Showing posts with label Irish whiskey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Irish whiskey. Show all posts

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Twenty Different Whiskeys in One Night? You Bet!

Last night I joined forces with Kenneth Boll of Cask & Ale as we made our way to Milwaukee to host a charity tasting event... with twenty whiskeys.  This wasn't a choice of twenty, it was twenty pours for each attendee!

That sounds like a lot and it was, but we did it safely. Anyone who drove to the event required a designated driver, and those who didn't drive walked in from their nearby homes. There was also plenty of food and water. Most folks were good about using dump buckets.

The venue was a lot of fun. Dave, the organizer, held the event at his home - but we were on top of his garage - he converted the rooftop to a deck!  Thankfully, the weather mostly cooperated, no rain, not overly hot, but it was very humid. As such, no photos of me melting in my shirt will be posted.

This was a worldwide whiskey tour, giving folks a chance to taste a little of everything. There were a few selections I would have liked to have added in, but we had a few requests which included not to serve anything peated, and for a majority of the pours to be American. Here's what was served:

    • Russell's Reserve 10 Bourbon
    • Michter's 10 Bourbon
    • Jos. A. Magnus Triple Cask Bourbon
    • Remus Repeal Reserve Bourbon
    • Redemption High Rye Cask Strength Bourbon
    • Jefferson's Ocean Voyage 10 Cask Strength Bourbon
    • Old Forester 1920 Bourbon
    • Booker's Country Ham Bourbon
    • Elijah Craig Barrel Proof A119 Bourbon
    • Thomas S. Moore Extended Port Cask Finished Bourbon
    • Whistlepig 12 Rye
    • High West A Midwinter Night's Dram Rye
    • Angel's Envy Rye Finished in Rum Casks
    • Nikka Coffey Grain Japanese Whisky
    • Midleton Very Rare Irish Whisky
    • Redbreast 12 Cask Strength Irish Whisky
    • Brenne 10 French Single Malt
    • Auchentoshan Three Wood Single Malt Scotch
    • The Glendronach 12 Single Malt Scotch
    • Paul John Classic Single Malt Indian Whisky

The crowd favorites seemed to be equally split between the Remus Repeal Reserve, A Midwinter Night's Dram, Michter's 10, and Paul John Classic. 

When all was said and done, everyone said they learned a lot and had a great time. They asked about conducting a future whiskey event, and I even had Dave agree that the next one could include some peated whiskies!

My favorite part of whiskey, even beyond sipping it, is sharing the knowledge and watching folks expand their horizons.  If you're interested in an event of your own, let's talk. Learn, Laugh, and Enjoy Great Whiskey! 


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Dubliner Irish Whiskey with Honeycomb Liqueur Review & Tasting Notes


There are days where it is hot, you're tired, and you just want something refreshing to sip on. It was the first such day in Wisconsin for 2021, Mrs. Whiskefellow and I did yard work, and we were both pooped. I didn't want a full-blown whiskey, it was just not the right day (weird, right?). But, I was hurting, I wanted to relax, and I was hoping for a little treat.

That added up to the perfect opportunity to crack open a bottle of Dubliner Irish Whiskey with Honeycomb Liqueur.  Legally speaking, this isn't a whiskey. It is below the 40% ABV (80°). While there's no age statement, because it is a liqueur, it doesn't have to meet Irish whiskey standards. It also has, if I had to guess, way beyond the allowable limit of E150A caramel coloring for Irish whiskey. What's the allowable limit? That's a fair question. An amount or percentage isn't specified, but the rule is that it can only affect color and not the flavor. 

Produced by The Dublin Liberties Distillery, and packaged at 30% ABV, you can expect to pay about $20.99 for a 750ml bottle. There is no indication of what the various percentages are of each ingredient (whiskey, honeycomb liqueur, and caramel coloring), and I'm not entirely sure it matters.

Before I get started with the review, I'd like to thank The Dublin Liberties for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious and discover what this is all about.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Dubliner presented as the color of a new, copper penny. Now, keep in mind, there is caramel coloring added. A heavy, sticky rim was formed, which yielded watery legs that fell back to the pool.

Nose:  An explosion of butterscotch walloped me in the face before I even attempted to take a sniff. Once I managed past it, smells of saltwater taffy, chocolate, and orange candy slices permeated my nostrils. When I drew the aroma into my mouth, that butterscotch bomb returned.

