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).
Well, officially the label says for The Netherlands and Japan but they nicknamed themselves Whisky Nerds. We know they are actually Bram Van Glabbeek and Floris Kooistra who are linked to the Dutch Usquebaugh Society, together with the Japanese distributor Whisky.E.
GlenDronach 19 yo 1995 (55,1%, OB for The Netherlands and Japan 2015, Oloroso butt #2380, 628 btl.)
Nose: good, heavy sherry. Dried figs and dates, Black Forest gateau, with some coffee liqueur and leather in the background. Red berry jam (or make that blackberry). Waxed furniture and subtle hints of pipe tobacco. Chocolate too, of course. Mouth: high pressure sherry again, with a dry, leathery and quite a tannic attack. Coffee powder and a little cough syrup. Walnuts and spices like pepper and clove. Becomes sweeter after that, with plums and black cherries. Cinnamon pastry. Rounder, richer and fruitier with a few drops of water. Finish: long and warm, mainly on spiced chocolate and tobacco.
A classic GlenDronach cask with a perfect sherry influence. Water is obligatory to drink it comfortably though (not for the alcohol but for the dryness). Around € 135 but I think most bottles are gone – at least in The Netherlands.
On the occasion of 200 years of the Ardbeg distillery, they launched Perpetuum. It’s a mix of “very old” and young Ardbeg, from both bourbon barrels and sherry casks.
There has been a Distillery release at 49,2% but we’re trying the wider release at 47,4%.
Ardbeg Perpetuum ∞
(47,4%, OB 2015)
Nose: quite warm, with deep sooty notes and some simmering ashes. Hints of wet tarmac. On the other side there is enough honey, vanilla and chocolate to make it rounder. Some candied lemon, as well as a few floral notes. It’s not very complex and seemingly less intense than the standard 10, but I love its balance. Mouth: oily but less elegant, it comes through instantly, showing raw peat smoke, chili pepper and oak. Ginger. Settles down after a while. Still a chocolate coating and some youngish pear drops underneath. Hints of grapefruit and dried seaweed towards the end. Finish: long, full of saltwater, herbal notes and tequila.
It’s good. Not eternally good, but one of the better Ardbeg Day releases, I think. It combines a balanced nose and plenty of strong smoke on the palate. Between € 95 and € 150, depending on the greediness of your retailer.
We’ve had some excellent independent Littlemill expressions in the past few years, but the official bottlings don’t have the same reputation. While the indy early 90’s versions are expressive fruit bombs, the older officials tend to be shy, dusty and cereally.
In our glass we have the Littlemill 1975, released in 1999 in the typical green dumpy bottle.
Littlemill 1975 (40%, OB 1999)
Nose: a lot of apple skin with hay. Cider apples. Apple seeds as well. A vague sweetness of berries. Some buttery tones. Some musty wood and a bit of wet newspaper. Very old-fashioned. Mouth: sweeter than expected, fruity but in a totally different way than these 1990’s bottlings. Syrupy orange, melons and candy apples. Sugared tea. Again some hay and sweet herbs, with a light metallic edge. Finish: medium long, mostly on sweet grains.
Like most official Littlemills, this is fairly simple and certainly not superb. But it’s not bad either and there’s something about it that won my sympathy. Around € 400 in auctions, but rarely seen on the market.