As Irish Whiskey continues to grow it is obvious to many that The Teeling Whiskey Company are right at the forefront of it's growth. Since their formation, in 2012, they have set a high standard with excellent general releases and the opening, in 2015, of their brand new distillery and visitors centre.
As mentioned, the general releases coming from The Teeling Whiskey Company are of a very good standard and this has allowed them to build a solid reputation, but if you want to delve deeper into the treasure trove of whiskeys they have in their possession then you should look a little further.
A more detailed internet search will reveal a wealth of other bottlings that should rouse the interest of any whiskey lover. The main bulk of these bottlings are single malt, single casks that have been finished in a range of interesting woods and it is one of these type of bottlings that I wish to talk about.
Back in July 2015 the Celtic Whiskey Club sent it's members out a sample of such a bottling. This was a sample of a Teeling Single Cask that had been finished in a Madeira barrel. Initially distilled in 2002, at "an undisclosed distillery in the North of Ireland", the spirit was matured in a refill Bourbon barrel before being finished in a Madeira barrel for a period of a year.
The cask was number 926 which yielded 315 bottles at a natural cask strength of 55.9% ABV. These were obviously bottled without chill-filtration and without the addition of any colouring.
Onto my notes:
Nose - Sweet with the malt and Madeira. Distinctly "North of Ireland" and much like the Bushmills 10 year old. Slight grassy note and quite green with green apple and unripe banana. Wood influence is slightly understated. Feels like the Bourbon barrel was quite tired and the Madeira barrel has had more of a say with some sweet, dried fruit and a little damp, dusty note. Subtle clove and black pepper. We now get more of the Madeira notes with some orange oil and over ripe red apple. The spirit still has a nice vibrancy and the balance isn't too bad. With time a little creamy vanilla comes through and binds the flavours together. With water the experience instantly becomes more like Christmas cake with touches of cinnamon. The madeira influence is coming into it's own and works well with the malt.
Palate - Sour, bitter arrival. Moves towards the sweet momentarily before jolting into pepper and clove. As the heat eases we drift back to sweet red apple and orange but the spice continues to linger in the background. With water the sour arrival is balanced out towards the sweet fruits. Emphasis is on red apple, red currant and old wood. The spices still try to have their say but are much more subdued. The light vanilla also makes an appearance on the palate and again brings it all together.
Finish - Decent length with more red apple and dry spice. Fruity to the end and becoming fresher, with water, as the spice seems to die first giving the dram a moreish feel.
Overall this is a good, decent dram. Classic young Bushmills with a nice Madeira touch, almost like a younger brother to the Bushmills 21 year old. When poured neat, the spirit is a little on the feisty side. It definitely takes a little water to calm it down and bring the flavours together, but it's very worthwhile to get a new Bushmills experience.
This sample was of particular interest to me as I have a very similar bottle in the house, except my bottle comes from cask number 935 and was bottled at 55.5% ABV, and the whole time I was sipping at this sample I couldn't help but think that cask 926 just wasn't quite as good as cask 935.
This, however, only backs up what I have said before in that this is what makes single cask bottlings so interesting. Never will you get two casks the same and this will lead to each cask delivering a different experience into each bottle that comes from that cask. For me, this alone is reason enough to seek these bottles out. What I find excellent, others may find slightly disappointing or vice versa, but this only adds to the enjoyment of whiskey.
Lastly I would like to make one other point. While I have been mentioning Bushmills, quite a lot through this "Teeling" review, I would like to heap praise upon The Teeling Whiskey Company.
Everyone should be obviously aware that Teeling are a new distillery, and naturally can't have their own spirit at this age, so therefore they have to have stock from other distilleries in order to get their name out there. But what they also have is the skill and expertise in order to make sure that the liquid in a "Teeling" bottle lives up to the reputation they are aiming for.
As we have seen, a little too often, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to obtain stock from elsewhere and throw it into a hastily released product. But what we have also seen is that this only leads to poor quality products which reflect badly on an industry that is trying so very hard to make a strong name for itself.
What Teeling are doing, however, is ensuring that, through excellent cask management and innovative ideas, they are strengthening the name of Irish whiskey and one can almost be certain that this will continue long past the time when their own spirit will be ready for bottling.
Until next time,