Google Oscar Wilde And Other Crazy Irish

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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

December 20, 2021


Oscar Wilde And Other Crazy Irish

Remember this incredibly unlikely old advert for Jameson's? How times have changed since 1968! Let's have a good few Irish (and northern Irish) whiskies, as they come, without any order or law.

Bushmills 2014/2021 (47.3%, Dumangin J. Fils, ratafia finish, Batch 017, 282 bottles)

Bushmills 2014/2021 (47.3%, Dumangin J. Fils, ratafia finish, Batch 017, 282 bottles) Four stars
The house Dumangin are Champagne makers in Chigny, near Reims. As is traditional over there, they also make 'ratafia champenois', which is a 'muté' wine, that is to say that they stop fermentations by adding eau-de-vie. The best ratafia makers would then let their output mature in oak casks, although the majority would use stainless steel. The house Dumangin would then let various sourced whiskies being finished in some empty ratafia casks, in this very case they kept some six years old Bushmills for twelve further months. This is really a first for me, thank you Philippe… Colour: by the way, I like good ratafia a lot, it's become fashionable again. The colour is gold. Nose: I would tend to believe that Bushmills' usual buoyant fruitiness and the ratafia would overlap in small parts, which is absolutely fine, on the contrary. So no dissonances whatsoever here, rather apricots and raisins, tiny touches of rose petals, rambutans, whiffs of jasmine and honeysuckle, a few small mangos as expected, and probably some overripe pears. A small chalky side too, not sure where that came from. From the cellar or the chai? Mouth: you could almost call this Bushmills plus, or believe that the finishing in ratafia sped-up the maturation. Feels like a ten or a twelve, really. Chalky raisins, stewed peaches, honey sauce, a touch of olive oil, oranges, a little mango 'if we must'… It's all very good. Finish: long and rather more on cakes and tartes. Apricot tarte covered with honey, ground cinnamon and roasted chopped almonds. Hungry yet? Oranges and a little ginger from the ratafia cask in the aftertaste. Comments: it does not feel like a finishing at all and that's no bad news in my book. I'm usually not a sucker for regional experiments, but in this very case, it worked a treat. Ratafia, of course!

SGP:641 - 87 points.

Cooley 2009/2021 'Single Grain' (47.1%, Dumangin J. Fils, ratafia finish, Batch 016, 258 bottles)

Cooley 2009/2021 'Single Grain' (47.1%, Dumangin J. Fils, ratafia finish, Batch 016, 258 bottles) Two stars and a half
Same set-up, a twelve months finish in an ex-ratafia champenois cask. The house's website is suggesting that this would be single grain Irish whiskey distilled twice at Cooley's, which may sound a little odd, but remember that's what they do/did indeed at Cooley's. Colour: darker gold. Nose: indeed, feels like grain, with some butterscotch, touches of varnish, popcorn, Frappuccino (don't laugh), toffee, then these earthy raisins that we had already found in the Bushmills. Surely a fatter grain whisky than your average grain whisky, now remember that if this is Cooley's Greenore indeed, it's maize. Mouth: this feeling of coffee-schnaps, easter eggs, syrups, wine gums, coconut balls… Well, this is not quite for me. I should have tried this one before the awesome Bushmills, this feels a bit like if they had added a second layer of sweetness. Finish: short, sweet. Comments: some double-sweet grain whisky, how funny. I'm sure this style will find its afficionados.

SGP:730 - 78 points.

Kilbeggan 'Single Pot Still' (43%, OB, Irish, 2019)

Kilbeggan 'Single Pot Still' (43%, OB, Irish, 2019) Two stars and a half
Made in the old Kilbeggan Distillery, which had been restarted in 2010. I haven't checked yet but single pot still would suggest a set-up like this, first run -> receiver -> second run in same pot still. How very discontinuous! Unless it is a single double-pot still… or just marketing speak. Colour: straw. Nose: lemon curd all over the place, gym socks, raw wool, mashed turnips, lime, fermenting hay, damp oatcakes… I'm wondering if they haven't had a go at bacterial fermentation while no one was watching… Mouth: loads and loads of sultanas at first, then bonbons and white pepper, in a rather dissociated way. Some soft nougat, then mashed cereals. Not a very common profile, both thin in the middle and dense on the periphery. Does that make sense? Finish: medium, fine now. The sultanas are back, with oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: an unusual drop, pretty nice actually. Perhaps not exactly for Ardbeg fans.
SGP:640 - 79 points.

J.J. Corry 'The Gael Batch 2' (46%, OB, 2,800 bottles, autumn 2019)

J.J. Corry 'The Gael Batch 2' (46%, OB, 2,800 bottles, autumn 2019) Two stars and a half
A blend of 60% malt and 40% grain. Found this in London, not sure it ever reached our shores. Colour: straw. Nose: vanilla and scones running the show, plus touches of pears and pineapples. This reminds of ancient Tullamore Dew, in a way. Not earthshattering but pleasant, I'm just not sure I'll remember it… Mouth: sweet and easy blend, of good quality, sweet, with some brioche, icing sugar, sweet beers, sugar cubes, candyfloss… The 46% vol. work really well, as always. Finish: shortish but sweet and pleasant. Sugar in the aftertaste. Comments: sweet indeed, and perfectly all right for a NAS  blend.

SGP:640 - 78 points.

