Are Irish Whiskeys the Best?
Irish whiskeys as the names suggests are whiskeys that are only distilled in Ireland. Irish Whiskey used to be more popular than Scottish Whiskey, but in the early 19th Century this all changed and now Ireland only has 12 distilleries, compared to over 100 in Scotland.
Out of these twelve, only five are old enough to produce whiskey, with the rest only starting production after 2010. Interestingly, though Ireland can boast the oldest licenced distillery in the world. The Old Bushmills Distillery was licensed in 1608 by the then King James 1st.
Originally Irish Whiskey was distilled from unmalted grains and this gave the spirit a very light colour and neutral taste, although it’s rare to find this on its own, as they tend to be used to blend with other whiskeys.
The other way Irish Wiskeys are produced is using a pot still. This can be either using a single malted barley, which is then called Single Malt Whiskey and is similar to Scottish Single Malt, the difference being that the Irish don’t use peat in the malting process and the result is less smokey and much smoother in taste.
A pot still is also involved when combining malted and unmalted barley using the same process as above. This results in a blended whiskey and was called Irish Pot Still Whiskey. Irish whiskey is normally distilled three times compared to the Scottish twice.
Now that we understand a little of the differences in Irish Whiskeys, lets take a look at some of the different bottles available.
Bushmills Black Bush Whiskey
This is from the renown Bushmills Distillery which has a long and interesting history. Licenced in 1608, although not registering the trademark until 1784. The distillery was all but destroyed in 1885, but rebuilt and became one of the most popular whiskies of the 20th Century.
The Bushmills product, still enjoys a reputation for quality whiskey and the Black Bush whiskey is no exception.
A a blend of mostly malted barley that have been aged for at least 11 years in Oloroso Sherry casks. The whiskey is dark golden in colour and has rich fruity overtones, thanks to the sweetness of the grain and the sherry casks. The finish is incredibly smooth and can be enjoyed neat or with a little ice. A bottle costs $36.
Clontarf 1014 Irish Whiskey
This whiskey is name clontarf 1014 from the battle of Clontarf of the same date, when the Irish King Brian Boru, crushed viking invaders. Although it was a fierce battle and 75% of King Boru’s troops were killed, the vikings were completely wiped out and the vikings never troubled Ireland again.
The Clontarf distillery is based in Country Cork, although the company is owned by Castle Brands in New York. The clontarf 1014 is a combination of crystal clear spring water, barley and maize.
The whiskey is distilled three times using the original copper pot stills and filtered through a charcoal bed to give the whiskey its unique taste and flavour. The spirit is aged for a minimum of four years in bourbon casks and then blended together, to achieve a consistent taste. Price is $40 a bottle.
Inishowen Irish Whiskey
A little bit of background. This whiskey was originally produced by the Kilbeggan distillery, that can trace its routes back to the late 1700’s. Unfortunately it suffered the fate of many Irish Distilleries and ceased production in 1957. However John Teeling decided he wanted to rescue some of the old brands and set up the Cooley Distillery in 1987, which included Kilbeggan.
Unlike a lot of Irish Whiskeys, peat is used in the process to produce an unusual rich smokey flavour. Aged for at least four years, this is a relatively young whiskey, but a bottle can be enjoyed for about $35.
Midleton Very Rare 2014
This is a rare and hard to find whiskey as the name implies. Although we are talking about the 2014 vintage, only 50 barrels are released each year. This whiskey is a blend of whiskies that have been aged for between twelve and twenty five years.
This whiskey is produced by the midleton distillery which is owned and operated by Irish Distillers Ltd. There are two sides to this company, one is the production of whiskey, including the famous Jameson Irish Whiskey brand, the other is as marketing and distribution of Pernod Ricard premium wine and spirit brands within Ireland including ABSOLUT, Havana Club, Malibu, and Jacob’s Creek.
According to the tasting notes from the Midleton Website
The nose has a sweet top not of sugar cane, then the pot still spices appear together with vanilla, oak char, fudge, milk chocolate and green apples. The taste is still spicey and fruity, with the oak char adding to the complexity. The whiskey has a mellow finish which lingers. A bottle will set you back $215.
Millars Special Reserve Irish Whiskeys
This whiskey was originally produced in 1843 by Adam Millar and Company. It has since been taken over by the Cooley Distillery, which also produces the Inishowen previewed above. Whilst the name has been around for a long time, the production of this whiskey has been very hit and miss over the years. As a result this whiskey has lost a lot of its following due to the inconsistency of the brand.
The whiskey itself is a ten year old blend, 80 proof. It is very pale in colour and the nose is very floral. This is also evident in the taste, although there are also hints of the minerals that occur in the spring water used in the distillation process. Although not that easy to obtain, it is priced at a reasonable $35.
Greenore 18 year old Single Grain Irish Whiskey
Greenore is part of the Kilbeggan Company and distilled in the Cooley Distillery at Riverstown. This is a single grain whiskey and we have chosen the 18 year old, which has been kept that little bit longer in American Oak Casks. In fact this batch has been limited to only 4000 bottles. The tasting notes from the distillery itself state
Soft sweet corn accompanied by a burst of zesty orange and citrus lemon
Sweet butterscotch toffee with a rich creamy vanilla character
Sweetness lingers on the tongue giving way to smooth clean oak note
Greenore have won awards in recent years and the hope is that this will follow suit. The cost if you can find a bottle isd around $80.
Tullamore Dew Single Malt (10-year)
The Tullamore Dew distillery, named after its creator Daniel E Williams, first opened its doors in 1829. In the 1900’s Desmond Williams Daniels Grandson took over, but production ceased in the 1950’s, until a new state of the art distillery was created in 2014 and production of this long lost brand resumed.
What gives this whiskey such a unique taste in the triple distilling, the triple blending of single grain, malt and pot still and the triple maturing in three different cask types, refill, sherry and bourbon.
The 10 year old single malt is actually matured in four different casks, with the addition of port and madeira casks. The whiskey has a warm golden colour and smells of christmas cake, pinapple and apricots. The fruity finish lingers in your mouth. Retails for around $60.