Category Archives: Irish Whiskey

Review: Kennedy Irish Whiskey “Spirit Drink” Complete Lineup

kennedy irish Review: Kennedy Irish Whiskey Spirit Drink Complete Lineup

Irish whiskey is all the rage right now — it’s the fastest growing spirit category there is — and there’s a mad rush going on in Ireland to build stills, increase production, and otherwise squeeze every dollar out of this market before everyone moves on to something else, probably rum.

Kennedy is a new launch of Irish Whiskey — er, “Spirit Drink.” I’m still trying to sort all this out, so bear with me. Here’s how the Kennedy label breaks out.

Upon a sticker stylized like an old Celtic helmet it reads KENNEDY in big letters, then ORIGINAL underneath. In delicate italics beneath that: Spirit Drink. Then in even smaller italics: “Oak Filtered & Hand Crafted using.” Then, larger block letters: “Whiskey with natural flavor & caramel.”

OK, so points for truth in labeling, I think, but points off for confusing the hell out of your consumer along the way. What is “oak filtered,” exactly? Check the back label and you’ll see that “Kennedy’s Spirit is a delicate fusion of the finest Celtic whiskies and malt to insure a unique, challenging and august drinking experience. Kennedy’s Spirit, handcrafted in West Cord, Ireland, is infused with Irish and Bourbon oak using a proprietary infusion process and steeped in malt through an artisan and near-forgotten technique.”

So, yeah.

Your guess is as good as mind about what all that means, but basically my deduction is this is a mix of various Irish whiskeys and grain spirits, somehow pressure treated with oak to artificially age it more quickly. Caramel is added liberally, based on the color, though your guess is as good as mine as to what the natural flavors referenced here are.

And that’s just the “original.” There are four flavored versions of the spirit available, too. Or, rather, more flavored.

So, with that out of the way, let’s taste them all!

Kennedy Original – A slight sugar character on the nose, with a malty, cereal character to it. Touches of honey and cinnamon dust the body, which is otherwise a soft caramel, lightly woody, mostly watery character to it. The overall impact is one of Irish whiskey that’s already been liberally doused with water. It goes down easy enough, but the finish is weak and a touch astringent, leaving behind a touch of hospital character as it fades. 80 proof. C+

Kennedy Spiced – Infused with visible, solid spices (including anise and cinnamon) floating around in the bottle. Tons of cinnamon on the nose. The body has an essence more akin to vanilla blended with dried apples — with that anise making a strong showing as a somewhat weird secondary note. I would have dropped the licorice components and pumped up the cloves, but that’s just me. At least there’s more going on here, even if it doesn’t come together the way you might hope. 70 proof. B-

Kennedy Honeyed – Infused with vanilla and honey. Contains visible, fine sediment (but not big chunks like in the Spiced expression). It’s more hazelnut than honey on the nose, but the finish builds to more of an earthy honey character. Minimal whiskey character, though. 70 proof. B-

Kennedy Limed – Green, lime whiskey? Why not. Again, light sediment from flavoring involving vanilla and lime juice. Not as bad as you are expecting, but a bit like drinking a slug of Rose’s Lime Juice straight. Sweeter than most of the other whiskeys in this lineup, a necessity to offset the sour lime flavors. The color is beyond off-putting. Clearly this is designed exclusively as a mixer… but with what? When the label copy calls the product “intiguing,” you know something ain’t right. C-

Kennedy Chilied – Bright red, it is flavored with chili pepper and paprika(!). Wow, this is intensely hot — far hotter than your typical “pepper vodka.” I can see this doing brisk business as frat kids make bets with each other and buy shots to dare each other to drink. It’s a fiery, habanero-style burn that singes the lips and sticks in the throat for minutes. A hint of honey sweetness helps temper the burn. Discriminating it ain’t, but daredevils should go for it. B

each about $17 / westcorkdistillers.com

Review: Uisce Beatha Irish Whiskey

uisce beatha real irish whiskey 525x442 Review: Uisce Beatha Irish Whiskey

It’s a brave product marketer who chooses “Uisce Beatha” for his new whiskey’s official name. But Uisce Beatha is a name that’s steeped in history. The term is Gaelic for “water of life.” Uisce (pronounced ISH-kah) is of course where the word “whiskey” originated.

