Writers’ Tears is rightfully renowned as one of the most approachable yet effusive Irish whiskeys on the market. So… what if we took the gentle Writers’ Tears and bottled it at cask strength. What then? This vintage dated expression — 2020 in this tasting — of Writers’ Tears (which now formally features proper punctuation in the form of that apostrophe) is a blend of pot still and single malt Irish whiskey, aged in bourbon casks, just like the original. The only real difference: It’s bottled uncut and at full proof: 54.5% abv, in this case.
I was almost taken aback when I tucked into my bottle of Writers’ Tears Cask Strength: It is incredibly dry, almost austere, and quite unlike the 80-proof expression with which I’m well accustomed. There’s no sweetness on the nose at all; it’s replaced with a weighty character of oiled wood, leather, and tobacco. Side by side against the standard bottling, the experience is like night and day. Honey and spice percolate from the start on the rack Writers’ Tears. At cask strength, the whiskey is like walking into a rug shop, filtered through a Covid mask.
On the palate, the cask strength expression perks up a bit, though it remains quite savory and heavy. Pepper, fresh ginger, and a healthy punch of charred wood dominate up front, with dark, rather bitter chocolate notes emerging toward the finish. Again, the natural sweetness of a top shelf Irish whiskey is elusive here, and I found myself repeatedly returning to sips of standard Writers’ Tears to cleanse my palate to prepare myself for more of the cask strength. The finish is dry and a little hard-edged, grassy with a lingering barrel char character.
It’s by no means a bad whiskey, but I have to say I prefer the standard strength expression by quite a lot. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
109 proof. Reviewed: “Chapter 04.” 1500 bottles produced.