Starting Your First Irish Whiskey Collection. – Stuart’s Suggestions
Stuart’s Irish Whiskey Selection
In last week’s blog post I offered some advice and ideas on how to start building your first Irish Whiskey Collection. Hopefully, I also managed to “demystify” the world of Irish Whiskey for those of you who are whiskey beginners or those who want to delve a bit deeper into the art of whiskey tasting and collecting,
As promised last week, I have compiled a list of 16 great Irish whiskeys for you to consider when starting your own personal Irish Whiskey Collection. I know that some of the purists and traditionalists will give out that I should have included this that and the other. No offence is intended to any brands or expressions that I have not included. In selecting my recommendations, I wanted my selection to be a representative as possible of all elements of the Irish Whiskey sector.
I think that the whiskeys that I have selected showcase a nice mix of entry level, special and premium Irish whiskeys between a €30- €100 price point. There is also a nice mix of all of the three types and four blends of Irish Whiskey in a range of different ages, strengths, maturation casks and finishes.
In order to broaden your whiskey horizons, I have also suggested five international whiskies from Scotland, India and Japan as well as some Irish distilled Vodka, Gins and Poitín.
Pooka One – Every Day Irish Whiskey
Tullamore D.E.W. Original Irish Whiskey
The Original and The Best! If there was a “safe pair of hands”, go any where – do any thing Irish Whiskey it would be Tullamore D.E.W. The D.E.W. stands for Daniel E. Williams who was the manager of the old Tullamore DEW Distillery a century ago and who was responsible for creating the iconic Irish Whiskey brand that is today.
Tullamore D.E.W. @ 40% ABV, is similar in price to Jameson, but uniquely, along with Paddy Whiskey, it is the only Irish Whiskey that is a “Trinity Blend” of all three Irish Whiskey types, Single Malt, Single Grain and Single Pot Still. The addition of single malt whiskey to the blend gives it greater depth and complexity than Jameson which is a blend of Single Grain and Single Pot Still.
This is a hugely versatile whiskey that can be sipped neat, with ice, mixers, in cocktails, Irish coffees or as a hot toddy.
Tullamore D.E.W. as the quintessential Pooka 1 Irish Whiskey, will be always be the back bone of your Irish Whiskey Collection.
For Summer sipping with lots of ice, check out their Cider Cask finished expression.
Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey
I bought my first bottle of Teeling Small Batch in Dublin Airport when it was first launched back in 2013 and I have being buying it regularly since. This is the whiskey that started the Teeling Whiskey brand.
A wonderfully presented bottle of Irish Whiskey, packed with flavour and with the added bonus of a rum cask finish for extra smoothness. More than good enough for any whiskey aficionado to savour either neat or with water. Well priced for this quality of Irish Whiskey, meaning that you can also justify using it to add a Rolls Royce touch to your cocktails, whiskey on the rocks or a whiskey mixer drink. Five Years on, Teeling Small Batch is still one of my own personal favourite desert island whiskeys.
Pooka 2 – Special Irish Whiskeys
West Cork Glengarriff Bog Oak Finish Single Malt
There is a centre of excellence program in the American aerospace world called “The Skunk Works” that works on top secret technologies that are often ten or twenty years ahead of current trends. It’s where science fiction and dreams become reality. They developed the U2 and Black Bird spy planes as well as radar defeating stealth technology. Fifty years after its first flight, the Black Bird is still the fastest conventional aircraft in the world.
West Cork Distillery is the “Skunk Works” of the Irish Whiskey world. I can pay them no higher compliment. They operate quietly under the PR radar, from their base in Skibbereen where they produce not only their own excellent expressions, but also many of the best of Irish Whiskey’s new independent bottling brands.
Their new Glengarriff range represents all that is best in modern whiskey innovation and their single malt expression matured in West Cork Bog Oak charred casks and bottled at 43% ABV is a tremendous example of West Cork Distillers at their innovative best in bringing ground breaking new thinking and new processes to Irish Whiskey distilling and maturation. They also have a Peat Charred cask (rather than peated) expression.
Pearse 5 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey
Pearse 5 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey is the first 5 year old whiskey to be produced from an Irish Whiskey Distillery in more than twenty five years. The stills which produced this whiskey five years ago in Carlow and are now installed and working in the Pearse Lyons “Church Distillery” in Dublin, were made by Vendome in the USA and give this single malt an intriguing bite and twist quite unlike any other Irish Single Malt.
