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

January 24, 2024


A second short trip to Ireland in January

On a return visit to Ireland this January, we pick up where we left off a few days ago, not quite in Northern Ireland, but close – we're off to Dundalk in the Republic of Ireland, just a few kilometres from the border...

(Wonderful map of Ireland's whiskey distilleries available at, without our crappy green dots of course. Those are the distilleries we'll taste today).




Great Northern 5 yo (58.2%, Whisky AGE, Ireland, batch #WA02, 866 bottles, 2023)

Great Northern 5 yo (58.2%, Whisky AGE, Ireland, batch #WA02, 866 bottles, 2023) Four stars
So we're at John Teeling's Great Northern Distillery, in Dundalk, a former brewery. This is a single malt, not a pure pot still Irish. They make both double and triple distilled malt whiskies, not too sure about this very one. We've tried one by Whisky AGE before, it was impressive (WF 87). Colour: white wine. Nose: It's quite amusing, it's akin to a fresh vegetable juice featuring cucumber, celery, and carrots, all laced with notes of honey and vanilla. In the background, there's a hint of baker's yeast and croissant dough. The aroma of fresh carrots becomes more pronounced over time, now joined by a dash of coconut milk. With water: the whiffs of bread dough and brioche dough take over, almost transporting one to a traditional five o'clock tea. Mouth (neat): the almost comedic aspect of the nose continues, with these fresh vegetables tinged with coconut, banana, and vanilla, plus a bit of pine resin. It's reminiscent of a craft cachaça. Please note that all these observations are made in a very positive light! With water: it's those refreshingly cool notes that remain. Wood has undoubtedly played a significant part but has managed to blend into the background seamlessly. Finish: medium, softer, more honey-like. A trace of fir bud liqueur. Comments: this is an original style, definitely Irish, truly refreshing but never, let's say, 'lacklustre'. You might say that there are fewer and fewer 'lacklustre' Irish whiskies these days, except for certain blends. Well, alright then...

SGP:651 - 86 points.

Right, we'll avoid any form of order, agreed?

Burke's Fine Old Irish Whiskey 'Three Star' (45%, OB, +/-1930s)

Burke's Fine Old Irish Whiskey 'Three Star' (45%, OB, +/-1930s) Five stars
The addition of an ABV mention and of the content to the label may suggest this is possibly not one of the earliest expressions of Burke's Three Star. Interestingly, the Great Northern Distillery released a modern 'Burke's Three Star' pretty recently, it seems that they're owning the old brand name. This old one is most probably a blend, done by Edward John Burke in the brand's hometown of Dublin. Love the back label by the way, which stipulates, in true early 20th century fashion, that a professor of chemistry and hygiene at the Royal College of Surgeons of Dublin examined the whiskey and considered that it was 'a very pure article' and 'a first class whiskey'. Apparently, there was also a Burke's Distillery in Galway, but that one was closed around the middle of the 19th century. Colour: straw. Nose: wonderful OBE, towards medicinal notes, old ointments, oils, old humidor, old herbal liqueurs… You could really believe it's an old bottle of Chartreuse Jaune. An no signs of exhaustion. Moving towards crème de menthe, with touches of bouillon and even lamb, and even goulash. Mouth: the taste is 'old', the power is not. Some superb soft liquorice, salty bouillons, more mint, cough syrup and lozenges, some mango chutney (yes), a faint feeling of garlic and aniseed – works well, then more citrus, ointments, forgotten medicines, mead… All this is extremely impressive, absolutely not tired, and probably an ode to further maturation (if not aging) in glass. Absolutely no signs of 'taste of glass' or 'taste of light', no cardboard, no dusty matters… (or dusty ideas for that matter). Finish: not even short, not even tired. Comments: there might have been some peat in the beginning, some very old bottles of Laphroaig, for example, have been somewhat similar in that respect. Superb, flawless bottle.

SGP:471 - 92 points.

Alright, let's not try to compete with this sublime Burke's; instead, we'll look to establish another form of connection… Perhaps Dublin?

