The Resurgence of Irish Whiskey

*** NO REPRODUCTION FEE *** DUBLIN : 9/06/2015 : Pictured are brothers Jack and Stephen Teeling at the official opening of the new Teeling Whiskey Distillery and visitor centre in The Liberties, Dublin 8. The €10 million distillery is the first new distillery in Dublin in over 125 years and the only fully operational distillery in the city. As well the distillery, there is a state-of-the-art visitor centre, which will host whiskey tasting tours, a café, a bar, a private event space for hire and a gift shop. Founded by Jack Teeling in 2012, the Teeling Whiskey Company (TWC) was set up to revive his family-old trademark of Irish whiskey and bring distilling back to Dublin. TWC is run by Jack together with his brother Stephen and the opening of this new distillery means that they have complete control of all aspects of their whiskey production, from grain to bottle. The distillery will be open to the public from Saturday, June 13th, 9.30am - 5.30pm. For more, visit www.TeelingWhiskey.com Picture Conor McCabe Photography. MEDIA CONTACT : Sarah Doyle, notorious PSG E: sarah.doyle@notoriouspsg.ie M:+353 879530551
Source: Teeling Whiskey

Midway through 2015, something remarkable happened in Dublin—a whiskey distillery opened. The city, which is world renowned for its bibacity, had been without an operating distillery since the 1970s. Teeling distillery’s arrival in the city’s ancient Newmarket Square was greeted warmly, not least for the droves of spending tourists it has lured.

For much of the 20th century, Irish whiskey was a dead man walking. Jameson’s pleasant, fruity whiskey was known worldwide, as was Belfast’s more grainy Bushmills. But few other brands found their way off the Emerald Isle, and only a handful of whiskey distilleries were in operation. Scotch whisky and American bourbon were held in far higher esteem most places.

It was quite a fall-off from the glory days. In the late 1800s, Ireland was the world’s biggest whiskey-maker, churning out even more alcohol than Scotland. Dublin alone had a few dozen whiskey distilleries, such as John Power and Son’s massive John’s Lane distillery. It belched forth 900,000 gallons of liquor per year, employed 275 men and had its own fire-suppression crew. (Alcohol and its vapors are very flammable.) Back then, Irish whiskey was highly regarded, and it was served as far away as San Francisco, where wharf bars put it in coffee.

Irish whiskey’s terrible fall began before the fin de siècle. Scottish distillers proved to be tough competition. Many of them replaced or supplemented their pot stills (which look like gourds) with more efficient and productive column stills. A whiskey glut ensued, and prices plummeted. Liquor firms in both nations went bankrupt. Continue reading “The Resurgence of Irish Whiskey”

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Bunratty Potcheen and Knockeen Hills Irish Poteen

Editor’s note: We’re republishing this article from March 2002 because the old copy still gets so much reader traffic.

You might be asking yourself, “o.k.- what is it?” Well, the word poteen is a bit like the word “moonshine” in America. It refers to a small batch, clear spirit that is unaged and carries connotations of the illicit. Indeed, for some time, the Irish Revenue Commissioners, who oversee these matters, forbade companies to call their product poteen because, as one commissioner put it in correspondence with Knockeen Hills,”strong association in the public mind of the term ‘poteen’ with illicitly distilled spirits and the confusion that the use of such terms would give rise to as the duty status of such spirits.” Right.

However, the authorities have relented a bit and now we in America are benefiting. At least two brands of Poteen (some times spelled “poitin,” or “potcheen”) have made their way to The Review’s front door.

We took all samples both up and with a few drops of water.

Bunratty PotcheenFirst up on the menu was Bunratty Potcheen, made by Bunratty Mead & Liqueur Co. Ltd. Of County Clare, ireland. Bunratty is now being imported by A.V. Imports (www.avimports.com). At 90 proof, it is, believe it or not, the mildest of the poteens sampled. The Bunratty, interestingly, had a fruit nose- almost like raspberries. In the mouth, though, it was spirit, melon, and earth. The close was dry, but not parching. Surprisingly smooth and intriguing. (Rating ****)

Click HERE to buy Bunratty Potcheen!

Knockeen Hills of Waterford, Ireland is handsomely packaged and comes in three strengths: the green is101 proof, the gold is 140 proof, and the black is a hefty 180 proof (for our review of the 140 proof version, please see http://www.AlcoholReviews.com/SPIRITS/knockeen.html).

