Showing posts with label Connacht Distillery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Connacht Distillery. Show all posts

Friday, October 20, 2017

Irish Whiskey Awards Results. Power's John Lane the big winner.

Great to see the Powers John’s Lane, one of my favourite whiskeys coming out on top at the Irish Whiskey Awards last night. Thanks to the Celtic Whiskey Shop, you can see all the winners below....
Celtic Whiskey Shop & Wines on the Green
27-28 Dawson Street Dublin 2
Ph. +35316759744

www.celticwhiskeyshop.com

Irish Whiskey Awards Results, 



This year the Irish Whiskey Awards were hosted at the Old Jameson Distillery on Bow Street and was attended by producers, bars and whiskey enthusiasts all over Ireland. The night consisted of whiskey cocktails, a tour of the distillery, the all important awards and of course far too much whiskey! Please see our list of winners below...

Best Irish Single Pot Still 
Powers John's Lane
Powers John’s Lane was an instant hit when it was first released in 2011 so it’s no surprise that it was a firm favourite with a lot of our judges this year, despite having some very strong competitors in this category.

John’s Lane was intended to faithfully recreate the old style of whiskey once made in Dublin, it's one that Irish whiskey lovers keeping coming back to. It is comprised mostly of a robust, heavy pot still spirit and is predominantly aged in ex-bourbon casks with a little sherry cask ageing.


Gold Medals went to: Midleton Dair Ghaelach Bluebell Forest & Powers 1817 Release
Tasting notes:

Colour: Bronze.


Nose: Distinct cocoa and mocha overtones on the nose with hints of dried apricots orange peel and marshmallow.                        

Palate: Crisp and mouthwatering with a spice laden palate, a touch of bittersweet fruit, marmalade and toffee apples. The finish becomes more chocolatey with some dusty oakiness making an appearance.
Powers John's Lane Regular Price €63.99
Best Irish Single Malt (12 Years Old and Under)
Tyrconnell Madeira Cask
Originally released as a limited edition but proved to be so popular that it was made a permanent part of the Tyrconnell range. Flavours of barley sugar, chocolate, and toffee has made it a clear winner in this category.


Gold Medals went to: Teeling Brabazon Bottling Series 2 & The Whistler Single Malt Aged 7 Years
Tasting notes:

Colour: Golden yellow.


Nose: Harmonious and warming. Aromas of milky coffee, dried apricots, roasted nuts and creme caramel. 
             

Palate: Smooth, rich and extremely well rounded. Plenty of soft malty flavours, a touch of spice and dried fruit nuances. Very well balanced, one of the most successful Madeira finishes we have tried. The fruit flavours persist all the way to the finish.
Tyrconnell Madeira Cask Regular Price €77.99
Best Irish Single Malt (13 Years Old and Over) & Overall Best Irish Whiskey Winner
Teeling Revival Single Malt Volume IV
Teeling’s new revival release was hugely popular with our judges this year and when you taste it, it’s easy to see why. The ex-Muscat barrels used for a finishing period of around 12 months have added some citrus and floral notes, as well as a ripe fruits and spice towards the finish.


Gold medals went to: The Irishman 17Year Old & Tyrconnell 16Year Old
Producer's tasting notes:

Colour: Golden.


Nose: Subtle floral notes, aroma of peach, pineapple, and satsuma mandarin.
           
Palate: Ripe fruits and spices, with an hint of vanilla and cream which moves onto a dry finish with tannins and lingering wood. 
Teeling Revival Single Malt Volume IV Coming Soon!
Best Irish Blended Whiskey (RRP of less than €60)
Jameson Black Barrel
The second time this whiskey has won Best Irish Blended Whiskey under €60. The heavily charring of 1st fill Bourbon casks gives this whiskey notes of butterscotch, vanilla and dark chocolate. The remainder of the casks used are 1st and 2nd fill bourbon barrels which add some balancing sweetness to the blend.


Gold Medals went to: Irishman Founder's Reserve & Slane Irish Whiskey 
Tasting notes:

Colour: Deep gold with some copper tinges.


Nose: Intensely fruity with characters of apricot, kumquat, and fruit cake. A hint of bitter, dark chocolate and truffles.

Palate: Spice and dried fruits, mixed peel, apricots, marshmallow and burnt caramel. The palate ends with a spicy, bitter chocolate finish.
Jameson Black Barrel Regular Price €47.99
Best Irish Blended Whiskey (RRP of more than €60)
Jameson Maker’s Series – The Cooper’s Croze
Another win for Jameson and a well-liked whiskey with our judges this year. Named in honour of Jameson's Master Cooper, Ger Buckley, this whiskey clearly showcases the diversity of barrels used and the importance of cask maturation through using Ex-Bourbon, Sherry and Virgin oak barrels to create balance. 