Uisce Beatha — “Real Irish Whiskey” — is the latest launch from ROK Stars, a spirits company founded by celebrity hairstylist and Patron Tequila founder Jon Paul DeJoria. The focus with this spirit is clearly on quality (though not on maturity, which we’ll get to). Uisce Beatha is a blend of single malt and grain whiskeys, aged for four-plus years in ex-Bourbon barrels.

In experiencing the whiskey, baking spices kickstart the nose, while toasty cereal lingers in the background. The body is immediately maltier than expected, bringing up notes of honey, simple syrup, and graham crackers before more of that chewy cereal character hits the palate. As it develops in the glass, some citrus character comes to the fore — more of a clementine orange note than an orange peel character, fresher rather than bittersweet or pungent. The finish sticks with youthful grain, much like a young single malt, offering notes of heather and fresh cut barley. All in all it’s a well-made spirit that lets its raw materials shine, but Irish drinkers who crave the sweeter palate of the typical Irish whiskey might find Uisce Beatha a bit young and undercooked for extended exploration.

B / $40 / rokstars.com

Review: Knappogue Castle 12, 14, and 16 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskeys

knappogue castle 16 years old 507x1200 Review: Knappogue Castle 12, 14, and 16 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskeys

While most Irish whiskeys are some mix of grain and malt spirits, Knappogue Castle specializes in single malts exclusively. Recently the brand shifted from vintage-dated spirits to more standard age statements, with 12, 14, and 16 year old expressions now making up the core. We’ve reviewed the 12 and 14 in the past, but take fresh looks at them both, alongside the 16, with this review.

Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey – This whiskey undergoes a standard aging regimen in ex-bourbon casks. Heavily malty on the nose, with clear notes of marzipan and coconut. The body offers lots of interesting, fresh apple notes, backed up with more malty cereal mash and a bit of swampy/iodine kick on the finish that tends to muck things up a bit. I enjoyed this quite a bit less this time around than I have in previous iterations, the finish veering too far into the cereal box and throwing things out of balance. 80 proof. B / $42

Knappogue Castle 14 Year Old Twin Wood Single Malt Irish Whiskey – Oloroso sherry finished for about 3 months. There’s plenty going on here, and the 14 year old cuts a much different picture than the 12. The nose is sharp with sherry and orange oil notes, and more of those almond/marzipan characteristics underneath. On the palate, there’s toasted marshmallow, roasted nuts, banana, coconut, and more citrus at the back end. The extra alcohol provides some heat, but the Knappogue can handle it. Unlike my prior encounter, I’m finding this expression more balanced and cohesive, but my overall opinion is about the same. 92 proof. B+ / $60

Knappogue Castle 16 Year Old Twin Wood Single Malt Irish Whiskey – A numbered release which, like the 14 year old, spends time finishing in sherry casks — this time for nearly two years. Clearly darker in color than both the 12 and the 14, this spirit still has that malty Knappogue DNA running through it, moderated with orange notes, more marshmallow, and some tree bark. Chewy on the body, with (surprisingly) more pronounced malt character than the 14, alongside clearer banana and coconut notes. The 16 year old opens up more with time in the glass, smoothing out some of those crunchy cereal box notes with sherry and a bit of seawater. Still, it’s not quite hitting its stride in the balance department, but it’s getting there. 80 proof. B+ / $100

knappoguewhiskey.com

Review: Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

Green Spot Bottle 525x1067 Review: Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

Heretofore seldom seen on our shores, one of the most beloved Irish whiskeys in-country is now making its way to the U.S. It is named after a blotch of color.

Green Spot, the kid brother of the even rarer Yellow Spot, is made at Midleton, where Jameson, Tullamore D.E.W., Powers, and Redbreast all hail from. It is a thrice-distilled single pot still whiskey, but unlike Redbreast it is bottled without an age statement. What’s inside is a blend of whiskeys aged seven to 10 years in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks. 12,000 bottles are produced each year.

No bones about it, this whiskey is a delight. Loaded with flavor but balanced to a T, Green Spot hits all the classic Irish hallmarks while retaining its sense of balance.

The nose is spot on (get it?), rich with unripe banana, light honey, chimney soot, and cut grains. The body is more lovely, with toasted marshmallows, very light citrus, caramel, a touch of chocolate, and a big malty finish that comes across a lot like chocolate malt balls when it’s all said and done. Often thought of as “sweeter” than its compatriots, that’s not exactly the case here. Green Spot has sweetness, but it balances out the more savory components, bringing the body right where it ought to be. The spirit is drying as it fades, almost hinting at licorice, which only invites further exploration as that malt character dies like the sunset.

