small batch

A Trinity of Teeling Whiskey

Kicking off a small Irish whiskey series here on, we take a look at the trinity of releases from  Teeling Whiskey Co.  Owners Stephen and Jack Teeling not only have Irish whiskey running through their veins, it flows through their family blood line.  See, back in the late 1700s, a Teeling was distilling whiskey in Dublin.

In recent times, John Teeling, Stephen and Jack’s father, founded the Cooley distillery in the 1980s.  The brothers learned all they could about the whiskey business.  However, when the distillery was purchased by Beam in 2012, Stephen and Jack sold their Cooley shares and used the money to start an independent distilling company – the first new Dublin distillery in a very long time.  That company was given the family name – Teeling Whiskey Co.

The brothers brought in distiller and micro-brewer Alex Chasko from Oregon to help with distillation.  While the company is currently distilling whiskey, it’s not mature enough to actually be called Irish whiskey.  Like Scotch, Irish whiskey must age a minimum of three years and a day to carry the name.

In the meantime, Teeling has sourced some whiskey from a distillery they know well – the Cooley distillery.  Though the company sells other expressions, their core range is built upon three whiskies: a Small Batch, Single Grain and Single Malt.  Let’s take a look.

Photo courtesy of Teeling Whiskey Co.

Photo courtesy of Teeling Whiskey Co.

Teeling Small Batch

A blend of malt and grain whiskey, Teeling Small Batch comes non-chill filtered and bottled at 46%.  The primary maturation takes place in ex-bourbon casks.  The blend is then finished in ex-rum casks for six months.

The nose starts off slightly harsh and rum-sweet.  After a few moments, the alcohol vapors disappear and make room for sweet grain, clove honey and spiced vanilla.  On entry, lovely vanilla ice cream mingles with malted grain and a touch of oak.  A bit of baking spice shows up towards the end and well into the sweet finish.

Teeling Small Batch is a great blended Irish whiskey.  I like the subtle touch the rum cask finishing adds.  This is a solid blend that has a great mouthfeel and is flatout fun to drink.  Pour a glass and enjoy.


Teeling Single Grain

Single grain whiskey means there is an absence of malted barley in the mash bill. In the case of this Teeling Single Grain, the majority is made of corn.  Grain whiskey is usually lighter in style when compared to malt whiskey.  This expression is finished in California Cabernet Sauvignon wine barrels for an unknown period of time.  Like other Teeling whiskies, this one is un-chill filtered and bottled at 46% abv.

The nose is sweet and fruity thanks to the predominately corn makeup and wine finish.  Taste-wise, the wine finish is apparent.  This whiskey is full of big fruity red wine notes.  There’s a bit of spicy oak underneath, adding a little balance to the fruit flavors.  The finish is shorter and drier than the Small Batch.  It features a nice spiciness I wish were in the palate.

Grain whiskey is very delicate, and a cask finish can quickly overpower the whiskey’s character.  I think that’s what has happened here.  The wine cask finish has overtaken any whiskey notes instead of complimenting them.  This whiskey has very nice flavors, but I wished the wine notes would take a back seat to the whiskey.  That said, the wine finish does add richness to what might have been a bland grain whiskey.  If you go into this whiskey knowing that, you’ll enjoy this expression.


Teeling Single Malt

Here’s something you don’t see everyday.  Teeling Single Malt is a blend of malt whiskies aged in five types of wine casks:  Sherry, Port, Madeira, White Burgundy and Cabernet Sauvignon.  There’s no age statement here, but for what it’s worth this expression contains whiskey aged up to 23 years.

The nose for Teeling Single Malt is sweet and fruity, just not as much as their Single Grain release.  There’s a nice combination of candied berries and dried fruit alongside cereal grains, creamy toffee and some vanilla.  A bit of bright citrus pops up as well.  The full-bodied palate is similar to the nose, with malt, dried fruit and lemon rind proving to be the dominant flavors.  Honey adds some sweetness.  Astringent oak lurks in the background, as it adds to the layers here instead of overpowering them.  The finish is the longest of the three, carrying a honeyed fruit sweetness.

Teeling Single Malt is my favorite of the three expressions.  It’s the most complex and palate-pleasing to me.  The malted barley really holds up well to the wine barrel maturation.  Very nice.

(Note: Review samples were provided by Teeling Whiskey Co.)

A Taste of Bowmore Whiskies

Photo courtesy of Bowmore Distillery.

Photo courtesy of Bowmore Distillery.

Nestled on the eastern coast of Loch Indaal on Islay, Bowmore sits proudly as one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland.  It was founded in 1779, making it almost as old as the U.S.  The distillery is currently owned by Beam Suntory.  Each batch is overseen by Master Blender Rachel Barrie.

Bowmore produces a peaty whiskey, but it’s not as full and heavy as Laphroaig or Ardbeg whiskies.  The distillery still manages a small amount of traditional floor maltings, but the majority of malted barley comes from the mainland.