Gold Medals went to: Jameson Maker's Series - The Blender's Dog & J.J Corry 'The Gael'
Producer's tasting notes:

Colour: Pale gold.


Nose: A subtle flower petal-perfume develops into rich ripe fruits, while some charred oak and cedar wood bring balance and complexity.

Palate: The initial impression is from the sweet vanilla of the American ex-bourbon barrels. This brings added depth to the rich fruits typical of the ex-oloroso sherry butts. A pleasant touch of hazelnut and toasted wood complement the pot still spice
Jameson Maker's Series The Cooper's Croze Regular Price €69.99
Best Irish Single Cask
Cill Airne Cask PX
The Celtic Whiskey Bar’s very own Cill Airne Cask PX came out on top for the Best Irish Single Cask.  This whiskey is bottled exclusively at the Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder and has been finished in a Pedro Ximenez Sherry cask for one year. Very limited, only 70 bottles.


Gold Medals went to: Irishman Founder's Reserve Marsala Cask Finish & Cill Airne Cask Oloroso.
Tasting notes:

Colour: Dark Amber with a tawny centre.


Nose: Aromas of toasted oak, rich sherried raisins, marzipan and roasted walnuts can be expected. 

Palate: At first there are flavours of Christmas cake, dried fruits and warming spices of clove and cinnamon. The palate ends with a sweetness clinging to your cheeks like treacle and has a velvety finish. 
Cill Airne Cask PX Only Available for Purchase In-Store at Celtic Whiskey Bar
Best Irish Cask Strength
Tullamore D.E.W Phoenix
The second time this whiskey has won Best Irish Cask Strength Whiskey. This triple distilled blend of all three styles was a clear winner amongst our judges. The Oloroso Sherry cask finish gives this whiskey some very distinct sherry and toffee notes, perfectly balanced with creamy pot still spice.


Gold Medals went to: The Whistler Single Malt 7 Year Old Cask Strength & Writer's Tears Cask Strength 2017.
Tasting notes:

Colour: Bright Gold.


Nose: Warm and spicy initially, then rich, toffee, vanilla notes become evident. The characteristic leafy, malty notes of Tullamore D.E.W. are enriched with deeper, toasted oak aroma and a hint of sherry nuttiness.

Palate: The higher strength tingles on the tongue leaving a spicy pot still flavour. Addition of a little water releases layers of caramel sweetness, delicate floral notes and oak tannins.
Tullamore D.E.W Phoenix Regular Price €77.99
Best Irish Single Grain
Glendalough Triple Barrel
It was a close call as a lot of the judges were very impressed on the quality of this category, but a new release from Glendalough won the title for Best Irish Single Grain. Our tasters felt that the Glendalough had more depth and character than your average grain whiskey!


Gold Medals went to: Method & Madness Single Grain & Glendalough Double Barrel
Producer's tasting notes:

Colour: Amber.


Nose: Wine influence jumps right up front with a raisiny sweetness followed by notes of young malt, vanilla, toffee, pear heavy fruit and a light earthy bit of sawdust and a light floral note.

Palate: Similar with the nose the raisiny winy sweetness jumps out first followed by a sweet graininess, apricots, vanilla, fruit, young malt and again that light earthy bit of sawdust.

Glendalough Triple Barrel Coming Soon!
Other Winners Include:
Best Irish Vodka: Dingle Vodka
Gold Medals went to: Straw Boys Vodka & Woulfe's Irish Vodka

Best Irish Gin: Dingle Gin
Gold Medals went to: Brennan's Old House Irish Gin & Thin Gin

Best Irish Liqueur: Merrys Salted Caramel
Gold Medals went to: Merrys Toffee Buttermint & Merrys Pumpkin Spice

Best Irish Poitin: Ban Poitin
Gold Medals went to: Straw Boys Poitin & Mad March Hare Poitin


Best Irish Barrel Aged Beer: Dot Brew Cab Sauv Session
Gold Medals went to: Boyne Brewhouse Imperial Stout & Dot Brew Cab Sauv Grain Rye

Best Irish Whiskey Bar Leinster: The Dylan Whisky Bar, Kilkenny
Gold Medal went to: Bowe's, Dublin

Best Irish Whiskey Bar Munster: The Folkhouse, Kinsale
Gold Medal went to: Dick Mack's, Dingle

Best Irish Whiskey Bar Connacht: Garavan's, Galway
Gold Medal went to: Sonny Molloys, Galway 

Best Irish Whiskey Bar Ulster: The Duke of York, Belfast
Gold Medal went to: McCauls, Cavan

Best Irish Whiskey Bar International: Seamus O'Dowdens Irish Pub & Shebeen, Vermont
Gold Medal went to: The Dead Rabbit, New York

Best Irish Whiskey Bar: Garavan's, Galway

Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Whiskeys of Ireland by Peter Mulryan.

