What do you get when you combine a pioneer of the American craft distilling movement with a revered Irish whiskey Master Distiller? Apparently, the answer is Keeper’s Heart Whiskey. Inspired by the Irish-American heritage of the O’Shaughnessy family, Keeper’s Heart bills itself as a marriage of the best Irish and American whiskey-making traditions, and while the whiskeys in question are currently sourced from their respective homelands, the gents blending them at the O’Shaughnessy Distillery in Minneapolis are no newcomers to the whiskey world. David Perkins, founder of craft whiskey heavyweight High West Distillery, serves as Liquid Collaborator and Advisor, while the Master Distiller captaining the Keeper’s Heart ship is none other than Brian Nation, whose credits include some of the most well-known Irish whiskeys in the world, like Jameson, Redbreast, and Middleton Very Rare.
In the future, Keeper’s Heart will offer an in-house single pot still whiskey made in the Irish tradition and aged in new American oak, as well as a house-distilled pot still bourbon and rye. But they kicked things off with two different blends of sourced Irish and American whiskeys, both of which were made available to us for review. Thoughts follow.
Keeper’s Heart Irish + American Whiskey – The inaugural offering from Keeper’s Heart is a blend of Irish grain and pot still whiskeys with an American 95/5 rye whiskey (distilled at Ross & Squibb, nee MGP), all aged at least four years. The aroma is bright and youthful but not undercooked with stewed cereals, straw, and snickerdoodles. As it opens things turn fruitier and more floral with green apple, honeysuckle, and some soft wintergreen. The palate is clearly a unique merger of both whiskey worlds, showcasing heavier-bodied, honeyed malts from the Irish whiskey and a lighter, brighter minty spice from the rye, but the grain whiskey does seem to dominate. Midpalate notes of vanilla bean, clove, and lemon pie are enjoyable, if a bit thin, and it all fades a little too quickly on the finish. Lots of potential here. And it’s affordable enough to offer plenty of interesting cocktailing opportunities. 86 proof. B / $35 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Keeper’s Heart Irish + Bourbon Whiskey – The latest edition to the Keeper’s Heart line is made of the same Irish grain and pot still whiskeys blended with a bourbon sourced from Ross & Squibb, all aged at least four years. The aroma is richer than the Irish + American with the gentle toffees and char of the bourbon supplanting the spice of the rye and melding even better with the malt and grain of the Irish whiskeys. Soft vanilla bean and stewed orchard fruits arrive in time. On the palate, an almost syrupy sweetness takes hold and never really lets up, offering notes of toasted sugar, vanilla fudge, and candy apple. Heading into the finish, things again start to thin out, but a nice mix of baking spice, honey candies, and caramel help to extend the experience. Like the Irish + American, it’s pretty straightforward stuff, but the mouthfeel is improved with this one and the Irish component just seems to work a bit better with bourbon. 86 proof. B+ / $40