Irish Whiskey Tasting – 17th March 2017

St Patrick's day 2017 landed on a Friday, so we just had to do an Irish Whiskey Tasting.

Irish whiskey has over the last few years been going through a renaissance.  I put this down to following the 2008 recession, the Irish discovered that they had this excellent product that they could sell worldwide, however is more likely down to a more evolutionary movement starting earlier.

 Guests

A Quick History of Irish Whiskey.

First of all the Irish spell it with an E – W H I S K E Y. Irish whiskey was certainly up to the beginning of the 20th Century was every bit as popular as Scotch. The Irish didn’t embrace The Continuous Still as much as the Scots, concentrating on Copper Pot Still, making a more premium (expensive) product. The main export markets up to the First World War were The British Empire, and the USA. Following the Revolution, and the establishment of the Republic in the 1920’s, Irish products were not selling in the Empire, and the USA introduced prohibition – 1919, so the export markets collapsed.

By the 1960’s the industry was really struggling so the remaining Republic Distillers joined together and consolidated production at Midleton Distillery in County Cork, while Bushmills continued in the North, County Antrim. When we started The Wee Dram in 1998 there were only 3 distilleries – Midleton and Bushmills both owned by Pernod Ricard and Cooley distillery in County Louth owned by John Teeling.

Today there are 30 distilleries – about 21 operating fully and 9 which are in various stages of building, all have begun in the last 8-9 years.

Today Irish Whiskey employs about 5000 people and exports for 2016 were 505 million Euros to 135 countries. The Republic of Ireland (excluding Bushmills) is now the 3rd exporter of spirits next to UK and USA

 

The Whiskies

As in Scotland Irish Whiskey has to be 3 years old before you can call it Whiskey and as nearly all the new Irish distillers don't have spirit over 3 years old all our whiskies for the evening were made at different distilleries to the ones selling it.

 

FeckinFeckin 40%    Buy

Blended at  Echlinville Distillery, founded by Shane Braniff, in 2012, been producing since 2013, - 1st new Licensed Distillery in Northern Island for 125 years. It’s a Modern state of the art distillery situated on the Echlinville Estate, not far from Belfast.This whiskey Feckin is predominantly from Cooley Distillery, matured and blended at Echlinville. The word actually means to throw something, or keep a lookout. It is also widely used to mean to steal.I love the way that the marketing doesn’t take themselves too serious, but  The whiskey is very serious. A great all round typical Irish blend, light and gentle.

 

Glendalough Double Barrel Glendalough Double Barrel Grain – 42%   Buy

Glendalough means  “Glen of two lakes” the Distillery is situated in the Wicklow Mountains just south of Dublin.Set up in 2015 by 5 friends from Wicklow and Dublin in 2015, it styles itself as Ireland’s first craft distillery.

This bottling is a Grain whiskey made on a Coffey Still, using corn and malted barley.I don’t know for sure but I think this has been made at Cooley on their predominantly copper Coffey still, with some of the maturing, finishing and bottling being done at Glendalough. The spirit is then matured first in Ex-bourbon American Oak casks, and then in ex-Oloroso sherry casks. The lighter style you get from this type of still really picks up the flavour of the wood well.

 

Tullamore D.E.W Single Malt 14y/o 41.3%         Buy

The DEW stands for Daniel E. Williams who started off as the Stable Boy at the distillery, then called Daly’s distillery in the town of Tullamore. He ended up as the owner. Production was switched to Powers in Dublin during the sixties, only to be moved to Midleton. The brand was a blend also using casks from Bushmills. 

Tullamore 14In 2014 the brand was brought by William Grant, of Glenfiddich and Grants blend fame. They have rebuilt the distillery just outside of Tullamore, and it is now producing again. They use traditional Irish methods, triple distillation and using some un-malted barley. The Spirit is a high 80% ABV when it comes off the stills, suggesting a light, purer spirit.

This bottling is 14 y/o single malt. Obviously from the time when Tullamore Dew was part of Irish Distillers. Triple Distilled, American Oak matured and then Finished in Sherry, Port and Madeira Casks. The soft delicate triple distillation picks up the complexity from the different casks, lots of flavour.

 

Teeling Single Malt 46%     Buy

Owned by a couple of great guys Jack and Stephen Teeling, their Dad John Teeling started Cooley Distillery. The Teeling Whiskey Company was founded by Jack in 2012, his brother Stephan joined in 2013. The distillery, a 10 million euro project, is situated in Dublin, in an area of town called “The Liberties” once a centre for distilling and where Walter Teeling an ancestor of Jack’s had a distillery in the 18th century.The new distillery opened June 2015, the first to be built in Dublin for 125 years. They use traditional triple distillation with an Intermediate still, just like Auchentoshan.

This whiskey, was made at Cooley when it was run by the Teeling Family – Jack and Stephen along with their Dad John. Cooley was sold to Jim Beam Brands in December 2011.John originally brought Cooley because at the time in 1989 all Irish whiskey was owned by the French, Pernod Richard. During the 90’s the distillery struggled. My informants tell me that the family did not want to sell to Beam, but during the tough times their shareholding had dropped to 49%.Teeling

John Teeling has brought the old Harp Larger brewery in Dundalk, put in some stills and is making whiskey again.

 

Glendalough 13y/o 46%

Glendalough 13Another offering from Glendalough, 13 is a lucky number in Ireland. Honestly.

This bottling could be Whiskey from Cooley or Bushmills, big bodied, tasty and complex.

 

Dunville’s 10y/o 46%     Buy

Another offering from Echlinville. Dunville and Co were a family owned distillery and tea importer, very famous in Victorian times hence the VR on the bottle. Their most popular whisky, Dunvilles VR, was launched when Victoria ascended the throne in 1837.The company was liquidated in 1936.Dunville

This bottling reviving the old name has won the World Whiskey Awards – Best Irish single malt under 12 years in 2015, 2016 & now 2017. Finished in PX sherry casks, and has that chocolate rich sweet flavours we expect from PX casks.