Showing posts with label whiskey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label whiskey. 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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Holy Smoke On The Mardyke. Temple of Fire and Smoke

Holy Smoke On The Mardyke

Temple of Fire and Smoke
Wings

If you visit Holy Smoke, and you should, you’ll be visiting a kingdom of fire and smoke. And your royal guides will be John Relihan and Deccie Walsh.

John welcomed us to their tasty palace on the Mardyke last Tuesday night for a rather special evening: six courses of pit smoked BBQ paired with either Irish Craft Beer or Irish Whiskey. Caroline Hennessy, of Eight Degrees and author of Slainte, introduced the beers while Killian O’Mahony, a recently qualified cooper at Midleton Distillery, told us about the whiskey.

Did you know that Holy Smoke is housed in the original Woodford Bourne cellars (1875), that stored at one time over 50,000 gallons of choice whiskies, Cognac, rum and casks of wine, sherries and ports?

Gubbeen sausages
John told us they cook  here “with fire”, using a Japanese Robata grill and a large smoker. They use sustainable charcoal (supplied by an Oxford firm). Ribs take four hours while brisket and pork can take 14 to 16 hours. He stressed the importance of using the right charcoal and the right wood.

He has trained with some of the best, including Jamie Oliver, and in many cuisines including BBQ, Italian, Spanish, Japanese. “It’s been quite a journey,” said the man from Duagh in Co, Kerry. They have just introduced steak to the menu - “you can expect lots of different cuts and do check out our Jazz event on October 25th.” Link is here.

Six courses seems like a lot. But the Holy Smoke team judged this to perfection. It was quality all the way but the quantity was spot-on too, not too much and certainly not too little. 
Baby Ribs

After a welcome drink of Prosecco and a bowl of pickles and pork scratchings, Caroline introduced the first of the beers. “The Franciscan Well were among the first of our craft brewers and their traditional red ale, the Rebel Red, is great with pork.” And our first dish was Gubbeen Hot Links Sausages. These spicy sausages, commonly used in southern US barbecues, got the taste buds up and running.

More pork now but of a very different kind: Wet Rubbed Baby Back Ribs (marinaded overnight and smoked for four hours over oak). Caroline praised the quality of Irish Malt and said Eight Degrees were proud to use it. And certainly the Howling Gale Pale Ale had a good solid base of malt, a lovely aroma and not too hoppy and proved a good match for the ribs and the cornbread.
Pork sliders

And next came one of the highlights of the night: Pulled Pork Slider (shoulder smoked low and slow for 14 hours). Amazingly succulent and delicious and the Stonewell cider, that Caroline had been keeping in reserve, proved an ideal match. 

Head Chef Deccie Walsh managed to take a few minutes away from the kitchen and told us of his love for slow cooking and nose to tail cooking. He really enjoys this type of event. After last night, we all do! 
Local ale

Another highlight next: Pit Smoked BBQ Chicken Wings (marinaded, smoked for 4 hours and char-grilled). Accompanied by pickled celery and a blue cheese dip, this was a superb mid-menu course, fingers in action again. And the beer? Another from Eight Degrees: the Barefoot Bohemian Pilsner, a nice light beer in the traditional Czech style and excellent with the wings.

Brisket Burnt End Sliders were now arriving on the table, another highlight for me, all the more appreciated when we heard that their journey to our plates had started during the storm of the day before.
Brisket

We had a two drinks to go with this one. The first was a can of the Franciscan Well Irish Pale Ale, a favourite of mine. “Don't drink from the can,” Caroline advised. “Pour it into the glass, the better to appreciate its lovely amber colour, the citrus aromas. As you drink, you’ll note the citrus bite.”
A winner

Killian told us about the importance of the casks as he introduced the Green Spot whiskey made at Midleton from pot still whiskey aged between seven and nine years, with 25% coming from sherry casks.

Time then for dessert: Chocolate, banana and caramel brownie, with a whiskey sauce. Obviously, if you had whiskey remaining (I didn’t), you could have tried a drop with this. 

The final beer was the award-winning Amber Ella from Eight Degrees. As Caroline said, it has a lovely malty flavour to go with the brownie and the sauce. First brewed in 2014, this American style amber surprised the home brewers by taking a bronze in the World Beer Cup in the US. “It was  a big surprise,” recalled Caroline. “ It was a boost for Eight Degrees but also a boost for Irish craft.”

Killian had ended his whiskey intro with a toast to friendship and the lovely evening finished in that kind of spirit, old friends met and new friends made. Thanks for the invite and Slainte to all at Holy Smoke.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Water in your Whiskey

The Water in your Whiskey
The Dungourney River. (Pic via Irish Distillers)


Time and time again, during our recent two day “immersion” at the Irish Whiskey Academy in Midleton, a few drops of water worked its magic at various tastings. Even when we were privileged to taste a 26-year old from a Bourbon cask in one of the warehouses.