Aged in Bourbon casks from their Kentucky cousins and bottled at 46% ABV, Pearse 5 Year Old is the first 5 Year Old Single Malt from anew Irish Distillery in over 25 years. As a limited release of just 4,000 individually numbered bottles, Pearse 5 Year Old also adds a little piece of Whiskey History to you new Irish Whiskey Collection.
The Silkie Irish Whiskey
Sliabh Liag produce a wonderful blended Irish Whiskey brand called The Silkie which is currently distilled for them by a third party Irish Whiskey Distillery. They will shortly commence construction on their own Irish Whiskey Distillery and Visitor Centre in Ardara, Co. Donegal.
The Silkie stands out on the whiskey shop shelf as the tall, slim and elegant whiskey bottle of Irish Single Malt with it’s Silkie Sea Goddess image suspended in a sea of blue green ocean reflecting the colour and depth of the ocean from the sea cliffs of Sliabh Liag. That elegance carries through to the whiskey.
The Silkie Irish Whiskey from Donegal.
On the nose there is a quite gentle maltiness. The taste is velvet smooth with lots of spice and ginger more reminiscent of a well aged single pot still than a single malt blend. The finish has hints of salted caramel and hot buttered yeast buns. This is a really great blended balance of malt and grain whiskeys.
This is a wonderful new Irish whiskey, bursting with character and flavour and elegantly dressed and presented in a beautifully tactile bottle and branding. It not only tastes terrific, but it has the looks and style to add to that all important “Feel Good – Look Good” factor for the beginner collector.
Slane Irish Whiskey Triple Casked Irish Whiskey
Slane Whiskey is owned by the Coyngham family of Slane castle fame who have been backed by American whiskey giants Brown Forman in building an Irish Whiskey Distillery in Slane Castle. The first new make spirit from Slane Distillery was casked just a few weeks ago, so we have at least 3 years and probably more, to wait for the whiskey to be actually distilled in Slane Distillery.
In the meantime, the current Slane whiskey is a blend of Irish whiskeys sourced from another Irish Distillery which have been been matured in a combination of Virgin Oak, Seasoned Tennessee Whiskey and Bourbon Casks and Oloroso Sherry casks. The American influence is strong, both in taste and packaging and like Pearse whiskey, brings an interesting and welcome new dynamic to the Irish Whiskey world. Bottled at 40% ABV, this is a quite smooth, approachable and easy drinking whiskey that easily earns a solid place on our 2 Pooka Special Irish Whiskey shelf.
Powers Three Swallow Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
Up until now, Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey has been the preserve of Irish Distillers through their Green Spot and Yellow Spot, Redbreast and Premium Powers Whiskeys. That will all change shortly as new Single Pot Still expressions hit the market from more recently developed Irish Whiskey distilleries such as Teeling, Dingle and John Teeling’s Great Northern.
Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey is distilled just like Single Malt Whiskey in Copper Pot Stills, but with a mix of malted and un-malted barley in the mash bill. This mix, unique to Irish Whiskey creates a smooth creamy mouth feel and slightly spicy or peppery taste which is typical of all Single Pot Still Whiskeys.
For years, the go-to or entry level single pot still whiskey was Green Spot. But in 2015, Powers released a marvelous entry level Single Pot Still expression called Powers Three Swallow after the three swallows logo that appears on every Powers bottle.
This is a great tasting and still quite affordable whiskey which we gave our Irish Whiskey Trail’s Irish Whiskey of the Year Award to in 2015. It is one of my own personal favourite Single Pot Still whiskeys.
If you want to start sampling the wonderful world of smooth, creamy and spicy Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, try Powers Three Swallow first and if you like what you find, explore further with Powers John’s Lane, Yellow Spot or Redbreast.
Hyde 1916 Six Year Old Single Grain Irish Whiskey
Hyde Whiskey have been one the leading success stories of the Irish Whiskey Renaissance. As independent Irish Whiskey Bottlers and Irish Whiskey Bonders, Hyde source whiskeys from several Irish distilleries and blend, mature and finish these whiskeys to their own specification in a wide variety of specially sourced casks from all over the world. Their motto is “It’s all about the wood” and Hyde Whiskey now have seven different Single Malt, Single Grain and Blended Irish Whiskey expressions, all of which feature unique maturation journeys and finishes.