Review: The Whiskeys of Ireland
by Peter Mulryan
Midleton
“Whiskey. Irish for droplets of pure pleasure.” WB Yeats.

You’ll find tour guides in the many new Irish distilleries telling you that whiskey is a corruption of the Gaelic Uisce Beatha (water of life). No need to believe those novices! Yeats got it right and his interpretation is quoted on the back cover of the Whiskeys of Ireland by Peter Mulryan. 

Whenever I get my hands on a new Irish food or drink book, I usually flick through the opening pages to see where it was printed and am invariably disappointed. This, printed in the Czech Republic, is no exception. If we are expected to support the Irish food and drinks industry, then our food and drink writers should do all they can to support Irish printers. But that's about the only gripe  (one more - there is no index), I have against this excellent book.



The new Connacht Distillery in Ballina
Because, for a long time, there were spirits galore but no definition of whiskey, Mulryan says it is difficult to trace its evolution. But distilling was alive and well, if not up to FSAI standards, in the 15th century and the Crown passed a law in 1556, in vain, to put a stop to it. Eventually, after the collapse of the Gaelic order, a licensing system was imposed.

The first Irish patent was granted in 1608 but cronyism and corruption led to the collapse of the system. Taxation reared its head in 1661 and that reinforced the illegal side of the trade. And the same happened when a stiff tax regime was imposed in 1779. The underground operators sold their poitín and that became “the drink of the people”.


A more benign tax regime led to a booming whiskey industry in the 1820s and onwards. But that led to widespread alcohol problems and in stepped Fr Matthew. Distilleries closed by the dozen. 

On display in Teelings, Newmarket, Dublin
The respectable side of the business examined the newly invented Aeneas Coffey column still and he had some initial success here before turning to a warmer welcome in Scotland. Ireland, pants down in Mulryan’s phrase, missed the revolution and would pay dearly.

Close to the end of the century though, the big players in Irish whiskey, including Allman’s in Bandon, were flying high again. Phylloxera dealt the French distillers a hammer blow and that too helped the Irish in what Mulryan terms “the Golden Years”.


Scotland too was on the rise but the bubble would burst as the century turned, fraudulent trading, recession, wars, and increased taxes all contributing.

With the author (left) in his Blackwater Distillery
Ireland now had its own problems: wars and then partition. We were behind internationally and now the domestic market collapsed. And, in the US, prohibition was looming. Closure followed closure.

There were back doors to the US market. The Scots didn't hesitate, the Irish did. Then we Irish had the “Economic War” with England and next came WW2. After they were over, in the US, the Scots were in and, except for Irish Coffee, the Irish were out.

It was a long tailspin, halted only in 1966 when the three (yes, 3!) remaining distilleries amalgamated. Eventually a new outlook led to a new distillery in Midleton (1975). John Jameson was the brand that led to the current revival, the brand that eventual and current owners Pernod Ricard used as a wedge to once more open the international market to Irish Whiskey.

Cyril (left) and Barry of St Patrick's in Cork
Meanwhile, Mulryan relates that an opportunity was spotted by John Teeling at Cooley and, thanks to the eagle-eyed entrepreneur, the Irish industry acquired a new and vibrant arm, an arm that is still reaching out. Now virtually every county has a distillery, many of them micro. The consumer, home and abroad, has never had it so good. Cheers to John Jameson (5 million cases in 2015) and the French marketeers.

Those marketeers include a salesman selling Jameson in a Vendeé supermarket sometime in the 90s. He was an insistent guy and I bought a bottle (the price was good too!) and I still have the free cassette tapes that came with it!


Mulryan's fascinating book covers the history, the rises and the falls and the stunning re-birth, in a lively manner, great for the experienced and novice alike. It is well worth seeking out for the history alone. But he also casts his keen and experienced eye (he founded and runs the Blackwater Distillery) over the current scene (sending out a warning to mid-sized operators).

Whiskey by Hyde's
The closing chapters take us, in plain and engaging English, through the making and blending and, most importantly, the tasting of our beloved Uisce Beatha, sorry droplets of pure pleasure. Slainte!

The Whiskeys of Ireland is published by the O’Brien Press and is widely available. I spotted it in Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork  selling for €19.95.
Hands on research in Dingle recently


Sunday, September 4, 2016

On Whiskey Trail in Mayo. Visit to the Connacht Distillery

On Whiskey Trail in Mayo
Visit to the new Connacht Distillery
Connacht Distillery
Last weekend, after a drive from Donegal, we made it just  in time to take the 12.30pm tour of the new Connacht Distillery in Ballina, County Mayo. What else would you be doing on a Sunday morning!

Aside from a spanking new distillery, you need water, barley and yeast to make whiskey. Connacht get their water, clean water, from Lough Conn and Lough Cullen. Lots of iron and calcium in the water so it has to be demineralised before being used in the distilling process.

