Thursday, 20 August 2015

Hyde - No. 1 - 10 year old Irish Single Malt - Review

Irish whiskey is certainly booming.  Everywhere you look these days there are endless articles in newspapers, and online, about the way in which Irish whiskey is moving from strength to strength.

New companies seem to be popping up every other month and one that has appeared over the last year or so is Hyde Irish Whiskey.

Situated in West Cork, in the far south of Ireland, Hyde are using a model adopted by many.  Whilst patiently waiting for their own whiskey to mature they have bought up single malt whiskey from another distillery, finished it themselves and are releasing these bottlings to build up much needed capital.

The first release is the Hyde No.1 - Sherry Cask Finished - 10 year old Irish Single Malt.

This first release has also been named "The President's Cask" in honour of Douglas Hyde, the first President of Ireland, who was sworn into office on 26th June 1938.

Hyde whiskey state that West Cork provides perfect maturing conditions and this first release has spent 10 years in a first fill bourbon barrel before finishing off for 9 months in an Oloroso sherry cask.

They have then brought this down to 46% ABV, avoided chill filtration, and bottled 5,000 bottles, which have been individually numbered.

Not that it really matters, but for the serious knowledge hunters out there, it seems, from the press release, that only the sherry cask maturation has taken place in West Cork with the previous 10 years presumably having taken place in Co.Louth where this Single Malt originates from.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Straight from the off I always love the strange initial smells I get when I immediately pour a whiskey into the glass, and this is no exception, with a very faint initial hit of damp newspapers.  Let me assure you though that this is not at all a bad smell and is probably coming from the sherry casks.  The fresh / tropical fruits of the spirit are here along with the obvious touch of sherry cask and they work quite well.  Looking to the spirit side of things there's fresh apple, prominent ripe banana (maybe over ripe), a little fresh pineapple and some lemon / orange citrus.  Very much a fruit salad.  There's a slight buttery creaminess that leads into the sherry flavours but just before there's a little perfumed floral note.  The sherry influence is restrained but obvious.  The damp newspaper I got has now levelled out to a traditional dusty old wood effect.  Strawberry, raspberry and a bit of a youthful kick that brings some spice into play.  Over time the distinction between spirit and cask becomes less noticeable and the cask takes over.  The only thing that seems to happen with a touch of water is the fresh fruit gets a boost for a moment or two.

Palate - Initially soft and sweet that leads into strawberry chews.  A little on the thin side but all the flavours from the nose are here.  The dusty wood can be found in the arrival and the youthful spice takes over.  Orange, lemon, strawberry, raspberry and red apple which combines with the sweetness to give a taste of toffee apple.  Drying off quickly into the finish and with water the flavours are killed off quite quickly.  Best leaving water out of this.

Finish - A little short with some more fresh fruit.  To be honest, the finish is a little on the average side, but to be fair to Hyde I do not blame them in the slightest.  I have always found the finish, on most whiskeys from Co. Louth, to be on the average side, regardless of how it's been handled.

Overall this is a very decent whiskey that's been finished well to provide a nice balance of original flavours from the spirit with some fruity notes from the cask. 

When reviewing new whiskeys I always try to think about price as well, and this Hyde whiskey is currently on sale, in a well known Irish Whiskey store, for a fraction under £50. 

If I'm being honest I think this is too expensive for a 10 year old whiskey.  I understand the need to raise funds but this is a bit on the high side for my liking and for that reason I'd probably not buy it. 

That said, that is the only reason I would not buy it.  Flavour wise I think this hits the right notes and shows off the Co. Louth spirit whilst allowing Hyde to express themselves through a nicely managed finish.

As with a lot of the new companies I think Hyde have an excellent platform on which to build and I'm eagerly anticipating their new release which is due out very soon.  This will be their "Hyde No.2 - Rum Cask Finished - 10 year old".

Rum cask finishes are something I'm starting to come round to, after recently trying a single cask version, so I'm intrigued to firstly see how Hyde manage it and secondly, if the spirit is from the same distillery, how the already abundant tropical notes combine with a tropical finish.  Exciting stuff and hopefully the Hyde team will be at Whiskey Live Dublin to allow me to try some.

I would lastly just like to say a big thank you to Conor Hyde for the generous sample.

Until next time,



Thursday, 13 August 2015

"Fill Your Own" Teeling Whiskey

Towards the end of April I was lucky enough to get the chance to have a behind the scenes tour of the new Teeling Whiskey Distillery. 

Whilst on this tour, which I previously reviewed, I sampled two whiskeys that were due to be launched in the distillery shop and this morning I learnt that both are now available to buy.

The first of these whiskeys has been released as a "fill your own bottle" opportunity in the distillery shop.  It is an 11 year old Irish single malt that was distilled in 2004.  It spent the majority of it's life in a bourbon barrel before being finished for, what would now probably be, around 16 months in a White Burgundy cask.

This is being offered at a very good price of €100 and will obviously be bottled at cask strength, which at the time of writing is 58.4% ABV.

