Friday, 17 February 2017

Midleton - Very Rare 2016 - Review

Time flies when you're having fun!!  It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting myself down to enjoy a sample of the Midleton Very Rare 2014, the first to be bottled under the watchful eye of Master Distiller Brian Nation.

Fast forward to the present day and we now have Brian's third release of the iconic Midleton Very Rare.

First launched in 1984 the Midleton Very Rare is a yearly release of 50 exceptional casks that have been handpicked by the Master Distiller and blended together to showcase all that the distillery has to offer.

Since taking over the role of Master Distiller I know that Brian Nation has already overseen many other new releases, across the whole Midleton portfolio, but with the Midleton Very Rare, being so revered the world over, it will be interesting to see if he is starting to make his mark on this famous whiskey.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Upon first pour I immediately pick up some vibrant orchard fruits with fresh green apple to the fore.  Once this settles down there's a gorgeous mix of pot still spices and cream.  The spice is prickly with a touch of ginger and pepper.  The creamy vanilla is deliciously smooth and binds the nose together.  The orchard fruits become slightly more stewed and combine with the grains to give a sense of apple crumble.  As it develops I now get some of the tropical notes I've noted in previous Very Rare releases with light banana / foam banana sweets.  A very classic Midleton nose.

Palate - Clean and crisp with green apples continuing from the nose.  Spicy pot still character also comes through and combines with the grain to play around the mouth.  Cask influence adds an extra dry spice whilst enhancing the vanilla notes.  Throughout the whiskey there is a underlying toffee sweetness but this is kept in check by the grain spirit which seems to be a major player in this whiskey.  With time a little stewed orange comes through and the experience becomes a lot richer.

Finish - Dry, spicy and very fruity.

Overall this is another excellent addition to the Very Rare range.  Thinking back to my previous experiences this 2016 release doesn't seem to have just as much citrus, as what I may have experienced before, but this seems to have been replaced with an fresh orchard element.

Whilst the sweetness is still easily found within this whiskey it feels like it has taken more of a back seat to allow the natural spirit to shine through.  This is applicable for both the pot still and grain elements with both combining well to hold the whiskey together.

For me this is the quintessential Irish whiskey showcasing the perfect blend of spirits to achieve something that is much more than the sum of it's parts.  I certainly get the sense that Brian Nation is making his mark on this whiskey and it's a taste journey that will develop brilliantly over the years.

Until next time,



Tuesday, 14 February 2017

West Cork - 12 year old Port Cask Finish - Review

Having first started in 2003, West Cork Distillers are a company I have heard different stories about without actually ever getting a chance to try any of their whiskeys.  I was therefore only too happy when I recently got the chance to get a couple of samples and see exactly what they have to offer.

Like I said the company has been on the go since 2003 and in 2013 they moved their distillery into larger premises based in Skibbereen, West Cork.

They are responsible for a range of whiskeys, vodka and liqueurs with brands such as Drombeg, Two Trees, Lough Hyne, Kennedy and of course their West Cork Whiskey.

With regards to the whiskey side of things, they can boast an ever increasing range with two blends to accompany a range of aged and finished malts.

Moving on to this review, one of the samples I recently received was of the West Cork 12 year old Single Malt - Port Cask Finish.

From looking about online, it's pretty hard to get much detail behind the whiskey but it seems that it has had a short finish in a port cask before being bottled at 43% ABV.  They are very clever to neglect to mention whether the malt is double or triple distilled so as to obviously disguise the origin of the original spirit.

I am not sure where the company are at with their own distilled spirit but I would probably guess that the current range may have started it's life in Co. Louth (if you know what I mean).

