This whisky has a very interesting recipe and it’s rather well documented. It’s a blended malt, but contrary to the vast majority of blended malts, it wasn’t blended just before bottling, but back then in 2001.
In that year, low-proof (probably quite old) leftovers from Glenrothes and Tamdhu bottlings were poured together. As they couldn’t fill an entire sherry butt, it was topped up with new make (*) spirit from a Speyside distillery that cannot be named (Glenfarclas perhaps?). This mix has been maturing for over 13 years and was now bottled at cask strength in the Archives series.
Three distilleries in one bottle, and all three have a great reputation for sherried whisky.
* Update: it seems the whiskies were blended in 2003, with 3yo spirit. So all components were already legally whisky when the blend was created.
Speyside region 13 yo 2001
(44,7%, Archives ‘Fishes of Samoa’ 2015, sherry butt #117, 180 btl.)
Nose: fragrant, juicy sherry. Raspberry, cherries (including a little kirsch) and oranges. A bit of redcurrant jam. Gentle vanilla notes and some nice mint. Mouth: medium bodied sherry, full of rum & raisins and quite some honeyed notes. Nice hints of orange liqueur and kirsch again. Fresh plums. Cinnamon. Fruit teas as well as some herbal notes and green oak, which may well come from the much older Glenrothes / Tamdhu components. Finish: long, on red fruits and a green oakiness.
An uncommon recipe that works very well. You get a good dose of well-aged elements, including the oak, but it’s mixed with younger, brighter notes. More of these mash-ups please. Around € 70.
The latest trip to the Signatory Vintage warehouses resulted in this Ledaig 2004, as well as a Dailuaine 1997 which we’ll review soon. Quite some Ledaig releases out there but few of them are from a sherry cask.
Ledaig 10 yo 2004 (46%, Signatory Vintage for The Bonding Dram 2015, first fill sherry butt #15/453, 379 btl.)
Nose: very tarry and ashy with lots of tobacco notes up front. Slightly acrid smoke and motor oil. A lot of wet wool / canvas as well. Anchovies in salt. Becomes sweeter after a while, with almonds, blood orange and toffee apples. Well integrated peat and sherry. Mouth: intense sooty notes again, but the strength is perfect, I think. Sweetened Lapsang. Big salted caramel and liquorice too. It’s really peaty but the candied / caramelized undertones make it really moreish. Also it highlights the buttery texture. Always (pipe) tobacco and blood oranges in the background. Finish: slightly capped by the lower alcohol, but nice. Sweet and ashy.
You know, I think I like this kind of profile better at 46% than at cask strength. The sweetness really stands out and helps to round the edges of this powerful dram. Well done and very well priced: around € 45.
Yellow Spot is part of the Spot series of Single Pot Still Irish Whiskeys produced at the Midleton distillery. For now there’s Green Spot (NAS) and Yellow Spot 12 Year Old. A Blue Spot and Red Spot might follow in the future.
The series is inspired by the original Yellow Spot which was last bottled in the early 1960s. The colours were derived from Mitchell & Son’s practice of marking their casks of maturing whiskey with a mark or daub of coloured paint to determine the age potential of the whiskey.
Yellow Spot has been matured in three types of casks: American ex-bourbon barrels, Spanish sherry butts and Spanish Malaga casks.
Yellow Spot 12 yo
(46%, Mitchell & Son +/- 2015)
Nose: pretty much ticks all typical Irish boxes. Some grassy notes and hay at first, but it develops a nice sweetness. Honey, cinnamon pastry, apricots and yellow fruit candy. Hints of citrus green tea. Unripe banana and coconut. Mouth: grainy attack but rather smooth, with the same combination of sweet fruits and greener, grassy notes. Honey-coated apple, a bit of crème brûlée and burnt toast. Green tea again, with a light grape skin dryness. Vanilla, lemon and a light hint of beer. Finish: medium long, sweet, with coconut and pineapple.
A really nice Irish whiskey. Maybe the price is a bit high for the complexity on offer, but still it’s classy and certainly easy to like. Around € 75.
Writers Tears is an Irish pure pot still whiskey (triple distilled). It’s a vatting of aged single malt and aged pot still whiskey, both from different distilleries and aged in ex-bourbon casks.
The Walsh Distillery which is behind this blend, started as an Irish coffee and Irish Cream producer – for which they bought whiskey from Irish Distillers (Jameson). It was not until 2007 when their first Irishman whiskey was presented. Writers Tears was created in 2009. Here it’s presented at cask strength, a limited yearly release. If I’m not mistaken, they are now building a new distillery to support the expansion.
