I know very little about Irish whiskey and I’ve not had very good luck with most of the Irish whiskies I’ve tried (and reviewed). I don’t know much about the Cooley distillery but am hoping this 21 yo will continue my recent positive Irish experience with the Redbreast 15 and be better than the last product of the Cooley distillery that I’ve reviewed (this Teeling). Okay, what do I know about Cooley? I know they make Tyrconnell and Connemara and are the source of a terrible whiskey with a Minnesota connection: 2 Gingers. Connemara is their peated line and presumably this Cooley 21 is basically what would be super-aged Connemara if released officially. I say this because I’m not aware of the distillery itself releasing whiskey under a Cooley brand. This one was bottled by the estimable Cadenhead of Campbeltown, Scotland. It was bottled in 2013 from a single bourbon barrel and was very well-received. Let’s see what it’s like.
Cooley 21, Peated (56.3%; Cadenhead’s; bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Earthy, rooty notes and lemon; not much smoke to speak of at first. More porridgey on the second sniff and here’s a bit of smoke beginning to emerge now. The lemon turns to citronella quite quickly and there’s a bit of paraffin too. With time and air the fruit turns musky. More smoke with water and more of the musky fruit (baked apple?); the citronella’s still here.
Palate: Very salty arrival and behind the salt is quite a bit of ink and some stirrings of fruit (citrus, hints of tropical notes). The fruit expands with each sip but it’s a bit too hot at full strength. Let’s see what water does. Saltier and more acidic with water: a big hit of salted lime. Some minutes later the fruit is to the fore (pineapple, lychee) and it’s a bit smokier.
Finish: Long. The smoke is most apparent here and it’s quite ashy. The fruit expands too—mildly tropical notes (ripe pineapple mostly). With water the citrus is more zesty than fruity and the smoke gets sootier. A similar progression as on the palate with muskier fruit popping out as it sits. The salt comes back too
Comments: This is very good indeed. It reminds me a lot of the Croftengea 9, I recently reviewed. Of course, that one was less than half the age of this and I suspect about a third the price—and, in my opinion, it’s better as well. That said, it may be time for me to try the regular Connemara that’s readily available in the US.
Rating: 88 points.
I guess that explains why I didn’t care for 2 Gingers. I know next to nothing about spirits so when someone made me they well-hyped Big Ginger (2 Gingers, ginger ale) and wasn’t impressed I wondered what the problem was. This was supposed to be AMAZING, especially the whiskey! It wasn’t. It was very disappointing.
In general, in the world of spirits if something has a wacky name the odds are good it’s shit. Plus you may have run into the “this has a Minnesota connection and so all us Minnesotans must praise it” thing.