If you want maximum bang for your buck when looking for a whiskey with a special finish, then look no further than a Column Still or Coffey Still distilled Single Grain Whiskey. While they may often lack the full and more robust flavours of a Single Pot Still or Single Malt whiskey, their lighter character makes them a perfect blank canvas which can influenced all the more by the rum, port, wine or sherry finish of the finishing cask.
Hyde 1916 is a stunning example of how 6 years of influence from the burnt oak and burnt caramel sweetness of bourbon barrels enhances what was a superb triple distilled Single Grain Irish Whiskey to begin with. Hyde 1916 won the Gold Medal for Best Irish Single Grain Whiskey in the 2016 Irish Whiskey Awards and we gave it our Irish Whiskey of the Year Award in the 2016 Irish Whiskey Trail’s Irish Whiskey of the Year Awards.
The Irishman Founders Reserve Irish Whiskey
Walsh Whiskey opened their own distillery a few years ago in Royal Oak, a few miles outside Carlow. It will be another year or so before we see the first home-distilled whiskeys from the copper pot stills and column stills of their own distillery, but over the last three years, sales of their signature brands of Writers Tears and The Irishman have grown exponentially. They are now one of the leading Irish Whiskey brands along with Irish Distillers, Tullamore D.E.W. and Teeling.
Their Writers Tears Single Malt expressions are all quite wonderful, but it is their Irishman Founders Reserve expression that I have selected for our Beginners Whiskey Collection.
Here’s why. As I mentioned at the start of my earlier article, there are just four possible Irish Whiskey blend combinations. The Irishman is the only Irish Whiskey brand so far to represent the “Champagne Blend” of Single Pot Still and Single Malt Irish Whiskey. Bottled at 40% ABV, The Irishman is one of the most flavoursome blended Irish Whiskeys on the market today. It is terrific value for what you get, especially if buying duty free in Dublin airport. The Irishman is also available in a terrific Caribbean Rum Finish expression which I reviewed here a few months ago. *Update. Since this article was first published, Walsh Whiskey are no longer directly involved with Royal Oak Distillery after an amicable business decison to go their seperate ways. Walsh Whiskey are now idependent bottlers of Irish Whiskey through their Writers’ Tears and The Irishman brands.
Pooka 3 Premium Irish Whiskey
Knappogue Castle 14 Year Old Twin Wood Single Malt
For many years now, when one thinks of a classic single malt Irish whiskey, one of the first brands that comes to mind is the Knappogue Castle brand.
I have to declare a tenuous interest here. Knappogue Castle in Co. Clare near Shannon Airport on Ireland’s Western Seaboard, along with Bunratty Castle is one of the two ancestral homes of the McNamara Clan. When American Whiskey Collector Mark Edwin Andrews bought and restored the fifteenth century castle in the 1960’s, his family also created their own Knappogue Castle whiskey brand around the castle name.
Today, Knappogue Castle are independent bottlers and source their single malt whiskeys from a well known northern distillery. But it’s the magic that the Knappogue team add that makes it quite special. Although they produce a 12 year old, it is their 14 year old expression that I have chosen as the backbone classic single malt of your new collection. Also know as Twin Wood as it is aged in both ex Bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks, the triple distilled Knappogue 14 is an exceptionally smooth drinking Irish Single Malt. If it was a car, it would be a Mercedes E Class or BMW 5 Series. As a classic of the Irish Single Malt genre genre, it is so easy for a whiskey beginner to tease out and identify the various influences that contribute to flavour and character of distillation, age and finish of this very fine classic single malt Irish whiskey.
Roe & Co. Irish Whiskey
Roe & Co was the name of an historic Dublin Whiskey brand and distillery that ceased trading in the 1940’s. The distillery buildings on Thomas Street in Dublin later fell into the hands of Guinness which is now owned by Diageo. Diageo have now resurrected the Roe & Co brand and are building a new distillery on the grounds of the original Roe and Co premises, still marked by the iconic St Patrick’s (windmill) Tower in the heart of the Guinness complex in Dublin’s Liberties.