Knockeen HIll Irish PoteenAll three of them are distilled three times and are imported by Bradley Trading Corp (www.bradleytradingcorp.com). The 101 proof version nosed, remarkably, of banana and pear. The 140 proof had a much fainter nose, with perhaps a hint of grain and green olives. The nose of the 180 variant, I dare say, would fool many into thinking it is rum. It’s sugary, and the only other note we could locate was a wee bit of apple.

In the mouth the 101 proof was a pleasure- banana mostly, with a bit of pear. Quite smooth and fruity. (Rating ****1/4) Then came the might black label. Ninety percent alcohol- gracious: drink with caution and keep all flames, including cigarrettes, away! The 180 offered up molasses and caramel and though very dry, it wasn’t scorching hot. In light of the proof, that’s impressive. (Rating ***3/4)

Clearly, there are some excellent possibilities for mixed drinks.  Most obviously, wherever one uses vodka, one might just as well use Poteen.  Those who enjoy vodka martinis might well substitute Poteen for vodka.  One might also make a Mudslide with it (Kahlua, Irish Creme liqueur, creme), Cosmopolitans, and…

 

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Barenjager Honey Liqueur, Bushmills Irish Honey Liqueur, and Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur

Barenjager LiqueurBushmills Irish Honey LiqueurWild Turkey American Honey Liqueuer

The winter cold season is upon us, and we are making toddies nightly. A measure of booze, a slice of lemon (pestle it in the booze), some honey, and steaming water atop it. Simple.

Some time back, we gave a glowing review to Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Whiskey Liqueur. It works just fine for toddies.

But, JD is not the only honey hooch worth trying. Here are three other options that we have used lately. All of these honey liqueurs might be purchased through our preferred online retailer.

Barenjager (70 proof; $25  bottle) is a classic. It is a nice mixture of sweet honey and intriguing herbs. (Rating: Very Good) Read more at http://www.barenjagerhoney.com/.

Bushmills Irish Honey (70 proof; $24) is a new entrant to the market. It shows mild honey and the unmistakable Bushmills’ grainy flavor. (Rating: Good) Read more at http://www.bushmills.com/BMBushmillsIrishHoneyDetail.html.

Wild Turkey American Honey: (71 proof; $22) also is fresh to market. It is the most flavorful of the three, with a fat Bourbon aroma and honey playing a distant second fiddle. (Rating: Very Good) Read more at http://www.americanhoney.com/.

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John L. Sullivan Irish Whiskey and Concannon Irish Whiskey

John L Sullivan Irish Whiskeyalive_whiskey_concannon01Twenty years ago, Irish whiskey was a pretty sleepy category of spirits. Indeed, the whole 20th century was a bit of a downer for it. As we recounted in Whiskey: A Global History, Ireland was the whiskey king for much the 19th century. Its pot stills churned out fantastic amounts of spirit that was consumed in England, Europe, Africa, and as far as California.

But then everything went bad. The Scots and their column stills matched their production and sold their spirit more cheaply.  At the fin de siècle, the European whiskey market collapsed from a glut of product.  World War I, Prohibition, and political tensions with England further crushed the Irish whiskey industry.  In 1875 there were 60 distilleries in Ireland; by 1920, only a handful remained. For the last few decades of the 20th century, only two distilleries operated—Middleton (maker of Jameson, Red Breast, and others) and Bushmills.

The 21st century has brought a minor renaissance in Irish whiskey.  Midelton and Bushmills both have upped their games, bringing far better whiskeys to market than they had for some time.  And, happily, two smaller distilleries have begun producing spirit, the formerly mothballed Kilbeggan, and Cooley Distillery. The latter has won myriad prizes for its remarkable whiskeys, many of which have been praised by AlcoholReviews.com.

Both John L. Sullivan and Concannon Irish Whiskey are made by Cooley.

