View Full Version : Irish Whiskey Flight-Charlotte
During my visit to Charlotte, NC, I had the opportunity to visit a traditional Irish Pub called Ri-Ra (Gaelic for "Uproar"). Not having a decent bourbon selection, I asked for a whiskey list and was presented with a laminated and bound book of Irish Whiskeys. I selected a flight of single barrel offerings including Old Bushmills 12, Old Bushmills 18 and Tyrconnel. I generally dislike that petroleum distillate (fusel oil?) taste, but the Bush 18 was very smooth, woody, spicy with a little hint of sweetness. I couldn't help think that they had that young, grainy White Dog taste in all of them. It made for an interesting afternoon amongst all the Pre-Super Bowl Hoopla.
Next time, its Middletons, Black Bush, Jamesons and a few others.
If your in the area, check it out. Ri-Ra (http://www.rira.com)
Good notes, the oily taste of many Irish whiskeys is not in my view attributable to fusel oil or other congenerics. Irish whiskey with rare exceptions is distilled three times. This level of purity would seem to exclude strong petroleum-like flavours from that source. I think what is happening is that the raw barley used in Jameson and similar pot still whiskeys (i.e., all those made at Midleton in the South) leads to that oily flavour. Michael Jackson (the well-known whisky and beer writer) refers to unmalted barley being a "robust" material, and likely it would be more so were two distillations used. Bushmills is a product of Ulster and their single malt is made from an all-barley malt grist. It is distilled three times, hence its light body (relatively) but the absence of raw barley in the mash likely explains the lack of that distinctive petroleum-like taste, one personally I have never quite come to terms with. Bushmills is really a kind of Lowland scotch, being unpeated and multiple distilled. (This makes sense due to the historic links between Scotland and Ulster). One Southern distiller, Cooley, also eschews raw barley but exceptionally for Ireland uses peated malt in some of its whiskeys. I like Powers for a taste of the true Irish pot still character, the oily/fresh leather taste is there but is moderated due to the blending. This whiskey is, I understand, made from about 70% pot still and the remainder is a lighter grain whiskey. The pot still part is made from 60/40 raw barley to barley malt, so the traditional taste derives therefrom but again the blending makes it appeal to those who don't like too much of that signature. I agree with you that Irish whiskey does recall American white dog, and some younger bourbons or ryes (I would add). Youngish rye whiskey (e.g., the excellent Pikesville Supreme Straight Rye whiskey) to me persistently recalls many kinds of Irish whiskey. I would like to think this is because the Scots-Irish (Ulster emigrants) and Irish (from what is now the Republic) came to America in the 1700's and began distilling rye and corn but with the memory of Irish whiskey still fresh in their minds..
The sad part is that we can not get Paddy's Irish in the USA, and I have yet to hear a good reason why not
Thanks for the insights. Retrospectively, I think you're right about the raw barley flavor. Its probably not fusel oil. That was a guess. Its an interesting departure to sample other whiskeys, so similar to each other and yet so different from their American cousins. I'm going to continue to sample these, when I can, and report on my impressions. I feel some obligation based on my heritage. Irish whiskey doesn't have the following of SC***H or our beloved bourbon. Its sort of an odd man out. I'll have to try Power's. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif
I too would like to try the Powers one of these days. I've read good things about it.
You mentioned that you had the Tyrconnell. I was wondering what you thought about it. I think it is pretty good, but I prefer Connemara, which has quite a bit of peat influence in its flavor.
Had a wee dram of Powers last night and was pleasantly reminded of why I purchased it in the first place. Good whiskey at a good price.
But, if you want a taste of true Irish pot-still whiskey, try Redbreast 12yo. Even better still (IMHO), if you have the cabbage or a generous friend with a yen for Irish whiskey, I would recommend the Jameson 15yo Pure Pot Still--like tutti fruitti in a glass.
I have tried only two Midleton releases: 1994 and 1996. They were on close-out at about half the regular price. The '94 was good, but not exceptional. The '96, however, was a truly delicious whiskey featuring a prominent peach flavor. Yummy stuff...but, sadly, gone. I have heard recent releases are very good to excellent.