Someone in Diageo has put quite a lot of thought into their new Irish Whiskey brand. The first clue is the 45% abv . One short of the 46% non chill filter zone, so a deliberate statement of intent here. Predominant use of first fill bourbon casks, so lots of cream, vanilla and orchard fruits. This is a very finely balanced whiskey. A small splash of water opens it up nicely but, less is more as it takes very little water to kill all the goodness.
I loved the homage to St. Patrick’s Tower heritage in the bottle design where the liquid surface in the bottle and blue copper sulphate tinged label mimic the oxidised copper dome of the old windmill tower.
Well done Diageo. Roe & Co is a great example of how a big corporate like Diageo can succeed in this game by letting people who know and care about whiskey run the show. For some reason, Diageo appear to be dumbing down the marketing on Roe & Co with an emphasis on cocktails and mixers more fitting of a One Pooka Entry Level Whiskey. Maybe they caught me on a good day, but I gave it a firm Three Pooka rating when I shortlisted it earlier this year for Irish Whiskey of the Year.
Glendalough 13 Year Old Single Malt Mizunara Oak Finish
Mizunara is a highly prized Japanese Oak from the volcanic island of Hokkaido. The wood from 200 year old trees is quite soft and wide grained making it difficult to craft and prone to leakage when used in casks. However these faults are actually benefits when it comes to maturing whiskey as the softness of wood and wide grain allow the casks to breathe whiskey to a much greater intensity than European or American oak casks.
Glendalough have taken a thirteen year old single malt Irish Whiskey and finished it for one year in Mizunara oak casks which were personally sourced in Hokkaido by Glendalough Distillery’s Creative Director Kevin Keenan. The Mizunara casks which can cost over €5,000 each were hand crafted by the oldest cooper in Japan at Japan’s only independent cooperage at Ariake on Hokkaido Island. The casks are lightly charred before being shipped to Ireland.
The effect on the Irish Single Malt is like nothing you have ever tasted before. Bottled at 46 ABV, but feeling much stronger, the Glendalough Mizunara nose has powerful notes of fresh cut wood and resin. It immediately brought me back to my childhood boat building days in West Cork. That’s a compliment! The intense Malt flavour is still there in spades but there are powerful surges of dark chocolate, course cut marmalade and warm sandal wood. The finish is long with sweet coconut, rich gingerbread and rich dark Terrys chocolate orange.
Glendalough Mizunara is a whiskey that you strap yourself into and press the red button to light the rockets. Every glass is an experience in itself. At around €100, it’s (justifiably) one of the more expensive whiskeys on my list, but well, well worth having in your collection for special occasions.
Compare it also to the Yamazaki 12 from Japan (reviewed later) which also shares Mizunara Oak in the finish.
Lambay Single Malt Camus Cognac Finish Irish Whiskey
Lambay Whiskey is a small family owned brand which was quietly launched last year by the Baring Family who own Lambay Island, just a few mile northeast of Dublin city. Two expressions were launched, a small batch blend of single malt and single grain and a ten year old single malt. Lambay Whiskey partnered with the Camus Cognac family from Ile de Ré on the West Coast of France who are famous for their island matured cognacs packed with flavours and noses of soft iodine and sea spray. Think of Camus as a benevolent Laphroaig of the Cognac world.
Camus have come on board to offer their expertise and experience of coastal maturation techniques including wet / damp cellar maturation to produce a truly innovative addition to the Irish Whiskey World. Both the single batch and single malt expressions are produced by an approved third party Irish Whiskey distillery before being re-casked in first fill Camus Cognac casks. Casks of Lambay are then hand shipped to Lambay Island a few miles off the coast of Dublin to further mature in the old solid stone, wave lashed farm buildings on Lambay’s shore. I’ve selected the Lambay Single Malt for our collection because of its uniquely nautical finish.
Lambay’s great branding, labeling and genuine brand back story is also quite special and really adds to and reinforces the feel-good factor when you buy a bottle.
Teeling Brabazon Series 2 Port Finish Irish Whiskey
As with Roe & Co, because of foreign based work commitments, I missed the launch of the new Teeling Distillery in Dublin when it first opened and also the later launches of both Brabazon Series expressions. I was on a catch up visit to review their distillery tour one afternoon for the Irish Whiskey Trail and I lingered on in their visitor bar to check out the brace of Brabazons. Of the Brabazon Series 1 and the Brabazon Series 2, the 2 really impressed me.
