Saturday, September 29, 2007

Single blend

The Irish tasting was last night. Since it were mostly Connemara variations, it wasn't truly representative of what Irish whiskey is, but it was really enjoyable nevertheless. Seems I haven't been keeping up to date with events in Irish whisky because I learnt that Bushmills is no longer part of Irish Distillers, and is now owned by Diageo.
The tasting was promoting the Cooley distillery products and, as mentioned, Connemara in particular. I guess they market this whisky as their primary brand because it is peated, and bridges the gap between Irish and Scotch whisk(e)y. People who didn't like it claimed it wasn't strong or harsh enough for them. But most attendees agreed it were a few enjoyable drams these relatively new Irish distillers had brought with them.
Aoife O'Sullivan, brand marketer for Cooley, had a hard time fending off some comments from the die-hard Scotch lovers, but managed to keep everybody open minded.
As she expleined some more about how Cooley had originated and how it operated it dawned on me: their Kilbeggan blend was made entirely of their own produce. Part their own malt, and part their own grain whiskey : Kilbeggan was nothing less than a Single Blended whiskey. When I asked her about this, she could not but agree. Perhaps they could stir up the market by marketing it as such... who knows.
The tasting had two gems which I will probably never have the opportunity again to taste. The first being a bottle of their first distillate of Connemara. This 16 year old showed great maturity and had no reason to blush when compared to some fine Scottish peated whiskies.
The second gem was a bottle from a cask they had bottled as 'The Drunken Angel'. The reason for this is because the "angel's share" from this particular barrel had been exceptionally large. Instead of two hundred something bottles only 65 were left in the cask when they opened it. The quality of which was equally exceptional. It was something of a vanilla monster. It opened with full vanilla aroma's then had a short bitter relapse only to come back with superb vanilla cream roundness and lingered on for quite a while. If the angels had had their fair share, they must obviously like vanilla.
Don't look for 'The drunken angel' in shops, you won't find it. It is limited to six tasting sessions and that's it, one of them was the one I attended yesterday.
First tasting of the new season : full score. I had a great time. I almost can't wait until the next.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


The first tastings were announced last week. The first one being an all Irish one. Oh frabjous day!! I love Irish whiskey. No, really! Where most of the people I know care little or not at all about the golden drink of the green island, I love their soft subtlety, their velvety mouth-feel, the memories they bring back. It's a shame so many whisky enthusiasts miss it.
The tasting will be with Aoife O’Sullivan from Cooley distillery, and focuses on the range of Connemara, their staple malt, which is - unlike most Irish - peated.
Perhaps one of the reasons Irish whiskey is overlooked so much is because there aren't as many as Scottish whiskies. The list of Irish malts is short at best, and there aren't even that many blends. But they are all well worth looking into. In fact the Irish malts I know are :
  • Connemara
  • Clontarf
  • Knappogue Castle
  • Locke's Malt
  • Magilligan
  • Magilligan Peated
  • Bushmills
  • The Tyrconnell
But in all fairness you can add to this list the two (as far as I know only) pure pot still whiskies
  • Redbreast
  • Green Spot
And if you like the Irish malts you can also try some of the blends, Jameson being the most well known one, but also keep an eye out for Power's and last but definitely not least Middleton Very Rare, a blend that can easily be mistaken for a malt.
So what's your opinion on the Irish version of my favourite drink?