Someone please correct me if I'm wrong about this, but I believe there are but three active distilleries on the Emerald Isle. They are Bushmills in the north, Cooley in Dublin and Middleton in the south. The Bushmills plant gives us the Bushmills range. Cooley provides Kilbeggan and Tyrconnell (both distributed by Heaven Hill), and Middleton makes all the rest (Jameson, Powers, Paddy, etc.). Of the three, the newest is Cooley, which opened in 1994, and the biggest is Middleton. The very modern and highly automated Middleton plant was the model for what is now Heaven Hill's distillery in Louisville.
This is not to say that there aren't still some products around that contain whiskey made at Irish distilleries that are now dark, but for the most part anything you can buy came from one of these three plants, with most of it coming from Middleton.
There is a side to Irish pot still that features a fruity nose and palate and those are my favorites too. Green Spot (which I heard may soon be available in Ontario) can exhibit that quality although bottlings vary. Jameson 15 year old is outstanding, likely close to the best Irish whiskey available before the Second World War. The signature "waxiness" is there but swathed in as you say a tutti-fruity flavour, that and a suave maltiness from the barleys. The special Midleton reserve releases you mentioned (which I believe always contain some grain whisky) are to my mind never as good as Green Spot at its best and Jameson 15 year old. Redbreast is good but it has dollops of the waxy pot still character. As a friend put it, this is a whiskey that expresses an Opinion. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif
This is my understanding except I believe Cooley's distillery and warehouses are in Riverstown, Cooley an area in the east of the country. The head office is in Dublin. Also, Bushmills and Midleton are owned by one company, Pernod Ricard which purchased Irish Distillers, a merger in the 1960's of three famous houses, including Jameson, whose brand names are all produced today at Midelton. Bushmills produces all the malt whisky in Antrim in Ulster used in its brands and where grain whisky is added it is sourced from Midleton.
This may be a good place to correct or at least qualify a statement I made earlier that the waxy quality of Irish pot still is due to the raw barley used in the mash. It was drawn to my attention on the forum at www.whiskymag.com (http://www.whiskymag.com) that Jim Murray, an expert on Irish whiskey, has written that even though three distillations are used, the stillmen manipulate the cut so as to allow more of the heavy oils to remain in the whiskey. I am speaking here only of traditional pot still whiskey because many types of whiskey are made in Midelton's famous linked stills. There is speculation on the forum that raw barley nonetheless has some influence on the classic "oily" taste of heavy pot still Irish.
Many of ya, on this fourm have evolved into knowledgable conoisseur's of the trade, however, I will be the first to admit I am not the conoisseur that is expected from me http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif
This is one product (Kelbeggan, Irish Whiskey) that I really like. The first time it came down the line I took a "cap full" sample...Hmmmmmm...I went back for another...Hmmmmmm...and another. Good stuff http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Nuff said http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif
We ran this a few weeks ago. I asked for a bottle, for a special friend who is coming to visit us, this weekend. I hope he likes it, but if he does not that's fine, he can give it to one of his friend that likes Irish Whiskey. It ain't bourbon, but I like it http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif
Must be a little Irish in me somewhere...I know for sure, that I'm German and Indian. I'm adding Irish for extra measure. I can offically decare that nationality cause I named my first born, Patrick http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif and I had a man wearing a kilt, pick up one of my shoes, pour beer in it and drink it dry http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif
http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif
My one and only bottle of Green Spot was a bit of a disappointment. It had very little of the fruit I love in Irish whiskey and too much of the "wax." My bottles of Redbreast have been much better.
Yes, Midleton is a blend. Way overpriced. They have released some older expressions in the last couple of years that have won praise. The only one of those I have tasted (thanks again, John) was a 26yo finished in port wood. IIRC, it was rather rich for an Irish with lots of mellow fruit flavors, enhanced, no doubt, by the port wood. Tasty.
On the Tyrconnell.
My visual impressions were very misleading. The pale straw color and aroma lead you to the conclusion that this whiskey is harsh and young, but you can't judge a whiskey by its cover. I was pleasantly surprised by the roundness and balance, but still that White Doggish flavor. Kind of one dimensional but pleasant. It was a step down from the older Bushmills that were considerably more woody and sweeter. Drinkable. Nice Pour.
