The rise of Irish continues with the relaunch of Kinahan’s Irish Whiskey, a brand that dates back to 1779 and was called for by none other than Jerry Thomas in some of his iconic cocktail recipes from the 1800s.
Kinahan’s went under in the early 1900s but was revived in 2014, and for obvious reasons: Irish whiskey is riding high, and new brands are popping up right and left to jump on the trend.
While Kinahan’s clearly isn’t making its own stock yet — sourcing for these bottlings is undisclosed — it’s out the door with two quite different releases. Both are worth a taste if you see them. Thoughts follow.
Kinahan’s Blended Irish Whiskey – A blend of grains; aged at least 6 years. A fairly standard Irish, this light-bodied whiskey features notes of rich honey, coconut, and banana, plus overtones of walnuts. Gentle baking spices emerge with time, but so does a bit of acetone influence. The finish offers a touch of red pepper on the tongue — thanks in part to the slightly higher proof — but otherwise makes a callback to those initial honey notes. Works well enough. 92 proof. B+ / $40
Kinahan’s Single Malt Irish Whiskey 10 Years Old – Bolder, as one would expect, but with remarkably different character. Distinctly tropical on the nose with a pronounced tangerine note, the whiskey kicks things off with a fruit bomb. On the palate, the traditional honey notes come on after the citrus character fades a bit, with the finish offering curious notes of graham crackers and brewed tea. Considerably more interesting than the blend. 92 proof. A- / $69
Tullamore D.E.W.’s latest release continues to up the ante — and the price — in the world of Irish. Tullamore D.E.W.’s Trilogy is a 15 year old whiskey that undergoes — you guessed it — three different barrel treatments. It starts in the traditional ex-bourbon casks, then spends time in Oloroso sherry butts, and finally ends up finishing in rum barrels — a first for the brand.
As Tullamore works its way up the price ladder, let’s take a look at this new expression.
Incredibly rich on the nose, Trilogy offers notes of salted caramel, nutty amontillado sherry, and nutmeg — and comes across as surprising and exciting. Modestly sweet, it engages the senses without overwhelming. On the palate, both ample vanilla and sherry notes — well integrated — come to the fore, before the traditional, honey-heavy notes of Irish whiskey take hold. Notes of malted milk and mild chocolate notes make an appearance before the arrival of the finish, where the sherry is most present — mildly citrus but quite drying and a bit astringent. All good up until here, but then there’s an aftertaste that is a touch rubbery — something likely driven by the rum casks.
You can definitely taste all three cask varieties in Trilogy, but it’s the rum barrel where things seem to go astray. The rummy nutmeg notes up front work just fine, but that finish introduces a petrol note that detracts from an otherwise charming little spirit.
B / $80 / tullamoredew.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
A. Hardy is now importing this new Irish whiskey from Hibernia Distillers, which was established only last year. Hyde No. 1 (No. 2 and No. 3 are in the works) is a 10 year old single malt, aged in first-fill oak bourbon casks, then finished in first-fill oloroso sherry casks and non-chill filtered.
Those looking for sherry bombs may be disappointed. Hyde No. 1 features lots of sweetened cereal – huge, really – on the nose, with heather and some charcoal notes backing it up. On the palate, the whiskey really pumps up the granary notes, tempering things with touches of salted caramel and a bit of seaweed/iodine character – a bit of a surprise in an Irish whiskey.
The palate is sharp and quick to get to the finish, which offers just a touch of sulfur character amidst the essence of pure grain. That said, the entire experience is gentle enough that it doesn’t mar the overall encounter too terribly — though I have a lot of trouble justifying the price for such a simplistic whisky.
92 proof. 5,000 bottles produced.
B / $70 / irishwhiskey.com
Available in the U.S. for about a year and a half, Green Spot has deservedly taken earned its reputation as one of the best Irish whiskeys on the market. And now for something completely different: Green Spot… finished in used Bordeaux wine casks.
Green Spot Chateau Leoville Barton takes the original Green Spot — matured in a mix of sherry, new bourbon, and refill bourbon casks — then transfers the liquid into Bordeaux casks from Chateau Leoville Barton, where it finishes for 12 to 24 months.
