|The Powers be with you! Pic via Sober Lane|
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Sunday, April 9, 2017
Powers to all our Friends
Cork Whiskey Fest at Sober Lane
Powers first made their mark on the Dublin whiskey as the 18th century closed and soon their concentration on quality saw them become the biggest in the capital.
Quality was always to the fore and it was because of concerns that the “brand” was being damaged that led to the founder’s grandson deciding to bottle their own, rather than have it bottled exclusively by middlemen or publicans. And this was where the gold label started; it indicated that the whiskey inside was bottled by the distillery.
That, by the way, was in 1866, about 100 years before Jameson bottled. Powers were always innovative and their release of the miniature bottle, the “Baby Powers”, was a world first.
The current Gold Label was our first sip of the night. Michael advised “when smelling, keep mouth slightly open”. Spice, sweetness and oak and the barley of course all combine to make this whiskey a real pleasure.
By the 1880s, Power were very popular. They were great record keepers too and most of the old recipes survive and that made it easy for Irish Distillers in Midleton (where Powers is now produced) to recreate the old styles. The Three Swallows is triple distilled (like all Irish whiskeys) and is a relaxed and gentler whiskey, according to Michael. It is a true pot still style, smooth and complex, the intrinsic Irish style. The Swallows, by the way, are the whiskey equivalent of the stars on a brandy bottle.
Now we were moving on up to the Signature Release. “Very delicate on the nose… very active..zesty..on the palate..you know you're drinking whiskey”. It has a higher abv of 46%, “one of the reasons for that lovely zip on the tongue…we used only 2nd and 3rd fill bourbon barrels for this.” He emphasised that this was regarded as a grown-ups whiskey, maybe even old-fashioned “but now becoming modern again!”.
Then it was the turn of a favourite of mine, the John's Lane Release, “full bodied, spice upfront, followed by vanilla, honey and dried apricot”. John’s Lane is where the Powers Distillery was in Dublin and it was first made here by Barry Crockett in the 1970s. “This is a big whiskey, big on flavour. By the way, the 12 years refers to the youngest whiskey in the bottle.”
While the gold label is a blend, the other three are Single Pot Still Whiskey, Irish of course! Having done the talk, Michael showed he could walk the walk as he demonstrated his cocktail making skills by making an Old Fashioned. He had a one big tip. “In cocktails, don’t use your expensive whiskeys! Use the Gold Label. It has a lovely sweetness to balance the sours.”
Then there was an exodus to the smoking area to try out the Punch Cigars along with a 12 year old Powers Gold Label. I split with the smokes back in 1994. I did of course sample the whiskey, another family gem. Like the opening Gold Label, this is a blend with a good amount of pot still content and some very old whiskeys as well. Heard that it is going off the market in the near future so best to get your hands on a bottle or two before then.
Big thanks to Powers, to Michael, and to Dee and crew at Sober Lane. Not alone did we enjoy the whiskey but they came up with trays of delicious sliders as the enjoyable evening came to a close. Here’s to the next Cork Whiskey festival!
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Montenotte Hotel Whiskey Battle
|Let battle commence!|
Last night I took part in a “battle”, a whiskey battle that is, in the Montenotte Hotel. It was all part of the Cork Whiskey Festival. There is a terrific view over the city from the hotel's bar but I was concentrating on the three beauties in front of me.
They were staging three “battles” in all, each involving an Irish, a Scotch and an American Whiskey. I could have had a Jameson, Glenfiddich, and Bulleit Bourbon for €15.00 or a Red Breast 15 year Old, Laphroaig 10 year old Single Malt and Maker’s 46 for €35.00.
But I picked the €25.00 trio of Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, Bowmore 12 Year Old and the Knob Creek Bourbon. There was no further info available as info sheets hadn't turned up.
So, with an open mind, if an amateur one as regards whiskey, I got down to work, a glass of water at the side. Tasted the three in the above order and was quite pleased with the Irish and the Scotch. The initial meeting with the Knob Creek, by Jim Beam, seemed fine but I found something of an alcohol burn on the finish.
Tried them all neat again, this time with an emphasis on the aromas. And that's when the peat began to bother me. As Henry VIII said about one of the ladies he was about to marry: “I like her not!”. And, there was to be no cure for it, only a divorce!
But there was a cure for the Bourbon: a few drops of good old Cork water brought a very acceptable smoothness to the finish. Took my time after that and finished off all three.
And the final verdict? I declare the Green Spot, a superb whiskey, finished in a selection of ex-bourbon (ironically) and ex-sherry casks, and so well balanced, the winner of this particular battle. Slainte!
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Powers John's Lane Release Whiskey
Cork Whiskey Festival.
From the uncountable volumes written about whiskey, this is the line I always remember: “It makes me sick when I am well, it makes me well when I am sick”. Something of a generalisation, no doubt, and some truth there too.
So, which whiskey - and with an “e”, I’m talking Irish here - do you want as your cure, as your first choice, as your final choice?
Once upon a time, I thought Paddy was your man, your one and only man. But then I found many more including Powers, Bushmills, Hewitt’s, and Dunphy's, most of them that little bit gentler than Paddy.
But around the same time, it became clear that Irish whiskey was dying. Three white-as-a-sheet bodies got into bed in Midleton as death beckoned. Somehow the last-gasp trio survived. And, thanks to a French kiss, thrived. And, now whole and healthy, continue to thrive. Viva Irish Distillers.
So, now which whiskey would I prefer when an póg beatha is required. It’s got to be that reviving rush, that generous warming wave that reaches the parched shore, that rich and rare one, “droplets of pure pleasure” as one of our greatest bards put it, it’s got to be the magnificent Powers John’s Lane Release Single Pot Still.
Love my Jameson, in all its marvellous manifestations, my Redbreast in all its glorious hues and aromas, the various coloured “spots” of Powers but, when it’s a matter of life and death, John’s Lane’s your only man. Slainte!
Widely available, including in Bradley's of Cork, and Very Highly Recommended.
Widely available, including in Bradley's of Cork, and Very Highly Recommended.
The Cork Whiskey Festival begins Monday April 3rd. Get the details of the week-long fest here.