I’ve already talked about the use of finishing casks such as rum and wine and how a neutral single grain whiskey may be gently influenced by these casks. Teeling had an early success in this field with their beautifully balanced Californian Wine finished Single Grain. When you take a robust, full flavoured and well aged single malt such as those offered by Teeling, the challenge when finishing is how to avoid a clash of flavours between the robust malt and the cask influences. This becomes all the more difficult when finishing a strong single malt in Port Pipes or Casks where the richness and tannins of the port are ever dominant.
What Teeling have achieved here is exceptional. They have skillfully vatted a combination 6 different port-aged and port-finished Teeling single malt expressions to 49.5%. To even think about creating a whiskey of this complexity proves once more that Teeling are a quite special and dynamic whiskey house. The levels of balance and perfection that they have achieved here mark Teeling Brabazon 2 as a truly great and future classic Irish whiskey. Teeling Brabazon Series 2 won the Irish Whiskey Trail’s Irish Whiskey of the Year Award for 2017.
With a limited edition bottling of just 12,500 bottles, Teeling Brabazon Series 2 will be one of the central show pieces of your Irish Whiskey Collection.
Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix 55% Irish Whiskey
The original Tullamore D.E.W Distillery closed down in the 1950’s and since then, Tullamore D.E.W. whiskey has been a blend of all three types of Irish Whiskey sourced for blending and maturation from two other leading Irish Distilleries. However, in September 2014, Tullamore D.E.W., now under the ownership of William Grant and Son from Scotland opened a new state of the art distillery just outside Tullamore Town in Ireland’s midlands.
To mark, the rise from the ashes so to to speak of whiskey distilling in Tullamore town, this expression was called Phoenix after the mythical bird which is a symbol of new beginnings rising from the flames of destruction. The Phoenix symbol appears on the Tullamore town coat of arms to commemorate the burning down and rebuilding of the the town following a hot air balloon accident in 1785.
Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix, like its little brother mentioned at the start of this article is a blend of Single Pot Still, Single Malt and Single Grain Irish Whiskeys. However, Phoenix has a much higher component of Single Pot Still which has been aged in Oloroso Sherry casks before being finished in Virgin oak casks and bottled at a near cask strength of 55% ABV.
Unfortunately, Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix is normally only available in travel retail / airport shops. But well worth buying and a super addition to our collection with its combination of warm sweet sherry notes framed by a pronounced oak and vanilla nose and taste from the Virgin Oak finish.
Be careful when adding water. Even though this is a near cask strength whiskey, it needs only a small drop of water to calm the tingle and release the full power and flavour of this superb premium Irish Whiskey.
The Whistler Cask Strength Single Malt Irish Whiskey
I wanted to add one genuine Cask Strength Whiskey to my selection, as no collection is ever complete without at least one whiskey straight from the barrel.
After lots of thought, I have eventually settled on The Whistler from Boann whiskey in the Boyne Valley. As Boann Distillery is not yet in production, this is a 7 year old Single Malt sourced from another Irish Whiskey distillery.
The Whistler Cask Strength has spent 5 years in traditional ex bourbon casks followed by two years of finishing in Oloroso sherry casks before being bottled with no colour adjustment, at its natural cask strength of 59% ABV.
Two years is quite a long finish by normal standards and it shows. This is an exceptionally smooth whiskey even at cask strength with warm caramel and honey tones.
As I said in my earlier article, the best thing about any cask strength whiskey is that the last person involved in the whiskey making process is you, when you dilute it down to a strength that suits your own personal nose and palate.
5 Great International Whiskies
For those who want to broaden out their whiskey collection and knowledge, I have recommended a nice selection of whiskies from Scotland, India and Japan for you to try. Generally speaking these countries spell it as Whisky or Whiskies.
2 Pooka Special Whisky
Highland Park – Viking Honour 12 Year Old Scotch Whisky
Highland Park Whisky comes from one of Scotland’s most northern Whisky distilleries in the Orkney Irelands many miles north of the Scottish mainland. Highland park are very proud of their Orkney – Viking Heritage and this is core to all of their marketing.
