Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Celtic Cask - Deich - Review

Tonight I continued my exploration of new and interesting Irish whiskeys by taking part in another fine "Tweet Tasting" hosted by the Celtic Whiskey Club.  The sample for the evening was a new release from the Celtic Whiskey Shop's "Celtic Cask" range - The Celtic Cask Deich, or Celtic Cask Ten for the non Gaelic speakers out there, and those of you who may have previously seen my reviews of the Celtic Cask Sé (7), or the Celtic Cask Ocht (8), will know that I usually hold these whiskeys in high regard as they always seem to deliver on quality and taste.

The previous reviews of the Sé and Ocht covered whiskeys that had originally come from the Bushmills distillery but for tonight's offering we were being taken a bit further down the east coast of Ireland to Cooley,  Co. Louth.

The Celtic Cask Deich is a double distilled, peated, single malt that has been matured for 15 years.  The first 11 years of it's maturation were spent, traditionally, in an ex-bourbon barrel whilst the last 4 years were spent in a red wine barrel from the Domain Anges winery, which is located in the Rhone Valley, France.

As you can guess, with the Celtic Cask Deich being peated, this single malt could have been Connemara in another life but thankfully the Celtic Whiskey Shop got their hands on this cask and have given it an interesting twist with the red wine finish.

The original spirit was casked on 19th March 1999, and was bottled on 23rd February 2015, so in fact this isn't a kick in the arse off being a 16 year old.

Bottled at 46% ABV, and being non-chill filtered, this whiskey currently retails on the Celtic Whiskey Shop website for £107.65.

Another thing you may have picked on over my blog updates is that Connemara, as a whiskey, is usually one that I enjoy without ever being bowled over by.  I've always found it to be a tiny little bit thin and the 22 year old, whilst undoubtedly well made, just didn't "do it" for me.

Naturally then, when I received this sample in the post, I was excited to see if the single cask style, combined with a well managed finish, would mean I had finally found the Connemara I had been looking for.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Once poured this takes a second or two to settle in the glass and when it does there's a serious battle going on between the peated spirit and the red wine cask influence.  A good battle though it has to be said.  The peat comes through for starters and is light and gentle.  Burnt embers and dry wood smoke come across with a slight chalky, mineral note.  Not sure if that's the peat or the cask.  All the time this peat influence is distinctly coated in the red fruits which are rich and juicy.  Ripe strawberry and blackcurrant juice.  A slight minty / menthol note appears along with dark chocolate orange and some nice oak vanilla.  With time the peat develops but in the end the red wine cask wins with some red apple appearing as well.

Palate - This is more red wine cask dominant, than the nose, with sweet red fruits, more strawberry and a variety of currants.  The dry peat / wood smoke just lurks in the background enough to remind you it's there but it's definitely taking a back seat now.  There's some spice on the taste, presumably from the French oak red wine cask, and again there's the menthol which is also a little like eucalyptus now.  Initially this is most definitely sweet and juicy but the oak takes over and brings a nice dryness to the mouth.

Finish - Medium in length with stewed orange leading into crunchy red apple which is lip smacking and juicy.  Right at the end, when the fruit aftertaste subsides, the dry smoke returns for one last hurrah.

Overall this is honestly the best Irish peated whiskey I have tasted.  Whilst I admittedly have not tried the entire Connemara range, nor any other independent bottlings, I have tried the recent 22 year old and for me the Celtic Cask Deich is by far the better dram.

I initially thought, when I first poured this into the glass, that it was a little bit muddled,  and unbalanced, with no sense of identity, as the two distinct flavours fought to be noticed, but as the seconds ticked on my fears were put to bed as I found the whiskey becoming extremely well is clear this finish has been handled to near perfection. 

The red fruits flavours, from the red wine cask, marry nicely with the Cooley peat spirit, which I have sometimes found to be a little on the weak side, and both get a good chance to have their say.

Yet again the Celtic Whiskey Shop have outdone themselves in selecting a great cask of whiskey and putting their own spin on it.  When it comes to red wine finishes they seem to hit the nail on the head every time and I only hope they continue to do this for years to come, and I get to sample as many as I can.

What's Gaelic for 100?

Until next time,



Friday, 17 April 2015

Greenore - 8 year old - Single Grain - Review

Irish single grain whiskey is not commonly heard of but for some time now the Cooley Distillery, Co. Louth, has been producing this style of spirit and originally had it on the shelves under the title of Greenore.