Buy it now.

80 proof.

A / $50 / singlepotstill.com [BUY IT FROM MASTER OF MALT]   [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: Redbreast Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey 21 Years Old

Redbreast 21 Bottle 525x668 Review: Redbreast Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey 21 Years Old

Redbreast is one of the most beloved of high-end Irish whiskeys there is, a triple-pot distilled whiskey made of malted and unmalted barley that wins pretty much every “Best Irish Whiskey” award that comes around. That said, the 12 year old expression has always been a bit too chewy and pungent for my taste, a malty monster in a category prized for being gentle and easygoing.

On the other hand, I respect Redbreast. Different strokes and all. And now a sure-to-be much desired 21 Year Old version is about to hit the market. What can an extra 9 years do to a whiskey that’s already a beast?

Let’s put it this way: If you like Redbreast 12, you’ll love Redbreast 21. All of Redbreast’s classic notes are intact: ultra-ripe banana, coconut husks, and butterscotch, to name but a few. But there’s also burnt honey, coal fires, and a powerful caramel note on the finish. The citrus notes — driven by partial aging in first-fill sherry casks — are particularly present here. No matter what you think about Redbreast, there’s always something new to discover lurking somewhere in a dram of this whiskey.

Rest assured: Redbreast’s DNA runs through this expression like a river, but I’m honestly hard-pressed to find a lot of difference here vs. the 12 year old version. It’s a bit more pungent and funky, but it’s just not overwhelmingly different than the 12. The 12 is just such a massive whiskey already that the extra age simply doesn’t change things as much as it otherwise might. Either way, Redbreast fanatics should give it a try before deciding whether the extra age merits more than twice the price.

92 proof.

A- / $180 / irishdistillers.ie

Review: Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix Irish Whiskey

Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix Limited Edition 525x525 Review: Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix Irish Whiskey

Tullamore D.E.W. (nee Tullamore Dew) continues its march upmarket with the release of Phoenix, one of its fanciest bottlings released to date.

This expression is launched in commemoration of the first-ever air disaster, a hot-air balloon fire in 1785 that took place in the town of Tullamore and subsequently burned down most of the town (the recovery is the phoenix in question). This is a classic blended Irish whiskey bottled with no age statement. A blend of pure pot still, malt whiskey, and grain whiskey, it is non-chill filtered and is finished in Oloroso sherry casks. This first edition of what is planned to be an annual release comprises 30,000 bottles.

Quite a delight, Phoenix is a creamy, nutty whiskey that takes the easy nature of Irish and gives it more body and more gravitas. Almonds are the prominent note here, wrapped up in a nougat character that closely resembles a Mars Almond bar. (Sadly not on the market any more.) The sherry is really just hinted at here. While many a sherry-finished whiskey will wallop you over the head with juicy orange character, here it’s appropriately understated, racy with baking spices, spiced nuts, and orange notes on the finish. The higher proof adds body and complexity. Easily the best thing from Tullamore to date, and actually a great value considering the quality on display here.

110 proof.

A / $55 / tullamoredew.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey

Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey 525x1200 Review: Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey

If you’re unfamiliar with “single grain” whiskey, you’re not alone. While in fact the majority of Irish whiskey sold is grain whiskey, single grain whiskey is not typically seen on the shelf. (The single doesn’t refer to the type of grain but rather the fact that it’s made at a single distillery.) All grain whiskey is made not from barley (as in the case of single malt whiskey) but rather from a blend of grains, primarily corn.

Teeling Single Grain Whiskey is column-distilled and, unusually, aged fully in ex-California Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. No age statement (or other details on the specifics of the mashbill) are offered, but the spirit is non-chill filtered and bottled at 92 proof.

The nose is exotic, offering thick menthol vapors along with some vanilla, butterscotch, and cake frosting notes. The body is even harder to pin down. At first the whiskey is mild and easygoing, then it develops some of the more traditional character of Irish whiskeys — touches of banana and coconut, salted caramel, buttered toffee, and honey. The grain base becomes more evident on the finish, a toasty, malty conclusion that is both a little unexpected but also surprisingly satisfying.

B+ / $71 / teelingwhiskey.com [BUY IT NOW FROM MASTER OF MALT]

Review: Powers Gold Label Irish Whiskey (2014)

Powers Gold Label Bottle Image 2014 420x1200 Review: Powers Gold Label Irish Whiskey (2014)

The good folks at Ireland’s Powers don’t know when to quit. First they rebrand and relabel their classic Gold Label Irish whiskey in 2009, now they’re back at it again, redoing the bottle a second time while boosting the proof a bit. (And that doesn’t even include the launch of the masterful John’s Lane special edition bottling.)

