Category: Friday dram

Blacks Ops

I had two post drafts waiting, but after I visited the Shelbourne bar yesterday I had to ditch them both (for now) and instead write about this nice release from the Blacks distillery in Kinsale. The Blacks Ops.

Being resident in West Cork, I’m very happy to see the distillery development in this lovely area. Blacks is one of three (soon to be four if all goes well at Cape Clear) distilleries in West Cork.

Blacks started in 2013, by the couple Sam and Madeleine Black. It started as a brewery, and the distillery was added in 2015. However it seems they didn’t start distilling whiskey until 2018, so there will be a few years until we’ll see their own produce. For now, their whiskey is sourced. A 12-year-old single malt has been out there for some time, and some week ago I was informed about the Blacks Ops. It’s a blend of malt and grain whiskey, matured in sherry and bourbon casks, and finished in extra deep charred bourbon casks.

My first impression of this whiskey was that this isn’t your typical Irish whiskey. It’s messy and has an attitude. While I also very much enjoy the typical softer Irish whiskey characters, I really welcome variety on the whiskey scene. I like to come across whiskeys that stand out – if they do it in a good way, of course!

The Blacks Ops is bottled at 43 % ABV. It’s very dark. The extra charring probably gives some colour? According to Irish malts, where Blacks refer you to buy it, that’s the case here.

My first impression is liquorice. Then smoke, but not peat smoke. This is like smoke from a campfire, from burned wood. There’s also newly cut grass, floral herbs, thyme or similar. Something sweet and fruity, peach or apricot, but also something darker, like dried figs.

I get a rather oily and creamy impression on the palate which I usually don’t get from a whiskey at only 43%. The woodfire smoke is back and it’s quite powerful. There’s also something fresh and minty, but not from mint leaves, it’s more like eucalyptus? Rosemary perhaps? A hint of wood – obviously since there is that wood fire smoke. A nice sweetness underneath.

I really liked this whiskey! It’s wild and crazy with that smoke on top of sweet fruits and all kinds of things going on. Many whiskeys/whiskies these days are too mainstream, made too perfect, too elegant or “easy to drink”. It’s good to come across some more unruly whiskeys, that give your palate something to work with.

Dingle single pot still batch 2

It’s Friday again, and last week I actually forgot to post. We just moved into our new house, and trying to make it habitable takes way too much energy! I haven’t been around the Irish whiskey social media circles at all lately but decided I wanted to come back to posting as soon as possible, to not slack like I did last year. Browsing through my old tasting notes, I found my notes about the 2nd Dingle single pot still, that it seems I haven’t written about yet.

I wrote about the first Dingle single pot still release here, and I remember I found the first one more interesting than the first single malt releases, although I quite liked the single malts too. The single pot still had more complexity and interesting flavours, at least according to my palate in the spring of 2018.

This second single pot still from Dingle was released in late 2018, just before Whiskey Live Dublin, and I tasted it there. I liked it, but there was so much to taste there that I soon forgot about it. As most of you may know, the drops from Dingle sell out very quickly, so I didn’t expect to see it again really. But when we moved to West Cork in February, and visited the Off Licence in Clonakilty, we discovered they still had two bottles. On St Patrick’s day they were still there, and we decided to buy one.

Dingle single pot still batch 2

I found this bottling a bit more “decided” than the first one, that had loads of different flavours that competed with each other.

Cereals, sweet mint, orange but also a bit of lemon. A darker more raisin-like aroma.

A nice sweet but fresh citrus-ey feel, with a light oiliness. It reminds me of a Spanish citrus liqueur. Light on the palate but it has a nice flavour profile.
With a drop of water the citrus becomes stronger especially on the nose. The flavours come together a bit more, and there’s a more peppery and longer finish.

It’s still very young but in my opinion it has lots of potential, and I expect another single pot still release this autumn.

The Whistler Oloroso cask finish

The Whistler, Oloroso sherry cask

An extremely cold and dull day for being June, an hour to kill before taking the bus home from Cork city. What is there to do? Tasting whiskey at Shelbourne bar, of course!

