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Thread: Neil's Ongoing Liquor Review - Irish Whiskey

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    May 2000
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    Default Neil's Ongoing Liquor Review - Irish Whiskey

    A Saint Paddy’s day bonus review on Irish Whiskey.

    Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to y'all. In the United States, this is a day when the amateur drinkers go out to bars and the professional drinkers, like me and members of the TNBBC stay home. In any case, please don’t drink and drive. Tuck an extra $20 in your wallet and use that for cab fare home.

    I’m covering numerous whiskies in this review, giving you an overview of the variations you can find in what is probably the oldest of spirits from the western world.

    To complete this tasting range, I had to dig into my cabinet, as well as a friends, and hit a well stocked bar to refresh my memory where I lost my notes I’d taken on previous tastings. This is by no means complete, but it’s a good look at what’s readily available here on the West Coast of the United States.

    A little background. Irish whiskey is usually dried without using peat-fueled fires, which gives it a lighter character than Scotch. Irish whiskies have more flavor of the grain, and results in a fruity and grass tinged flavor and aroma.

    Most Irish whiskies you will encounter are blends, which is proof that blends, when done properly can still offer a flavorful quality drink. So, while a blend doesn’t offer the intensity of flavors that you find with single malts, they can offer a good taste experience. When I want a mellow easy to sip and relax drink, a blended Irish whiskey is one of the first options that pops up in my mind.

    Irish Whiskey, unless one goes to cheap well brands, is surprisingly good in most brands. Not surprising, since most of the brands all come from the same three distilleries. There were two big names in the modern world for Irish Whiskey, Bushmill, and Jameson. Bushmill in the north of Ireland, Jameson in the southeast in Dublin. (Both now owned by Pernod Ricard) A few years ago, Cooley Distillery in County Louth opened. All turn out a range of varied products as economic reasons dictate the need for a range of products.

    Starting from the lower end and going to higher end, in no particular order of like or dislike:

    Color: Amber with orange
    Nose: Orange citrus, caramel and grain
    Mouth: Full bodied, hint of bite
    Taste: Sweet honey sherry, orange zest, and grain,
    Finish: Medium to long warm finish, more sherry and citrus
    Note: Powers is made by the Midleton Distillery and contains about 70% pure malt, making it a very flavorful whiskey. A bit heavy in aroma and flavors compared to the popular Jameson, also made by Midleton Distillery. This is my favorite Irish whiskey on the lower end of things and probably the best value in an Irish Whiskey I’ve encountered.

    Color: Pale gold, straw
    Nose: Light, clean, some sherry, a bit of malt
    Mouth: Light, dissipates slowly
    Taste: Sweet, malty
    Finish: short to medium, more grain and the surprisingly, some wood oak appears
    Note: From the Cooley Distillery. If you like very light flavored sweet but still slightly dry beverages, this is one for you. Not too much to my taste, overly sweet but it goes well with a Stout, Porter or especially with a hoppy IPA.

    Tullamore Dew
    Color: Light amber with an orange tint.
    Nose: Thin, a bit sharp, some light fruit, grass, grain
    Mouth: Light, sharp, some alcohol bite.
    Taste: A nice grass fruit, hint of caramel and pot still brittleness.
    Finish: Short to medium finish, a hint of sweetness appears, a bit of burning.
    Note: The standard Tullamore Dew is so-so, not great, but not bad either. The 12-year-old is moderately more appealing.

    Tullamore Dew 12 year old
    Color: Light amber with an orange tint.
    Nose: Some light fruit, grass, grain, citrus lemony hints
    Mouth: Light, a buttery coats your mouth but it disappears quickly, some alcohol bite,
    Taste: A nice grass fruit, hint of caramel and sherry, oak, and pot still brittleness.
    Finish: Short to medium finish, a hint of sweetness citrus appears, a bit of burning.
    Note: Tullamore Dew is also made by the Midleton Distillery and is the odd man out in my taste buds. This whiskey falls flat to me and I find this not as appealing as other whiskies made by Midleton.

    Bushmill White label
    Color: Light gold
    Nose: Grassy, some oak, vanilla, citrus lemon, honey
    Mouth: Crisp, medium body
    Taste: Grain stands out, grassy fruit, then light oak, honey citrus
    Finish: short to medium, more fruit and grain
    Note: Bushmill makes a fine whiskey in any version. I found this standard bottling to be a trifle bland for a time, but now I think this a pretty good whisky.

    Color: Light gold amber
    Nose: Light grain, pot still grassiness, some oak and sherry
    Mouth: Medium bodied, with a slightly lingering oiliness
    Taste: Sweet, balanced nicely with oak, nuts, and some honey
    Finish: Smooth, warm, more sherry and fruit
    Note: A very good easy to drink whiskey. Very easy to see why it is so popular.

    Michael Collins Single Malt
    Color: Light brown gold
    Nose: Spicy but light, some grass, honey, lemon, oak
    Mouth: A bit heavy, richer than the nose would lead you to think
    Taste: Malty sweet, some grain, a hint of smoke, and caramel
    Finish: Long, sweet, a hint of bitter chocolate
    Note: This is a newer offering from Cooley distillery. Michael Collins is also available as a blended whiskey that I have not sampled.

