June 25, 2024

Whiskey enthusiasts spoiled for choice this Christmas

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Irish market has plenty of new gems to offer as spirit continues to grow in popularity

Irish whiskey continues to increase in popularity both at home and overseas, with sales growing rapidly despite the pandemic – or maybe because of it. As spirits in all the new distilleries mature into whiskey (they must be three years old before they can be called whiskey), we can expect even more releases, but already a bewildering choice is available.

Below, I list some new whiskies; all bar one are limited releases, some made in very small quantities. With Christmas coming, I feel sure that we will see plenty more over the next six weeks. 

Don’t forget the to consider the core whiskies; while collectors may favour the limited releases – and some are fantastic – it is sometimes better to judge a distiller on its everyday offering. Current personal favourites include Writer’s Tears Copper Pot and Redbreast 12 Year Old, but there are plenty of other options out there. 

Remember that most distilleries have visitor centres and run guided tours of their premises. 

Dingle released Batch No 1, one of the first whiskies distilled and aged in its distillery in Dingle, in November 2016. We have now reached Dingle Batch No 6, matured only in tawny port casks, which comes in two versions; a mere 1,000 bottles of cask-strength were released (€150), and the standard Sixth Small Batch Release (46.5 per cent, €70). The latter has dried red fruits, orange peel, dark chocolate and butterscotch, with hints of ginger.

The Teeling distillery has launched three limited-edition whiskeys over the past few months. First up is Teeling 13-year-old Single Grain Whiskey (50 per cent, €85). It is distilled from maize and has been matured in ex-bourbon and ex-Bordeaux red wine barriques. It has flavours of old wood, vanilla, orchard fruits and honey with a spicy finish.

In October, Teeling released the fourth in its single malt series. Teeling Renaissance 18-year-old Single Malt Series No 4 (46 per cent, €140). This is finished in Pineau des Charentes casks, giving the whiskey a lovely fruity element. “Candied fruits, apricot and pineapple,” says Stephen Teeling of Teeling Whiskey. They stumbled across Pineau des Charentes with their architect, Joyce Boyle, who designed the distillery and who holidays in southwest France. 

Jameson Black Barrel has been hugely popular since its release in 2011 and has won many awards. The latest version, Jameson Black Barrel Proof, is a 50 per cent ABV cask-strength version. As with its predecessor, a portion of the whiskey is aged in double-charred oak barrels, giving it robust spicy toasted flavours along with sweet vanilla. It works very well in cocktails or served simply with ice. 

Tullamore launched Rouge, a limited-edition 13-year-old single malt (€58, exclusively in the Loop, Dublin Airport). It has been finished in casks originally used to age wine from the Pomerol region in Bordeaux, and has subtle but perceptible red and black fruit aromas and flavours, alongside the traditional vanillin oak. 

Bushmills fans can choose from the two recent Causeway releases, the second annual release. Both are single malts, aged in very different manners. The 2011 Sauternes Cask (56.3 per cent, €110) spent about two years in ex-Sauternes casks, giving it a lovely smooth, almost sweet palate with honey, peaches and butterscotch. The 1995 Marsala Cask (57.8 per cent, €410) was matured for 10 years in a mix of oloroso and bourbon casks before being finished in Marsala barrels. Marsala is a fortified wine produced in Sicily. It is more full-bodied with dark chocolate, caramel, dried fruits and toasted nuts. 

Blackwater produces an excellent gin and Velvet Cap whiskey, made from bought-in whiskey. Its own whiskey is three years old this month and could be released, but it has decided to allow it to mature for another year. However, it does have a new edition of Púca Small Batch Irish Whiskey produced exclusively for Aldi stores arriving in-store now. Just four casks of this single pot still were produced. It is made from a mix of malted and unmalted barley and described as a wonderful rich spice ball of flavour. Púca is priced at a very reasonable €30.

Walsh Whiskey’s Writers’ Tears released two limited-edition whiskies this autumn: a Single Pot Still Whiskey (46 per cent, €70), the first single pot still from Writer’s Tears, which is matured in a combination of Bourbon, PX Sherry and Florio Marsala casks. There is also an ice wine-finished Irish whiskey (€70) aged in barrels from Inniskillen winery in Canada. This has very seductive peach and apricot fruits with floral notes.

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