Nothing has changed about the recipe to Gold Label — it’s still triple distilled at Midleton, aged in ex-bourbon barrels, and non-chill filtered. The only change (aside from bottle cosmetics that now include a metallic neck hanger) is the increase in alcohol up to 43.2% — the product’s original export strength — from the standard 40%.

The change is a good one, giving a little more power (ahem) to the whiskey while maintaining the easy charm and gentle flavor profile that attracts so many people to Irish whiskey.

There’s lots of traditional Irish character here to explore, with a nose that’s full of ripe banana, butterscotch, cereal, and gentle honey notes. On the body, all of the above are met by orange notes, along with both coconut and pineapple on the back end. The finish is both fruity and malty, reminiscent of a frozen custard spiked with toppings. The slight bump in alcohol works well at boosting the body just a smidge, adding just a bit more creaminess to an already well-balanced spirit.

86.4 proof.

A- / $25 / powerswhiskey.com

Tasting Report: WhiskyFest San Francisco 2013

WhiskyFest 2013 is now in the books, and my what an embarrassment of riches this show was. While I heard grousing about the show not having as many hits as usual (most of the independent Scotch bottlers like Samaroli were absent), I managed to find a ton of them. Driven this year perhaps by a ruthless attempt to avoid lesser products (one industry bigwig, with all seriousness, suggested I give Johnnie Walker Red Label a try), it didn’t take much doing to suss out some really great whiskeys being poured. Who can complain when Julian Van Winkle is pouring his best stuff, after all?

It was quite the global event this year, with numerous whiskeys from Japan, Canada, and Ireland on tap that you don’t normally see at shows. And more and more craft distillers, like Masterson’s and Smooth Ambler, are taking to shows to give people a taste of something new.

Anyway, as usual it was a great evening with old friends and new ones – both of the whiskey and the human variety. Thoughts follow.

American Whiskey / Bourbon
Smooth Ambler Old Scout Ten / A- / some menthol, caramel with a dusty finish
Masterson’s 12 Year Wheat / A- / big wood, cherries, a fun whisky
Masterson’s 10 Year Barley / C- / funky mint and rubber notes, unripe banana, not at all to my liking tonight
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit / A- / lovely sweetness without being saccharine, tried just to say hi to Jimmy and Eddie Russell, both pouring
Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select / A- / a new limited edition from JD, the same spirit but aged in barrels that have been “grooved” with extra cuts to expose more wood surface; as expected, this is like JD, but woodier; not bad at all
Pappy Van Winkle 15 Years Old / A / still maturing, with a little burn
Pappy Van Winkle 20 Years Old / A+ / Pappy at its best, raisins, wood, big body… just perfect
Pappy Van Winkle 23 Years Old / A / you can finally see the age on this spirit at 23, where the balance is just starting to turn toward too much wood

Scotch Whisky
Glen Grant The Major’s Reserve / B / chewy barley and rubber bands
The Balvenie Single Barrel 12 Years Old / A- / cake, nuts, smoke, malt
Bruichladdich Cuvee 382 La Berenice / A+ / best spirit at the show, aged in American oak for 21 years, then finished in Chateau Yquem barrels; liquid gold, sweet and savory in perfect balance
Bruichladdich Black Art 3 22 Years Old / B+ / always a funky expression, bristly and huge this year, with a smoky, old-world character
Bruichladdich Octomore 5.1 / A- / is Octomore losing its ability to shock me? This struck me as plenty peaty but not overdone, with evergreen and charcoal notes
Buchanan’s Red Seal / A- / Buchanan’s first WhiskyFest; a peaty blend with some citrus and sweetness, good balance
Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition / B+ / a new release from Cutty; very mild, surprisingly malty, with fresh grain and wood notes
Glenfarclas Family Cask 1973 / A / hearty sherry character, drinking beautifully
Glenfarclas Family Cask 1983 / B / dusty with lots of wood; couldn’t be more different than the ‘73
Compass Box Great King Street Artist’s Blend / B / overcooked, unthrilling
Compass Box Delilah’s 20th Anniversary Limited Edition / B+ / bottled as a tribute to a famed Chicago area bar, matured partly in new oak barrels (rare for Scotch); bourbon-like character, peppery with lots of wood, caramel notes