    Bushmill Single Malt 10 year old
    Color: light gold
    Nose: Sharp, grain, citrus, lightly sweet
    Mouth: Sharp, almost harsh bite.
    Taste: Good flavor balance once you get past alcohol bite. Nice grain, fruit, honey with a bit of oak, and spiciness.
    Finish: Medium to long, more honey, but warm to almost burning.
    Note: This is a good whisky, but needs more time to mellow and balance out. My suggestion, drink this one with a good splash of water to bring out the aroma and take out the bite.

    Black Bushmill
    Color: Deep gold,
    Nose: Sherry, grain, apple, honey, sweet, citrus
    Mouth: Medium to heavy body
    Taste: Rich, sherry honey sweet, grassy grains with spice
    Finish: Long, lingering with more sherry and honey
    Note: Probably the best balanced of Bushmill’s offerings to my taste buds.

    Jameson 12 year old
    Color: light gold, amber overtones
    Nose: Crisp, dry, oak, some grass, and sherry, a touch of smoke
    Mouth: Very soft, almost chewy, oily
    Taste: Light but still very flavorful. Sherry, oak, hint of vanilla, caramel, citrus
    Finish: Long, a nice sweetness emerges, with a hint of smoke and vanilla again.
    Note: The 1780, also 12 years old, put out by Jameson, had more sherry to it than the 12 year old. When I first had the 12-year-old and 1780 side by side, it was easy to tell the difference. Now, the 1780 bottling has been discontinued and the 12-year-old bottling now on the market has more sherry and a greater depth of flavor. It is this second version I’m describing here.

    Red Breast
    Color: Light Gold
    Nose: Spice, woody, toasted nuts
    Mouth: Slightly heavy, coats your mouth, smooth
    Taste: Strongly flavored, sherry, spice cookie, nuts
    Finish: Very long, the flavors rebound and linger.
    Note: This is another fine whiskey from the Midleton Distillery. Extremely good value for a outstanding whiskey.

    Tyrconnell Single Malt
    Color: golden yellow
    Nose: Fruit and citrus, spicy
    Mouth: Full bodied, oily
    Taste: Honey, sweet fruit, lemon orange, grain
    Finish: Medium long, malty sweet honey, more fruit
    Note: Another great single Malt from Cooley. Contrast the differences between this one, Connemara, and Michael Collins for fun.

    Knappogue Castle Single Malt 1994
    Color: Light gold
    Nose: Lemon, grass, hints of flowers, vanilla, oak
    Mouth: Medium bodied, but fades quickly
    Taste: Lots of malt grain, balanced nicely with oak, vanilla
    Finish: Medium, malty sweet, very warm, more oak and grain
    Note: Knappogue Castle is from Castle Brands, a private bottling company. Castle Brands also offers other liquors such as Boru Vodka, Sea Wynde and Gosling Rums, again, private bottlings which come from various distilleries. Each bottling of Knappogue Castle whiskey is slightly different since they are from different distilleries. This one was from Bushmill.

    Bushmill Single Malt 16 year old
    Color: Gold amber
    Nose: Rich, sherry, port, oak, vanilla
    Mouth: Heavy, coats your mouth, smooth and warm
    Taste: Very well balanced, sherry, oak vanilla, port sweetness, nutty
    Finish: Long, all the flavors rebound in the finish, smooth, warm
    Note: This is perhaps my favorite Bushmill version, tied really with Black Bushmill, but the flavors here are more intense and the Black Bushmill is better balanced. Depends on your mood as to which is better.

    Connemara 12 year old Single Malt
    Color: Light gold
    Nose: Powerful, rich grain, smoky, peat, sherry, nutty, honey, citrus
    Mouth: Oily, heavy, coats your mouth rich, smooth
    Taste: Sherry, peat smoke, with oak, lemon orange hints, vanilla, caramel
    Finish: Long, warm, spicy, more smoke, vanilla caramel,
    Note: This is a peated Irish Whiskey from Cooley distillery. This one is what might be termed a historical recreation, since they make use of peat as distillers of old would have done in making their whiskey in small stills in the hills and valleys of Ireland. Whatever the distiller’s reasoning, this is an outstanding whiskey.

    Jameson Gold
    Color: Deep gold and amber
    Nose: Rich, sherry dominates, some wood, vanilla, and the pot still character- grassy fruit appears.
    Mouth: Very full-bodied, coating your mouth lingers for a long time, very smooth
    Taste: Rich, lots of honey, grassy fruit sweet, sherry and spice
    Finish: Long, very warm with more sherry sweet and orange citrus
    Note: Jameson Gold is possibly the best Irish whiskey I’ve tasted, I'm including single malts in that statement. It’s a blend still but has 80% pure malt whiskey to the blend. The whiskey used in this blend is very well aged judging by the nose, mouth, and taste.

    Midleton Very Rare 2004
    Color: Deep brown, gold
    Nose: Rich, sherry, nuts, oak, spice, grain
    Mouth: Deep, lingering, oily
    Taste: Oak, toffee, cream
    Finish: Long, spicy, smooth and warm
    Note: This is an outstanding whiskey, but it is seriously overpriced. Compare this to the Jameson Gold or the Connemara and you will see what I mean. Well worth having a bottle if you can get one as a gift (As I did, thanks guys!) or if you want one for impressing friends.

    That’s it. Happy Saint Patricks day! Slainte, Guid forder, and Kampai!
    Last edited by Neil Yamamoto; 1st November 2007 at 21:20.

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