This is one I tasted at Whiskey Live last year. I wasn’t super impressed then, but was curious to taste it again since my taste in whiskey changes quite a lot over time, or at least it has during the past year.

The Whistler is the brand of the Boann distillery, located in the Boyne valley, known for several interesting historical places, like Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. Boann distillery plan to make whiskey and gin – the distillery is built (according to the brilliant list here) but I have no certain information about whether or not they have started distilling yet. They do have some interesting cask ownership or tasting programmes.

Their brand The Whistler is released with a 7-year-old single malt, a 10-year-old single malt, and a 7-year-old at cask strength. The whiskey with oloroso sherry cask finish doesn’t seem to be in their standard range but it is available to buy at the Celtic whiskey shop. It’s a blend from malt and grain whiskey, and has spent 9 months in a Solera oloroso sherry butt.

Lots of oak aromas, almost a little bit smoky, at least in the very beginning. Nice fruit(s), perhaps apricot or similar. Lots of raisins and a hint of red berries. Pepper.

A bit lighter on the palate than expected. However, very nice flavours. Raisins, dried apricot, a hint of orange with cloves or similar. This is a very enjoyable whiskey, but it would have been more interesting at cask strength. I still could consider buying a bottle of this. Nice sherry notes but they are not overpowering as happens in some sherried whiskeys.
With a drop of water some sweetness comes forward but the whiskey loses some of the characters that I like about it.

However, this was a nice dram, and I’m definitely looking forward to what Boann will have to offer in the future.

Dingle single malt batch 4

Dingle single malt, batch 4

Dingle distillery released the batch 4 whiskey in the beginning of April. This, as well as previous releases, was highly awaited. After batch 3 I had decided to not buy more bottles from them for a while, but wait a couple of years until it’s a more fully matured whiskey. However, I was very curious to taste the new batch. I expected to get the opportunity for a tasting at the Dingle whiskey bar when I was in Dublin to buy my concertina, but sadly they didn’t have it yet. 🙁

I eventually was informed that it was available at the Shelbourne bar, to my great delight both the “ordinary” and the cask strength bottlings.

The batch 4 release from Dingle is a single malt with a combination of bourbon, sherry and port casks.

Dingle batch 4, 46,5% ABV bottling

The lower ABV bottling was released in a larger batch than the previous releases – however there is different information out there about this. Most sources say 30 000 bottles.

Nice aromas of cinnamon, chocolate, warm vanilla, oak, and orange with cloves.

I’m quickly hit by the lovely orangey character, similar to the Italian Aurum liqueur (higly recommended, by the way). This whiskey has more body than the previous releases from Dingle. Some chocolate notes but the orange and spice flavours are more dominant. A longer finish than what I’m used to in Dingle whiskey, nice and spicy.

Generally a nice development of the Dingle whiskey. I’ve seen a good potential in the Dingle malts from batch 1, but this is the first one where I can see it’s getting close to being a nice whiskey, and not only being “good considering it’s so young, and with good potential”.

Dingle batch 4, cask strength release

The cask strength bottling from Dingle is always very limited and always very sought after. 500 bottles at 58,5% ABV were released this time, and all were gone quite soon.

The first impression is very characterised by the higher ABV. Then there’s warm orange, oak, and something more fresh, minty or herbal. I also get lime or lemon.

I get a liquorice feel at the entrance. There’s a hint of a nice oily texture, but perhaps a bit too little body for a cask strength whiskey. It’s different from the other Dingle whiskeys I’ve tasted, with the very dominant orange flavour that is even more present here than in the lower ABV bottling. There’s also some kind of Christmas spice, ginger or cloves, and lemon with honey.

With a few drops of water it opens up very nicely, with a more creamy mouth feel and more body. This is generally the very best that I’ve tasted from Dingle. With the price of this bottle I wouldn’t be interested in trying to get one though – also with a whiskey at cask strength I wouldn’t want to pay €350 for a whiskey that isn’t even 10 years old, I simply think it’s overpriced. Having said that, I think this whiskey is really nice, and I’m delighted to see how the whiskey from Dingle is developing.