Palate:  I expected this to be sugary-sweet, but instead I was greeted by a soft, airy mouthfeel that offered just a hint of warmth to remind me this was still whiskey-based. Butterscotch discs and pecan started things off, which gave way to caramel and white chocolate on the middle. The back featured honey and cinnamon.

Finish:  Sweet with honey, pecan, and white chocolate, the dusting of cinnamon at the end seemed near-perfect. It was a longer finish than I anticipated, especially considering the 60°.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Cutting to the chase, I loved it. So did Mrs. Whiskeyfellow. The nose sucks you in, the palate convinces you, and the finish just makes you smile. Would this make a great cocktail base? Probably. Am I making a cocktail with it? Not likely, because I don't see the point of going beyond a neat pour. This is delightfully sweet, but not overpowering, and perfect for a hot summer's day. In fact, I'd declare this one of those dangerous drinks, one you can drink several pours before things sneak up on you. With or without the low price, it a very easy Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Friday, April 23, 2021

Dubliner Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

Long ago and not so far away, Irish whiskey used to be the #1-selling spirit in the world. But, as luck would have it, that faltered. Mismanagement, tariffs and trade wars, and Prohibition all took their respective tolls, and in relatively quick fashion, the Irish whiskey market was decimated and close to death, with only three distilleries remaining.

Fast forward almost eight decades, and Irish whiskey is now the fastest-growing segment over the last three years. New distilleries have been coming online, the whiskey is coming to age, and folks just like Irish whiskey. Usually triple-distilled, it is known for being smooth and easy to drink.

Today I'm exploring The Dubliner, a three-year blend of single malt and grain whiskeys. Distilled by Darryl McNally, who has over 17 years of distilling experience and the Master Distiller at The Dublin Liberties, The Dubliner is an affordable entry-level Irish whiskey that has been aged in former Kentucky Bourbon barrels. Proofed to 40% ABV (or 80°), you can expect to pay about $28 for a 750ml bottle. 

I'd like to thank Quintessential Brands, the owner of The Dublin Liberties, for providing me a sample of The Dubliner in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious and find out what this whiskey is all about.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Dubliner was the color of old gold. It formed a medium rim and thick, watery legs that crashed back into the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  A fruity bouquet of green apple, pear, honey, grass, and vanilla permeated my nostrils. When I pulled the vapor into my mouth, I found more pear.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was unusual. With a medium body, it was initially sweet, but the next sip became spicy. On the front, I tasted dried golden apple and tangerine. The middle reminded me of the muddling mix of an Old Fashioned with the fruit, sugar, and aromatic bitters. It was also accompanied by smoked honey. On the back, there were flavors of malt, oak, and clove. 

Finish:  Medium in length, the finish consisted of charred oak, cocoa powder, and smoked honey.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Interestingly enough, this is marketed as an entry-level Irish whiskey. I can understand that, too. It is low-proof, sweet, slightly spicy, and in the typical fashion of Irish whiskey, an easy-sipper. There's no heat, there's nothing offensive (but, again, that's characteristic of Irish whiskey). You'd think with my experienced palate and the fact that I've been on an Irish whiskey kick lately, that I'd find The Dubliner to be boring, and you'd be absolutely wrong. To make sure I wasn't out of my mind, I had Mrs. Whiskeyfellow try it and told her nothing. She loved it. Not only is this an easy drinker, it is an easy Bottle rating. I'm betting you'll walk away convinced this one is a smart addition to your home bar. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Ha'Penny Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

Sometimes, when you wander the aisles of your local liquor store, you find something new. And then, when you're traveling, you wander the aisles of a far-off liquor store and you're more apt to discover the undiscovered.

Now that COVID is starting to (finally) start to show cracks, I'm able to explore liquor stores in further-flung areas. While shopping in East Dubuque, I stumbled upon a bottle of Ha'Penny Irish Whiskey. Maybe you've heard of it, maybe not. Toss me in the latter group. But, for $27.00, I wasn't going to pass it up, especially after reading the label.

This is a blended Irish whiskey using four different types of cooperage:  ruby port pipes, Oloroso sherry butts, first-fill Bourbon barrels, and twice-charred oak. The label wasn't done shelling out the transparency.  The port pipes held malt, as did the Bourbon barrels. The sherry butts and twice-charred oak held grain. It is non-chill filtered and bottled at 43% ABV (86°). It is produced by the Pearse Lyons Distillery with the key term being produced - meaning they likely didn't distill some or all of it.

