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

January 10, 2024


A Little Journey
in Ireland

It had been a long while since we'd done this. It's important not to forget that not so long ago, the world of Irish whiskey was dominated by Midleton and all its brands in the Republic of Ireland, and Bushmills, whether blended or malt, in Northern Ireland. And both entities were owned by the same proprietor, Irish Distillers, so Pernod Ricard. A lot has changed since then; even Paddy has been handed over to Sazerac. And the new 'distilleries', whether operational or not, following the American model, have become too numerous to count. Let's try to take a mini tour, nose to the wind, somewhat at random...

Confiture de Vieux Garçon
(Casa e Comida)



Lost Irish Whiskey (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2022)

Lost Irish Whiskey (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2022) Two stars and a half
'A modern Irish whiskey as adventurous as you are', they say. It's a blend of grain, malt and 'pure' pot still, aged (well, finished, I suppose) in casks from 6 continents (here we go). So S-A brandy, mizunara, sherry, bourbon, rum, Australian 'Port' and Colombian rum. They also say it's triple-distilled, so I suppose the grain was done in pot stills. The bottle is lovely. Colour: yellow. Nose: some vinous notes, vanilla, a hint of coconut, peach and melon, English sweets, marshmallow... It's light, pleasant, quite refreshing, and remains Irish in style, but the palate will tell the truth. Mouth: It's really very light, the woody notes and a touch of sweet wine are discernible, along with orchard fruits, not so ripe banana, a bit of aspartame (Coca Zero Sugar), apple peel... Finish: short, woodier Comments: really quite charming. The casks make their presence felt a bit too much for me.

SGP:540 - 78 points.

West Cork 'Maritime Release' (43%, OB, Irish single malt, virgin oak cask, +/-2023)

West Cork 'Maritime Release' (43%, OB, Irish single malt, virgin oak cask, +/-2023) Two stars and a half
Awesome bottle! I suppose you could reuse it to grow avocados once you've emptied it. This was actually finished in Kelvin cooperage virgin oak casks. Good to know, I suppose. West Cork Distillery has now a capacity of 4 million LPAs a year, which is quite huge, think Glenfarclas. Now Midleton is close to 70 million LPA altogether. Colour: pale gold. Nose: I like this better than last time I tried some West Cork, there is a pleasant bready sourness with some nice notes of dough and all things fermentative, plus apples and bananas. It does not reek of fresh-sawn plank at all, rather of some farmyard. Mouth: like it. Nothing to do with the earlier 'Glengarrifs'. Some good cider, pear juice, cinnamon and ginger, gingerbread, lavender drops, caraway…  Finish: medium, with the expected oak spices but things remained under control. Pepper and tea tannins in the aftertaste, plus more pears yet and some salinity. Comments: To be honest, I had braced myself for a few difficulties, so I was positively surprised. And I love the bottle.

SGP:450 - 79 points.

Fercullen (46%, OB, Irish single malt, +/-2023)

Fercullen (46%, OB, Irish single malt, +/-2023) Three stars
I've already tasted two excellent Fercullen 'Powerscourt' of a good age, which were actually Cooley, but never 'Fercullen' as such, that is really coming from the Powerscourt distillery, which started production in 2018. The good news is that it's 100% ex-bourbon, so no red wine cask was mistreated for this bottling. Ha. Colour: white wine. Nose: we're back to fresh bread at the start, but this time it then moves on to lilac, fresh pineapple, cranberry, green apple, elderflower... You have to like elderflower, but I do. Mouth: it's very fruity, fresh, Irish, 'triple-distilled', with a variety of beers, pineapple again, grapefruit, hops... The wood hasn't had time to fully integrate but that's perfectly normal, we're not on sawdust juice either. Finish: medium, fresh, fruity, pleasant. Some green earl grey tea at the end. Comments: a fine success for a necessarily young NAS. There must be some science in there.
SGP:650 - 82 points.

Waterford 'Argot' (47%, OB, Irish single malt, 2023)

Waterford 'Argot' (47%, OB, Irish single malt, 2023) Four stars
Always inspired by the world of fine wines, the folks at Waterford here shift from Burgundy-esque hyper-terroir concepts to the more Bordeaux-like 'second wines'. In short, this 'Argot', a word meaning 'slang', is somewhat the Pavillon or the Alter Ego of Waterford, although it's difficult to apply the concept of young vines to barley, which is an annual plant, as everyone knows. Colour: gold. Nose: indeed, we're on pure, almost rustic barley, then fresh marzipan, Jaffa cakes, marmalade, lime blossom, candle wax, and then there's a tiny hint of wild strawberry. So, simplified Waterford? Not really. In fact, it's a bit like a dry Chenin from Loire. Yes, indeed. Palate: it's pretty successful, a bit more marked by the spices of the wood than the other 'cuvées', as if the substance was indeed lighter. I must be dreaming. Lemon, grapefruit, English champagne (hey, I'm jesting), some beech and pine ash, vineyard peaches, elderflower again... You could concoct a spritz from this Waterford. Finish: quite long, a bit smoky (is there peat?) and more maritime. Pink bananas at the very end of the palate. Comments: talking about a second wine, they do everything to downplay this cuvée, a kind of Catholic coquetry, it seems. I do not agree, not at all.