John L. Sullivan reminds us a bit of our beloved Powers Irish Whiskey, which is made by Midleton. The proof is identical (80 proof); and the style is also the same—oily, barley-forward flavor. However, it also shows a fruity note and more grain. John L. Sullivan Irish Whiskey, named for the famed bare-fisted boxer, is a bit lighter than Powers. It also is more pricey—about $35 a bottle. This Irish whiskey is best taken neat, so that one can swish it about the mouth and enjoy the viscosity and nuance. (Rating: Very Good) Read more at http://www.johnlwhiskey.com/

As for Concannon, it is an interesting, and unusual bird. Like John L. Sullivan, Concannon is aged in Bourbon casks, but it is finished in Syrah casks. This is not the first Irish whiskey burnished.  Jameson 1780, released in the 1990s (if we recall), was finished in sherry casks. The Syrah casking adds a clear winey-red fruit flavor to the spirit, which is pleasant. Thankfully, the Syrah does not dominate—the barley whiskey taste more than holds its own, helping this 80 proof spirit remain sturdy and appealing.  Retail priced at $25 or less, this is very good bang for the buck. (Rating: Good)  Read more at http://concannonirishwhiskey.com/

Readers may shop for Irish whiskeys online here.

 Note: A May 2012 announcement by John L. Sullivan whiskey stated “Following its acquisition of the Cooley Distillery in Ireland, Beam Global Spirits & Wine, Inc. has made the decision to end contract production for the John L. Sullivan brand of Irish whiskey.”  Pity.  Read more at: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=291716340914212&id=183681718603

 

 

 

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Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskeys

Ask your average liquor drinker “What does Scotch taste like?” and you likely will hear the word “smoky” used.  Which is usually true, as most Scotch whiskies are made with peated barley.

And if you were to ask a drinker about Irish whiskey, you probably would be told it is “sorta sweet,” “fruity,” and “light-bodied.”  Which also is the case frequently, although many of the Midleton Irish whiskeys are robustly flavored.

All of which is to say that drinkers tend to lump boozes into flavor categories.  Then along comes Cooley Distillery with its Connemara Irish whiskeys and blows these categories to bits.  If you blind-tasted any of the Connemara whiskeys, you probably would declare them “fine Islay whiskies.”  Like Ardbeg, they are very lightly colored;  and they offer smoke and even iodine notes.

Why are they so similar to Scotch?  Well, because they are made with peated malted barley in copper pot stills just like single malt Scotch.

The standard Connemara (80 proof) tastes of smoke, iodine, and nuts (Rating ****).  Connemara 12-year (80 proof) is even better, as a floral note joins the melody. (Rating ****1/2)  Connemara also has come out in a cask strength version.  We tasted a 116.4 proof version many moons ago, and found it eye-popping and a must-try for the malt maniac.  Currently there is a 115.8 proof version selling.

To see if an online retailer can sell you a bottle of Connemara, click here, and then try here.

 

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Jameson Irish Whiskeys: Jameson Standard, Jameson 12-Year Old, Jameson 1780, and Jameson Gold Reserve Irish Whiskey

Jameson Gold Reserve Irish Whiskey

Often we are asked by whiskey virgins, “What whiskey should we  try?”

Irish is a fine place to start.  It usually is not very pricy, and Irish tends to be a gentle, approachable whiskey, unlike Scotch, which can overwhelm the unseasoned palate.

Twenty years ago, there were not a whole lot of Irish whiskeys available outside of Ireland and England. (Happily, times have changed.)  Back then, regular Bushmills and Jameson were usually all you could find.

Jameson is  a storied brand, but for a time it sort of fellow into a ho-hum rut.  It was fine to sip, but no great shakes.  The company did get its focus back, and these days Jameson is a brand worthy of attention.

The standard Jameson Irish whiskey  (80 proof) remains a solid drank (Rating ***1/2).

But Jameson 12-Year Old  (80 proof)  is significantly  better.  It is rounder, richer, and more nuanced.  (Rating ****)

Jameson 1780  (80 proof) is tricky to find these days. It is very different from the standard Jameson. It is sherry casked, which makes it a little less sweet. The sherry flavor comes through and this whiskey has a more oily texture. (Rating ****)

Then there is Jameson Gold (80 proof) –oh my.  This $70 or so a bottle Irish whiskey is delicious.  It is utterly silky in the mouth, and shows flavors of honey, barley, orange peel and more.  Wow. (Rating ****1/2)

Feel free to contact our retailer to see if he can sell you any of these Jameson Irish whiskeys. Otherwise, surf to http://www.JamesonWhiskey.com/ to learn more.

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