Tyrconnell NAS, 40%

TyrconnellTyrconnell is an Irish single malt whiskey. I am not sure if there was ever a distillery of that name; the current Tyrconnell is a brand owned by the Cooley distillery. I am not sure if it is triple or double-distilled but I believe Tyrconnell is made with entirely unpeated malt (at any rate I am pretty sure this one is unpeated). I don’t know very much more about Irish whiskey as a whole than I do about Tyrconnell. I’ve had a couple of recent releases from Redbreast, and the occasional Bushmill’s and Jameson’s but have never been very moved to try and educate myself further. I put this down to the fact that my friends in graduate school who were most likely to drink Irish whiskies at bars were also very likely to enjoy stepdancing and/or the music of Enya. In short, my ignorance is entirely justified.

I came across this particular whiskey at our local pub some weeks ago, and quite liked it. As it is both very affordable and locally available I decided to get a bottle and pour from it at our local whisky group’s recent monthly tasting for June. I was expecting it to be a crowd-pleaser with its fruit-forward profile. Much to my surprise, while 2/3 of the group did in fact like it the other third really did not like it. Where most of us found fruit they found chemical notes of plastic and paint-thinner. A couple of members pointed out that there is some crossover between those notes, and so it is possible that the same notes triggered slightly different receptors and associations.

There are also some wine finished Tyrconnell’s on the market. As these are much more expensive than this entry-level NAS bottling I am not sure if I am likely to take a flyer on any of them if I can’t taste a sample first.

Tyrconnell NAS (40%; from my own bottle)

Nose: Acidic; mildly fruity–melon, peach/nectarine, a little bit of lime, kiwi; a bit of over-ripe banana maybe. Some grassy notes too.

Palate: Light, acidic fruit first, and then a big malty wave–roasted malt, with strong notes of chicory that present a reasonable facsimile of smoke. With time the fruitiness gets quite “thick” and a little tropical–mostly melon with a little hint of mango. Some honey too. Goes down very easy.

Finish: Short and a little thin. The same acidic fruit as on the nose and palate, washing out to a peppery woodiness. A little more butyric on the finish than on the palate.

Comments: Nothing remarkable and not a whole lot going on, but it is very pleasurable and an excellent malt for summer evenings. At its price (<$30 in most American markets) it is, in my opinion, a very good value–especially if you like fruity whisky. I would love to taste this at 46% or even 43%–the fruitiness would probably be much more intense, and with greater viscosity in the mouthfeel this would be quite excellent, I think.

Rating: 84 points.

7 thoughts on “Tyrconnell NAS, 40%

  1. In case you are tempted, I would not recommend the finished Tyrconnells, especially at those fanciful prices. Unless you are a big fan of finished whiskies, which I didn’t get the sense that you were! I like your Tyrconnell – and I liked the Trader Joe’s bottle produced by the same distillery even better – but I have a problem with all older Irish whiskies that use finishing to make them look and taste expensive or luxurious. Bushmills 16yo, 21yo and Tyrconnell 10yo – I found all these gimmicky and boring, compared to their mainstream counterparts. I also suspect from my limited experience that these whiskies tend to fall apart easily and not hold up for too long in the bottle. My favorite of the bunch so far has been the Connemara, although people like Sku dissent. You can get a taste of that if you add a drop of Laphroaig to your Tyrconnell :)

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  2. Thanks for the warning, Florin. You’re absolutely right that I am not generally a fan of “finished” whiskies–for pretty much the reasons you state: with short finishes, in particular, the flavours seem layered on top of each other and don’t hold up well with time. Though I have to say I haven’t even liked very many of Glenmorangie’s old wine finishes which were 10 + 2 years, if I am not mistaken. Normally, I would say two years is getting close to double maturation rather than finishing for a ten year old whisky, but most of these haven’t worked for me, which has made me wary of all of Glenmorangie’s experiments in recent years.

    Are there other young Irish whiskies available in the US you might recommend? (Other than Redbreast, that is.)

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  3. Among the geeks I keep up with (Jordan Devereaux, Michael Kravitz, Tim Read) we pretty much agree that the finishes, or even double maturation for that matter, rarely work, and Glenmorangie is exhibit A. The Original – great! The others – not so much. My impression is that they are not put out for the geeks, but for the 99%. Although there are some exceptions, like Tomatin 12yo and Macallan Fine Oak (I know the 10yo and the 17yo), which are quite nice for what they are, when in the right mood.

    I’m not a big fan of Irish whisky, so I’m probably the wrong guy to ask. Heck, I don’t even care for the Redbreast, cask strength or not. This said, I’ll take a Black Bush over JW Black any day. I didn’t have anything bad made by Cooley, under its many guises, probably because it’s a double-distilled single malt; their cask finish Tyrconnell is not bad, it’s just not $80 good; I’ll put aside a sample for you. Oh, and I now remember Jameson Black Barrel, another failed finishing experiment (once again, many disagree). I’ve tasted a few others that were good but not that memorable (maybe Powers 12?). I’ve had a couple that were memorably bad: Tullibardine Single Malt and Concannon. The only ones that I liked-liked were Trader Joe’s and Connemara, both by Cooley. There’s a AD Rattray Cooley floating around that I’d like to taste one day, at cask strength it must be a treat. Let’s see what Beam is going to do with them… BTW, I’m surprised you didn’t mention that Cooley were bought recently by Beam. Maybe you assume that all your readers are up-to-date on their Whisky Advocate… :)

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  4. Irish whiskey tends to do much better in blind tastings because people have preconceptions about it. Irish whiskey is a very broad category, really. A lot of those who don’t like it have just tasted a few brands. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with not liking Irish whiskey.

    Also, distillers in Ireland tend to produce everything around the 40% abv, which can be a bit uninspiring. But that’s changing.

    Some independent bottlers have found some great cask-strength Cooley. I love the pot still stuff, and have tasted some stuff at Midleton that is unrivaled, for me, that is.

    The sector is booming and there are about 12 distilleries opening in Ireland over the next few years.

    Tullibardine is not an Irish whiskey, by the way.

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  5. Hi John: Thanks for the comment. Just want to clarify that the tastings I run are completely blind for everyone but me. So the people I refer to in my post as not caring for this didn’t know that it was an Irish whisky, let alone which one it was.

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  6. Very good. The more blind tastings the better, I think.

    This is the entry-level Tyrconnell. It’s a double-distilled, unpeated malt from Cooley. It’s grand for a young whiskey but nothing special, really. I think the contents are about six years old these days.

    The original Tyrconnell was from the Watt Distillery and it Cooley say it was the biggest selling pre-Prohibition Irish whiskey in the U.S. It was named after a racehourse that came in at 100-1.

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  7. This bottle’s been hanging around the 1/3 full mark for a while and I’ve decided to finally move it along to its end. I am sorry to report that I’m getting more of a soapy note now. If I were reviewing this at this point in the bottle’s life I’d be closer to 80 points.

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