I had two bottles over the years of Green Spot. The first was fruity as in "juicy fruit", more peach, citrus and pear-like than ported or sherried, and I think it came from maturation or the distillate, not from using casks that had held sherry or port. The second bottle was dull and oaky. Neither was particularly waxy. So it seems as if this brand will vary a lot depending on the particular bottling. Redbreast (I have a bottle at home at the moment) strikes me as a little raw in terms of the waxiness. I think Jim Murray says that the current Redbreast is fresh and vibrant (what he also calls the "brittleness" of the pot still element) whereas the Redbreast of a few yaers ago was more musty-like due to "tired casks". Personally I liked it more in the old days. I think the key is not so much the casks but the aging. I think the Redbreast of about 10 years ago was likely older than the current one, that or it may have had pre-Midleton Irish Distillers (from Dublin) pot still in it because they were adding stray casks of the old stuff to such pot still formulations until recently (unless more such oldies turn up!).
Back to what Chuck was saying about whiskeys produced by companies no longer in operation (or, I would add, the Irish Distillers companies before the merger), some are apparently still around and Murray gives fascinating taste notes on those. There are whiskeys from the late 1940's and early 1950's still to be had, at a price of course. Or he will comment on, say, a few stone jars of an ancient Jameson Dublin distillate found deep in a pub cellar under an arch. There, as here, the oldies (generally) seem to get the nod as having the best taste. He gives as one reason for that the point you made about oats and rye having been used as small grains (in very small amounts, though) until Midelton was built. The use of such exotic grains was dispensed with post-Midleton in that they were said to be not necessary or something like that. Still, if they had been added in the past it was for a reason, and therefore tasting these old ones is a way to see what those recipes were like. One old brand, Old Comber, dating from the early 1950's, still can be bought in good whiskey shops in Britian and Ireland but it is very costly. I have never had a taste of this one or any of the other oldies. I do however have a distinct reminiscence of tasting the regular Jameson in the 1970's. My step-dad used it to spike Orange Pekoe tea with. I recall that it was very waxy (and this was the regular Jameson, but clearly still very oriented to a pot still character). So I think the oldies might in fact taste like Redbreast does now or fairly close. Some surely tasted like Jameson 15 years old which is one of the great whiskeys in my view, the Lagavulin of Ireland.
I have never heard of Old Bushmill's 12 or 18? I presume they are single malts? The standard US expressions are the blend, Black Bush (blend), the 10, 16, and 21yo single malts, and the current limited cask strength single malt expressions: rum, sherry, and bourbon (around 14yo I think). There is a Bushmills 12 for distillery sales, but I've never heard of an 18. Do you have any more info on these?
I'm glad you liked the Midleton 26yo.
For the sake of the forum, it was made at the old Midleton distillery in the largest pot stills ever used. It is a pure pot still Irish (including some oats) combining bourbon and sherry casks for finishing in the port casks. I'm a big fan of Irish, expecially pure pot still, and IMHO this might be the best.
Good point. Erin Go Brah is the only Irish whiskey claiming to be a Midleton single malt. It has a significant similarity to Greenspot and seems to have some pot still character that is hard to explain in a single malt. Must be the stills... http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif
I have gotten the 12 year old single malt in duty free, but haven't seen the 18 either.
I love all the PPS Irish and the Jameson 15 is one of the best IMHO. It is true that most Irish whiskey from before the mid 70's was PPS. I have an old bottle of Jameson 7yo PPS (Bow Street Distillery). The taste is startling. It is VERY heavy, medicinal and musty; nothing like the similar aged Greenspot. Based on a careful reading of Classic Irish Whiskey, I think traditional pure pot still (unlike the light, medium, and heavy PPS that currently make up most of the new Midleton's PPS production) did NOT have a middle cut. Triple distilling (and time in the wood) were needed to take the edge of the stuff that would normally be excluded in the foreshots and tails.
First, I'll go back and check my notes.
Secondly, I'll go back and check the whiskey list.
It's more likely that I transcribed in error than Ri-Ra having a whiskey that nobody's ever heard of.
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