Irish Whiskey, No Age Statement, 46% ABV, No Price Yet
Stephen Teeling was on hand at Trinity Hall Irish Pub tonight to introduce Teeling Whiskey to the USA. This was his first stop among many cities throughout the country pouring samples of their Irish whiskey in advance of their product availability in local stores. His brother is on a similar journey that begins in San Francisco on this same night.
Stephen sat down and visited with us for a while, intimating their history as a contract distiller, then an independent bottler (of their own contract distillation), and now a full distillery that bottles their own product. Their initial product is an Irish whiskey finished in Flor de Caña rum casks for 6 months. The rum was mostly evident on the nose along with sweet sorghum and overripe fruit. The taste was somewhat sweet, medicinal and herbal, while the finish left an almost numb feeling in the mouth and a slight burn in the back of the throat. This is an un-chilfiltered, 46% ABV dram that exhibits potential on the nose, then lets you down on the palate. It’s not bad (like Jameson’s entry level whiskey), but it’s no better than acceptable. The flavors even seem like they want to be something else, but that numbing, herbal effect really ruins any potential that is waiting in the whiskey.
I don’t want to be too negative here. You should give this a try for the unique experience, especially if you like whiskey with an herbal characteristic that follows a richer, fruity flavor than any entry level Irish whiskey I’ve tasted. For comparison, I much prefer Jameson 12 or Bushmills Black Bush to this one, but I believe that Teeling Whiskey will cost a bit less. I suspect that there will be many opportunities in the upcoming months to sample Teeling Whiskey as they attempt to establish a North American presence. Be on the lookout for a tasting… especially a free one!
Tonight, I attended a different kind of tasting at Trinity Hall Irish Pub in Dallas. This one included 4 pairs of similarly styled whiskey, which had to be identified as either the named flagship offering or a specific premium offering. Here was the lineup:
- Bulleit Bourbon ($20) or Bulleit 10 Year Bourbon ($35) – The 10 Year is a new offering from Bulleit that was introduced in 2013 and I haven’t read any favorable reviews or received any favorable recommendations on it. I had tasted their regular Bourbon almost 2 years ago and wasn’t impressed. I approached the judging by expecting the flavor of the 10 year to reflect it’s age, but I was duped. The 10 Year is worse than the original and a definite waste of money.
- Crown Royal ($18) or Crown Royal XO ($45) – I’ve not had many Canadian whiskeys, so this was new for me. The cognac influence of the XO was subdued (as was the general flavor of both whiskies), but discernable. I didn’t find either one very interesting, so I would pass on both of these.
- Bushmills Black Bush ($30) of Bushmills 1608 400th Anniversary ($100) – This was the most difficult to identify because both of these blends have sherry influence. Black Bush is finished in sherry casks, while 1608 includes whiskies which have been aged in sherry casks. For me, the 1608 had an added depth of flavor and richness that caught my attention more. Both of these were good, but I prefer Jameson 12 Year ($39) or Jameson Gold Reserve ($63) over either of them.
- MacAllan 10 Year Fine Oak ($38) or MacAllan 17 Year Fine Oak ($150) – This was probably the easiest to identify even though both of these are good. I had tasted both of them at a previous Trinity Hall event and this helped as well. The 17 Year just had enhanced flavors and complexity over the 10 Year, but it’s still not worth the price difference.
If you’re keeping track, then you know that I correctly identified 3 out of 4. I don’t know of anyone at the event who correctly identified them all (like I said, Bulleit duped everyone with their 10 Year Bourbon by making it worse than their original). This was a good test of whether premium offerings really offer anything special and it was a fun event to attend. In general, premium offerings need to be approached carefully. There are those who will offer inferior products with a premium label (e.g. Bulleit), while others will price their premium offering far too high to make them worthwhile (e.g. MacAllan). Still others, take mediocre products and enhance them to create mediocre premium products (e.g. Crown Royal). What you’re looking for is the honest producer who will masterfully or cleverly work to create a superior product that is worthwhile. The closest example of that tonight was Bushmills 1608… even though it’s not a whiskey that I would seek, the premium blend definitely demonstrated a richness, depth and complexity that I expect in a premium offering.
The latest tasting at Trinity Hall Irish Pub (my favorite tasting venue of late) is the line of Jameson Irish Whiskies and the annual Midleton release from the Midleton Distillery. Here’s the lineup:
- Jameson Irish Whiskey – $20
- Jameson 12 Year – $39
- Powers Gold Label 12 Year- $33
- Redbreast 12 Year – $45
- Jameson Gold Reserve – $63
- Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve – $290
- Midleton Very Rare – $130
Of these, the Redbreast 12 , Jameson 12 and Jameson Gold Reserve were standouts. I already have a bottle of Redbreast 12, but I think that my next Irish whiskey will be Jameson 12. The two premium offerings were quite good as well, but not enough to tempt me when compared to some Scotch single malts in that price range. I should also note that the Jameson Original and Powers Gold Label weren’t even worth drinking, in my opinion. I’ve never really liked Irish whiskey and Jameson Original is a big reason for that. I’m now discovering that there are some good ones out there and I’m looking forward to enjoying them.
Single Pot Still Irish,
12 Years, 40% ABV, $45
My nose is a bit off due to allergic reactions to the Spring (this is Texas), but I’m trudging forward as best as I can. I may follow up with some additional notes. In any case, this whisky produces smells of creamy dark caramel, ginger, dark cherry, grass, ripe apple and malted dark chocolate.
I taste ginger, apple, lemon zest, vanilla, dried peach, creamy caramel and white pepper. The finish is mildly leathery with the white pepper persisting beyond everything else along with a bit of wood. This is a tasty, spicy whisky without too much sweetness or bitterness. The fruit and candy flavors work well with the overall flavor profile.
This is such a huge step up from Jameson Irish Whisky because everything seems to come together nicely in a way that livens up the experience. Jameson is thin by comparison. I’m definitely glad that I picked this one up and, of course, I’ll have another dram on St. Paddy’s Day.