Highland 12 Single Malt @ 40% ABV may be one of their entry level offerings, but in my opinion it is a classic Islands Whisky; silky smooth and packed with layers of peaty flavour and a character.
I am not alone in my assessment. World famous Whisky Writer Michael Jackson wrote that Highland Park 12 was “the greatest all rounder in the world of whisky”.
Need I say more? Highland Park 12 should be one of the first Scotch Whiskies that you add to your new collection.
Highland Park also have a quite dynamic range of premium whiskies that are only available in travel retail. I particularly liked the firm smokiness of their recent Spirit of the Bear expression when I recently reviewed it for another site.
Talisker Dark Storm
I first came across Talisker Dark Storm from the Isle of Skye while traveling and working abroad a few years ago. Bottled at 45.8 % ABV, this is a rich, dark, peated Islands whisky which is matured in extra flame charred bourbon oak casks giving it a deeply burnt wood, smokey flavour. Not for casual whisky drinking, but more one to sip with a splash of water beside a large open fire on a dark stormy night. A decided asset to your wider whiskey collection.
Amrut Fusion (India)
Amrut Fusion is a fully Indian distilled whisky made from a mix of 25% Scottish peated malt barley and 75 % Indian un-peated malt barley grown in the foothills of the Himalayas. Hence the Fusion name.
Indian whisky has an unusual story. Often maligned because of a lack of regulation, there are in fact quite a few really great whiskies originating in India. Many of the poorer quality Indian whiskies are made from molasses which actually makes them more akin to rum. The lack of an Indian technical file to define Indian Whisky standards does not help.
But Amrut, a family owned distillery in Bangalore, are generally accepted to be one of the better whiskies not just in India, but also in the international whisky world. Well known whisky writer Jim Murray is reported as describing Amrut as the third best single malt in the world in 2010.
It is reckoned that in the same way that American whiskey only takes two years to mature because of the warmer climate, whiskey in India can achieve the same result in one year.
Amrut expressions are generally aged for more than 4 and a half years which would make even their entry level expressions the equivalent of over 14 year old scotch whiskies.
My recommendation for your whisky collection, Amrut Fusion with its intense oak and softer peat notes, is one of my own favourites and is a great introduction to whisky from India.
Laphroaig Quarter Cask Islay Single Malt
Laphroaig from the island of Islay between Scotland and Northern Ireland, has the reputation of being the peatiest of all Scotch Whiskies. Certainly it is an acquired taste and definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Laphroaig is whisky but not as we know it. The high peat levels and powerful notes of iodine and seaweed make it smell more like a medicine chest than a single malt whisky. There is a story that during American prohibition in the 1920’s that Laphroaig was given an import exemption as it was considered more a medicine than a whisky.
The thing about Laphroaig is that you have to try it once. But don’t try it by buying a single isolated glass in your local whisky bar because nine times out of ten you won’t buy another. But buy a bottle and here’s what happens. You pour your first glass, wrinkle up your nose and spend an hour sipping it. You then put the bottle away for a week or a month thinking about how you wasted your money. But again, nine times out of ten, you will return to the bottle and you will build up both a tolerance and appreciation for what is without doubt one of the most iconic Scottish Whiskies there is.
Laphroaig Quarter Cask is a relatively young whisky that is finished for some months in smaller than normal quarter size casks. This further intensifies the robust smells and flavours.
You really have to have a Laphroaig in your collection and none better than Quarter Cask for two reasons. Firstly, if your going to go for a Laphroaig, do it properly and go for bust with this super charged expression. Secondly, the Quarter Cask expression, because it is quite young also has a slightly surprising sweetness that offsets the TCP and Cigar smoke elements.
Laphroaig is whisky for grown ups! It’s a must have in any whiskey collection.
Yamazaki 12 (Japan)
One of my favourite Japanese Single Malt Whiskies, Yamazaki 12 from Suntory has been around for over 30 years. It’s Japanese Single Malt whisky at it’s very best.
Shinjiro Torii, inspired by what he had learnt about Scotch whisky founded Japan’s very first whisky distillery in 1923 in the Yamazaki region, just outside Kyoto. This is the birthplace of Japanese whisky.
Yamazaki, is packed full of fruit and citrus flavours which are further enhanced by a Mizunara Oak finish.
