Secret Irish Malt / Cooley / Great Northern

Secret Irish Malt / Cooley / Great Northern

We’ll have five Irish whiskeys in this session. Two of them are probably very old (undisclosed) Bushmills casks, with one younger secret single malt. Then we also have a Cooley 2002 and a very young whisky from Great Northern distillery. A nice range of styles from the emerald island.



Secret Irish Single Malt 33 yo 1990 (50,4%, Sansibar for 2023, rum cask, 141 btl.)

Nose: a little delicate, but nicely fruity. Pineapples, peaches and light bananas. Hints of whit peach and pear, a little vanilla and honey. Then hints of caramelized nuts and light peppery notes. Malty and light chalky notes may limit the fruits a little.

Mouth: rather firm spice (mainly white pepper) at first, but after that the tropical fruits arrive. Lovely passion fruits, mangoes, guavas and pineapples. Mashed bananas and pink grapefruit. Soft caramelized notes, with hints of marzipan and dough. A kind of tart peppery note and nutty notes too.

Finish: not extremely long, but nicely rounded, on honey and light toffee, citrus and wee herbal notes.

Some of these Secret Irish Malts are a little austere, but this one burst open nicely. Especially on the palate the tropical fruits come out. Overt tropical fruits. Still available from



Irish Single Malt 18 yo 2002 (49,1%, The Whisky Agency for Animal Spirits 2022, barrel, 238 btl.)

Irish Malt 2002 - The Whisky Agency - Animal Spirits Nose: bananas, kiwis and grapefruits with waxy notes and aromatic peaches. Hints of marshmallow. Then some grassy and floral notes. Wool and herbs after a while.

Mouth: creamy custard, a nice pineapple / tangerine combination, alongside lime and light yeasty notes. Then more grassy notes, a few drops of orange liqueur, aniseed and bready tones. Maybe a hint of walnut too.

Finish: long, with lemon liqueur and Haribo sweets, with a touch of lovage and grapefruit zest.

The expected fruity notes with a greener side. Two steps behind the 1990 but it’s easy to see the common traces. Another very good early 2000s Irish malt. Score: 87/100



Cooley 21 yo 2002 (56,5%, HNWS / The Spirits Hunter 2023, barrel #2229, 210 btl.)

Cooley 21 Years 2002 - The Spirit Hunter - HNWS Nose: it seems there is some polished oak and resin involved now. Underneath there are still white peaches, pineapples, hints of melon and guava. Grapes, vanilla cake with frosting and honey. Herbal whiffs, but overall it’s less grassy than the TWA release.

Mouth: clearly more tannins than the TWA, but the wood also brings vanilla and white chocolate, which combine nicely. Banana, green mango, green apple and guava. Dry spice with some green tea pungency.

Finish: quite long, with a woody / grassy astringency and grapefruit.

Slightly less balanced in the finish, but otherwise a really good example of this Irish style. Gorgeous nose on tropical fruits, but the wood was more active here. Score: 88/100



Great Northern 5 yo (58,2%, Whisky AGE 2023, batch #WA02, 866 btl.)

Great Northern 5 yo - Whisky AGE Nose: a green fruitiness (mainly Granny Smith), overtaken quickly by yeasty dough, celery and raw nuts. Then biscuits, hints of fresh oak shavings and wet paper.

Mouth: friendly banana with hints of coconut flakes. Lemon peels, lemongrass and apple eau-de-vie. Then light vanilla, slightly plankish wood, bittersweet notes and herbs. Liquorice too.

Finish: medium length, a tad raw, with citrus zest, pine needles and simple malty notes.

To be honest I don’t know how this relates to the Great Northern that we had last year (same bottler, same ABV). Anyway, pretty good for a 5 year-old, with room for improvement. A nice first encounter with this name though. Score: 83/100


The last one for today is one of these Bushmills / Teeling casks that made a name for themselves already.


Irish Single Malt 29 yo 1991 ‘Astra Theater’ (46,5%, Rolf Kaspar / Hotel Essener Hof 2021, rum cask #10679, 60 btl.)

Irish Single Malt 1991 cask 10679 - Hotel Essener Hof Nose: bright and rather tropical fruits. Bananas, crisp passion fruits and gooseberries. Lime and pineapple too. A little honey sweetness appears. Then also vanilla and a chalky touch. Really fruity and fresh.

Mouth: even more fruity now. Pineapple, mango, pink grapefruit, passion fruit and tangerine. Vitamin juice really. The rum works wonder and adds some creamy sugar. Total freshness, with just a light oaky hint in the end.

Finish: light-footed but rather long, on Earl Grey, vanilla, subtle pine and tropical fruits.

We already knew these casks are brilliant. Score: 91/100