Irish Whiskey Tasting at Trinity Hall!
Once again, the first Tuesday of the month meant that there was a whisky tasting at my favorite Irish Pub in Dallas…..Trinity Hall! And as no real great surprise for an Irish Pub in March with the rapidly approaching to St. Patrick’s Day holiday, the focus was on Irish Whiskey!
After a century of near extinction, to the barebones existence when the only selections of Irish Whiskey seemed to come from either Jameson or Bushmill’s, the Irish whiskey industry’s renaissance continues to surge forward. It seems like almost every month there is news of a new distillery project – which is good news if you’re a fan! Increasing interest in Irish Whiskey has sparked an expansion throughout Ireland, and which has resulted in a plethora of new whiskies from new distilleries – some still using sourced whiskies, as well as a rise in new releases from the venerable old giants. Our tasting touched on a little of both!
Jamesons Cooper’s Croze
The first selection of the evening was one of those new releases from one of the giants of Irish Whiskey, Jameson. The Cooper’s Croze is the first in
a planned three-release series honoring the craftsmen of the Jameson cooperage staff, in this case the Head Cooper, Ger Buckley.
How did the name Cooper’s Croze come about? From the Jameson website, “The whiskey’s namesake – the croze – is named after Ger’s favorite tool, an implement used to make the groove into which the head of the cask or barrel is positioned.”
The Cooper’s Croze, which was matured in virgin American oak, ex-bourbon and Iberian sherry barrels, showed off a very traditional Jameson profile, heavy on the vanilla, a lot of soft, delicate floral notes, hints of white chocolate, a little orange, a bit of fresh ginger. It remains on the sweet and delicate side throughout. The body had a pretty nice feel to it, kind of a medium-light viscosity. I think the 43% abv, instead of the 40% helped quite a bit. The finish was nice, albeit, a tad on the simple side. I have to say that this was much better than the standard, ubiquitous Jameson with which most people are familiar, but running at a little more than twice the cost of the standard, $65 at Total Wine, it should be better!
The Quiet Man, 8-year old Irish Single Malt
Our second selection was a new one for me, an 8-year old Irish Single Malt labeled as “The Quiet Man.” The label tells us that this whiskey was bottled in Derry by Ciaran Mulgrew and named, The Quiet Man in honor of his bartender father, John Mulgrew who, as a bartender for 50 years, knew not to reveal the secrets told to him over a glass or a pint…or so the marketing blurb tells us. Believe it if you will, just remember, the Irish have the Blarney Stone for a reason!
Anyway, this whiskey is described as having been distilled in traditional Irish whiskey pot stills, matured in oak barrels and then it was re-casked in first-fill bourbon casks. It costs $35 at the local Total Wine.
The single malt profile is evident, with a slightly “fatter” feel in the arrival, but that sort of dissipated after a few minutes, a victim of the low abv. Like the Jameson, this is heavy on the vanilla, but also shows some honey, a bit of warm bread, touches of ginger and coconut, soft floral notes, and then more vanilla.
Jack Ryan ‘Beggar’s Bush’ 12-year old Irish Single Malt
The third whiskey of the evening was another “new” whiskey to the Irish craze. The name, Jack Ryan, refers to an old Irish whiskey-making family whose distillery closed in 1946. The Jack Ryan ‘Beggars Bush’ Single Malt Irish Whiskey is 12 years old and bottled at 46% with no chill-filtration. It was matured in ex-bourbon barrels and reportedly, only 1450 bottles were produced.
This one was….interesting….and not in an entirely good way. There was just something odd in the nose that we all had difficulty identifying, and that kept nagging at me throughout the tasting. I got some orchard fruits, a good dose of vanilla, a hint of white pepper, some coconut, and that ever-present oddity. Initially, I wondered if my glass still had some soap in it, but as everyone seemed to pick up on the odd note, I don’t think that was the issue. Then, at one point it reminded me of swamp oak – a really weird smelling wood – but that wasn’t quite it, either. Sean kept thinking of Windex. Honestly, we all seemed to struggle with this one. Whatever it was, it was a detraction to the experience. I’d be curious to try this again another day to see if it might have been just this bottle, or something in the glasses, or some other situational factor that affected our impressions.
