Non-single malt whisky week continues. On Monday I reviewed a Panama rum finished in an ex-Ardbeg cask. We’re not so far from Islay today either. Well, okay, Midleton is in Cork, in southern Ireland and it’s not exactly a quick boat ride to Islay—but we’re in the general geographic vicinity. In all other ways though today’s whiskey is quite some distance from both Panama rum and Ardbeg’s single malt. I last reviewed the Redbreast 12 CS in 2016. That review was of a bottle from 2011. Today’s review is of a bottle from 2020. I was not terribly enthused by that 2011 release but it’s fair to say that Irish whiskey as a category has not generally moved me. This is almost certainly not Irish whiskey’s fault; my palate and preferences are very much formed by the character of Scottish single malt whisky and it’s probably the case that I just don’t get Irish whiskey. I do like fruity whiskies though and by all accounts this is a fruity one. Let’s see if that makes the difference. Continue reading
On Monday I had a review of a malt whisky from a relatively unknown Taiwanese distillery. Here now is a review of a whiskey from the most famous brand name in Ireland: Jameson, made at the Midleton distillery. What do they have in common? Nothing other than the fact that neither is Scottish.
I know very little about Irish whiskey and have reviewed very few Irish whiskies. And I’ve not had very good luck with the few Jamesons I’ve reviewed. Those were all contemporary releases, however, whereas this one was bottled sometime in the early-mid 1980s. I assume it was still made in the same way then, as a blend of grain and pot still whiskey. You are doubtless sick of hearing Scotch whisky geeks go on about how much better single malts and blends were in the 1970s and 1980s. Was the same true of Irish whiskey? Let’s see what this one indicates. Continue reading
Here’s another review of a widely available official release. This time it’s an Irish whiskey. My track record with Irish whiskey has not been very good. I’ve not had very many and very few of the ones I have had have made me want to have more. I’m sure this is just an accident of random, limited selection. In recent years, a number of older Irish whiskies from independent bottlers have received high ratings from a number of sources. And what is more, they’ve been lauded for their fruity quality—a quality I like very much in Scotch whisky. Unfortunately, I’ve not had any of those whiskies—they don’t come cheap and I don’t really spend large amounts of money on individual bottles any more. Not to mention, these are all European releases and it’s harder and harder to get those sent to the US these days.
Anyway, the Redbreast 15 is certainly easily available here. Though it’s been a while since I’ve last tried it—and I haven’t reviewed it—I quite liked the Redbreast 12; I was less impressed by the cask strength version, which I’ve reviewed twice (here and here). Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading
This is my second review of the Redbreast 12 CS. I’d forgotten about that first review when I put this more recently acquired sample on my “Coming Soon…” list at the end of last year. When I discovered the first review I figured I’d go ahead anyway as this was a later batch. But now that I’ve sat down to actually take my notes, I see that this came from the same batch as the previously reviewed sample! Oh well, let’s go ahead anyway and see if I come to any different conclusions this time. And as I say that I remember that when I set up the blog I’d thought that I would re-review whiskies quite frequently, and I really haven’t done so. So, as it turns out, this was my master-plan all along and I’m really not an addled idiot who has no idea what he is doing. Continue reading
Well, I didn’t enjoy the last jumped up Jameson I tried, the Black Barrel. And I didn’t enjoy the last whiskey I drank from the Midleton distillery either (yesterday’s Green Spot). Will Gold be better than Black and Green? Will I ever meet an Irish whiskey that gets me very excited? Let’s dive right in and see.
Jameson Gold Reserve (40%; from a sample received in a swap)
As per Michael K., from whom I got this sample, this is a vatting of ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and virgin oak matured spirit.