The malted barley, having come through the milling stage, meets up with the warmed water in the boiler tank. This liquid-y mix is called the mash and is put into the mash tun, another tank.  The sugar, from the barley, dissolves and is drawn off through the bottom of the mash tun. The resulting liquid is called 'wort'. Lautering is the next process, in the third tank (the Lauter tun), and here the mash is separated into the clear liquid wort and the residual grain.
Now we are on to the three wash vats, all stainless steel. Here, the yeast is added and begins to act on the sugar in the wort, turning it into alcohol over a period of two to four days. This wash is low in alcohol, much the same as that of wine.

Our guide now enthusiastically points to their three gleaming stills, which were made in Victoria, Canada. They have different necks which influence character and texture etc. The first tank is called Wash; the alcohol evaporates up the neck and leaves this tank at about 20% abv.

On then to the Feint tank where the process is repeated and the alcohol increases, this time to about 35%. The final, the third, tank is called the Spirit. Irish whiskeys are traditionally triple distilled. When the Spirit has done its work, the liquid, still clear (no colour) has an abv of about 70%!
Ballina last Sunday (28.08.16)
You’ve heard of flying winemakers. Well Connacht’s distiller Rob runs two distilleries in Pennsylvania and flies over regularly to Ballina. He also sources the oak casks which are charred and impart flavour and colour and in which the Connacht whiskey will be matured. The casks are made in Kentucky and are ex-Bourbon. All bottling is done here, all by hand.

Like many new distilleries, Connacht makes some white spirits to get the cash flow going while waiting the mandatory three years (and a day) for the whiskey. They are planning their gin and there will be some interesting botanicals included! The Poitin was due to be bottled the day after our visit but we did get a taste of their smooth Straw Boys Vodka. This wheat based drink is good and smooth, with a hint of  pepper in the aftertaste. The Straw Boys are a Mayo tradition, a sign of luck if they turn up at your wedding. “They are all about fun and getting the party going!”.

You will have to wait until 2019 to taste their own whiskey but in the meantime, they have been putting their own finish to a bought-in whiskey. It is called Spade and Bushel (after the tools of the trade) and is light amber in colour, smooth and sweet, hints of caramel and a “great after dinner drink”. No bother agreeing with that. Be careful with it though. One thing that sets this apart is that it is a cask strength whisky with an abv of 57.5%! It comes in a 37.5cl bottle.
The Straw Boys love a party
 When their own whiskey comes on the market, it will feature a rather special logo, a Celtic Dragon with a bunch of corn stalks in his claw.


There is another distillery starting up in Mayo, the Nephin, named after the county’s famous mountain. This is different. They are creating peated single malts made in a small Mayo village using locally grown barley, locally cut turf and triple distilled in traditional copper pot stills, then matured in unique casks handcrafted in their own cooperage. Must call there the next time!

My base for the night was the Grand National Hotel Ballina. They have a rather large bar and I was disappointed, considering the amount of breweries around the county, that they had no craft beer. Luckily, I spotted a Jameson Whiskey menu on the counter and spent an enjoyable hour or two sampling.


The new Connacht distillery. A new Greenway, from Ballina to Killala, starts alongside it.
The favourite was the Powers John's Lane Release at €9.00 a glass. The drop of water, the only other thing needed, was free! There is an abundance of aromas - don't stick your nose into the glass - just hover above it; it is full bodied, spicy and sweet and has a lingering finish. Think this is my new number one!

And if I can't get it, I’ll go for the Yellow Spot 12 Years Old, another single pot still whiskey, another smooth sweet customer at €9.50 a glass. It is complete from start to long finish with a distinctive sweetness at all stages. Sophisticated and complex they say. And it sure is. Reckon the Mayo distillery, indeed all new distilleries, have a fight on their hands. Perhaps, the best way to go about it is to avoid the direct collision and find your own niche.

Great for us customers though to have the choice!
Beers from the local Reel Deal
Aside from pulling a blank in the Ballina Hotel, craft beers, especially in bottle, were easy enough to find during this quick trip to Donegal Town and Ballina. Kinnegar Brewing and Donegal Brewing were available in The Harbour Restaurant in Quay Street in Donegal. And beers from the same two breweries were enjoyed over in the Village Tavern in Mountcharles. Last call in Donegal was the Olde Castle where the restaurant were offering their own beer called, appropriately, Red Hugh, and brewed in the county.

Ballina had started well enough with a couple of decent beers, the Irish Blonde amber ale and the General Humber French fusion ale, both by Mayo’s Reel Deel and both available in bottle in the upstairs restaurant of the lively Bar Square in Garden Street. And then came the blank in the hotel. The joys of researching. Still the whiskeys were a considerable consolation!
Killala, known to M. Humbert