The Dubliner 'Rascals Irish Coffee Stout' (40%, OB, Irish, batch 1, +/-2023)

The Dubliner 'Rascals Irish Coffee Stout' (40%, OB, Irish, batch 1, +/-2023) Two stars
As I understand it, this is some young blended Irish whiskey finished in some coffee stout barrels from Rascals Brewing Co. Coffee stout is infused with crushed coffee beans. I have never, in my life, tried coffee stout. Colour: pale gold. Nose: coffee! That's rather nice, it's not that far from the kind of coffee notes that you would find in a few olorosos. Having said that, in my experience your olfactory bulb is soon to filter out notes such as 'coffee', leaving room for some breads and meads, as well as some chocolate. Mouth: good fun, once again, the coffee really feels and it is not, this time, filtered out. A feeling of Kahlua or Tia Maria, then triple-sec, honey liqueur, Drambuie, Glayva, all these sorts of things. … Finish: not too long and a little sweet. Roasted malt, coffee, chocolate and honey. Comments: I'm not sure I'd quaff a whole double-magnum, but it's good fun.

SGP: - 76 points.

Let's get back to serious matters…

Fercullen 'Falls' (43%, OB, Irish blend, ex-bourbon, +/-2023)

Fercullen 'Falls' (43%, OB, Irish blend, ex-bourbon, +/-2023) Three stars
Powerscourt's first blend of malt and grain. I believe the grain too is produced at Powerscourt, but not too sure. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: pear, pineapple, apple, jellybeans, liquorice allsorts, easy sauvignon, pink grapefruit. Mouth: sweet, on bonbons and fruit drops. More jelly babies and beans and crocodile and even little sugar Jesuses, a thing we have in Alsace. Finish: medium, really very sweet. Syrups and liqueurs. Comments: faultless. Add ice cubes and presto, bottle is down. Oh I know this is not very PC, but it is not a sipper anyway.

SGP:730 - 80 points.

Teeling 19 yo (56%, OB for Dutch Whisky Connection, Michiel Wigman, They Inspired III, white wine, cask #17208, 2023)

Teeling 19 yo (56%, OB for Dutch Whisky Connection, Michiel Wigman, They Inspired III, white wine, cask #17208, 2023) Four stars
The back label is more worth it than the front label, as it's featuring our friend Jon Beach, of Fiddler's Drumnadrochit fame, Speyburn collector extraordinaire. This baby was finished in a white wine cask – or was it full maturation? After all, all sherries are white wines. Colour: gold. Nose: this is why Cooley and Bushmills can sometimes be challenging to tell apart. Pink bananas, passion fruit, acacia honey, fresh mangos, oranges, granny smith apples, honeysuckle, dandelion flowers, with a hint of fresh pineapple... With water: the same, just a tad more herbaceous. It's like a stroll through a fruit market. Mouth: quite good, but I'm not entirely convinced that the white wine cask has contributed anything beyond a somewhat chalky and herbaceous edge. Sediments, grape clusters, leaves... That said, the fruitiness is very much there, with plenty of grapefruit, green apples, green bananas... However, the wine and particularly the wood it was in seem to have introduced an additional tension. With water: the water rounds it off nicely, bringing out the honey and the well-ripened exotic fruits, like guava. What a remarkable fruit, guava. Finish: medium length, with more pronounced honeyed notes, pine syrup, but also a slightly tannic black tea. Some curious notes of cranberry in the aftertaste. Comments: have I mentioned how magnificent the portrait of Jon Beach by Hans Dillesse, featured on the back label, is?

SGP:661 - 87 points.

Let's find an older one...

Teeling 28 yo (46.6%, OB, The Irish Whiskey Collection, Dublin airport exclusive, sherry, cask #6756, 2019)

Teeling 28 yo (46.6%, OB, The Irish Whiskey Collection, Dublin airport exclusive, sherry, cask #6756, 2019) Five stars
Some reputation here. Remember Cooley was sold to Beam in 2012, with an agreement to buy back rather many casks that had been distilled since the start, in 1987 or 1988. The earliest Cooleys I've tried myself were distilled in 1991, and this is probably a 1991 too. Colour: gold. Nose: would I shock anyone if I said this truly resembles an old malt from Bushmills? The exotic fruits are just sublime, one couldn't even begin to compile a complete list. This nose is incredible. If we had to mention just one fruit, it would be mango, of course. The sherry remains utterly discreet, but I'm certain it plays its part. Mouth: a simply splendid fruitiness, with slight woody nuances that bring to mind herbal teas. Well, either we leave it at that, or we could list the flavours, but that would take a good hour. Thanks for your understanding. Finish: medium length but with an astonishingly fruity profile. We must mention the ripe mango once more, plus Provence melon. Some very juicy sultanas in the aftertaste. Comments: let's say that four distilleries could offer this style of fruitiness, two Irish (Bushmills, Cooley) and two Scottish (Littlemill, Lochside). A very personal opinion, naturally.
SGP:741 - 92 points.