Nose: Some vanilla, some orange peel, some milk chocolate. Some malty notes too after a bit and some lime. Not bad at all. The lime expands with time and there’s a mild pepperiness too. With more time there’s some caramel and toffee–the sherry component comes through loud and clear. Gets a little dusty with water but there’s no other major change. Continue reading
Green Spot, a pure/single pot still whiskey from the Midleton distillery (they of Jameson fame) has been a bit of a cult whiskey in the US for some time, largely on account of its unavailability. It showed up on these shores again a month or two ago and was greeted with excitement and hype. One retailer sent out a sales email proclaiming it “The Pappy Van Winkle of Ireland” (I’ll let you guess who that was). Once upon a time this kind of thing would have made me want to score a bottle right away but I am more cautious now. In this particular case, as you will see, I am very glad I waited till I’d had a chance to taste a sample.
Green Spot apparently comprises 25% sherry cask matured spirit, and the spirit itself is triple-distilled in a pot still from a combination of malted and unmalted barley (which is what makes it different from Scottish malt whisky, which is also distilled in a pot still and can also be triple-distilled). Continue reading
This is the cask strength version of the Redbreast 12 that was a huge hit when it arrived in the US some years ago, and it was quite well received in its own right. I have to admit I wasn’t crazy about it the first time I tried it (or, more accurately, I didn’t think it offered enough to justify the price premium over the regular 12) but am interested to see what I make of it this time around.
Redbreast 12 CS (57.7%%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Aromatic, floral wood that gets sweet quite fast, moving from honey to vanilla sweetness in the span of a few seconds. Settles finally in a darker, muskier fruity sweetness framed by polished wood, and there’s more honey and some raisins too. With time it gets a little grassy and the wood gets a little sharper but it’s still the honeyed fruit that dominates. With water there’s a dusty/talcum powder’ish note and more creamy vanilla below that. Continue reading
Irish whiskey is a bit of a blind spot for me and in 2014 I am going to try and drink more of it. I have to say the little that I have tried so far has not thrilled me overmuch. I liked the Tyrconnell NAS at the price and the Redbreast 12 at its introductory price (in the low $30s) but the rest I’ve either found to be not very good or overpriced for what it is. Let’s see where this Powers John Lane falls. It is a single pot still whiskey from the New Midleton distillery who also produce Redbreast, Green Spot, and most famously, Jameson. This is from a mix of bourbon and oloroso sherry casks and I believe the bourbon casks are predominant in the vatting.
After the NAS Black Barrel disaster here’s an older Jameson that will hopefully be better. In fact, this is the oldest Irish whiskey I’ve tried. Its makeup is not entirely clear. On the Jameson website there’s an unexplained reference to it being comprised of “3 beautifully matched whiskeys…matured for at least 18 years”. There seems to be some explanation in the TWE listing which refers to it as a “blend of two potstill whiskies and a single grain”. However, while the TWE listing also adds that this blend “is matured in Oloroso sherry casks and finished in bourbon wood for 6 months” the official website suggests a different maturation regime, saying the whiskeys are “matured for at least 18 years in hand selected American bourbon barrels and European oak casks, where they complete their rite of passage and are finished in first fill bourbon barrels”. So as per the website, it would seem that bourbon wood is involved in the primary maturation as well. But what does it taste like? Continue reading
I don’t know too much about Irish whiskey (as I have noted before). I believe this Black Barrel is a blend like the regular Jameson, though priced a rung above. Indeed, a quick glance at the official website confirms this. It also informs me that this is matured only in ex-bourbon barrels–whereas the regular Jameson seems to be from bourbon and sherry casks–and contains a larger proportion of pot still whiskey in the blend; and like all Jamesons this is triple-distilled. The barrels would seem to be charred more than usual a la the Ardbeg Alligator (hence the name, I suppose). Let’s have at it.
Jameson Select Reserve, Black Barrel (40%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Soft vanilla, toasted (dried) coconut and some grainy spice. The toasted coconut transitions quickly to lightly toasted wood. Very clean but not a whole lot happening. After a few minutes it gets quite neutral and borderline unexpressive–wait, there’s something that puts me in mind of talcum powder. Water doesn’t do anything for the nose. Continue reading