Whiskey Galore – Teelings Irish Whiskey

Whiskey Galore – Teelings Irish Whiskey

The Irish Times 4th July 2015

The Teeling family can take a huge amount of credit for the current revival in the fortunes of Irish whiskey. John Teeling was the first to challenge the might of Irish Distillers by setting up Cooley distillery in 1987. It must have been a lonely furrow to plough in those days, but he succeeded in creating viable alternatives for Irish whiskey lovers.

Cooley was always innovative, releasing interesting whiskeys under various names, as well as supplying own-label spirits to many others. In 2011 Teeling and his investors sold Cooley to American giant Beam for $95 million.

Teeling is in the process of building a large column grain distillery in Dundalk, a very canny move. While all the talk is about Single Pot Still whiskeys, blended whiskey makes up the majority of sales, and the new distilleries (26 and counting) will need to buy their base whiskey somewhere.

Teeling’s sons Jack and Stephen obviously inherited his entrepreneurial skills and seem poised for success with their Teeling Whiskey Company. The full story featured recently in Whiskey Business, a four-part documentary on TV3. The Teeling whiskeys are interesting, the label design excellent, and the most of the prices hit the “profitable premium but affordable” category.

The final coat of paint was being applied to their new distillery and visitor centre in the Liberties in Dublin when I arrived last month. The building is smartly designed, a mix of bare cement, exposed wood, steel and copper, giving it an edgy industrial feel. There is a shop, a tasting area and café as well as a bar with wonderful barrel-shaped snugs looking out onto Newmarket. There is a rooftop garden too. It is open for tours and hopes to become a major tourist attraction.

Master distiller Alex Chasko started out as a brewer in Portland, Oregon, but is clearly very much at home discussing whiskey and the art of blending.

Production had started when I visited, with a wort fermenting away, although according to Chasko it will be the end of the year before they hit full production of around 500,000 litres a year. It will then take several years before any of the distillate can be called whiskey.

In the meantime the Teelings bought up stocks of old whiskey from Cooley. These have been put to good use, finished in various casks and released as a series of very tasty whiskeys. I have featured the Single Grain Whiskey (€45) here before. Finished in American Cabernet Sauvignon casks, it is smooth and buttery with vanilla and spice. The Small Batch entry-level whiskey was the first release.

“The challenge was to say ‘this is who we are’, to take existing stock and make it unique,” says Chasko. They did this by marrying grain and malt whiskey in rum casks to create a distinctive and delicious whiskey with raisins, vanilla spice and light woody flavours.

“For the Single Malt, my instructions were simple,” Chasko says. “Make it the best.” He chose from whiskey originally distilled in 1991, and aged in five types of cask (White Burgundy, Californian Cabernet, Sherry, Port, and Madeira).

The 21 year-old Reserve Single Malt was created by fear, jokes Chasko. “What happened if it was crap? That was two and half years ago. Now we can’t keep it in stock.”

This wonderful complex whiskey, smooth and quite delicious was finished in Sauternes casks. At the top of the tree is the 26 year-old Reserve Single Malt (€475) a truly unique whiskey that has been partly aged in White Burgundy casks. It is full of fruit and lemon zest, with subtle deep woody flavours.

It seems that once again the Teeling family are laying down the gauntlet to Irish Distillers and the other Irish whiskey producers.

ImageTeeling Whiskey Small Batch

Raisins, vanilla spice and light woody flavours on nose and palate, with a soft sweet finish.

Stockists: specialist off-licences.

Image 2Teeling Whiskey Single Malt

Aromas of tropical fruit, lemon zest and spice, and a palate of toffee, caramel and exotic fruits. Full of flavour.

Stockists: specialist off-licences.

Image 3Teeling Whiskey 21 year-old Single Malt

Wonderful aromas of white stone fruits, honey and beeswax; the palate explodes with complex flavours of peaches and apricot with a background note of smoke.

Stockists: specialist off-licences.

Posted in: Irish Times

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  1. Nurhanisah March 4, 2016

    For the true Irishman(woman) take out the 1 part green Chartreuse and the 1 part creme’ de menthe and ADD 8 parts Irish Whiskey and one Irish dninkirg song . :beerlaugh


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