep for the age but Irish Distillers’ offerings in that age range are all near that price point. I find this to be a very interesting and pleasing offering from Glendalough’s sourced whiskey stock and something that you should try if you are an Irish whiskey fan.
Rating: Must Try

We would like to thank Glendalough for sending us a bottle for review.

Connemara Turf Mor

Connemara Turf Mor Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey
58.2% ABV/116.4 Proof
50+ Euros
Currently available in the UK, Germany, Benelux, and Ireland

What the Distillery Says:
Turf Mor is the latest and 2nd edition to the Small Batch Collection series of Connemara. The first was the highly successful Connemara Sherry Finish, of which sales are now deplete and the product is retired. By bottling it at cask strength with no chill filtration we get a truly phenolic taste experience while still managing to retain Connemara’s distinctive smooth taste. Turf Mor is the Peatiest expression of Connemara with over 50 ppm phenol level. It is a limited edition bottling with less than 20,000 bottle available.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Peat and smoked meat. It reminds me of my buddy Sam’s smoked beef brisket. (I’ll have to ask him what wood he uses) There is also a good bit of fresh apple and a hint of freshly grated ginger.
Palate: Very smokey on the palate but in a different way. It’s more actual wood smoke rather than peaty like an Islay. I’m thinking that is because it’s less briny. Surprisely dry with hints of sweetness.
Finish: Sip it slow and the heat mellows to a smooth warmth that sticks with you. It leave that wood smoke lingering behind.
Comments: I really liked this much more than prior experiences with Connemara. I think it’s a mildly complex dram that offers a different take on smokey whiskey. A very nice warm you up dram on a cold night.
Rating: Stands Out

What Matt Says:
Nose: First hit with a caramel sweetness, then overpowered by peat that swirls around more floral notes (rose petals) and notes of green grain and grasses.
Palate: Peat and tall grasses that coat the mouth.  It seems trite, but it’s very “Irishy” with a boat load of peat.
Finish: Peat and a little bitter with touches of oak around the edges.
Comments: I’ve never been as enthralled with Cooley as the rest of the whiskey writers.  I think everyone is just excited to have another player in the game.  I can sympathize.  I’m a huge supporter of independents and micros as a concept even if I’m not thrilled by the product.  Cooley brought us the first peated Irish whiskey in quite some time and now they are going after the super peat market with Turf Mor.  In some ways this is a success.  I tried it next to the standard Connemara Peated and I have to say that its miles ahead.  Even at cask strength, it is very drinkable.  The nose is intoxicating.  With water, there is a caramel roundness that helps to tame the peat and other vegetation.  However, I find a rawness to this whiskey that I often find from Cooley.  It says to me, “let me sleep a little longer.  A few more years in oak and I’ll be less cranky.”  I’m going to rate this a “Stands Out,” but with a caveat.  It’s not my style.  Turf Mor stands out because there is little to compare it to in it’s category.  How does it rate against the peat monsters from Scotland?  It depends on if you are talking about one of the complex and amazing ones or one of the one trick ponies.  Ultimately, it is distinctly Irish and cannot be directly compared to a Scottish whiskey.
Rating: Stands Out

Overall Rating: Stands Out

We’d also like to thank Rachel Quinn at Cooley and Megan Hurtuk with Gemini for providing us with samples for review.

Do you has?*

Do you think you have what it takes to be a master distiller/blender?  Can you rack a days worth of whiskey single-handed after spending hours on the malt floor?  Do you have the fortitude to sample a hundred barrels and still make it to the pub for a dram and a pint?  If you can think you are (wo)man enough to handle all this and more, do I have a contest for you.

Bushmills has come up with possibly the best contest idea ever.  You can win 30 days at Bushmills distillery working along side Master Distiller Colum Egan.  All you have to do is enter here:  www.facebook.com/bushmills1608.  You will need to submit a statement and a video plea.  The top entrants will be narrowed down through online votes.  The winners of the first round will compete in a three day Bushcamp where they will be subjected to the “Master’s Challenge”.  The winner at Bushcamp will be crowned the global winner and spend 30 days at the distillery.

Good luck, readers!


*apologies to Homestarrunner

Póg mo thóin and call me Paddy!

