The Whisky Tasting Club The Whisky Tasting Club

Irish Tasting

Is Irish whiskey all the same? No way. Try these 5 great, and very different, Irish whiskeys and see what you think.

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For a country with such a long and proud tradition, Ireland's whiskey industry has experienced some serious problems in recent years and almost found itself marginalized as a serious whiskey producing nation. The reasons for this decline are too numerous to recount here. The important thing is that Irish whiskey (notice the spelling with the 'e') is on its way back with some truly world class whiskeys. As with Scotland, Ireland produces single malt, blended and single grain whiskeys, although it was only a few years ago that the Republic again started to produce single malts (Jameson's isn't a single malt and Bushmills is actually in the North). Unlike Scotland, however, Ireland doesn't produce its own vatted malts. It does, though, produce a style of whiskey that is unique to its shores - the pot still whiskey - a term that continues to confuse many consumers. Although the majority of malt whisky is produced in copper pot stills the world over, this doesn't make actually it a pot still whisky. A pot still whisky is one where both malted and unmalted barley is included in the grist which is used to make the beer subsequently distilled into whiskey. Although there aren't many genuine pot still whiskeys to choose from, by God they're worth trying. One of the main reasons for the recent renaissance is the opening of the Cooley distillery in County Louth. This almost doubled the number of Irish whiskeys available to the public. It also meant that single malts were again produced in the South, and in the process, reviving names from Irish whiskey's past such as theTyrconnell, Connemara and Locke's, two of which are included in this tasting pack. Traditionally, Irish whiskey has been triple-distilled, producing a lighter and more appley spirit. This triple distillation, some Irishmen will tell you, makes it better than Scottish whisky, none of which is triple-distilled. What absolute tosh; what about Auchentoshan and Rosebank, both of which are (or were, in Rosebank's case) triple distilled? They might also tell you that all of Scotland's whisky is peated and none of Ireland's is. Hogwash; what about Glengoyne, which prides itself on having zero peat in it? And, if you think that the Irish don't do peated whiskies, just wait until you taste the Connemara range, including the awesome Turf Mór. Get past of all this hot air and blatant misinformation and you'll discover that Irish whiskey has a huge amount to offer the whisky enthusiast and deserves to be taken every bit as seriously as its rivals. So, who was St. Patrick and why do we celebrate his day? It seems that he was a Romano-Britain who lived in the 5th century. He was captured as a young man by bandits and taken to Ireland to be kept as a slave. He later escaped and became a monk but returned to Ireland some years later as a bishop to spread Christianity. He is also credited with ridding Ireland of its snakes. In actual fact, it seems that there never were any real snakes in Ireland and that the serpents he was deemed to have cleared probably referred to the symbols of the paganism that he met in his role as missionary. Although never formally canonized by the Pope, he is Ireland's patron saint and the day of his death – March 17th – is his official feast day. Although the colour originally associated with St. Patrick was blue, it has since become traditional to wear green ribbons and shamrocks - a symbol used by the man himself to explain the Holy Trinity. St. Patrick's day is taken incredibly seriously the world over - and not just by Catholics – in places as far flung as Japan, Argentina and Monserrat. The denizens of Chicago take it perhaps a little too far by dyeing the Chicago river green. However you choose to celebrate it, make sure you also find time to raise a glass to a resurgent Irish whiskey industry.

Bushmills 10 year old

Bushmills has been distilling for over 400 years, ever since King James I issued a licence to distil in 1608. It triple distils in the traditional Irish fashion and was, until Cooleys revival of the Connemara, Lockes and the Tyrconnell brands, the only producer of single malt whiskey in Ireland. Since being bought out by Diageo in 2005, Bushmills has enjoyed huge investment and is a distillery definitely On The Up.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Melon, peach skins, pears, very light spice, sour redcurrants.
Palate: Very light at first, then the vanilla macaroons and bitter spices start to build, moving towards a soft and spicy finish.
Finish: Rounded and structured, with a nice balance of sweetness and spice. Impressive assertiveness.

Retails for around £30

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Jameson Select Reserve Small Batch

Jameson is by far the best selling Irish whiskey in the world. This small batch select reserve takes all the worldwide quality and balance of the standard Jameson and adds a large dollop of pot still whiskey, providing plummy, rich fruits to the mix. They may have also upped the effects of oak, too, so there's an extra depth to the whiskey.

Fans of the brand will love it, and pot still whiskey fans will appreciate an affordable full-flavoured blend.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Slightly spirit at first, then becoming soft and rounded. Shortbread, tart red berries and buttercream.
Palate: Blackcurrant with increasing spice, becoming slightly bitter at the finish. Smooth.

Retails for around £35

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Tyrconnell Single Malt

This was originally the flagship whiskey at the Watts distillery in County Derry and was the one of the biggest selling Irish whiskeys in the U.S. prior to prohibition. The Tyrconnell was originally a racehorse that won the prestigious National Produce Stakes in 1876, despite odds of 100-1. This remarkable achievement led to the commemorative Tyrconnell label which survived until the distillery closed in 1925. In 1988, Cooley acquired the brand and brought it back from the dead.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Sherbet, lemon and lime starburst.
Palate: Nice balance of green and orange fruits. Not too sweet. Refreshing and summery.
Finish: Medium and fairly sweet, with a dash of oak holding the fruitiness in check.

Retails for around £30

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Redbreast 12 year old

Redbreast is a pure potstill whisky made by Jamesons at their Midleton distillery near Cork. A pure potstill whiskey is defined as one that is made from a mash of malted and unmalted barley and is distilled in a potstill (i.e. in batches, as opposed to in a continuous distillation process used for whiskeys like Jamesons). So the production process is the same as a Scottish single malt, except for the fact that they use a mixture of 40% malted and 60% unmalted barley in the mash.

This has an intense and more savoury aspect to it, and there are sour apples among the sweet ones.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Big hit of toffee, green fruits and wood. Slightly coffee-ish.
Palate: Red and green fruits and toffee. Nicely balanced.
Finish: Quite rich, spiciness gives it structure.

Retails for around £38

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Teeling Small Batch

The Teeling Whisky Company was founded by Jack Teeling, the son of John Teeling, who founded the Cooley distillery in 1987. The companys philosophy is to challenge the norm by creating alternative Irish whiskeys with greater depth of personality and character than the current mass-market optionsfrom a non-aged Irish Whiskey spirit to our range of very old hand selected casks of Single Malts and all in between. This high strength blend has been matured in rum casks for nine months prior to bottling.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Light and sugary. Baked apples and Demarera sugar. A sense of a more complex but distant element to this one that you can never quite put my finger on.
Palate: Sweet and smooth but with a big oaky hit. The oak and sugar coat the mouth and hangs around forever.

Retails for around £30-35

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