Irish Whiskey
Jameson’s Rarest Vintage Reserve / A / always a standout, this beautiful bottling (~26 years old) features lovely spicy notes beneath a sweet core
Midleton Barry Crockett Edition / A- / a vatting of 7 to 22 year old spirits; more rustic than the Jameson, chewy grain notes, still fun

Canadian Whisky
Wiser’s 18 Years Old / A- / mellow, well developed, sultry finish
Lot No. 40 / B- / a 100% rye bottling, a powerhouse of rubber, pungent basil and cherry notes

Japanese Whiskey
Hakushu Heavily Peated / B+ / not at all “heavy” in my mind, good balance with citrus notes
Nikka Taketsuru 17 Years Old / B+ / ample cereal notes
Nikka Taketsuru 12 Years Old / A / great balance of grain and honey, a standout

Brandy
Gran Duque De Alba XO 18 Years Old / A- / Spanish brandy; big coffee and licorice notes; intriguing and powerful
Gran Duque De Alba Oro 25 Years Old / B+ / a little overblown, same character as the XO, but just too much, too hoary

Review: Teeling Whiskey Company Irish Whiskey and Poitin

Teeling 21 Yr Old Single Malt Silver Reserve 258x300 Review: Teeling Whiskey Company Irish Whiskey and PoitinWe don’t see a lot of new Irish whiskey brands on the market, so when a curiosity like Teeling comes around, Drinkhacker takes note. The Teeling Whiskey Company (aka TWC) is a new brand with some surprisingly old stock. Founder Jack Teeling has roots in the Irish biz dating back to the late 1700s, and now he’s bringing the family business back with this independent distillery.

Mashbill information is a little complicated, so here it is from TWC’s Teeling: “Both [the whiskey and poitin] are a blend of grain and malt whiskey mashbills. The grain mashbill is 95% maize and 5% malted barley, and the malt mashbill is 100% malted barley. The blend of both consists of 35% malt whiskey (or spirit in the case of the Poitin) and 65% grain whiskey (or spirit in the case of the Poitin).” Got it?

Teeling Whiskey Company Poitin – Ah, Ireland’s white whiskey made from who-knows-what (but see above in TWC’s case), and it’s got a lot going on. The nose is fragrant and intriguing: rustic and young, but with notes of lemongrass, black pepper, and hot coals. Fiery at a blazing 123 proof, the body still shows some charms even without water: marshmallows, orange flowers, and a finish of burning embers. It’s complex yet curious, a white whiskey made the way it really ought to be. High-test white spirits like this always need some coaxing to bring out their charms, but Teeling’s does it quite a bit better than most. B+ / $42 (500ml) [BUY IT NOW FROM MASTER OF MALT]

Teeling Whiskey Company Small Batch Irish Whiskey – Small batch whiskey, bottled with no age statement (but blended from hand-selected casks aged between 4 and 7 years old), but finished in ex-Flor de Cana rum casks. The combo makes for some unusual and quite delicious flavors. The nose offers sweet vanilla, creme brulee and very light wood notes. Elusive, but engaging. On the tongue, it’s quite sweet, but kicked up a bit from the rum, with some fun citrus notes, more of a chocolate marshmallow back-end, and a silky smooth finish. The whiskey and rum are working well together here — that doesn’t always happen — offering a sizeable bite, but one which is tempered with ample (yet balanced) sweetness. Really good stuff, with ample depth. Reviewed: Edition bottled 2/2013. 92 proof. A / $53 [BUY IT NOW FROM MASTER OF MALT]  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Teeling Whiskey Company 21 Year Old Silver Vintage Reserve 1991 Irish Whiskey (pictured) – Unlike the above, this is single malt Irish. 21 years old, at that. 21 year old Irish sounds like it’s going to be incredible, but this is a case where things have gone a bit too far. The lively amber color doesn’t let on to what’s in store, which starts to reveal itself with a malty, bread-like nose. The body offers more of that — a really intense grain character that comes off as fully unexpected in a whiskey this well-aged. Where is the sweetness? Where is the spice? These characteristics are hinted at on the finish, but here you also get more heavy barrel char notes that outweigh any fruity sweetness that remains in the spirit. Interesting enough as a sipper, but a huge letdown from my admittedly high expectations. 92 proof. B / $217

teelingwhiskey.com

Review: Powers Irish Whiskey John’s Lane Release 12 Years Old

powers johns lane whiskey irish 168x300 Review: Powers Irish Whiskey Johns Lane Release 12 Years OldPowers got its start as a single pot still whiskey, but in more recent years its become a simpler blend of pot still spirit and grain whiskey. It’s understandable: Powers is the most popular whiskey in its homeland of Ireland, so they have to make a lot of it.