SGP:651 - 87 points.

As long as we're doing the unusual...

Teeling 'Pineapple Rum Cask' (49.2%, OB, Irish blend, 2023)

Teeling 'Pineapple Rum Cask' (49.2%, OB, Irish blend, 2023) Three stars and a half
Some kind of collaboration between Teeling and the house Ferrand/Plantation. I think some pineapple has been in use. Well, given that we find pineapple in many Irish whiskeys, like Bushmills or Cooley indeed, looks like this time we're going to be served even more pineapple. Colour: straw. Nose: I'm not quite sure where we are, but adding pineapple to pineapple just reinforces the pineapple aspect of the drink, right? To be honest, it's not bad, especially since there's also prairie honey, ripe bananas, orange blossom water, and pure orange juice. We also find a bit of lime blossom tea. But that was the nose... Mouth: a peaty feeling at the start, peels, rather dry herbal teas, then honey, peach and melon skin, bananas flambéed, a bit of peppermint, but not as much pineapple, oddly. Or maybe it's just me. Finish: quite long, on candies, violet, and Szechuan pepper. But where did the pineapple go, I ask you! Comments: I'm not sure we need to produce three tankers of this, but it's quite successful, the two styles are not so far apart from each other. So, not just the Hawaiian pizza of whisky

SGP:651 - 83 points.

Ireland 22 yo 2001/2023 (54.4%, The Nectar of The Daily Drams, Irish single malt, peated)

Ireland 22 yo 2001/2023 (54.4%, The Nectar of The Daily Drams, Irish single malt, peated) Four stars and a half
There were three sister casks but we'll only have this one. This one should remind us of when some first brought some very young peated Cooley to Feis ile, around twenty years ago. Some stir, shall we say. Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh yes. Peated with hints of menthol and lemon, one of the most delightful combinations there is. Let's say a South Islay with a bit of crème de menthe and limoncello added to the cask. I'm sure a distillery will soon launch collaborative versions of this sort with Italian or French liqueur makers. With water: more cough syrup, balms, menthol, camphor... Mouth (neat): very creamy, medicinal, fruity, mentholated, maritime. It has shades of those old Laphroaigs and Bowmores from the 60s we so adore (exotic fruits and peat) but not in the same proportions, of course. With water: it's the very slightly disappointing part for me, the medicinal peat and fresh fruits are a bit disjointed. They don't divorce completely, fortunately. A hint of butter tea. Finish: long, more herbaceous, with a nice bitterness, on fruit peels and infused green tea leaves. The finish is saltier. Comments: I almost went up to 90. Not that it's very important, we agree.
SGP:655 - 89 points.

Shortcross 2017/2023 (55.1%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, The Pioneers, Single pot still Irish whiskey, barrel, cask #48)

Shortcross 2017/2023 (55.1%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, The Pioneers, Single pot still Irish whiskey, barrel, cask #48) Four stars
What a great series by BB&R. We've tried several, all fab and smart, unsurprisingly (if a little 'London' when seen from France, if I may - joking). Having said that, I have to confess I had never, ever heard of Shortcross, which is made at one 'Rademon Estate' in County Down, Northern Ireland. Colour: full gold. Nose: Not typically Irish this time, even though it's pure pot still, there's some very nice malt, cakes, biscuits, a range of diverse and varied pastries, then dried flowers, patchouli, lots of heather honey... and finally large fruit pies, especially apple, pear, and mirabelle plums. And tarte tatin; even better, quince tarte tatin. Well now, I'm hungry... With water: we stay with similar aromas. Pear studded with pistachios, oranges, cloves... Mouth (neat): very good, very creamy, very mentholated, with juniper and softer pepper from the cask, gingerbread, honey, cedar wood... With water: we continue in the same vein. Lots of gingerbread. Finish: quite long, spicy, rich, honeyed... We find the tarte tatin that we had on the nose. Comments: perfect in the malty, rich, and thick style. So, you're saying Rademon Estate? We'll take a closer look, thanks Berry Bros.

SGP:651 - 86 points.