“The cask is unique,” emphasised our tutor and guide Ciaran O'Donovan. “Both for its age and for the fact that the whiskey inside has ‘escaped’ been blended since 1991!” 

The bung was extracted and we examined the whiskey in the glass. “It has great legs, more viscous at this age, sweet with fruit flavours.” Then we added a few drops of water to cut the alcohol. Again the old H2O worked its magic, smoothing everything down a little, making it much more approachable without losing any of the essential character.


I know it’s only five or six drops but it always amazes me that this most freely available of liquids (in Ireland anyhow) can be so influential on a more expensive liquids. 
This mill stone, powered by the water wheel, was used to
grind down barley and malt to grist.
And especially so if the ABV is higher than the normal 40%. As it was in the on-site Irish Whiskey Academy, when we came to taste a New Make Pot Still Spirit whose ABV was, wait for it, 94.4%. It was fruity (mainly apple) and again the drop of water did the trick! Old-time whiskey drinkers knew this of course. That's why you see those water jugs in older pubs. 


Modern whiskey experts and masters regularly emphasise the point at tastings and talks. Two years ago, at the Ballymaloe Litfest, whiskey ace Dave Broom has us tasting a whiskey, Tullamore Dew Phoenix, a blend of all three Irish whiskey types:  “The Single Pot Still comes through. It has a rich dark character and you also note the effects of the sherry barrels. At 55%, it needs water. It is lovely, well balanced, with good characters.”
The old wheel, still turning.
And, of course, those few drops at the end of the whiskey’s life are just that. Water has been influential from the very start as it is a key ingredient. And that is why whiskey distilleries are located near a water source. Or more than one water source, which is the case with Midleton.

The most obvious source is the little river (not 20 kilometres long), the short Dungourney that flows through the town and, when you visit the distillery, you'll see the old giant water-wheel. Sometimes the river needed a boost and in 1834, the distillery purchased a stationary beam engine from the UK to aid the water-wheel during periods of low water. That engine was still in use when the ‘old’ distillery closed in 1975.


East Cork is an area rich in limestone and such areas have lots of caves. Just underneath the distillery, there are caverns full of nice cool water! The two other sources are bore-hole and the public supply.
The river was originally the main source of soft clear water supply for the Old Midleton Distillery, hence the big wheel! It is clean but has minerals. Once treated at the water treatment plant, the water is used for various activities including: brewing, distillation, fermentation, feeds recovery and boiler feed water.


The water from the cavern and borehole, located directly beneath the distillery, is ideal for cooling. It is used throughout the various processes: brewhouse cooling, still-house cooling and feeds recovery cooling.
Welcome to Midleton
The town’s water supply is used to reduce the spirit strength (cutting). It undergoes a thorough filtration and demineralisation process in the reverse osmosis treatment plant before it is used in the Vathouse.

The first spirit was distilled in Midleton Distillery in the early 19th century, the river and cool cavern water playing a key role. But so too did the distillery’s access to nearby Ballinacurra (where the Dungourney goes to sea). This easy access meant the the whiskey could be easily transferred by small lighters from Ballinacurra to the nearby port of Cobh and then onwards on salty ocean waters to countries throughout the world.


Distilling continued on the original site for 150 years (with many up and downs) and, in 1975, the new distillery was commissioned just a short stroll away. The original site is now a tourist attraction but whiskey is being made there again in the company's new micro-distillery. The story, including the essential water, continues.

See also: Whiskey. What's Wood Got To Do With It?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Whiskey. What’s Wood Got To Do With It?

Whiskey.

What’s Wood Got To Do With It?
Cooper Ger Buckley with a stave secure in his "horse"
“You can take whiskey out of wood but you can never take the wood out of whiskey.” This was a quote in the sales literature when, a year or two back, Irish Distillers launched their Cooper’s Croze (one of a trio that also included the Distiller’s Safe and the Blender’s Dog).The influence of oak can be seen in the Croze through it’s vanilla sweetness, rich fruit flavours, floral and spice notes.  

Last week I had the privilege of seeing Ger Buckley, the master working cooper at Irish Distillers HQ in Midleton, in action, a bottle of the Croze he produced in the background and a croze in his hands. A croze? Ger has used a croze all his working life. He uses it to cut the grove along the top of the staves to hold the head (the circular cover) in place.

