Irish Whiskey

Tyrconnell 16-Year-Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey Review

A limited edition 16-year-old Tyrconnell Single Malt.  Have I got your attention?  It definitely has mine.  

Tyrconnell, produced at the Cooley Distillery, is one of the few Irish whiskies that is double-distilled, as opposed to the more traditional triple-distillation utilized in other Irish whiskies.  This 16-year-old expression was matured in American ex-bourbon barrels, so I’m expecting some creaminess and vanilla.  It’s also bottled at a healthy 46% abv.

Curious about where the name Tyrconnell came from?  The whiskey is named after a racing horse that, in 1876, took the crowd by surprise and won first place at 10th running of the National Produce Stakes Horse Race.  A family in that crowd also owned a distillery, and soon after produced a small batch whiskey named after the winner of the race – Tyrconnell.  A whisky named after a racing horse?  Love it.  But how is it?

The nose is full of fruit, especially cinnamon apples and tropical fruit.  There are also hints of grassiness, vanilla bean, and ripe grapefruit.  Honestly one of the fruitiest noses I’ve come across in quite a while.  The palate closely follows the nose with crisp orchard fruits bursting upon entry, only to reveal some mango and honeydew.  A slightly creamy spiced caramel adds some richness.  I agree with the official tasting notes on the finish:  “a very long, herbal spice-rich finish.”  Specifically, I’m picking up a little dried thyme, ginger and a touch of black pepper.

The development of this whiskey is beautiful.  A lovely fruity nose and initial entry, then developing into some rich caramel followed by that herbal/spice finish.  Sadly, there’s not a lot of this stuff to go around.  It’s available in select markets for about $100/bottle.  I’m hoping it comes to New Orleans.  I really need to find a bottle of this lucious, fruity whiskey.  Highly recommended.  9/10

Thanks to Tyrconnell’s PR firm for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

“A Glass Apart” – Book Review

A Glass Apart 2

With “A Glass Apart,” author Fionnán O’Connor hasn’t just given us a primer on Irish whiskey.  He provides a master class on the subject, and does so with the gravitas of a university professor and the tone of an everyday drinking man.

The book is even structured like a college textbook.  First, in the section entitled “Appreciation,” O’Connor talks about how to nose and taste whiskey without ever being a whiskey snob about it. O’Connor says, “If it’s a swelteringly hot day and you feel like having your Redbreast on the rocks, you’re not going to bring about the apocalypse.”  He tackles the flavors and aromas found in whiskey, and how those notes find themselves there.

A Glass Apart 1Then O’Connor explains whiskey production in a way that will teach whiskey newcomers a thing or two, but will also keep whiskey enthusiasts interested.  Grains, yeast, pot still shapes, types of barrels and other distillation processes are covered here.  Sometimes, he can get a bit geeky, and that’s okay by me.

O’Connor then gets into the big pot still whiskies, as well as the Cooley and Midleton Distilleries.  Accompanied by breathtakingly beautiful photos by Ove Grunnér, this section features flavor notes and histories for the big classic Irish post still whiskies like Redbreast expressions and Green Spot.

Speaking of history, a look at Irish whiskey’s past is given its proper due.  O’Connor recounts the glorious heights of the Irish whiskey industry, it’s unfortunate lowly period and it’s recent revival.  The book ends on a high note with a look at the companies and distilleries born in this new world-wide interest in Irish whiskey.

“A Glass Apart” belongs in the library of any serious whiskey enthusiast.  You think you know all about Irish whiskey until you read this book.  Then you realize just how much of an Irish whiskey novice you really are.

By the way, Mark Gillespie interviewed O’Connor on a recent episode of WhiskyCast.  It’s definitely worth a listen.

(Thanks to Images Publishing for the review copy.  Purchase your copy here.)

Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whiskey

Photo courtesy of Jameson.

Photo courtesy of Jameson.

Jameson Black Barrel is a step-up from the standard offering.  Like the standard expression, Jameson Black Barrel is a blend of grain whiskey and pot still whiskey.  What makes this one different is its age and maturation process.  This one is aged in a mix of sherry casks and bourbon casks.  The bourbon casks are re-charred before filling.  As far as age, this blend contains whiskies aged up to 12 years, but the majority is probably still 5-7 years old.  Yes, I know… that doesn’t mean much, as we don’t know percentages.

That different maturation is clearly evident on the nose.  Those Jameson aromas (honey, grain alcohol, floral) are still there, except now there are big sherried fruit and spice notes alongside them.  Flavor-wise, lovely honey and spiced fruit step up first.  Those charred ex-bourbon barrels add vanilla and cinnamon.  At 40%, this whiskey has an unexpected luscious and creamy mouthfeel.  The medium-length finish carries over some of that sweetness and spiciness.

Like I said in the first statement, Jameson Black Barrel is a step up from the standard offering.  It’s a more interesting whiskey, thanks in large part to the maturation process.  In my review of the standard Jameson, I mentioned the best way to enjoy it was over some ice.  With Black Barrel, go neat all the way.  I would love to see this released at a higher proof.  That would make it even more interesting.

(Note: A review sample was provided by Jameson.)