As with a lot of other new Irish whiskeys I've no doubt that West Cork are carrying out the finish themselves so there is still a lot of room for them to stamp their own flavour onto the whiskey.  The question is can they deliver?  Let's find out.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Initially this is a bit tricky to get to grips with as the obvious tropical notes battle with the port finish for dominance.  As it develops the tropical flavours win the battle with fresh banana, banana cream, a little green apple and a touch of lemon zest zing.  The Port still finds time to come through with a little blackcurrant and raspberry.  It would almost put you in mind of "Fruits of the Forest" yoghurt with the cream notes still coming through also.  Any idea of spice is very restrained with only the mildest of pepper lingering under the fruits.  With time the darker Port fruits marry with the citrus element to bring out a little orange.  Very nice actually.

Palate - Initially it's all more of the same with citrus and banana giving way to red berries and a little more spice.  Deeper lemons and oranges are to the fore with the black pepper and clove coming through nicely.  The berries are also a lot deeper with distinct blackcurrant tailing off into a little more green apple.  The fruits on the palate are definitely a lot more richer in nature and I have to say this works really well.

Finish - Deep, juicy, Port wine berries, a little dry spice and sour apple sweets to finish.

Overall I have been pleasantly surprised by this whiskey.  Like I said I had heard a lot of different things about West Cork Distillers but it's only when you actually try a product should you form your own opinion.

What I've discovered is that they certainly seem to have good malt whiskeys under their control and they also seem to know how to pack some extra flavour into them with good finishes in good casks. 

The price point is also very decent too with the 12 year olds setting you back about €50, or about £45 at current exchange rates.

At these prices I'd definitely recommend this whiskey and West Cork Distillers are a company I shall be keeping a close eye on as they move forward.

Until next time,



Monday, 13 February 2017

Teeling - Revival Volume II - Review

Well over a year ago Irish whiskey lovers were treated to something special from the Teeling Whiskey Company as they released their first ever "Revival" bottling. 

This first release was a 15 year old single malt, matured exclusively in rum casks, and was introduced to mark the opening of the new Teeling Whiskey Distillery in Dublin city centre.

Moving on to the end of last year and we witnessed as Teeling released "The Revival - Volume II" to mark the one year anniversary of the Teeling Whiskey Distillery.

This "Second Coming" is a 13 year old single malt that was distilled in 2002 before being initially matured for about 12 years in ex-bourbon casks.  It was then finished for a further 12 months in an ex-Calvados, French apple brandy, cask.

It has then been bottled at 46% ABV and without chill filtration.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Orange, lemon, cut grass, honeyed lemon with lovely wafts of sweet malt barley.  Clean and distinct.  A little tropical banana with a nod towards banana ice cream.  Orange marmalade, dried orange, candied lemon peel.  Not a lot of spice going on here which allows it to come across as a fruit explosion.  Green and red apple which come across both as fresh and stewed.  Beautiful mix of sweet fruit salad.

Palate - Rich malt with a seriously rich citrus undertone.  Sweet orange and lemon combine with a little spice which arrives with the feeling that it's more from the casks than the spirit.  Apart from that the oak influence is restrained with the flavours from the Calvados having a lot more of a say.  Ripe red apples and a little more of the green, cut grass note from the nose.  The sweetness is almost overpowering on the palate but the savoury green element, along with a minor amount of spice, just about hold it all together.

Finish - Long and juicy with a little hint of dry wood spice.  This then disappears into a heady blast of ripe red apples.

Overall I have to say, I prefer this much more to the first release.  This is one fruit beast of a whiskey.

A full fruit salad is on display with top notch sweet malt.  Cask influence is restrained but having just enough of a say to bind everything together with a little cream from the oak.

This is a seriously good Irish whiskey and has classic notes which are now found regularly throughout the Teeling range.

Think I may have to splash the cash on a bottle of this, very impressive.

Until next time,



Thursday, 9 February 2017

Dunville's - Three Crowns - Review

"Until recently the only place you could find a bottle of Three Crowns was at auction.  Now, we’re reviving this great whiskey to bring its flavour to a new generation."

Bold words indeed, but these are the words that greet you on the Echlinville webpage dedicated to the upcoming re-launch of this once revered Dunville's brand.