A bottle of Jack Ryan ‘Beggar’s Bush’ runs $54 at Total Wine.
Knappogue Castle 12-year old Irish Single Malt
The Knappogue Castle name has been around for longer than many people know, particularly in the US, where it only somewhat recently started to show up on shelves. Knappogue Castle is an independent bottler started in 1966 by Mark Edwin Andrews. Andrews purchased Knappogue Castle, a 15th century castle in Ireland, and restored it. He also began buying casks of whiskey from distilleries in the country (what I’ve read is that it was most likely Bushmill’s). Andrews aged and bottled the whiskies under now the Knappogue Castle label.
I’ve tried two other Knappogue Castle releases, in fact I have a 14-year old single malt in the closet destined for its own review before too long.
Here was another Irish Single Malt, but this was much less vanilla-centric than either the Jack Ryan or The Quiet Man. Fruity, slightly bready, a delicate floral notes, hints of black pepper and herbal spices. Not the most complex Irish Single Malt, but a well-developed whiskey. This one runs about $37 at Total Wine and might be the best value-to-quality ratio of the evening.
Redbreast Lustau Edition
I was very excited to see the Redbreast Lustau Edition on the menu! I’d read a number of positive comments about this whiskey, but had refrained from buying it because I am already shipping so many bottles to Spain. I mean I have to exercise some self-restraint now and again – no matter how hard that might be to do! The good news is that the Lustau Edition is intended to be a permanent addition to their core lineup, so I will have another opportunity to get one!
The Lustau Edition is aged in ex-bourbon and ex-oloroso sherry casks and then matured for an additional year, “in hand selected, first-fill sherry butts that are seasoned with Oloroso sherry from the prestigious Bodegas Lustau in Jerez, Spain.” The name refers to this partnership with the Bodegas Lustau. This whiskey runs about $60 at Total Wine here in Texas, although the website indicates that they are out of stock at the moment.
After the first three whiskies of the evening, all of which were heavily vanilla-centric, this was another welcome change of pace. The sherry-maturation was immediately evident with the sherry coming across as more of a dry sherry. This had a very nutty, herbal, sherry influence. There was some clove, cinnamon, milk chocolate, orange peel, and hints of raisins. The sherry stayed away from adding sweeter notes, allowing the very subtle vanilla notes from the bourbon casks to fulfill that role. This was a very elegant whiskey and definitely the best of the evening for me.
The Exclusive Malts, 13-year old Single Malt Irish Whiskey, 2002
This one was another independent bottling of a Single Malt Irish Whiskey from the Creative Whisky Company without formal attribution as to the distillery, but I suspect it to be Cooley. My apologies as this was also a single cask release, however I neglected to make note of the specific cask! I do know that it was bottled at 52.8% abv, making it the highest abv of the evening.
As you might imagine with the high abv, this was a bit hot when sampled neat. There were some orchard fruit and honey notes, along with a malty base. Adding water to this one, though, and it took water well, revealed a very rich whisky with malty, fruity, and honey notes. Orchard fruits, both red and green apples, hints of pears, ginger, malty vanilla, a bit of toffee, and some soft floral notes. General consensus was that this was the number two rated whisky of the evening. This one ran in the $150 range at Specs, however I believe that it is no longer available.
Connemara 12 year old
Despite the fact that peat was commonly used to heat homes in Ireland in the past, peated whiskey is something of a rarity in Irish Whiskey, at least within the range of current offerings. The lone exception to that situation is Connemara, a peated Single Malt from the Kilbeggan Distillery! A bottle of will set you back around $70.
There is no question that it is a peater! Oily and smoky, full of burnt tyres (it is an Irish Whiskey, after all, so the description should be spelled appropriately!!), rubber bands, burnt grass, and damp earth……just the way I like it! But it also has a balancing malty sweetness, splashes of apple juice, fresh lemon, and hints of vanilla. With a good body and decent finish, this is a highly enjoyable whiskey…if you like peat.
It was another great tasting hosted by Marius and the staff at Trinity Hall! Thanks for continuing to put on these wonderful opportunities to explore all sorts of whiskies in such friendly confines!!