The opinions about Dingle whiskey are very varied out there. Personally I like it, although I wouldn’t compared to a more mature whiskey, but instead see what potential it has to become a really good whiskey eventually. I also like to see new distilleries release their own drops from the start, both for the variety on the Irish whiskey scene, and so that whiskey enthusiasts can follow the progress as the whiskey matures.

Happy weekend to you all, and if you’re interested in the Dingle batch 4, the 46,5% ABV bottling is available here and there for your Friday dram.

Gelston’s 15-year-old single malt

This is a nice single malt that I was recommended at Shelbourne bar, the never ending source of good Irish whiskey.

Gelston is an old brand from Belfast, founded by the wine and spirits merchant Samuel Gelston in 1830, and it was taken over by Harry J Neill after Samuel died in 1869. The brand has now been revived by a Neill descendant – Johnny Neill. The whiskey itself is made by Bushmills.

Some year ago I wanted all whiskeys to be total flavour bombs, primarily at least finished in sherry casks and bottled at cask strength. Since then my taste has changed a lot, or it’s possible that it’s more about my attitude. I still love a nice cask strength sherry (or other fancy wine cask) finished dram, but I also very much appreciate more subtle flavours, and I’ve come to love a really well made bourbon cask matured Irish whiskey. This is one of them.

My first impression is an overload of green apple. Then grapes, and an odd mixture of biscuits and black pepper.

Pear. Buttery biscuits? A slightly oily feel. Sweet but not too sweet. Nice and fresh, with a peppery finish and a hint of wood.

This is a nice whiskey that is still available to buy at Celtic whiskey shop and around the country in different Off Licence shops. If you’re outside Ireland you can also buy it – and other Gelstons – at Master of malt (they don’t ship to Ireland for some reason). I personally bought a bottle at the Off Licence in Kenmare, Kerry. Maybe a bit overpriced but it’s still a nice whiskey and as I wrote in the post about the Burke’s 14-year-old single malt, I like seeing old brands being revived.

The Irishman single malt coffee stout cask finish

The Irishman, coffee stout cask

It doesn’t look better than that I forgot to post last week. Oops! The reality was that I was, against all odds, going to Sweden for a week, and had too much going on. Not even Storm Hannah nor the SAS strike could stop me though – I arrived and I’ve had a brilliant but very intense week in Sweden. I’m still there, and will be back in Ireland on Monday.

I had no internet on Friday and planned to post through my phone, but it never happened. I was too busy playing music and enjoying good company in the south of Sweden!

Last week’s Friday dram will be this week’s Friday dram. This is another bottle that I had the opportunity to taste at the Shelbourne bar some time ago. I don’t usually drink whiskey finished in stout/beer/ale/similar casks, because I’m coeliac, and even if the amount of gluten that could end up in the whiskey from the stout cask would be extremely small or maybe non existent, there’s no way of knowing how safe it really is, since nobody tests the finished whiskey for gluten. However, I’m thinking that a dram of 3-ish cl from a normal sized barrel is probably ok, especially when I normally avoid this kind of whiskey.

This is a collaboration between the Royal Oak distillery and Dick Mack’s Brewhouse in Dingle. Single malt “The Irishman” whiskey, that has previously been matured in bourbon and sherry casks, has been finished in a cask that used to hold Coffee stout in Dingle. The whiskey has stayed in this cask for 9 months.

Coffee stout was a new concept to me – for the reason mentioned above I don’t drink stout so I’m not particularly familiar with it. But I was told that the stout is infused with coffee beans to add flavour, and that certainly sounds interesting. I like creativity!

This was a single cask release – limited to 240 bottles that are now all gone. It was triple distilled, was bottled at 48% and sold by the Celtic whiskey shop.

Very peppery at the first nosing. Then dried fruits, something minty – almost like eucalyptus. Gives a feel of heavy oiliness.

Lighter on the palate than I expected. Very nice notes of chocolate and honey sweetness. Lots of pepper – I get a burning feel on the tongue. A bit too light bodied though.
With a few drops of water it’s softer and nicer, and there’s more body. But the chocolatey notes disappear, which is a bit disappointing to me.

A very interesting whiskey, nice creative attempt. Not as exciting on my palate than I thought it would be, but I always enjoy tasting these unusual whiskeys.