Nose: big attack a little alcoholic but honeyed and fruity. Peaches and kumquats. Apricot liqueur. Hints of banana yoghurt. Vanilla, moving towards white chocolate. Mouth: almost entirely on peach and banana now. Very candied, a bit youngish? Again the alcohol is not entirely integrated, yes this is youngish, although the creamy qualities are quite nice, as are the pineapple and coconut notes. Herbal notes towards the… Finish: long, grassy and herbal.
In general I like pot still distillation when it comes to Irish whiskey, so I can see lots of qualities. Nonetheless the alcohol (and possibly the age) take part of my enthusiasm away. Big price differences, from € 80 to around € 140.
Kilbeggan is the blended whiskey from the Irish Cooley distillery. Their latest expression is 21 years old and is composed of different casks: ex-bourbon, Port, Madeira and Sherry.
Kilbeggan 21 yo
(40%, OB 2015)
Nose: sweet start with fruity aromas, ripe banana, (over)ripe apples and good deal of vanilla. Increasingly drier over time, first dried coconut, then also sandalwood and a little nutmeg with a mentholated edge. I can’t say all these cask types are noticeable. Mouth: quite minty and oaky right away. Lots of tea notes, a hint of eucalyptus and a slight grainy bitterness. Hints of pepper. Some fruits, but more of the zesty kind. Hints of caramel and coffee in the end. Finish: a bit short, on vanilla and oak. Liquorice too.
Not bad, but oaky and too expensive for what you’re getting. Around € 120.
Bushmills celebrated the 400th anniversary of distilling in 2008. They meant distilling in the area around Bushmills by the way, not at the Old Bushmills distillery where this was made.
Bushmills 1608 is a blend of three different spirits: Bushmills’ own triple distilled malt whiskey with a lighter irish grain and a malt whiskey they made using crystal malt – a caramelized version of the normal malted barley. Maturation takes place in bourbon and sherry casks.
After the initial 2008 release, new batches have been made available so it’s still around and not as rare as it may have seemed. Bushmills 1608 was named Best Irish Blended Whiskey (No Age Statement) at the World Whiskies Awards twice, most recently in 2012.
Bushmills 1608 – 400th Anniversary (46%, OB +/- 2014)
Nose: maybe not as exuberant as some other Irish malts. Quite malty actually, with the fruits on a second level. A bit of banana and peach. Plenty of honey. Also drier notes: walnuts, fresh grass and green tea. Some leather. Inviting but a tad low profile. Mouth: sweet, with more of the typical (tropical) fruits. Apricots, pink grapefruit and tangerine. They make place for more generic, blend-like notes. Grains, toffee, honey. Some zesty notes. Hints of vanilla and coconut – that must be the grain whiskey. Finish: sweet, medium long, again slightly middle-of-the-road with candied orange and honey.
A fine Irish dram, though maybe not an absolute must-try example in my opinion. Around € 50.
Like the original Tullamore D.E.W., Tullamore D.E.W. 12yo Special Reserve is a triple distilled blend of all three types of Irish whiskey (pot still, malt and grain). However, it has a high proportion of the first two, matured in a combination of bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks, for 12 to 15 years. A very fine aged whiskey with great complexity.
The Tullamore Dew brand was bought by William Grant’s in 2012. The 12yo Special Reserve (originally a travel retail exclusive) was re-introduced recently with an updated presentation.
While they still rely on Midleton at the moment, they are also building a new distillery in Tullamore to take over production in the long run.
Tullamore D.E.W. 12 yo ‘Special Reserve’ (40%, OB +/- 2015)
Nose: starts a bit underpowered. There’s a creamy fruitiness of lime, pear, mango and yellow berries, but in a soft way. Some honey and floral notes. Raisins. Grassy notes. Also a few dusty, grainy notes. Mouth: sweet and oily but again fairly light. Sweet apple, lemon syrup and toffee. Barley sugar and vanilla. Pineapple on syrup. Cinnamon. Finish: not too long, grainier but not rough. Some nutty notes in the very end, with a spicy warmth.
The pot still tropical fruits are quite shy here, and I think the malty sweetness is a bit overpowering. If I wanted this profile, I would pick a Scotch whisky. That said, it’s a tasty formula. Between € 45 (okay) and € 70 (definitely too much).
Irish single malts from independent bottlers are currently selling like hotcakes. We’ve seen old 1988 and 1989 expressions, the wonderful (peated) 1991s and several younger examples distilled early 2000s. All good to outstanding.
Also on a more global scale, Irish distilleries achieved some excellent results and are growing at a much faster rate than their Scottish neighbours.
For me a good reason to focus on Irish whiskey for a while, but not the independent European bottlers this time. Over the next couple of days, I’ll present a couple of interesting drams from different categories (blends, malts, pot still).