This week I have been investigating Irish whiskey. Irish whiskey, considered at one time the best in the world ... Harrison Hall (1818) speaks of it in admiring terms (still resolved though to produce its equal in America).
First I looked at my resources at home and found a cask-strength Connemara. Connemara is a newer style Irish, from the well-reputed Cooley, 100% single malt and peated in this case. A lovely dram it is, with an oatmeal-like taste and a soft smokiness. Islay (any of it) has a harder edge, probably the different climates explain all this.
Seeking beyond the GG bunker, I found at LCBO the following:
- regular Jameson
- Jameson 12 years old
- The Irishman 70.
All went into the wire basket and are now in the Irish corner at home.
The current 12 year old Jameson is by far the best of this brand I have ever had. Bottlings in recent years served up good dollop of pure pot still but the leather/petrol taste was at times overwhelming for me, even I who tries to be sympa to assertive, unique tastes. Well, the current bottling is a beauty, while the pot still element is certainly present and noticeable the blend is very astute, making a cottony soft whiskey with a full flavour of pot still heather, light wood and some sherry. Just a beaut, and I hope it will remain as is.
Regular Jameson in recent years has always been good with a minty-like note from its share of pot still suavely blended with top-quality grain whiskies. A stand-by and (as it happens) a great value as is its bigger brother.
The real surprise was The Irishman 70, a merchant's blend of 70% single malt and 30% pure pot still. Now this is a blend! I have fashioned my own similar blends at home for a long time but this is the first commercial example to my knowledge of combining single malt and pure pot still Irish whiskeys. Wow. Again they get a rainwater soft texture and the pot still shines through but in a controlled way, the malt wraps around it and displays it to perfection. All for only $40.00 but it is worth much, much more.
While I admire all the great Scots whiskies often spoken of here, I always knew that Irish whiskey was as good or (sometimes) better, it just needed some extra-special attention from the current sources. Well, that's happened, the examples I mentioned are very well put together and in a way that makes the best of the constituents (pure pot still, single malt, grain whiskey).
P.S. Also recently tasted courtesy a friend is Magilligan, a Cooley single malt somewhat like Connemara but less peated, once again soft as the morning dew and with a lovely taste of mild cooked grains and flowers. Thus, withal a four-leaf clover of fine Irish whiskeys.