Now Powers is bringing a pure, single pot still whiskey back. This one is denoted as John’s Lane Release, an homage to the original distillery where Powers was made in the late 1700s and 1800s.

This release is made from a mash of malted and unmalted barley which is then triple distilled in copper pot stills. Aged for 12 years, primarily in ex-Bourbon casks with a touch of whiskey that’s been matured in Oloroso sherry butts, it is bottled at 92 proof.

It’s an outstanding example of Irish, rich and mouth-filling, with a warming, luscious body. The nose is slightly hot, offering hints of honey and cinnamon. The body, however, is far more sophisticated and complex, and not really hot at all. Deep honey notes, vanilla, caramels, and touches of barley. Slightly nutty on the finish, with hints of charcoal and chocolate, too. This is a whiskey that offers tremendous depth, not something you typically associate with Irish, which is often made in a simpler style. Well done, Powers.

A / $65 / irishdistillers.ie

Review: Bushmills Single Malt 16 Years Old Irish Whiskey

Bushmills 16 years old single malt 225x300 Review: Bushmills Single Malt 16 Years Old Irish WhiskeyHappy St. Patrick’s Day to you all!

If you’re drinking Irish today (and you probably are), consider upgrading your dram with something a little more sophisticated.

Bushmills 16 Year Old is a single malt (rare enough for Irish) that is matured in ex-Bourbon barrels or Oloroso sherry barrels — a portion of the production in each. The two barrel types are then married and finished in Port barrels for a triple-wooded attack.

Continue reading

Review: Knappogue Castle 14 Years Old Twin Wood

 Review: Knappogue Castle 14 Years Old Twin WoodKnappogue Castle is one of the blue chips of the Irish whiskey world, producing well-aged spirits and a variety of rarities, including the ongoing “Twin Wood” series of limited edition whiskeys.

Twin Wood is Knappogue’s terminology for Irish that’s been matured in Bourbon casks and finished in Oloroso sherry barrels. The 14 years are spent in the Bourbon casks before the whiskey moves on to the sherry finishing.

14 years is a long time for Irish to spend in any kind of wood, but Knappogue Castle has a surprisingly light gold color. It’s got an ample nose, however. A big malty character dominates, mingled with exotic raisins, coconut, and orange character driven by the sherry.

The body is complex and unique. Again, lots and lots of malty grain here, plus plenty of oddities: banana, smokestacks, caramel candies, orange peel, coconut husks, and licorice, all in a bit of a jumble. I like a lot of the flavors in the whisky, but ultimately I’m still not sure about the way they all come together. It’s fun to tipple on but tough to get a handle on where it’s going.

92 proof.

B+ / $60 / knappoguewhiskey.com

Review: 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey

2 Gingers irish whiskey 225x300 Review: 2 Gingers Irish WhiskeyReader Alex Trembley turned me on to 2 Gingers in the middle of 2012, and finally we’ve been able to track down a bottle of this Irish Whiskey to review. Why the trouble? It’s only sold in Minnesota… at least for now.

The name 2 Gingers connotes spicy, ginger beer-laced drinks, but the moniker has nothing to do with the aromatic root. In reality, the name refers to redheads, the kind of folk which are in heavy supply in 2 Gingers’ homeland of Ireland.

Continue reading

Recipe: Irish Whiskey Coffee — Tullamore D.E.W. Variation

In our never ending quest to document and celebrate all of the spirits-based holidays on the calendar, today is Irish Coffee Day. Most of you are already at your desks settled in for this morning’s business with a non-Irish cup, but here’s a recipe to consider for later tonight, courtesy of Tullamore D.E.W.:

Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey Coffee

Hot water
Coffee
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 ½ oz. Tullamore D.E.W. Whiskey
Gently whipped fresh Cream

Pre-heat a clear-stemmed glass with very hot water. Empty the water, and add brown sugar. Now add some freshly brewed rich coffee and stir. As soon as the sugar is melted, add Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey. Stir again, and wait for the brew to still. Now take a hot teaspoon and pour gently whipped fresh cream slowly over the back of the spoon.

