Irish whiskey tends to be a lighter spirit than Scottish whisky and there are two main reasons for this. Irish whisky tends to be triple distilled and Scottish whisky tends to be double distilled. Irish whiskey tends to use un-malted barley whereas Scottish whisky tends to use malted barley. Note the liberal use of the word ‘tends’ – there are exceptions.
That’s enough of the waffle, let’s get on to the tasting led by ‘Black Horse’ Paul, who conjured up a great selection of whiskeys - with an e.
Quiet Man 8 YO – 40% ABV, £35. A single malt and their website tells us it is a premium spirit for the modern-day whisky drinker – hmm. The name Quiet Man was inspired by the brand owner’s father, a barman well known for not telling any tales.
Nose: Raisins, vanilla, orange, and banana
Taste: Tangerine, elderflower, green apples, and some honey sweetness
Finish: Short and floral, finishing with mild white pepper
Pearse Lyons 7 YO – 43% ABV, £45. Founded in 2012 Pearse Lyons started distilling in Carlow before opening their own distillery in Dublin in 2017 in the former St James church which was painstaking restored by the Lyons family themselves.
Nose: Bananas, juniper, Parma violets and a faint whisp of smoke
Taste: Ginger, pepper, pear, cardamom, and clove
Finish: Short with ginger spice, nutmeg and a little oakiness.
Green Spot Château Barton 10YO – 46% ABV, £55. Produced specifically for Mitchell & Son of Dublin by the Middleton distillery in Cork. This release has been aged in Bourbon and Sherry casks before being finished in Château Barton red wine casks. Mitchell & Son founded in 1805 as a tea and cake shop before expanding into wines and spirits in 1887 and then into becoming an independent bottler. The name Green spot refers to the family tradition of marking barrels with a daub of paint to indicate their age. Their range originally included yellow, blue, and red spot versions.
Nose: Toffee sweetness, butterscotch popcorn, orange peel and a slight medicinal aroma
Taste: Sweet and fruity, toffee apple maybe and some custard reminiscent of creme brûlée.
Finish: Warm and earthy, ginger biscuits. A few drops of water bring out the ginger spice.
Waterford Ballykilcavan 1.2, 3YO – 50% ABV, £70. Based in a former Guinness brewery in the southeast or Ireland production started in 2016. The founder was formerly the CEO of Bruichladdich distillery on Islay and it was here that he first introduced the terroir concept and the effect of microclimate and soil on whisky. Ballykilcavan is made using 100% Irish barley sourced from a single farm surrounded by woodland, full details of which are given on their website.
Nose: Light, fresh and fruity, honey sweetness, lemon sherbet, damp grass.
Taste: A creamy mouth feel with sweet fruits, cereal, and aniseed
Finish: A drying white pepper lingers with apricot and chocolate in the mix.
Waterford Bannow Island 1.2, 3YO – 50%ABV, £70. Again, this made from 100% Irish whisky from a single farm, this time surrounded by coast on three sides.
Nose: Heather, caramel, vanilla, orchard fruits and furniture polish!
Taste: Creamy, apples, pears, and pepper spice
Finish: White pepper and mocha fading into saltiness
At the end of the evening each of us rated the whiskies in order of preference and in
1st place – Waterford Ballykilcavan
2nd place – Waterford Bannow Island
3rd place – Green Spot
4th place – Pearse Lyons
5th Place – Quiet Man
We then asked which would be the ‘buy’ choice. This sometimes puts an interesting shade on the scoring and tonight was no exception with the majority opting for the Green Spot as the one they would be more inclined to buy. The difference in our scoring of the Waterford’s and the Green Spot wasn’t very much, but it was felt that the Green Spot, although not inexpensive, was better value for money. Waterford Balleykilcavan was the second most popular choice for a purchase.
Many thanks to Paul for another very entertaining evening.