Traditional floor maltings at Bowmore.

Picture supplied by SNS Group/Peter Devlin

Their standard range includes Bowmore Small Batch along with 12-year, 15-year, 18-year and 25-year-old expressions.  Let’s take a look at their expressions.

Bowmore Small Batch

Photo courtesy of Bowmore Distillery.

Photo courtesy of Bowmore Distillery.

Bottled at 40% and available for a suggested price of $39.99, Bowmore Small Batch is the only non-age stated (NAS) whisky in their core lineup.  It’s composed of whiskies aged in first and second fill ex-bourbon casks.  The nose is a tad on the younger side, and gives soft vanilla and fruit notes under a blanket of easy going peat.  The peat comes across like a bandage.  Taste-wise, I get a saccharine sweetness carrying spice, vanilla, and peat.  A crisp citrus note shows up in the mid-palate and follows through into the medium length finish.

After a couple of tastings, I can’t get into this expression.  It tastes okay, but isn’t spectacular or memorable.

My problem isn’t the lack of age statement on the label – that never really bothers me.  After all, the Scotch industry is headed that way regardless, so it’s best to get on board now.

In the case of this expression of Bowmore, I think it’s a combination of NAS and low proof.  A 46% abv version of this might give this whisky a much needed shot in the arm.


Bowmore 12-Year-Old

Photo courtesy of Bowmore Distillery.

Photo courtesy of Bowmore Distillery.

The nose on this 12-year-old expression of Bowmore is a bit punchier than it’s younger NAS sibling.  The peat is showcased more here, providing a slightly ashy smoke and iodine combination.  There’s a nice honey note providing the sweetness, along with lemon zest.  I best describe the entry as a “sweet bandage”.  That may be the strangest tasting note I’ve ever written. There’s clover honey and smoky ash accompanied by vanilla.  Mid-palate, lemon curd provides a tartness and creaminess to the tasting experience.  The sweet/ashy/citrus finish hangs around for a few minutes.  This is one of the few times the official distillery tasting notes are on par with my own tasting notes.

Bowmore 12-year-old is a much more refined and “complete” expression when compared to the Small Batch whisky.  Sure it’s peaty, but this whisky retains a light and crisp quality I don’t normally associate with Islay whiskies.  While it’s a nice dram, Bowmore 12 year isn’t one to dissect for an hour.  Pour a glass, sip, and enjoy.  A bottle should cost around $50.


Bowmore 15-Year-Old “The Darkest”

Photo courtesy of Bowmore Distillery

Photo courtesy of Bowmore Distillery

This darker colored 15-year-old expression from Bowmore is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon casks and ex-sherry casks, giving it the nickname of “The Darkest.”  Also of note is the slight raise in proof – 43% abv.

Those sherry casks provide a nice fruitiness and richness on the nose.   Dried fruits, vanilla, citrus and peat are the prominent aromas.  Toffee provides the rich sweet note.  On the palate, a quick hit of spice opens into a blast of orange zest and tropical fruit.  The peat note is not as prevalent as it is in the younger Bowmore expressions.  Again, the toffee note from the nose adds some sweet creaminess.  An ashy smoke note turns up at the back palate going into the long finish.

Bowmore 15-year is my favorite of the bunch.  I have a soft spot for sherried Islay whiskies.  The sherry casks provide another layer of complexity that I think this whisky benefits from.  It’s not as light in style as the Small Batch or 12-year-old, but that’s okay.  This expression carries a $65 price tag, making it $15 more expensive than the 12-year-old.   Totally worth it, as far as I’m concerned.  Recommended!


(Note: Review samples were provided by Bowmore.)

Michter’s US*1 American Whiskey Review

Michters American Whiskey

Michter’s Unblended American Whiskey.  Why not just call it bourbon?  Bourbon needs to be aged in new charred oak barrels.  The key word there is “new.”  Michter’s ages this particular whiskey in used oak barrels (think Scotch).  The label states it’s unblended because the whiskey is not blended with neutral grain spirit.

The sample I received is from batch #15E473.  This is bottled at 83.4 proof.  A bottle of Michter’s Unblended American Whiskey will cost you around $40.

Right up front on the nose is rich with sweet toffee and buttered corn.  There’s also very light touch of rye and baking spices.  Upon entry, Michter’s American Whiskey seems one-note with the toffee note from the nose.  Then, out of nowhere buttered rye toast, corn mash and some vanilla arrive late to the party.  I do wish it were a little fuller in mouthfeel, but that could be due to the low proof and/or filtration.  Mint takes us to the medium-length finish, which is slightly spicy and a tad sweet.

Impressive.  I really like what Michter’s did here with their maturation. Regardless of it’s lighter mouthfeel, this whiskey manages to maintain a high level of richness and wonderful flavors at a price that won’t break the bank.

(Note: A review sample was provided by Michter’s.)