First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 2nd December, 2017
It is hard to believe, given the vast array of bottles on display at Dublin Airport and other outlets, but there are still only half-a-dozen distilleries actually producing whiskey in this country. The rest buy in mature stocks and further age, finish, blend or otherwise leave their unique mark on the final product. Some are excellent, others ordinary, and price is not always a good indicator of quality. Certainly there appears to be an appetite for €100-plus offerings. This autumn we have a flurry of new releases from producers anxious to catch the important Christmas market. Interest in Irish whiskey is at an all-time high, crossing all ages and gender, so this could be the ideal present for that difficult friend or relative.
In September, Walsh Whiskey released the excellent Irishman’s Founder’s Reserve Florio Marsala Cask Finish (€70). If that is beyond your budget, Writer’s Tears Copper Pot (€45) is another, more affordable star from the same source. The Dublin Whiskey Distillery sounds like a made-up name but claims a noble history. It was originally founded in 1830 by John Brannick, who served as master distiller at two of Dublin’s great distilleries before founding his own. DWD closed in 1940 but has now been revived by a group of Dublin businessmen. The Heritage Edition is a blend of whiskey from three different distilleries, aged for five to 10 years in Bourbon casks, primarily first fill.
Dingle was to the forefront of the new Irish distilleries, and therefore also one of the first to release whiskies produced in their own distillery last year. This autumn sees the release of four new small batch whiskies available in limited quantities. This includes the Dingle Single Malt (€65), aged in Bourbon, Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez Casks; the Dingle First Single Pot Still (€90), aged in Pedro Ximenez Casks; and the Dingle Single Malt (€78), aged in Port and Bourbon Casks, the last available exclusively from SuperValu.
Speaking of SuperValu, it recently expanded its whiskey range to include a number of exclusives. As well as the Dingle above, they now offer very limited quantities of two single-cask whiskies from Powers, both retailing at about €200. Aged for 15 years in cask, these are superb, rich, full-flavoured spirits, classically Powers in style. Elsewhere, the 2017 edition of Midleton Very Rare (€180) has been released, in a new very smart luxury bottle and wooden case, as has the Mitchell’s Green Spot Ch Montelena Whiskey, aged in Zinfandel barrels from Ch Montelena in California, a follow-on from their excellent Green Spot Ch Léoville-Barton.
Lastly, the Irish Whiskey Awards recently crowned Teelings The Revival IV as their favourite whiskey, with Jameson Black Barrel as the best in the sub-€60 category.
Dingle Single Malt Batch No.2 Irish Whiskey
A very attractive medium to light-bodied whiskey with refined subtle citrus peel, vanilla and toasted nuts. Stockists: Dingle Whiskey Bar, The Loop, Dublin Airport, specialist off-licences and select SuperValu.
DWD Heritage Irish Whiskey
A rich full-bodied whiskey with honey, milk chocolate, caramel and hints of Christmas cake spice. Stockists: Specialist off-licences and The Loop, Dublin Airport.
Mitchell’s Green Spot Pot Still Whiskey, Zinfandel finish.
Full of warmth and character with delectable red fruits, pears, apples and toasted hazelnuts. An enticing, intriguing whiskey. Stockists: Mitchell & Sons, chq and Sandycove, and specialist off-licences.
The Revival IV, Teelings 15 year-old Single Malt Irish Whiskey
Finished in Muscat casks, this is a medium-bodied fruit-filled whiskey with peaches, lemon zest, candied orange and lemon, and subtle vanilla. Stockists: Specialist off-licences including the Celtic Whiskey Shop.