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I lead a tasting of Irish whiskeys last weekend.  Planning an event like this turned out more difficult than I expected.  With tasting classes on rye, bourbon, and single malt Scotch under my belt, I thought Irish would be a breeze.  There are only four distilleries to choose from after all.  Ah, there’s the rub.  Four distilleries, but dozens of styles and expressions.  How do I choose?  What makes something uniquely “Irish?”  John Hansell posed this very question on WDJK last week.  I’ll let you read through what his readers had to say.  Ultimately, it was decided that Irish whiskey is spirit distilled from grain and aged in oak for a minimum of three years within the confines of either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.  That is quite a broad definition to be sure.  All that you’ve heard about triple distillation, no peat, and pot still* are tradition not law.  Many people say that Cooley completely changed the game.  That’s true, but Midleton produces quite a variety of whiskeys themselves (pure pot stills, blends with and without pot still components, single malts, etc.)  Even the folks at Bushmills don’t stick to the “traditional” recipe of pot still + single malt = blend.  This was troubling because I wanted to pick very “Irish” whiskeys, while staying away from Bushmills White Label and stock standard Jameson.  You can see why I had difficulty coming up with a tasting menu.  With Richard’s help, here’s what I ended up with:

Bushmills 10yo Single Malt (Bushmills) – Using Irish barley, triple distilled and aged for at least 10 years in “mostly bourbon casks,” this whiskey felt very “Scotch-y” to many of us.  I was particularly reminded of Auchentoshen.

Redbreast 12yo (Midleton) – Arguably the most uniquely Irish selection, Redbreast is one of a very few pure pot still whiskeys commercially available.  Unanimously the favorite of the tasting, this dram was praised it’s unique character and liveliness.

Paddy Old Irish Whiskey (Midleton) – A favorite among the Irish in the audience, Paddy surprised many of us.  Many an Irishman cut his whiskey teeth on this one.  Paddy is composed of a high percentage of single malt and a small amount of pot still.  This gives it a malty, caramel character with just a few hints of the green barley poking trough.  Personally, I was impressed with the complexity this dram offers for the value ($35 for a liter).  Careful though, this one has a somewhat hot finish that turned some people off.

Tullamore Dew Blended Irish Whiskey (Midleton) – Tullamore Dew is a blend of single malt, pot still, and grain alcohol.  It is one of the smoothest whiskeys around.  Smooth, but not all that complex.  Those of us who grew up with it have a fondness for this easy drinking dram, but the rest of group wanted something a little more aggressive.

Greenore Single Grain Whiskey (Cooley) – Made completely out of corn, double distilled and aged in bourbon casks for eight years, its no surprise that Greenore tastes very much like bourbon.  I am particularly remind of some of the micro-distilled bourbons (I’m looking at you Tuthilltown).  Several attendees described this as fermented corn flakes.  It was kind of a toss up as to who thought that was a good thing.  I enjoyed it for what it was, but it’s not very Irish to taste like bourbon.

Connemara Peated (Cooley) – Ah, our only peated whiskey.  Some have called Cooley a Scotch distillery that happens to be in Ireland.  This dram is the source of that statement.  I feel the peat in this dram is overstated, creating a somewhat boring peat monster.  There is none of the complexity you will find in its Scottish cousins.  For the group, the peat freaks were mostly with me and the peat haters disliked this one immensely.

There you are, three of four distilleries represented (can’t get actual Kilbeggan yet as far as I know).  I predicted that everyone would fall in love with Redbreast and I was right.  I have yet to find someone who does not enjoy it.  The second most popular was harder to gauge.  I would say there was a pretty even spread.  I don’t know if we learned anything about Irish whiskey, but we did have a good time.

*Pot still whiskey is whiskey produced in a copper pot still from a mash of both green (unmalted) and malted barley.


Whisky On The Hudson ‘09

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you already know that Thursday night was the Whisky Guild’s annual Whisky On The Hudson booze cruise.  You also know that I forgot my ticket and had to wrangle a new one (which makes this the most expensive tasting event I’ve ever attended.  Not the Guild’s fault, but there it is). Despite my ineptitude, Thursday turned out to be a really great night.  I schmoozed with industry insiders, helped turn other attendees on to new things, and most importantly I learned a lot.  I was even surprised a couple of times.

The boat was bigger this year, but the number of presenters was about the same, which made for a more comfortable socializing experience.  The down side was that things looked a little sparse for a while.  I decided to get the lay of the land first and to seek out some friends.  First I headed to a part of the boat where Glenmorangie had set up a little jazz club, where you could taste the whole line (including many Ardbeg’s) and relax a bit.  Of course, there was a mob around the Signet.  Even though I love Glenmorangie, I was on a mission (I grabbed some of the new Ardbeg Supernova on the way out though).  I didn’t want to be sidetracked.  However, I am easily sidetracked.