Named Greenore, after the port into which the grain, used in making the whiskey, was shipped, the two main expressions, I was always aware of, were the 8 year old and the 18 year old.  However after further research I see that there once was also a 6 year old, for the Swedish market, a 15 year old, which preceded the 18 year old and a 19 year old single cask, which was limited release of 300 bottles, released exclusively for the travel retail market and at the time was the oldest Irish single grain whiskey in the world.

With the recent changes in the ownership of Cooley, and the subsequent re-emergence of Kilbeggan as a major brand, the Greenore name is sadly no more and has now been re-named under the Kilbeggan brand.

As far as I am concerned they can call it whatever they like as long as they continue to maintain the high quality and reputation the Greenore name had been building for itself.

Before I go on to my notes it's only fair to mention that recently we have had another Irish single grain enter the market in the recent years and this is of course the Teeling single grain. 

Now while details of it shall be reserved for a future review I just want to say that it is also of very high quality and if the overall reputation of Irish single grain continues to grow in this manner it can only be brilliant for Irish whiskey as a whole.

For so long we have been known for our pot stills, our blends and our single malts and now that we can proudly add good quality single grain into the portfolio this completes our set, so to say, and allows us to compete across the board, across the globe.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Green apple, watermelon, ripe banana and fruit salad sweets.  Spirit is smooth and creamy and turns the fruits into apple tart with cream and banoffee pie.  Feels like great casks have been used in maturing this spirit as there is a distinct, but light, vanilla note and a slightly dry oak spice in the background.  A little touch of lemon citrus and a bit of rum and raisin ice cream finish the nose off nicely and towards the end a slight dustiness appears.

Palate - Light, gentle and slightly sour.  Crunchy green apples, more banana and the citrus is now more orange in nature.  Still undeniably smooth but the youthfulness is more apparent on the palate with a nice kick of spice which, now I think of it, is probably also partly due to the 93% corn used in the production process (the other 7% I believe is malted barley).  Still tropical and the oak comes at the end with some dryness and oak spice.

Finish - A little thin and swift but extremely fresh with dry spice.

Overall this is a fantastic whiskey, apart from the short finish.  I've never really let a finish cloud my judgement of a whiskey providing the nose and palate are of high quality and in this instance they are.  The whiskey has fantastic flavours throughout and if this is an example of what lies ahead for Irish single grain then we're all in for a treat.

What I would say though is that remains to be seen whether this quality will be maintained under the Kilbeggan name?  I honestly do not see why it wouldn't but you never know whenever new owners come into town with their new ideas.  Hopefully they'll understand the reputation this whiskey has built up and use it as a building block to grow from. 

Hopefully I shall have a sample of the Kilbeggan version soon and you can rest assured I'll be checking closely to make sure all that's changed is the name and only the name.

Lastly I'd just like to say thank you to David for the sample which was obtained as a swop.

Until next time,



Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Dunville's VR - 10 year old - Review

Back in February, this year, I brought you all news of a brand new release coming from Echlinville Distillery, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. 

The release was of course Dunville's VR 10 year old single malt. 

This is the second release under the reinvigorated Dunville's label and if you wish to catch up on my release update then go ahead and click right here for a recap.

This new release is a 10 year old single malt, bottled at 46% ABV, non-chill filtered and finished for around a year in a PX sherry cask.  

With regards price I had initially stated that it was to hit the shelves at just under £50 but Master of Malt currently have this on sale for £44.62. 

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while would remember, back in February 2014, I reviewed the first release of the Dunville's VR, which was a blend, and I raised a few points that I felt would need to happen for this brand to achieve the status it is aiming for and, judging by the presentation of this 10 year old, Echlinville are moving rapidly in the right direction as they wait patiently for their own spirit to mature.

Further to this vast improvement, since I last wrote about this release in February, this whiskey hit the world stage in spectacular fashion when the World Whiskies Awards recently awarded the Dunville's VR 10 year old the award of "Best Irish Single Malt - 12 years and under" for 2015!!

Now, while I've no idea, presently, which other whiskeys the Dunville's VR was up against, this is an unbelievable achievement and brings the brand back into the limelight with a bang.  I can only imagine how chuffed Shane Braniff was with this result knowing the passion and effort he is putting into his brand and distillery.