This expression immediately cuts a spicier, more pungent figure. The nose showcases honey, vanilla, and banana notes, but it’s undercut by subtle and tannic red wine notes. You might initially find this confluence off-putting, but give it some time and things start to gel. On the palate, the wine influence is stronger, the tannin hitting first alongside some austere wood notes, the wine cask then adding a raisin note atop the more expected notes of marshmallow, toffee, and vanilla. The finish is huge, again bringing out more winey elements, chewy and powerful and punchy with some Christmas spice notes to polish things off. (Also of note is that this expression is considerably higher in alcohol than standard Green Spot, which is bottled at 80 proof.)
All told, this is a fun expression and an exciting spin on a whiskey that never had anything to prove. It isn’t quite as cohesive as the original, but it’s wholly worthwhile in its own right.
A- / $65 / singlepotstill.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Ireland pretty much has two national beverages — Irish whiskey and stout (and no, I’m not counting poitin). Why not combine the two, you say? Say hello to Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition. (Perhaps implying that other editions are in the works.)
It’s a simple idea at work here: Take Jameson Original whiskey and finish it in casks of Franciscan Well, an Irish microbrew stout. (No, it’s not Guinness, but that really isn’t barrel aged any more, anyway.) Actually, the barrels start at Jameson, then they go to the brewery, then they go back to Jameson for reuse as finishing barrels. There’s no word on how long the whiskey spends in the barrels in this final step.
The results are interesting if nothing else. Slightly darker in color, Caskmates immediately showcases a sharper nose with notes of oatmeal, nuts, and cocoa powder, a contrast to malty, fruity notes on the Original bottling. On the palate Caskmates is a more intense whiskey with flecks of coffee, chocolate malt balls, and apple cider. Standard Jameson: simple and sweet, with a mix of fruit and nuts and a backing of gentle grains. I don’t get a distinctly stout character in Caskmates — maybe a touch of hops on the finish — but on its own merits it’s a whiskey worth picking up, particularly if you’re an Irish fan.
B+ / $30 / jamesonwhiskey.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Our friends at Dublin’s Teeling Whiskey Company already make a single malt release, but now they’re taking things a step further with a series of Single Cask releases of their single malt stock.
Some seven casks of Irish single malt — each release under 200 or so bottles — are being released, including whiskey aged and/or finished for a varying amount of time in white burgundy barrels, white port pipes, and other exotic woods. You’ll need to check the hand-written find print to see which one you’re getting, so pay close attention. All are bottled at cask strength. This one’s a 16 year old barrel, matured fully in rum casks. Distilled March 1999 and bottled June 2015, making it a 16 year old.
It’s hot stuff, a bit scorching on the throat at first owing to the hefty alcohol level — particularly hot for Irish. Very malty up front (on the nose and the palate), the earthy grain notes are a big surprise considering how long this has spent maturing. Lots of lumberyard on the nose, too — and it’s a bit on the sweaty side.
Again, the body is blazing hot and can stand up to a healthy amount of water to bring it down to a more workable alcohol level. I had it watered down to a very pale gold before I could really analyze the nuances of this whiskey. Grain remains the focus; toasty barley notes with a back-end of golden syrup, cloves, and some raisin notes. Time is a friend of the Single Cask, which helps some of the more rugged elements mellow. What I don’t really get is much of a rum influence. This is the essence of pure, unadulterated single malt through and through.
B+ / $130 / teelingwhiskey.com
This poitin — Ireland’s answer to moonshine — comes from West Cork Distillers, whose aged whiskeys we reviewed a few months back. Pot-distilled from barley and beet sugar, it is bottled without aging.
The nose of Glory is incredibly pungent. Strong notes of fuel hit first, touched with just a bit of sweet vanilla. The body arrives with a rush of heat, more petrol notes, and some earthier notes — tree bark, forest floor, and a bit of mushroom. Some sweetness creeps in, but it’s hard to place specifically. Burnt sugar? Clove-dusted doughnuts? Who can say?
Poitin is rarely an elevated drinking experience, and Glory comes across largely as expected — on par with the white whiskey experience but dusted with a touch of sweet stuff.
C+ / $25 / mswalker.com