Waterford 'Cooladine 1.1' (50%, OB, for South Africa, 2020)

Waterford 'Cooladine 1.1' (50%, OB, for South Africa, 2020) Four stars and a half
This one from Navigate World Whisky's racing stable. I'm now lost with all these single farms and just wouldn't remember them all, but in the words of the great Lemmy Kilmister, 'I can't remember them but I'll never forget them'. Colour: gold. Nose: cool bassline indeed, classic bread and chalk and barley and nectarines and croissants. Some fatness coming through, already. Sunflower oil. Mouth: superbly fermentary and reminding me of Jamaican rums. Not as far as flavours are concerned, naturally, but the texture and the wideness of the fermentations feel a little similar on the palate. Very solid body and in that sense, it is not Irish (but of course it is). Kumquats chiming in after a short while, white pepper, some chalky lemons, tight aligoté (wine lovers special)… Finish: long and wide. Lemon bread. Some kind of Sicilian focaccia? Have to go there check that, which I was about to do before Omicron, mind you. Earthier aftertaste. Comments: a very lousy blogger would have concluded this like this: Cooladine is cool. Afraid of nothing.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

Wait, isn't Waterford about comparisons?...

Waterford 'Knockroe 1.1' (50%, OB, for South Africa, 2020)

Waterford 'Knockroe 1.1' (50%, OB, for South Africa, 2020) Four stars and a half
Oh, just saw that's there's a cabsauv in Stellenbosch called Waterford Estate! So I would suppose 'someone' could do a Waterford Waterford Finish, no? Good, that's gonna be a glass of Meursault and a pub-size pack of crisps. Colour: light gold. Nose: chalkier yet, muddier would I add, even more fermentary, more on weissbeer, grist, button mushrooms, and just a large dough roll in a good bakery, around 4.5am.This is invigorating. Mouth: we're much closer to the Cooladine. I wouldn't want to down 750ml of each to try to list all the nuances; the whole concept is very hazardous indeed (drop the Meursault, but keep the pack of crisps). Finish: sameish. Comments: I find some vattings, such as the biodynamic Luna or that Gaia a wee tad deeper, but we're flying high anyway. Great selections, South Africa!

SGP:551 - 88 points.

Something even madder from Ireland, perhaps…

Knappogue Castle 25 yo 1996/2021 (53.1%, La Maison du Whisky, Ex-libris, 'The Remarkable Rocket')

Knappogue Castle 25 yo 1996/2021 (53.1%, La Maison du Whisky, Ex-libris, 'The Remarkable Rocket') Five stars
I find these labels by LMDW sublime, as I am a fan of Ex-libris myself and do actually own a wee collection. Whenever I start my own bottling series (like, around the year 2078), I promise I'll make good use of that wee collection. What's more, the name 'The Remarkable Rocket' alone sounds furiously Dada, or even pataphysical… It is actually the name of a short story by Oscar WIlde, but may I suggest a Grande Gidouille Collection next year? Colour: straw. Nose: just as sublime as the label. Coulée de Serrant and, indeed, Meursault (not obligatorily from Coche's or the Comtes') Please call the Anti-maltoporn brigade or I don't take any responsibility anymore. With water: chalk, lemon, lime, oysters, grist, engine oil, lady's moisturiser, grapefruit, fresh baguette, green bananas… The list would be endless. Mouth (neat): utter perfection. Lime, maracuja, granny smith, riesling, limestone, and an avalanche of tinier, even tarter flavours. Did you ever hear of Buddha's hand, for example? With water: more Coulée de Serrant. Did you call the Brigade? Finish: did you? Comments: only reduction has to be done with circumspection, the rest is a bed of Irish roses. What a fabulous whisky, one of the very best of 2021 for sure.

SGP:651 - 93 points.

Knappogue Castle 25 yo 1995/2021 (50.9%, La Maison du Whisky, Ex-libris, 'The Devoted Friend') Four stars and a half
I remember a Knappogue 1995 'Twin Wood' that had been excellent a few years ago (WF 86 in spite of a weakish strength of 40% vol.) Colour: light gold. Nose: rounder, oilier, more on sunflower oil, but absolutely wonderful too. We'll keep this short. With water: tropical fruits and fresh wood. Awesome but his '95 hasn't quite got the insane depth of the '96, in my humble opinion. Mouth (neat): mangos all over the place, as well as mango eau-de-vie. That's maybe a wee tad simplistic at this point, but I may be nit-picking. With water: superb, just a tad sweet. Melons, mangos, papayas, plus any syrups or liqueurs made thereof. Finish: medium, extremely fruity and sweet, almost bonbony. Comments: now I understand why they would have called this one 'The Devoted Friend'. It's a very friendly whisky indeed but in my little book, the 1996 rather crushes it. By the way, The Devoted Friend's is another short story by Oscar Wilde, who spent a lot of time in Paris and passed away there in 1900.

SGP:741 - 88 points.

But it is a trilogy, as Richard W. would have said…

Knappogue Castle 27 yo 1994/2021 (50.3%, La Maison du Whisky, Ex-libris, 'The Happy Prince')

Knappogue Castle 27 yo 1994/2021 (50.3%, La Maison du Whisky, Ex-libris, 'The Happy Prince') Five stars
We'll keep this very short, we haven't got much of it anyway. We'll do some micro-dramming (an expression coined by our dear Maniacal friend Peter Silver – R.I.P. Peter). Colour: straw. Nose: typical mango-y and banana-y extravaganza, in the style of the famous 1988-1992 unnamed Bushmills (oops) that many indies have had in the not so distant past. Mouth: extremely sweet and fruity, syrupy, liqueury and tropical. Pink grapefruits, passion fruits, mangos and friends. Finish: rather long, pretty thick, fruity and sweet. Comments: some would say it's even a little pushy, but it's brilliant fruity whisky, extravagant and boisterous. The 27 years do not quite show and I don't think you could make them any fruitier. What we used to call an utter fruit bomb.

SGP:841 - 90 points.

What a trilogy that was! I'm not sure any other Irish could ever surpass those, so let's call this a session, thank you.

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