It is an old and simple tool, just like his other key implements, the hammer and the driver (both heavy), the carving axe (bevelled on just one side) and the adze (a shaping axe). The hammer, the axe and the adze are ancient tools, sacred tools in some cultures around the world.
Ger with croze in hand
Remember, there is no measuring in the cooperage, all done by eye, but each barrel or cask has a related compass. Other tools include the dog (used to insert the reed that makes a seal between upright and horizontal) and the horse and a stationery plane.

Our opening sentence indicates the importance of wood in the whiskey making process. Ger will say that it accounts for more than fifty per cent of the input to the final bottle and many distillers will agree with him.

Ger, a 5th generation cooper, had (up to a month ago) only ever used white oak. Very recently though, in Irish Distillers’ new innovative series Method and Madness, one of the whiskeys was finished in a Sweet Chestnut Cask.
The three basic tools: adze, hammer,  and axe
Both the American bourbon barrels and the Spanish Sherry butts are made from white oak but each performs very differently. Vanilla and caramel are among the flavours that the American version contributes while dark fruits (such as plum) and sherry flavours come from the European cask.

Recently, for the Midleton Dair Ghaelach whiskey, Irish oak, from ten trees, was used. The cooper told us that it is very sweet (there is sugar in oak!), chocolate too and vanilla, closer to the US than Spain. 

“Did you know that we once supplied staves to Spain?” said Ger. “Up to the 17th century, Ireland was covered in oak forests… the English, who took a lot for their naval forces, are often blamed for the decline..but we ourselves didn’t renew.”   

Ger collapses cask and re-assembles it, all in a few minutes, talking all the time!
Oak coverage here “is on the up again”. And the hope is to get it up to about 17% which is the European normal. “Not just oak though,” warned Ger. “We need bio diversity.”

And this diversity within the forest is good not just for the wood and its creatures but also for the distilleries, and anyone else who needs good timber. “We are looking for a large beam of oak.” And that is achieved by planting other species, beech for instance, close to the oak which then is forced to expand straight up and grow as a beam!

Oak for the cooperage is the most expensive. There must be no defects. The method of sawing, called quarter sawing, also leads to waste but it doubles the strength of the wood.
Ciaran O’Donovan makes a point about oak in the Whiskey Academy.
Good and all as the oak is, it is not perfect. Leaks do arise and most of these can be repaired quickly and without too much loss. But no one had yet found a solution to evaporation. It is about 2% in Ireland, about 30,000 bottles of Jameson a day! That is not too bad, compared to hot climates. In Tennessee it can reach 7%. All around the world, whether the distillery is producing brandy, whiskey or rum, the angels get their share!

Ciaran O’Donovan. of the Irish Whiskey Academy, who led our group in the 2-day immersion in all things whiskey, also filled us in on the importance of the wood (of oak in particular) saying 60% of the flavour comes from it. Did you know that Irish Distillers bring in about 140,000 barrels (with their internal surfaces charred) from America each year, swamping the few thousand Sherry butts (toasted internal surfaces) that come from Spain each November.

Just one corner of one warehouse
By the way, these butts belong to IDL from the very start. They buy them in the north of Spain; they are then taken down to the south, to Jerez and filled with sherry; after a few years they arrive in Midleton. Interestingly, when they come they will have up to five litres of sherry inside! Ciaran called the sherry barrel a "work of art" compared to the bourbon equivalent which, by comparison, has a lot of mechanisation in its production.

The butts (500l) add colour and tannin and flavours of dried fruit, nut, fig, even Christmas cake. The once-used bourbon barrels (200l) are empty! They have been especially sourced by three companies in the US and must be top class. Key flavours here are toasted wood, sweetness and vanilla.

IDL also source casks from other countries: Port pipes from Portugal, drums from Madeira, casks from Malaga (Green Spot 12 yo), casks from Marsala in Sicily, and wine barriques from Bordeaux (Green Spot Leoville Barton).
This comes with a disc of oak in the gift box
And the Irish oak? Well, we did get a chance to taste the Midleton Dair Ghaelach, matured in Bourbon casks and finished in Irish oak, a “project at its beginning”. It has a lovely nose, unique colours, vanilla and sweetness are prominent. 

IDL also import a small amount of Virgin oak from America’s Ozark Mountains and it is used, for example, in Jameson Gold Reserve, very sparingly in Barry Crockett Legacy. We came across it also when tasting a Pot Still 8 year old (where it was the only wood used). Ciaran indicated that while it may not be used on its own “it will improve a blend. Lots of uses for it here.”

In the cask, the young spirits will have a strong distillate character. The longer it spends in the cask, the greater the influence of the wood, and the more complex it becomes. The task for the distiller is to strike a balance between the two. I reckon they get it spot (excuse the pun) on most of the time in Midleton.