Since 2013, when they received the first Northern Irish distillers licence in around 125 years, Echlinville Distillery has been going from strength to strength with their new distillery / visitors centre and the introduction of some fine whiskey and gin to local market.

This has been further backed up with their PX finished 10 year old single malt being awarded "Best Irish Single Malt (12 years and under)" at the recent Irish Whiskey Awards.

Exciting times certainly lie ahead and we won't have to wait too long to enjoy what they have to offer with the upcoming launch of Dunville's "Three Crowns".

As Shane Braniff, founder of Echlinville Distillery, proudly states on their website - "It is one of the founding goals of our new distillery to bring Dunville's whiskey back to the world."

The original "Three Crowns" was introduced way back in 1830's and lasted around 100 years before being discontinued.  Many bottles are still in circulation and the original style of the whiskey was similar to Dunville's "VR" with the "Three Crowns" using more sherry casks for the maturation.

Fast forward to the present day and what "Three Crowns" delivers this time around is a fine blend of malt and grain whiskeys. 

Echlinville are very kind in letting us in on some of the detail by stating that the whiskey is made up with 4 year old grain, 10 year old malt and 15 year old malt finished in Oloroso casks. 

The whiskey has then been bottled at 46% ABV, which I'm sure you will agree is a pleasant surprise for a blended whiskey.

Thinking about the original style of "Three Crowns", I've no doubt that the use of the Oloroso finished malt, in this modern interpretation, is possibly a small nod to the whiskey that came before.

I for one have been waiting a while for this whiskey, ever since I first knew about it's impending release, as I know the people at Echlinville are extremely passionate about what they produce and I am hopeful that this blend delivers as expected.  Let's see.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Initially sweet with malt but this quickly gives way to fresh, crisp, grain spirit.  Crisp green orchard fruits, lemon biscuit and light toffee.  The sherry element is light but evident, with a little dark fruit gently wrapped around the fresher notes.  A slight hint of old oak comes through and this brings a certain richness to the nose.  You get the sense that the higher strength has benefitted this whiskey.  A little stewed orange and light pepper, which feels like it has arrived courtesy of the casks.  This displays a great balance and you nearly forget it's a blend you are nosing.  All the while the spirit retains a nice intensity and with time the sherry has little more of a say with a dash of dried fruit.

Palate - Initially sweet with malt barley, and you get a little more of the older oak, before the crisp grains and gentle spice take over.  Light citrus orange, lemon and green apples.  Pepper and clove are the main protagonists when it comes to the spice and these are backed up with a hint of dry wood spice.  The sherry element is harder to find, than on the nose, but appears towards the end in the merest of forms.  The palate is all about the younger grain spirit, which is vibrant and challenging, in a good way.  You need to take your time with this whiskey.  Don't go rushing in to it as you would with a basic supermarket blend, allow it time to open and use a little water which will allow more of the sweeter malt to shine through.

Finish - Medium to short with green apple, sour green apple and a decent dry sweetness.

Overall I have to say I'm really impressed with this blend.  The nose starts off all malt before moving into the lighter spirit notes of fresh fruit.  The addition of the older, Oloroso finished, malt is a smart move as it brings enough richness to balance the whiskey out while maybe rounding off some of the slightly rougher notes, that may have been found prior to it's addition, but hey that's one of the reasons behind blending.

In my opinion the nose is, without doubt, superior to the palate but don't let that worry you, the palate holds up perfectly in it's own right.

What this presents is a whiskey that delivers a little more than you would expect from the majority of other blends.  This isn't a whiskey to quaff at your leisure, but one that demands a little  more time and attention.  The higher strength is definitely a major player behind this, and I for one I'm happy it's at 46% as 40% might have flattened this whiskey.

What we have here is another fine example that Echlinville have arrived onto the local whiskey scene meaning serious business.  They are determined to make their mark by producing whiskeys that pack serious flavour and I for one think they are getting it spot on.

I can't wait to see how things move along when their own spirit is ready for release, I think it could be something very special indeed.

Until next time,