Now let's look for a bourbon barrel…

Cooley 21 yo 2001/2022 (54%, The Whisky Blues, cask #3071, bourbon barrel, 193 bottles)

Cooley 21 yo 2001/2022 (54%, The Whisky Blues, cask #3071, bourbon barrel, 193 bottles) Five stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: There's an increased complexity, I believe, not just focusing on the earth's most splendid fruits. For instance, it starts with a touch of putty and marzipan, some toasted sesame, a drizzle of barley syrup, and just a smidgen of shoe polish... But of course, what follows is a deluge, and all the fruits come rushing in at once. Banana, papaya, guava, mango, grapefruit... With water: we drift towards herbal teas and pink peppercorns. Mouth (neat): citrus and honey. There's little in the world that can compare, perhaps except for Page and Plant, Trane and Miles, or Tinguely and Nikki de St. Phalle, to be less obvious. It's up to you to find the countless other examples, perhaps closer to your own experience.. With water: does pink grapefruit and some more flavourful watermelon sound good to you? Finish: of medium length but with a purity of fruitiness and honey sweetness that is quite beautiful. Comments: If one were to find a tiny flaw, it would be that it's a little simple, a little too straightforward. But that would be a rather cold remark.

SGP:641 - 90 points.

Let's look for an older bourbon barrel...

Waterford 'Hook Head Edition 1.1' (50%, OB, Irish, 2023)

Waterford 'Hook Head Edition 1.1' (50%, OB, Irish, 2023) Five stars
These blue bottles are splendid, once they're empty, for use as decanters during your blind wine tastings. Provided, of course, that the glasses are blue or black as well. But try finding a quality blue or black decanter, good luck with that! Right, we're here with a single farm, with barley harvested in 2015, so this barley has rested for a long time before being brewed and distilled, which shows that a whisky's vintage doesn't really have much to do with the barley's year of harvest, we're not in Cognac. Colour: straw. Nose: as usual with Waterford – usual, a word that demonstrates how well Waterford has already become part of the landscape – we're on bread, cereals, beer, earth. Moist earth, rainwater, baker's yeast, even pizza dough. Irish pizza, naturally. This time, we remain fully focused on these bakery aromas. With a bit of water: a hint of lemon comes through. That always works. Mouth (neat): we'll keep this short and sweet, limoncello biscuits and panettone. Well, after the pizza, here are some other Italian elements. And I'd swear there's also just a hint of spicy salami, I can't remember what they call it on the other side of the Alps. With water: it's more concentrated, more tense, but it remains a very textured and rather rich spirit. I'd like to rub a bit of new make spirit between my fingers, just to see how it behaves... Finish: long, on fresh bread, amaretti (undeniably) and citrus fruits, this time more on clementines than lemons. Saltier coastal touches right at the end. Comments: it's very relatively restrained, not the most expansive Waterford I've ever tasted, but I like this discreet and confident elegance (what?) rather a lot. And the purity of the whole.

SGP:551 - 90 points.

Waterford 2019/2023 'Micro-Cuvée Good Vibrations' (50%, OB, LMDW, Irish, 2023)

