There are many interesting newcomers to the Irish whiskey scene these days.
I haven’t been able to keep up with all of them, but have discovered some a long time after they became “a thing”.
When something is blown up in social media I tend to be sceptical. But when it comes to whiskey brands, I've discovered that there usually are good reasons for them to be talked about.
I appreciate knowing more about the whiskey than what is usually published on whiskey websites. Where is it made? Who are the people behind the brand? Are they distillers, bonders, bottlers? If not distillers, how and why did they select this particular whiskey? How have they been working to create that finished product?
I like good storytelling and interesting historical facts, but I also like to see an interest in sharing the passion for the product and for the work behind it. I'm delighted when I find detailed information about a whiskey on its company website, and this was the case with The Liberator.
Wayward Irish Spirits, the people behind The Liberator whiskey, is a Kerry based company that plans to build a grain to glass distillery with a visitor centre by Lough Leane near Killarney. They have a warehouse ready in an old historical building, and already have whiskey maturing that is distilled elsewhere, but using their own barley.
The Liberator and port wine
While we can look forward to a Lakeview Estate whiskey brand eventually, The Liberator is their brand for sourced whiskey and cask finishing, centred around Daniel O’Connell, also called The Liberator, who helped secure some civil rights for the Irish people during the early 19th century. I'll leave it at that, but you can read more here - I'm definitely better at writing about Irish whiskey than about Irish history so far.
Wayward themselves use the wording The Liberator series, which gives us hints that there will be more Liberators coming. This first Liberator whiskey is a vatting of malt whiskeys, some of which at least 13 years old according to an article by the FFT, matured in ex-bourbon casks, and then placed in Tawny port casks in the company’s old warehouse.
Perhaps most other whiskey fans are already experts of port wine, but I’m certainly wasn’t! I did some reading about it and learned that Tawny Port is made from grapes that are aged in wood, in which they are exposed to oxidation and evaporation and gain nutty flavours as well as a brownish colour from the exposure to oxygen. The ready wine is aged in small wooden barrels and carries flavours like raisins, nuts, cinnamon, clove, vanilla, butterscotch and similar, while Ruby port ages mostly in bottles, and has more red wine characters with different dark berries such as blackberry, fig, and blackcurrant.
I went through a few bummers before getting a bottle of this whiskey, but finally, last Saturday, it arrived at my door.
It's bottled at 46% ABV, has no added colouring and is not chill-filtered. Having heard a lot of good things about this whiskey, it didn't take long for me to open it!
I get a lot on the nose when I give this whiskey a bit of time. The very first impression gives a strong, dry, woody character, almost like what you would get from virgin oak. Then there are sweet fruity notes, perhaps something floral too. (As a side note, my husband said he got the aroma of old roses!) There's some vanilla, cereals, apples with cinnamon, raisins, strawberries and other, darker, berries. It reminds me of a Swedish jam called Drottningsylt ("Queen's jam") which is a mix of raspberries and blueberries.
On the palate, it's sweet and fruity with an immediate and intensely spicy flavour. I find the above-mentioned berries, with nice bourbon cask characters in the background, there's vanilla or marshmallows along with dry spice, perhaps cinnamon. It's sweet but not too sweet, with a certain freshness and with a nice long spicy finish.
This is a lovely addition to the port cask finished Irish whiskeys out there. It's different - more elegant, more subtle, but it's still complex, and more than anything else, it's enormously delicious! I believe it's still available out there in most online whiskey shops, so go out there and get yourself a bottle! The price is decent too.
Enjoy your weekend and stay well out there!