Review – Nine Irish Whiskeys from the New Hampshire Liquor Commission

Review – Nine Irish Whiskeys from the New Hampshire Liquor Commission

New Hampshire is a thirsty state. For nearly a decade now, we’ve periodically covered the NHLC’s acquisition of single barrel American whiskey and tequila. Now, through a partnership with Bord Bia, Ireland’s Agency for Food and Drink, the Granite State is getting access to a wide selection of unique Irish whiskeys. Per NHLC:

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission (NHLC) and Bord Bia have forged an international partnership to provide NH Liquor & Wine Outlet customers exclusive access to the world’s finest Irish whiskeys. For more than a year, NHLC officials have worked with Bord Bia, along with numerous Irish distillers, to source rare and ultra-premium whiskeys with limited to no U.S. distribution. NH Liquor & Wine Outlet will be the first retailer in the nation to feature this collection of 20 ultra-premium Irish whiskeys, which includes products from Fercullen, The Irishman, Writers’ Tears, Drumshanbo, Waterford, Teeling, West Cork, Clonakilty and The Whistler.

We were sent samples of nearly half of what’s now on offer. Thoughts follow.

Drumshanbo Single Malt 2023 Galanta Release – Distilled by The Shed Distillery, this is the first Irish whiskey from the Connacht province in Western Ireland in over 100 years and the first single malt we’ve tasted from Drumshanbo, which hit our shores initially with their impressive gin followed by a single pot still offering. This is a youthful and subdued single malt. Soft notes of barley, sugar cookie, and vanilla custard showcase a straightforward bouquet and elegant balance. The same goes for the palate where initial notes of toffee and simple syrup build ever so slightly to candy apple and buttery pear tart before a warm finish of baking spice and soft oak. For a rather timid single malt, it’s still surprisingly enjoyable. Best to sip neat. 92 proof. B+ / $90

Waterford Cuvee Irish Whiskey – A blend of whiskeys distilled from grain grown on 25 different farms across Ireland and aged for six years. This is still one of my favorite Waterford releases to do date with an earthy, biscuity aroma that opens to reveal fresh, waxy apple and pear notes. The palate is sweet with barley sugar and citrus, transitioning to more orchard fruit and warm baking spice on the finish. 100 proof. A- / $90

Teeling Wonders of Wood Single Pot Still Portuguese Oak – Made from a recipe of 50% malted barley and 50% unmalted barley, triple distilled, and fully matured in virgin Portuguese Oak casks. It’s unusually peppery and earthy on the nose with notes of clay and cut grass that turn to sweeter, buttery Snickerdoodles and gingerbread as things open up. The palate follows a similar trajectory with an initial rush of whole baking spice and dry oak that sweetens ever so slightly on the midpalate with some cookie butter and baking cocoa before finding a strange but enticing balance of graphite and Ginger Snaps on a warm, simmering finish. A must try for fans of Irish pot still whiskey. 100 proof. A- / $89

Writers’ Tears Marsala Cask Irish Whiskey – A blend of single malt and single pot still whiskey finished in five Marsala wine hogsheads from the Florio Winery in Sicily. While the specs here appear to be for the 2022 release of this limited edition, we previously covered the 2023 offering, an all single pot still release finished in a combination of PX and Marsala. In comparison, there’s more wine influence here but a bit less body. The aroma offers a malt and nougat foundation supporting bright, candy sweet top notes of red berries, sugared almonds, tart apple, and pear. The palate showcases all of that same sweetness with initial notes of Amaretti cookies, orchard fruit, and raspberry jam, but it’s all rather thin, leaving those flavors to muddle on the midpalate and dissolve too soon on the finish. 90 proof. B+ / $100

Writers’ Tears Cask Strength Irish Whiskey – Based on the details from Bord Bia, this is the 2023 release of Writers’ Tears Cask Strength which we previously reviewed. A mix of single pot still and single malt aged in ex-bourbon and bottled without chill filtration. The aroma is bright and gently sweet with fresh, peppery oak, vanilla bean and peach preserves. On the palate, plenty of baking spice and ginger arrive up front but quickly turn to butterscotch and bright, juicy citrus before coalescing into a fruity finish of ripe peach, orange slices, and dry oak. 109.6 proof. B+ / $170

Writers’ Tears Japanese Cask Irish Whiskey – Initially exclusive to travel retail in celebration of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, this Writers’ Tears expression is the familiar blend of single malt and single pot still but finished for nine months in rare Mizunara oak. There’s plenty of wood on the nose, but it doesn’t overpower the classic fruitiness of the whiskey with notes of tinned pear and white peach emerging in equal measure with buttery oak and vanilla custard. Impressively approachable at this proof, the palate begins with a similar orchard fruit cocktail, syrupy and sweet, before quickly adding a layer of black pepper and baking spice that simmers into a dry, wood-driven finish of coffee grounds and chocolate-covered citrus. One of the more balanced and enjoyable Writers’ Tears expressions I’ve encountered. 110 proof. A- / $140

The Irishman Single Malt Irish Whiskey 17 Years Old – A stunner fully aged in oloroso sherry casks, only three of which are produced each year. The aroma is deep and dignified with dark sweets and dried tea leaves in equal measure that give way to a distinct aged oak note as it opens. On the palate, the sherry dominates with rich marzipan and dark berry notes, transitioning to cocoa powder and pepper before a sweet reprise on the finish with a lingering, sticky note of chocolate-covered cherry. 112 proof. A / $200

The Whistler Imperial Stout – A limited release of 3,000 bottles, this is a blend of Whistler’s malt and single grain whiskeys finished for 12 months in an O’Hara’s Irish Stout cask that previously held single malt. The nose is pleasant if a little subdued even at this proof. The stout cask is well-balanced with a lacing of milk chocolate to complement the caramel and Graham cracker notes in the malt and grain blend. The palate, however, comes across surprisingly flat with a muted, brown sugar sweetness that quickly turns to menthol and gritty cooked grain. There’s some redemption on the finish as those rough edges start to round with notes of cocoa powder and a bit of baking spice. Too little, too late. 86 proof. B- / $32

The Whistler Dark Symphony – Never before released to the United States, this blend of Irish malt and grain whiskey is finished in ex-Cognac casks from New Era Oak Cask. There’s plenty of sweet, caramelized grain whiskey on the nose, but a lacing of malt gives things a surprisingly full and buttery texture. Syrupy brown sugar dominates, but muted notes of raisin bread and peach pie offer some welcome complexity. On the palate, early notes of buttercream and caramel sauce give way to citrus but then turn a bit peppery and sharp on the midpalate before a simple, soothing finish of warm oak and banana bread. 86 proof. B / $40

Drumshanbo Single Malt 2023 Galanta Release




Drew Beard is assistant editor for Drinkhacker and winner of several booze-related merit badges, including Certified Specialist in Spirits and Executive Bourbon Steward. A former federal employee turned hotelier and spirits journalist, he looks forward to his next midlife crisis.

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