First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 24th November 2018
Distiller Alex Chasko had a broad smile on his face when I visited Teelings recently. The company is understandably excited about the commercial release of its first whiskey distilled in its own distillery in the Liberties. It believes this is the first whiskey that has been distilled and aged in Dublin for 50 years. Made from 50 per cent unmalted spring barley and 50 per cent malted barley, the whiskey is triple distilled and matured in a combination of virgin oak, ex-wine and ex-bourbon barrels.
Whiskey lovers will be familiar with Green Spot and Yellow Spot, Jameson whiskies that were originally aged by wine merchant Mitchell & Son in its warehouse. Today Green Spot carries no statement of age (it hasn’t for many years), while Yellow Spot is a 12 year old. This Christmas sees the release of Red Spot 46%, a 15-year-old single pot still whiskey, finished in Sherry and Sicilian Marsala casks. Jonathan Mitchell, who remembers bottling the original Red Spot, is delighted. “The re-launch of Mitchell’s Red Spot is, to me, like the return of an old friend after many years away. You invariably say ‘you haven’t changed a bit’; in this case it’s true!”
Meanwhile, Powerscourt releases three new expressions of whiskey. The distillery has been going since June, and now has some 550 barrels of spirit starting the maturation process. The Fercullen Premium Blend “is a very nice balanced whiskey”, says distiller Noel Sweeney, who worked at Cooley Distillery for many years.
“The 10-year-old Fercullen Single Grain Whiskey has vanilla which will please those who like bourbon style, but it is less concentrated or tannic. We wanted to keep the attributes of the sweet Irish spirit alongside those nice bourbon flavours of honey, oak and lemon.”
The 14-year-old Fercullen Single Malt has “a hefty malt cereal note which I really like and then the oak age and wood come in to it”. This was not finished in another cask. “Whiskey at that age doesn’t need messing around too much – for our first release we wanted the age and the whiskey to shine through.”
Lough Gill distillery is being developed in the historic Hazelwood Estate in Sligo. It is working with Billy Walker, one of Scotland’s most respected distillers, who was voted Global Distiller of the Year in 2015. This weekend it releases limited quantities of three new whiskies, all 14-year-old single malts, at Whiskey Live (see whiskeylivedublin.com for tickets) at The Printworks, Dublin Castle, under the Athrú brand.
Lough Gill has yet to begin distilling on the estate. The equipment has started to arrive, and will be followed by the pot still in mid-December. The plan is to begin distilling in April or May next year.
Fercullen Premium Blend Irish Whiskey, Powerscourt Distillery
Seductive mellow vanilla spice, with lemon zest, orchard fruits and a lightly toasty finish.
From: Mitchell & Son, chq, and Sandycove, mitchellandson.com; online from Powerscourtdistillery.com; The Celtic Whisky Shop, celticwhiskeyshop.com.
Teeling Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
46%, RRP €55
Light vanilla with floral notes, very pure clean fruits on the palate, with a lovely kick on the finish. A very attractive, subtle young whiskey.
From: Teeling Whiskey Distillery, Teelingwhiskey.com; Dublin Airport; The Celtic Whiskey Shop, celticwhiskeyshop.com, and specialist off-licences.
Red Spot 15 Year Old Single Pot Still Whiskey
46%, RRP €115
A wonderful rich powerful complex whiskey, creamy with red apple fruits, plenty of spice and very seductive toasted nuts and leather. A real Christmas treat.
From: Mitchell & Son, chq, and Sandycove, mitchellandson.com; The Celtic Whiskey Shop, celticwhiskeyshop.com, Redmonds, Ranelagh; Redmonds.ie; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, jusdevine.ie; Bradley’s Off-licence, Cork, bradleysofflicence.ie; McCambridges, Galway, mccambridges.com; Galvins, Cork, Galvinswine.ie.
Athrú Keshcorran 2018 14 year old Single Malt Whiskey, Lough Gill Distillery
Superb, elegant whiskey with complex notes of ripe pear, honey, ginger spice, and orange peel. An excellent long finish.
From: The Celtic Whiskey Shop, celticwhiskeyshop.com.