Tullamore Dew Gets a Makeover as Tullamore D.E.W.

The classic (and inexpensive) Irish whiskey brand Tullamore Dew is getting a full rebranding, with a new bottle design and a new name: Tullamore D.E.W., initialized after its founder Daniel E. Williams. While the press release below curiously plays down the tweaked product name, it does speak to some other big things afoot at “The Dew.” The new bottle photo appears at the bottom of the post.

NEW YORK, NY – Tullamore D.E.W., one of the world’s fastest growing Irish whiskeys, is putting a long-term plan in motion for the continued growth and development of the award-winning brand. Experiencing strong year on year growth in an increasingly popular category, Tullamore D.E.W. is building its future by strengthening the ties to its past with the re-opening of the Tullamore D.E.W. Visitor Centre, returning distillation of the liquid to the town of Tullamore and redesigning the Tullamore D.E.W. Original bottle.  These developments will set the stage for the triple-distilled, triple-blend whiskey to build more awareness, accessibility and understanding of the brand and its Irish True heritage with consumers.

Tullamore D.E.W. was founded in tumultuous times and persevered through the vision and drive of Daniel E. Williams whose initials comprise the name.  The brand embodies the essence of the Irish spirit, both poetic and rebellious, captured and celebrated through its Irish True campaign.  The whiskey itself also represents this duality in its complexity and smoothness, a result of a unique triple blend of grain, malt and pot still whiskeys.  Through these new actions, Tullamore D.E.W. is reaffirming its position as the one true choice in Irish whiskey and further strengthening its status as one of the world’s best loved whiskey brands.

Open on September 8th, 2012 in the town of Tullamore, Co. Offaly, Ireland, the Tullamore D.E.W. Visitor Centre is a modern, best-in-class brand experience with state-of-the-art facilities, a Whiskey Tour, an interactive history of Tullamore D.E.W. and expert tasting sessions catering to beginners and aficionados alike. Located on the banks of the town’s Grand Canal, the Centre is housed in a 104-year old building rich in architectural character that was originally the bonded warehouse for the distillery.  Close to the main Dublin-Galway thoroughfare and only one hour from the capital, the Centre ultimately expects to attract up to 40,000 tourists annually to Tullamore and the Midlands region.

In conjunction with the re-opening of the Tullamore D.E.W. Visitor Centre, Tullamore D.E.W. has unveiled a new bottle design for its distinctive Original blend. Available for purchase now, the new pack emphasizes the heritage of the brand throughout the design by giving founder, Daniel E. Williams’ initials “D.E.W.” more prominence within the product name. Additionally, “1829”, the year the original Tullamore distillery was founded is embossed on the bottle along with a number of past gold medals the brand has won since its inception, celebrating its status as one of the most awarded Irish whiskeys.

Prompted by the brands rapid growth, now selling over 650,000 cases worldwide, and in addition to increased consumer demand for Irish whiskey overall, William Grant & Sons Ltd. announced last March its intent to return the production of Tullamore D.E.W. to the town of Tullamore after 60 years of distilling elsewhere.  Work on the €35 million (approximately $43.5 million) distillery will break ground this month with expected completion in 2014.

“Tullamore D.E.W. represents the true essence of the Irish spirit and reaffirms its legacy in its hometown with the re-opening of the Tullamore D.E.W. Visitor Centre and the construction of the new distillery demonstrating our ultimate commitment to the region and to Irish whiskey,” says Ken Reilly, Category Marketing Director for William Grant & Sons, Inc. “The update to the new bottle highlights the brand heritage and ‘Irish True’ spirit, further establishing our determination to never compromise on the quality of the brand.”

NewTullamoreDewBottle2012 Email 353x1000 Tullamore Dew Gets a Makeover as Tullamore D.E.W.

Review: Mickey Finn Irish Apple Whiskey

I’ve never quite understood the idea behind the Mickey Finn name. Yeah, it sounds Irish, but it really means a drink served to someone to knock them out (typically to take advantage of them in some way). Why you’d name your Irish whiskey brand after such a thing, I have no idea.

Mickey Finn makes an Irish whiskey (really, it’s made in Dublin) flavored with green apples (“natural apple flavors,” as the label explains). What’s the big idea with this? It is “fanciful,” also as the label suggests, to believe that in the Prohibition era whiskey was smuggled into the U.S. in apple barrels. I’m not sure how that translates to putting apple flavor into the whiskey itself, but I get the homage at least.

