The Whisky Tasting Club

2011 is Irish whiskey’s biggest years for a generation

Those of you who know me will be aware that whatever I lack in journalistic talent I make up for with limitless energy and raw enthusiasm.

But in the past my willingness to get carried away by events has opened me to ridicule so I now police myself carefully. For instance, I have a two day rule, under which I wait 48 hours before responding or commenting on events. And if I think something is particularly great or bad, I revisit it at least twice before passing judgement. In the case of one particular whiskey recently, I waited until I had drunk the whole bottle – purely in the interests of research you understand. And not all at once.

What I said then – and stand by now – is that Irish whiskey Redbreast 12 year old cask strength is the best Irish whiskey I’ve ever tasted.

And now here we go again. For all I’ve said about restraint here’s another huge statement. It might only be the first half of November, but I’m ready to declare 2011 as the most important year for Irish whiskey in a generation. And certainly since Cooley was launched in the late 80s.

I was recently asked to name the Irish whiskey of the year for an American magazine. Given what I’ve said above I guess it’s pretty obvious which one has won. But that isn’t the whole story.

Even eight years ago we’d have been lucky to have had more than one or two new Irish whiskeys all year. This year there have been at least four, and arguably six, that have not only been released but that in a normal year would probably have won Irish whiskey of the year.

Cooley is an independent Irish whiskey company which has dictated the agenda for some time, and when it started 2011 with the release of grain whiskey Greenore 18 and the highly impressive Kilbeggan 18 year old, it looked set for another free run of a year. But Irish Distillers is no mug and it has shown in recent years through the top end Jameson and Midleton whiskeys that it can match whatever else is on offer.

What I didn’t expect was a hat trick of releases that would make 2011 a celebration of all things Irish. Pot still whiskey is a style peculiar to Ireland but this time last year there were only two easily available: Redbreast and Green Spot.

So the triple whammy of Power’s John’s Lane, Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy (both reviewed here) and the aforementioned Redbreast 12 Cask Strength, has sent the category in to orbit.
This week Cooley came back with a new version of peated Irish whiskey Connemara, this one matured partially in oak which has been preserved for 5000 years in Irish peat bogs. Good. Great even…but not in the medals.


These are exciting times for the category. The Spirits Business Irish Whiskey Masters attracted 42 entries this year and the coming years are likely to see plenty more, especially now William Grant has bought Tullamore Dew and has ambitious plans for the future.

Yep, the most exciting year for a generation. And I’m not exaggerating…

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