Month: April 2018

WOTW – West Cork Dha Casca single malt

As you can see, I’m late with the WOTW this week. I almost didn’t post one – I’ve caught a bad cold which makes it impossible to do any decent nosing and tasting. Even if I’ve tasted a whiskey in the past, I want to do it again before writing a post, because I often change my mind or find new characters after a while. But I won’t be able to taste this again – at least not now.

Dha Casca means “two casks”. I had the privilege to have a sample of this whiskey sent to me some time ago while I was in Ireland, a limited release single malt whiskey from West Cork Distillers. It’s been matured in Bodega sherry casks, cut to 40%, and then finished in double charred bourbon casks.

After I came home from Ireland and did some internet searches for more info on this whiskey, I realised that it was still available at Supervalu in some places! How bad that I didn’t know about that (or that I didn’t think of that possibility while I was there, I guess I thought it was so old that all of it was gone already) and did some more Supervalu visits! It’s a very nice whiskey indeed.

Light wood, something floral, fruity, maybe pineapple, strawberry, a touch of lemon? Definitely almond, and something undefined burnt.

Floral, and light oak. Pepper with something fruity further back into the throat. Nuts? Äpple? It has a long finish with pepper. With a drop of water, there’s some vanilla too. Nice and complex, but as you can see, and as I’ve noticed many times I find it very difficult to identify certain fruity flavours and aromas in whiskey. I can tell if it’s fresh, dark, citrus-like or similar. So that’s the reason behind all my question marks. Whatever the fruits are – I really liked this whiskey and would love to buy it if I can find a bottle.

Thanks to Whiskey Nut for whiskey sample and photos!

WOTW – Method and Madness single grain

I wrote about Method & Madness in an earlier post, then about the single pot still whiskey. In the series, there is also a single grain whiskey.

Now, ever since I started enjoying whiskey for real, I’ve always despised grain whiskey. I haven’t been too fond of blends in the past, because I thought they had too little flavour. The grain whiskey is what differs blends from single malts or single pot still whiskeys, and since I didn’t like blends, I’ve always seen grain whiskey as something unnecessary – if whiskey is better without it, why use it? I’ve tasted a few single grain whiskeys and until recently, they have all been too boring for my taste buds.

Having said that, in recent years I’ve totally changed my mind about blended whiskeys, I’ve discovered over time that there are some really good blends, and that Irish whiskey makers are the most brilliant at making top quality blends. For example, after whiskey travels, premium tastings and whatnot, I still love the standard Jameson, and not to mention the Jameson Black Barrel – of which the cask strength edition is one of the best whiskeys I’ve ever had – and JJ Corry.

I still haven’t been convinced about grain whiskey though. That was until august 2017 when I visited Chapel Gate and tasted their grain whiskey straight from the cask, and until I was at the Abbey bar in Timoleague and my husband brought me a Method and Madness single grain.

Method & Madness is the brand for which Midleton distillery apprentices & masters work together to create something new and innovative. So what have they done with the grain whiskey?

It’s been matured in ex-bourbon barrels, finished for 12 months in virgin Spanish oak, and then bottled at 46%.

It’s very oaky. Lots of fresh wood. Also citrus peel, grass and something that reminds of mint or rosemary. With a few drops of water added, the aromas become sweeter, vanilla comes in, and the wood is less intense.

Pepper, nice sweetness, vanilla, oak. Soft and fresh but with lots of flavour. Long peppery finish. When I add a few drops of water it loses lots of its body and attitude. I like complex and rough whiskeys – but still sweet and creamy – and this one is much better without water.

I love how much flavour this whiskey has. I love it when my preconceptions are proved wrong! This is much more flavoursome than many single malts. I suspect many people don’t like it because of the intense wood character, but I’ve always liked whiskeys with lots of oak flavour, so this one definitely is a favourite to me, and in my opinion something of the best that Midleton has produced. Some of you may know that I love flavour bombs – and this is definitely one of those.

WOTW – Jameson Black Barrel, cask strength

This is one of my favourite Irish whiskeys of all time, and I haven’t even known about it for long! When we were over to Ireland in August, we visited the Midleton distillery to do some browsing in the shop and have lunch. We found a very nice surprise…

Since some time back, they have a cask of Jameson Black Barrel for customers to bottle on site. It’s the usual Jameson Black Barrel but cask strength, and ridiculously delicious. Our first bottling, in August, was at 58% ABV, wonderfully creamy, and simply fabulous.

Of course when we were over in March, we wanted to go back and get some more, especially since I’m preparing for a tasting where I’ll show off some of the best from Ireland.

I absolutely don’t mean to insult anyone else’s whiskey, but to find the best Irish whiskeys, so far you almost always end up with mainly Midleton whiskeys. I’ve tasted some fabulous and/or interesting non-Midleton Irish whiskey, but they were all small batch and very limited edition, and I want to be able to tell the people who come to my tasting that “this is a fab whiskey and you can buy it here (insert whiskey shop)” about the majority of the whiskeys I include in the tasting.