This is one of the best and most popular Premium whiskies in Japan. At around €100, it just makes it into our collection, but even if it costs a little more, it’s worth it! If you want just one Japanese whisky in your collection, this is the one.
Traditionally drunk over a hand carved ice ball! Check out this video! Note his mention of getting past the “burn” that I have also mentioned in these last two articles.
Other Irish Spirits
Aside from Whiskey there is some fantastic innovation happening now with other Irish Spirits such as Gin, Vodka and of course Poitín. I had originally hoped to showcase five “other” Irish Spirits, however, one of the invitees has been a no show for approved imagery. That’s why I have included 16 rather than the promised 15 Irish Whiskeys. My lips are sealed on the names of the lucky extra whiskey and the missing “other” Irish Spirit!
Put simply, Poitín ( is Irish Moonshine. Poitín is an Irish word for a little pot, as in pot still and is pronounced Putcheen or Potcheen. From hundreds of year ago right up to the 1970’s, it was commonly made in homemade illicit copper pot stills, in the mountains and hills of the West of Ireland. Essentially, Poitín was home distilled, new make spirit which has not been matured in casks. Often the quality and safety of the product was questionable. This public safety issue along with revenue compliance were the main reasons for vigorous raids and confiscations of stills and spirits by the local police.
There was always a belief in certain villages in the West of Ireland that the only place you were guaranteed to get good quality, safe Poitín was from the local Garda (Irish Police) Sergeant. This of course was just unfounded rumour!!
Today, many Irish distilleries produce Poitín legally, mainly because, like gin, it offsets cash flow challenges while waiting for their new make whiskey spirit to mature for sale.
I wanted to include one Poitín in our collection. I have selected Micil Poitín from Galway, as unlike many other Irish distilleries, Poitín is their primary product.
Micil is hand crafted in Galway by Pádraig O’Greallais, whose great – great – great grandfather Micil Mac Chearra was a well known Connemara poitin maker in the 1800’s.
Micil is distilled from 100% Irish Grain, flavoured subtlety with native bog bean and is bottled at 44% ABV.
Top Tip ! On a winter evening, Poitín goes very well with a good old fashioned cup of tea. The secret is to add no more than a teaspoon or two of Poitín to the cup for maximum flavour. Less is more!
Kalak Irish Vodka
Kalak Vodka is distilled in West Cork for Origin Spirits, owned by Patrick Shelley who is a true leader in the Irish Spirits World. What makes Kalak unique is that it is distilled four times from malted barley to Patrick’s personal specification, giving it a uniquely Irish flavour and creamy smoothness.
Patrick has recently launched a Peat Charred Cask finished expression of Kalak which like Kalak is bottled at 40% ABV. If this sounds familiar, check out the entry for West Cork Distillers own Bog Oak and Peat Charred Cask Single Malt.
I gave Kalak Irish Vodka a Three Pooka Award when I reviewed it previously at Kalak Vodka Review.
An Dúlamán Irish Maritime Gin
An Dúlamán Irish maritime is distilled by Sliabh Liag Distillery in Donegal who I previously mentioned on The Silkie Whiskey review. In that piece, I mentioned that they will shortly commence construction of a new whiskey distillery in Ardara. What I didn’t mention is that they already have a fully working distillery in Carrick beside the Sliabh Cliffs, producing their An Dúlamán Irish Maritime Gin infused with native Irish Seaweed as the botanicals.
This is a uniquely Irish Gin whose great flavours, incredible branding and fascinating back story will make it a talking point in your collection
Ornabrak Irish Single Malt Gin
Ornabrak Gin is also from the stable of Patrick Shelley. Ornabrak is distilled four times in copper pot stills from 100% Irish malted barley before being distilled a fifth time with five botanicals and bottled at 43 % ABV.
Ornabrak is taken from the Irish Words Eorna Braiche meaning Malted Barley. Rectified with Juniper, Douglas Fir Needles, Angelica Root, Lemon Verbena and lemon Peel, Ornabrak is full of lovely fresh pine wood and citrus notes. The art work on the apothecary style bottle displays beautiful drawings of all five botanicals by Irish Botanical Artist Lynn Stringer.
See my recent Review of Ornabrak Single Malt Irish Gin