Waterford 2019/2023 'Micro-Cuvée Good Vibrations' (50%, OB, LMDW, Irish, 2023) Four stars and a half
What, the Beach Boys now? A blend of four casks, all distilled in 2019 from various origins (farms, peat, varietal) and all ex-bourbon. In short, a micro-cuvée that's not that 'micro'. Colour: white wine. Nose: peat is like chili, once it's there and even when in infinitesimal proportions, you feel it. Let's say Ardmore-level peat here. That peat makes it frankly medicinal, truly smoky, earthy, with some crushed slate and oyster shells. And bandages dipped into custard (I know). With water: that walk on the beach. Mouth (neat): clean and yet fat, with a creamy mouth feel, citron liqueur, nutmeg, lapsang souchong, cigarette ashes, more citron liqueur, lemon tarte (always ask with meringue)… With water: tiny pinheads of wasabi, horseradish, mustard, pickled lemons… Plus just ashes, lemon and shellfish. Finish: medium, rather pure, with an 'almondy' smoke, some cough medicine, some salty edible seaweed, then something fruitier again, hard to describe. Comments: a rather Brownian bottle. It first went in all directions and found its natural way later on. A tremendous version, possibly slightly disadvantaged by its closeness in the line-up to the purity of the Hook Head we just tasted. In summary, this Waterford is a bit more for the Club Med crowd (loyal customer level).
SGP:654 - 88 points.

Should we move on to Dingle...

Dingle 'Small Batch 4' (46.5%, OB, Irish single pot still, 8,000 bottles, 2020)

Dingle 'Small Batch 4' (46.5%, OB, Irish single pot still, 8,000 bottles, 2020) Three stars and a half
¾ bourbon and ¼ oloroso, these proportions seem sensible to me. And we're behind schedule again. Colour: gold. Nose: fresh butter, banana, this morning's baguette, a tiny bit of wood glue, nutmeg, putty, then orange zest. Everything is very fine at this stage. Mouth: very good, sweet and salty, slightly acidic (white wine from cold and damp regions), with lemon zest and notes of thyme tea. Then a little bit of olive fougasse. Do you know olive fougasse? If not, your life is incomplete (that's right, S.) Finish: rather long, with a more pronounced woodiness. It's always the slightly more complicated part for the very young whiskies which have necessarily used relatively active casks. Comments: very good, this Dingle from... wait, four years ago already? Okay, three years.
SGP:561 - 84 points.

I think it's time for one last one. But we will have another Irish session very soon…

Redbreast 22 yo 2000/2023 (58.3%, OB, LMDW New Vibrations, fist fill oloroso sherry, cask #32336, 564 bottles)

Redbreast 22 yo 2000/2023 (58.3%, OB, LMDW New Vibrations, fist fill oloroso sherry, cask #32336, 564 bottles) Four stars and a half
I would say it was about time we had a pure pot still from Midleton. The Redbreast brand has truly made an impact on whisky enthusiasts, I notice it almost every day. That's really good given there are so many new distilleries, and high-quality new whiskies in Ireland. Apart from that, I still haven't understood why they switched from the 'pure pot still' to 'single pot still'. It's almost worse than going from 'pure malt', which was quite flattering, or even 'vatted malt' (nobody knew what that meant, but at least it was neutral) to 'blended malt', which frankly sounds a bit canteen-like. But let's not reopen that old debate, let's taste this precious Redbreast... Colour: brown and opaque. Nose: heavily on chocolaty oloroso and full of coffee. Then on Andalusian turron, caramelised pecan, pipe tobacco, old wine cellar, and walnut liqueur. We're practically in Jerez de la Frontera. With water: now we are indeed in Jerez de la Frontera. Incredible chocolates, roasted nuts, damp earth, and slightly acidic coffees. Mouth (neat): do you know chestnut jam? And Armagnac? Really, it's almost a blend, let's say 75% old Ténarèze and 25% very old brandy de Jerez (those with names of governors or admirals of the invincible armada). Behind that, dried grapes of all kinds and a myriad of assorted dried fruits, plus a nice little salty touch to great effect. With water: the raisins take control again, some brandy de Jerez that's a bit too sweet as well. Finish: long, broad, very rich, even closer to the most prestigious brandies de Jerez. Like those decanters that are, oh absolute scandal, worth over 100 euros! A hint of mint liqueur in the aftertaste. Comments: there was a Redbreast 'Lustau' that was not bad at all, well this one is pretty good too. But I think one should be able to prove that they've spent at least two weeks in Andalusia before having the right to buy such a bottle. It's a matter of understanding of the product, even education, if you will.
SGP:661 - 88 points.

Well, I believe we've had a lovely Irish stroll today. I also suggest you listen, if you have three minutes, to the charming 'Ballade irlandaise' by Bourvil.

(Thanks Joe H., KC)

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







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