And regarding Midleton, I suppose this only proves that they know what they are doing and that they should be proud of it. I’m going to write more about this eventually, both about my tasting and about my view on what makes one whiskey more interesting than another.

But back to Black Barrel.

Black Barrel is a nice blend made from single pot still and grain whiskeys, but has a higher pot still content than the usual Jameson, and some of the grain is a special small batch grain whiskey. Some of the spirit in this whiskey has been matured in first fill bourbon casks that have been additionallly charred using a special method to bring out more flavour. This gives it a slightly different flavour profile than the usual Jameson, more oak, butterscotch, chocolate and spice.

The whiskey reviewed here was bottled just after the St Patrick’s weekend, and it’s 60,2% ABV. Rather strong, but as we know, higher alcohol content maintains more flavour, and there’s water in the tap for anyone who wants to water it down.

Lots of oak. Pineapple, something undefined fresh. Sweetness, vanilla, toffee. Damp malt. 
With a few drops of water the aromas are sweeter and softer, more fruity. Banana?

Creamy toffee, leaning towards salted caramel. There’s pepper and vanilla, nice long peppery finish. With a few drops of water the texture feels more oily but it still has a dry feel to the tongue. Pleasant sweetness and with a feel of old wood and damp warehouse.

This truly is a fabulous whiskey. I’m always a fan of cask strength whiskeys because of the concentration of flavours. I love flavour bombs, sweetness, and that caramel character in whiskey. (guess if pot still whiskey is my cup of tea?!) The ordinary Black barrel is lovely but a little too “weak” in my opinion, so this one is definitely a treat. 

So whiskey lovers, if you visit Cork, you have to take a trip to Midleton and the distillery visitor centre. The price for one bottle is towards the higher end but it’s definitely worth it!

WOTW – Dingle single pot still

I’ve never wanted a whiskey more than this one. Not because I expected it to be that brilliant whiskey – after all it’s only been matured for three years. It’s rather because it’s the first single pot still whiskey to be produced at a non-Midleton distillery for many, many years, and I think it’s about time that Ireland starts producing more single pot still whiskey again. After all, pot still whiskey is unique to Ireland and something to be proud of.

About pot still whiskey

So for those who don’t know, what is pot still whiskey? I’ve read some labels on bottles or on certain distillery websites that they make pot still whiskey but then in the next breath they say it’s a single malt. Pot still whiskey isn’t just whiskey distilled in a copper pot still.

Whiskey – in different forms – has been produced in Ireland for centuries, and in 1785 the English introduced a tax on malted barley. Many Irish solved the situation by malted barley with unmalted barley, and a small amount of other grains (up to 5%, according to today’s regulations), and pure pot still whiskey was born. In the 1800’s it was the most popular type of whiskey in the world, but after the fall of the Irish whiskey industry after World War II, it almost disappeared from the market. Midleton has kept a few brands alive but after the merge of Irish whiskey distilleries, many formerly pot still whiskey brands became blends.

The name “pure pot still whiskey” is no longer in use, and now you’ll only hear single pot still whiskey or just pot still whiskey. There is some hope for us pot still whiskey lovers, because during the last 10 years we’ve seen new Powers single pot still bottlings, new Redbreasts added to the standard collection, there’s Yellow Spot, new variations of the Green Spot, as well as interesting pot still whiskeys under the Midleton brand. There are also some new distilleries that plan on making single pot still, so the future of pot still whiskey looks very promising.

I was delighted to know about the Dingle pot still whiskey release. They are quite brave in that they release whiskeys after only three years of maturation, but I understand that they do. Most whiskeys under new brands today are sourced from well established distilleries, and it’s refreshing – and gives hope for the future of Irish whiskey – to see new distilleries releasing their own whiskey.

Of course quality will increase with every year in the cask, but as I see it, these super young Dingle whiskeys are only a hint of what is to come in the future, and it will only get better from here.

This young pot still whiskey was unavailable outside of Ireland, and I kept my hopes high that there would still be some when I arrived to Ireland in March. I didn’t need to worry when there is the Dingle whiskey bar in Dublin!

So here it goes..

Dark wood, pepper, some undefined freshness, swimming pool, mint. With a bit of water the pepper and mint aromas are more intense.

A slightly bitter flavour, possibly from too much oak character, a hint of varnished wood, then mint and something creamy and sweet, with a nice peppery medium long finish. With a bit of water the bitterness disappears, the whiskey gets softer and with more vanilla flavour, nice but also less interesting in how it develops on the palate.

This whiskey was certainly interesting. Lots of activity and odd flavours playing around. It’s very different from the Midleton pot still whiskeys, but with more intense flavours than the Dingle single malts. I guess for more balance and consistency in the flavour profile, the single malts are better. An interesting whiskey, and I enjoyed it, but can’t wait to taste it when it’s been in the cask for a couple of more years.