Mickey Finn looks like apple juice and tastes like what would happen if you put Apple Pucker into Irish whiskey. It is as difficult to drink as it is to fathom, two flavors that have no business being in the same glass together. The apple is overwhelming here, sour and chemical in character. The whiskey, barely there at all, almost a sweetish afterthought and hardly anything you’d identify with any authority.

Is this something I just “don’t get” or is it just the latest bad idea to come out of whiskeydom? You be the judge.

70 proof.

D / $24 / mickeyfinnwhiskey.com

Mickey Finn Apple Whiskey Review: Mickey Finn Irish Apple Whiskey

Review: Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey

Part of the recently-founded (1987) Cooley Distillery mini-empire (which includes Tyrconnell, Connemara, and Greenore), Kilbeggan is perhaps the best known bottling that this Cooley Mountains-based distillery offers.

Why? Because the brand dates all the way back to 1757 (making it one of the oldest existing whiskey brands in the world). It changed hands many times and closed in 1957, then finally reopened in 2007 under Cooley’s ownership. Now quite the tourist attraction, it’s up and running at full steam once again.

Kilbeggan is classic Irish, but quite sweet, even for the normally sugary Irish style. On the nose there’s instant banana, fresh cut grains, orange (juice), and a touch of golden raisin character. Moderate to big body, fairly creamy, but far from overwhelming. The finish is a bit astringent, a likely indicator of this whiskey’s relative youthfulness, but it’s still perfectly quaffable. Ultimately Kilbeggan is a bit on the simplistic side, but fine for sipping before your corned beef and cabbage.

B+ / $20 / kilbegganwhiskey.com

kilbeggan irish whiskey Review: Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey

Review: Bushmills Irish Honey

Now the Irish are getting into the honey whiskey thing. Bushmills Irish Honey is the first honey-flavored spirit (to my knowledge) from the Emerald Isle, a simple blend of original Bushmills, Irish honey, and Irish water, bottled in the traditionally squared Bushmills-style bottle.

The results are solid. As Jack Daniels proved with its Tennessee Honey liqueur, the key to getting this category right is going easy on the honey. Really easy.

Here, the whiskey does the bulk of the talking, as it should, and the honey hangs in the background, always there but never pushing its way to the forefront. Instead it’s really more like a light bodied whiskey that has honey as its primary character.

Beyond that, however, there’s not much to report. Like standard Bushmills the whiskey component is youthful and uncomplicated, heavy with grain character, cereal, and heather. The honey itself doesn’t offer any clues as to its heritage — no orange character, and so on — just a pleasant sweetness. Put together it’s like a grown-up, liquified version of Honeycomb cereal. I mean that in the best possible way imaginable.

70 proof.

A- / $25 / bushmills.com

bushmills irish honey Review: Bushmills Irish Honey

Review: Redbreast 12 Years Old Cask Strength Irish Whiskey

OMG how the people love Redbreast. It wins awards, has hipster cred, and bartenders love the stuff. It’s the hippest Irish whiskey on earth, and it costs a boatload.

Somehow I’ve never really gotten into it.

Made by Midleton (which also makes Jameson and other Irish brands), it is distilled three times in a copper pot still before aging. Now the venerable 12 year old Redbreast is newly available in a cask strength version, bumping the proof up to 115.4.

Most people drink Irish because it is so easygoing, and Redbreast shows why the Other Half may be getting into it: It is not so easy, bolder, fuller, more flavorful, and a little rough around the edges, perhaps primarily due to the use of both malted and unmalted barley in the mashbill. There is plenty to like here: That telltale Irish whiskey banana character (almost over-ripe in the way it comes across), coconut, nougat, dried figs, raisins, and butterscotch syrup. It’s creamy and rich, almost like a dessert or an ice cream topping. But it keeps that quirky funkiness — a kind of bitter edge that you really only catch on the finish.

Of course, at cask strength it is a different experience than at 80 proof. But even I was embarrassed at how easy it goes down without cutting it with water. The side effect of high-proof whiskey is always that crazy long finish, though (I wouldn’t call it “burn” here), something you can only cut with… another sip.

Now that I’ve spent more time with Redbreast, I’m starting to see what the others do. I can’t speak for the 80-proof varieties (yet), but this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

A- / $70 / irishdistillers.ie

Redbreast 12 years old cask strength Review: Redbreast 12 Years Old Cask Strength Irish Whiskey