I found a boat map to help look for the William Grant & Sons tables.  I know I will find Dr. Whisky there.  On my way, I get turned around and end up talking Rick Wasmund of Copper Fox Distillery in Virginia.  Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky (hmm, he leaves out the ‘e’ even though it is an American Single Malt) is a pot stilled whisky that uses barley malted over apple and cherry wood.  I tried it last year and was not impressed, but a trusted source said that they have improved the product, so I was willing to give it a try.  I was pleasantly surprised.  You can taste the influence of the fruit woods, but it does not come off as overly fruity.  It’s bold, round and balanced.  To sweeten the deal, Rick was also pouring an aged rye (containing both rye and his proprietary malted barley) and white dog* of both whiskies.  I’ve tried a lot of white dog in the past couple of months (it seems to be the it whisk(e)y these days).  I have to say, these were my favorites.  The malting process really smoothes out the rough edges commonly associated with white whisky.  The most interesting thing Rick has to offer is a box set that contains two bottles of the white whisky and a miniature charred oak barrel.  You can age your own whisky!  He had a second fill barrel there with five month old whisky.  It was different from the bottled stuff.  The wood was really bold.  This is a must have for any whisky nerd (like myself).  Here’s the rub.  Wasmund’s is only available in the D.C. area right now.  They are working on getting New York distribution, but the rest of the country is still without fruit wood malted single malt.

Once again, I was off to find Dr. Whisky.  He’s always good for a laugh and some quality information.  In route, I caught a glimpse of a Jefferson’s Reserve bottle.  “I wonder if they brought the Presidential Select,” I think to myself.  It’s not on the table.  I ask and they deliver.  Trey Zoeller, V.P. of Bourbon Operations for Castle Brands, comes over and we start talking about this whisky from the now defunct Stitzel-Weller distillery.  This is one of Malt Advocate’s “Must Buy” bourbons (but you already knew that).  It’s every thing John Hansell says it is (we’ll have a formal review someday).  As Trey and I reminisce about dead distilleries (we agree that the Hirsch <Michter’s> 16yo is superior to the 20yo), he tells me that he has another batch of this Stitzel-Weller bourbon that he plans to release next year as Jefferson’s Presidential Select 18yo.  I can’t wait.

Finally, I make it back to the Balvenie table where I find a bearded(!) Dr. Whisky pouring the entire Balvenie line.  We have a chat and I try the new 17yo (Madeira cask).  This is a good one folks.  I was a little disappointed with the Rum cask 17yo from last year.  The palate did not deliver on what the nose promised.  The Madeira 17yo is just the opposite.  The nose is a little weak and uninteresting, but it really delivers on flavor.  Later, I came back and tried the 21yo.  A very fine dram indeed.

Much of the remainder of the night was a flurry of schmoozing and tasting (I even ran into Mark Gillespie of WhiskyCast).  I reacquainted myself with the Glenlivet 15yo (aged in virgin charred Limousin oak).  Limousin oak is used in Cognac barrels and is tricky to work with but it makes a damn fine whisky.  The 15yo is the only Glenlivet to use Limousin oak casks.  This specialty oak gives the whisky a richness and boldness that round out and compliment the sharp, fruity qualities common to Glenlivet.  This is smoother and richer than the standard expression.

I had the opportunity to try the PC6 and PC7 (both distilled at Bruichladdich).  These are both good drams with a fair amount of peat.  I prefer the PC6.

Dave Conroy of International Beverage Company, Inc., took me through his whiskies from Mull and Islay.  I don’t remember ever trying Bunnahabhain before and I think I would remember an unpeated Islay.  I liked it at every age.  There is a sweetness and complexity that I associate more with the mainland.  This is very approachable whisky.  Dave also introduced me to Tobermory and Ledaig (both from the Isle of Mull).  Really good stuff, the Ledaig especially is a must try for any peat lovers out there.

Other things that stood out for me that night were the Knappogue Castle 1995 Irish whisky, the Hibiki 12yo Blended Japanese whisky, Deanston 30yo, and Tuthilltown’s New York Whiskey.  However, the topper had to be the tasting lab led by Master Ambassador for Laphroaig, Simon Brooking.  We tasted peated barley, he lit a peat brick on fire, and each dram was accompanied by a song (or a joke) and a toast.  Simon is a real showman.  We tasted Ardmore 30yo (loved it), Laphroaig 10yo, Quarter Cask, 15yo, 18yo, and 25yo.  I really like the Quarter Cask (and the 25yo of course).  The 18yo is a new addition that will be replacing the 15yo.  They are very different whiskies, so if you are a fan of the 15yo, stock up.  Personally, I prefer the 15yo, but I seem to be among the minority in the critics’ circles.  Maybe I’ll have to give it another go in a less overwhelming setting.

So, that was my Whisky on the Hudson experience.  I’m already looking forward to next year.  The Whisky Guild does several of these events around the country each year.  You should check it out.

* “White dog” is a common term for whisky straight from the still (non-matured, no water added).  I’m not sure if Wasmund’s non-matured whisky is unwatered or not, but it is pretty high proof.

Drink well.  Drink responsibly.