Seeing as the whiskey has clearly wowed the judges at the World Whiskies Awards I may as well share my humble opinion....

Onto my notes:

Nose - Initially tropical with good hints of banana and a little coconut water but quite quickly some nice fresh fruit also appears with green + red apple and lemon sweets.  The sherry finish is not immediately obvious.  Some light pepper and a slight buttered note.  Sherry finally starts to appear but in a gentle fashion with light mixed spice and buttered red fruits.  The finish has been handled with care and allows the original spirit to stay in control without the sherry over dominating.  Right at the end a slight perfumed note also shows through.  With a little water a distinct dusty note appears giving a nice sense of age.

Palate - Initially sweet with malt and light berry.  Some black pepper and chilli heat arrives but this really benefits from the 46% ABV.  The dusty note sits in the background, presumably from the sherry casks, and with a little water the whiskey becomes much sweeter and sherried with more mixed spice, stewed strawberry and some dryness into the finish.

Finish - On the short side of medium but enjoyable with a lip smacking finish of red fruit.

Overall this is an excellent improvement on the 1st release.  I know they are two completely different styles of whiskey but in terms of direction we're now definitely heading upwards.

In honesty I initially struggled to get to grips with this release, when I first opened the bottle, as it was unlike any other Irish whiskey I'd tried before and in my opinion it reminded me more of some Scottish malts I have in my collection.

As I moved through the bottle though the familiar tropical fresh fruit notes, I was fully expecting, came to the fore and I am now fully enjoying each glass.  This whiskey can't be rushed, and needs a little time to open up, but the reward is a glass of whiskey that is well balanced and full of flavour.

The finish of this release is very impressive and gives you just a hint of sherry without overpowering the original spirit.  I believe that future releases may have a slightly longer finish, in the PX casks, and I think this will enhance the spirit even more.  Whatever the standard of the casks being used, they are imparting just the right influence needed to bring this whiskey up a level or two.

Without doubt Echlinville, and the Dunville's brand, are going in the right direction and all I can say is here's to the future.

Lastly I'd just like to say a huge thank you to Shane Braniff for the sample bottle.

Until next time,



Sunday, 5 April 2015

Bowmore - 15 year old "Darkest" - Review

First released in 2007, Bowmore 15 year old "Darkest" is an Islay whisky that has initially been matured in bourbon casks before "finishing" off it's maturation in sherry casks. 

This most recent release has spent the final 3 years of it's life in a Oloroso sherry cask which, according to the Bowmore website, gives Bowmore "Darkest" "the rich, deep colour reflected in its name..." 

It has been bottled at 43% ABV and can be picked up online for around £50.

Bowmore is a distillery I'm beginning to enjoy more and more so when I received this sample as a gift from two fellow bloggers I was only too keen to see if my enjoyment would continue.

Onto my notes:

First thing I noticed was the fantastic colour of the whisky, maybe too good a colour?

Nose - Smoked orange, deep and dark with sherry goodness.  Raisins, light gentle mixed spice, cinnamon, BBQ'd meat and char.  Not too much earthy peat going on in here but more of a clean smoke note.  Red fruits are fresh and juicy and it's clear the sherry cask has taken full effect.  Great vibrancy about this whisky and there's extra wee notes of smoky bacon and dark toffee chews.  Not too many coastal notes going on in this glass.  With a touch of water a distinct burnt match smell comes through.

Palate - Sour, bitter arrival which is very smooth then the red fruits come back and again the juiciness is here in abundance.  The smoke, which has now become a little more peaty, lurks in the background and never dominates although it is slightly acrid.  Just to the end a little dusty wood comes apparent.

Finish - Medium and smooth with raspberry and spice.

Overall this is a solid whisky that still has room for improvement.  The flavours are all present, and hugely enjoyable, but they could just do with being integrated a little better on the palate.  I've no issues with the nose but Bowmore need to be careful not to overpower the classic peat and coastal notes in favour of the sherry, again further integration and gentle improvement.

At £50 I probably wouldn't buy this but could easily be tempted if it was on offer at around £40 or so.  In addition this is a whisky I would watch closely over the next few years for the simple reason that, if they get the balance right, Bowmore could be onto a winner.

Huge thank you to @MashtunandMeow for the sample, cheers guys.

Until next time,