Dingle '6th Small Batch Release' (46.5%, OB, Irish single malt, Tawny Port cask, 14,500 bottles, 2021) Four stars
On one hand, it's just Tawny Port, on the other, it's a 'full maturation', not just a 'quickie finishing'. We'll see... Colour: gold. Nose: well, what we see is that it's not overwhelmed by strawberries and blackberries, and we're glad . Okay, there is a bit of strawberry, raspberry, cranberry, grenadine, redcurrant, cherry, wild strawberry (I think they've got it, S.), but the malt and associated cakes and pastries blend quite well, avoiding the, uh, how should we say without offending anyone, let's say very slightly 'slutty' side. Potpourri, bouquet of dried flowers, peonies... Mouth: but yes it's good, with pretty spices and all these fruits we mentioned, just dried, candied or turned into jam. A bit like old bachelor's jam (*). Finish: quite long, fruity and jammy, but never vulgar. Blood oranges and figs at the end. A magnificent finish. Comments: the tawny behaved well, even if it did mark quite strongly this very pretty Irish-Portuguese, thus perfectly European Dingle. I remind you that Dingle is located in the southwest of the Republic of Ireland, roughly at the level of Cork.

SGP:641 - 85 points.

(*) An exclusive recipe for 'old bachelor's jam': Take fresh, ripe, and healthy fruits. Wash them and cut the larger pieces into chunks. Weigh them and put them into large glass jars. Add the same weight of sugar and cover completely with cask strength whisky, rum, cognac, or any mixture of these. Avoid the spirits you don't like, but there's no need to use Brora '72 either. Once the jars are full, close them and let them rest for at least three months before starting to indulge. As you enjoy the jam, replenish with fruits, sugar (or honey), and spirits in similar proportions. Your jars can thus last for centuries, like true soleras!

Let's finish with two old Bushmills that we have just tasted for Whisky Magazine:

Bushmills 1985 'Sherry Cask' (56.5%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Irish single malt, cask #15183, +/-2008)

Bushmills 1985 'Sherry Cask' (56.5%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Irish single malt, cask #15183, +/-2008) Five stars
This is a true single malt distilled during the French era of the famous Bushmills distillery, which has since changed hands two or three times. A fair number of old casks have found their way to the market on these occasions, but they have always been offered without mention of the original distillery. However, the dazzling fruitiness of the malts from that era, the 1980s to the early 1990s, has ultimately fooled no one; these Bushmills are simply inimitable. Colour: Gold. Nose: mangoes and little pink bananas take immediate control, and you simply cannot escape them. They are joined by slightly overripe passion fruits, thyme honey, a few touches of pine sap, and a sherry of infinite softness that only complements the intense fruitiness of the Irish malt. Perhaps a few hints of Viognier? Three drops of water reveal notes of old garages, old tools, lanolin, and even a bit of diesel... Mouth: it's very explosive, the fruitiness is terribly intense but never displays the slightest hint of vulgarity. Mangoes and small bananas remain at the head of the parade, but blood oranges and nectarines come to complement them. A few sultanas and a bit of all-flower honey also end up joining in. Water brings out lemony notes. Finish: long and even more citrusy. Citrus fruits always make a strong impression in the finish of a spirit (we know that S.). Corsican citron on the retro-olfaction. Comment: A true poem, provided that you appreciate very fruity whiskies. That is certainly the case for me; let's never deny our pleasure.

SGP: 741 - 91 points.

Bushmills 1986 'Bourbon Cask' (56.5%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Irish single malt, cask #3422, +/-2008)

Bushmills 1986 'Bourbon Cask' (56.5%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Irish single malt, cask #3422, +/-2008) Five stars
Bourbon casks are always much more consistent than sherry casks, which can show enormous variations and consequently alter the styles of the distillates. In my opinion, they match perfectly with the very exuberant style of the Bushmills of those times, let's see right away if that's indeed the case... Colour: chardonnay. Nose: Incredible. It's hard to tell if it's the bourbon barrel that has added these notes of olive oil to the pink grapefruits and passion fruits, but the result is stunning and takes Bushmills away from the 'all about the fruit' side that I personally adore but which may disturb some fans of more austere, more self-controlled spirits. You will also find a bit of beeswax, orange zest, some wisteria, and sweet woodruff... A few drops of water will reveal the thyme honey that we had already found in the sherry version. Mouth: absolutely irresistible, slightly salty, overflowing with citrus and small aniseed notes, fennel, dill... The whole is taut as a bow string, very clean, very pure. With water: just a bit more honeyed roundness and vanilla, typical of some rather active American oak, 'but not too much'. Finish: long, on zests, with some pine needles. Comment: in the end, there was not so much difference with the sherry version, but I slightly prefer the bourbon which offers the purity of quasi-abstraction. I know what I'm trying to say. A Bushmills for the MoMA (Museum of Malt).

SGP: 751 - 92 points.

Well, we will redo a very large Irish session very soon, with other Dingles, Waterfords, Midletons, Bushmills etc...

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Irish we've tasted so far







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