When I sampled this down at the distillery it was a fruit flavoured beast of a dram with notes of grappa and a seriously dry finish.  Extremely enjoyable and worth a look for sure.

The second of these whiskeys has been bottled already and is available in the distillery as a sort of "distillery reserve" bottling.  It is a 16 year old Irish single malt that was distilled in 1999 and has spent it's entire life in a rum cask.

This, in my opinion, is even better value at €85 and is also bottled at a cask strength of 59.7% ABV.

When I sampled this beauty I was blown away.  Rum and raisin ice cream gone mad whilst being incredibly smooth and deliciously sweet.  Out of the two whiskeys tasted this rum cask edged it for me but to be perfectly honest I'm probably going to get myself down to Teeling ASAP and get myself a bottle of each.

There are also rumours of a much older single malt becoming available very soon.

All I can say is that a strongly suggest you get yourselves down to Teeling, if you can, and see for yourselves everything they're doing to push Irish whiskey on to levels never seen before.  I honestly believe in what they are doing and think they will be leading the way for innovation as Irish whiskey continues to grow for years to come.

Until next time,



Monday, 10 August 2015

Green Spot - Château Léoville Barton - Review

Irish whiskey fans have already had a year to remember with Irish Distillers treating us to a few new releases including the Redbreast "Mano a Lámh" and the Midleton "Dair Ghaelach".  But it is their latest release that I shall be looking at this time around.

Green Spot "Château Léoville Barton" is the first ever Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey to be finished in Bordeaux wine casks.

Set in the heart of Bordeaux, one of the most revered wine making regions in the world, Léoville Barton is a grand cru Château renowned for producing world class wine.  Léoville Barton is overseen today by Anthony and Lilian Barton who are direct descendants of Thomas Barton, a "Wine Geese" winemaker who founded a wine merchant company in 1725 after migrating from his native Ireland.

For those of you not familiar with the term "Wine Geese" this refers to winemakers who migrated from Ireland in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries to establish wineries in countries such as France, Spain, Australia and the USA.

Green Spot, as I'm sure you may already know, can trace it's roots back to Dublin based wine merchants, Mitchell & Son, who matured, bottled and sold the original Green Spot under bond.  

Established in 1805, Mitchell & Son aged whiskeys, bought from John Jameson's Bow Street distillery in Dublin, in their own casks up until 1968.

It is this distinct connection between the two histories of Léoville Barton and Green Spot, that makes Anthony Barton feel very privileged to be able to contribute to the merging of these industries to produce something unique and "exceptional".  

With regards the whiskey itself, it has initially been matured in a traditional mix of ex-Oloroso sherry, new bourbon and ex-bourbon barrels.  The whiskeys were then transferred into the ex-Bordeaux wine casks for between 12 and 24 months, imparting "distinctive floral flavours of varying intensity" and "resulting in a perfectly balanced whiskey".

It has been bottled at 46% ABV, with no added colour, and no chill filtering, and has been available from June at a RRP of roughly £40.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Initially a savoury butter note, some "green" notes that I would noramlly get with Redbreast 15yo and a distinct dusty note lurks in the background.  As it opens in the glass it becomes much sweeter, almost candy like, with foam banana sweets, a little green apple and the butter now becomes quite fudge like with the sweetness.  There's not a massive amount of red fruit going on but some gentle strawberry is here.  Not much spice either.  Feels very smooth from the bourbon barrels with a creamy sweetness to match.  With this nose it feels like the bourbon barrels are definitely the dominant force but with time a wine note does come through in the form of grappa.

Palate - Nice balance of the sweet flavours with a now notable dry spice coming from the European oak.  More green apples and vanilla cream.  Red berries are more prominent here with a spicy cracked black pepper undertone.  Mouth feel is a little on the thin side but I stress only a little.  On the whole the "perfectly balanced" comment is definitely noticeable on the palate.

Finish - Nice length with the red fruits really starting to show along with a nice lingering dryness from the cask.  In opposition to the nose, the finish feels like the wine casks are the dominant force.

Overall this is a good whiskey, heading in the direction, but just falling short, of the very good.  It is well made and the wine casks have imparted a subtle note onto the spirit.

As with most reviews I usually get most notes down on the first taste and go over the notes with a second glass, to add any further flavours, and with the second glass this was improving with the fruit flavours becoming more complex.

That was until I added the tiniest drop of water which did more damage than good.  In my opinion this needs no water whatsoever and is best left as presented.

Would I recommend this whiskey? Yes.  Would I buy this at the price it's meant to be sold at? Yes.  Would it win any awards in the mythical awards ceremony in my head?  On this taste, probably not.

I'm left to ponder this against another release mentioned earlier, the Redbreast "Mano a Lámh", as they are both NAS Pot Stills, at a similar price point, and to be honest I'd probably opt for the Redbreast.  (Incidentally a review of this shall be up soon)

That said though, do not let that put you off.  As with anything this is obviously only my opinion and the only way to get a personal experience is to get out there and try it yourself.  If you love the normal Green Spot then this just may be the one for you.

Until next time,



PS A huge thanks Richmond Towers Communications for the sample and press release.