Further research told me the final blend was 38% malt and 62% grain.  The whiskeys aged between four and ten years.  The Bourbon barrels came from Town Branch Distillery

"For Dublin is a city of character and of characters and is warm, witty, and welcoming in equal measure. And that spirit has connected people through the years, just as the Ha'Penny Bridge joined the people of Dublin." - Pearse Lyons Distillery

If you're like me and wondering what the term Ha'Penny means, that's "a halfpenny" which was the toll required to cross the bridge.

Let's #DrinkCurious and find out what this affordable whiskey is all about.

Appearance:  In my trusty Glencairn glass, Ha'Penny presented as golden with an orange tinge. It created a sticky, thicker rim, which led to heavy, slow legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  I found the aromas to be sweet and fruity.  I found a punch of honey married to apricot, raisin, and stewed peach. Those were joined by nutmeg and a smattering of woods - I was able to identify oak and cedar, but there was an exotic that I couldn't pin down.  When I brought the vapor into my mouth, chocolate and golden apple danced across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was both oily and buttery. At my first sip, I could swear I was drinking a French Chardonnay. On the front was vanilla, brown sugar, and coriander. As it flowed mid-palate, I tasted apricot, date, and golden raisin. Then, on the back, it became earthy, with oak and apple.

Finish:  The length of the finish was difficult to categorize. Some sips gave me a short finish. Others, it became long. It kept cycling between the two. It was never somewhere in-between. A big blast of oak was followed by lemon and orange zest and ended with coriander.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  There was nothing mind-blowing about Ha'Penny but it was absolutely an enjoyable experience. I loved the mouthfeel and how fruity things are. I appreciate that Pearse Lyons didn't dilute this all the way to 80°, which it could easily have done. But, I find the extra proof points give it the character it deserves. The price is a no-brainer. This is better than many Irish whiskeys at a similar price-point. As such, it takes my Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The Dublin Liberties Keeper's Coin Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


My 2020 Whiskey of the Year was an Irish whiskey out of The Dublin Liberties Distillery called Murder Lane.  Without getting into too many details, I've really enjoyed everything that's come out of this distillery so far.  For the most part, they're priced fairly and very flavorful.

I've been an eager student of history for as long as I can remember. One of the things I can appreciate about The Dublin Liberties is that they don't mess around with their whiskey backstories, rather, each release concentrates on the historical context of the area. The Dublin Liberties was a pretty rough part of town, located just outside of Dublin proper.

Today I'm reviewing Keeper's Coin, and the story is equally fascinating. 

"In the 1600s, under Christchurch Cathedral, there were a series of crypts that were used as illicit drinking dens. The cellar keepers each had their own coins and casks—which is where the name keeper’s coin is derived from. Excavations under the Cathedral unearthed a purse full of silver coins and several leather bottles still containing alcohol." - The Dublin Liberties Distillery

Keeper's Coin is a 16-year triple-distilled single malt that spent most of its life in first-fill Bourbon barrels, then finished in 30-year-old PX sherry hogsheads. Bottled at 46% AVB (92°),  you can expect to pay in the neighborhood of $159.99 for a 750ml. There were only 1700 bottles produced. I'd like to thank The Dublin Liberties Distillery for providing me a sample of Keeper's Coin in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. It is time to #DrinkCurious and discover if this is worth the premium.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Keeper's Coin presented as the color of old gold, much like a gold coin.  A surprisingly thick rim was created, and that led to a heavy curtain of wavy legs that fell back into the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Pineapple, pineapple, pineapple!  It was unmistakable. Aromas of lemon zest, honey, vanilla, and malt were buried underneath. When I inhaled through my open mouth, the pineapple and vanilla carried through.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thick, creamy, and full-bodied.  On the front, lemon was introduced and then pineapple shoved it out of the way. The middle was far more complicated, with stewed pear, baked apple, golden raisin, apricot, and milk chocolate. Toasted oak, toasted almond, and honey danced on the back.

Finish:  One would think with all that sugary sweetness, there would be no room for spice on the finish. Clove and freshly-cracked black pepper through me for a loop before the pineapple and honey said they weren't quite done yet. The finish was medium in length, and as everything faded away, vanilla rose from out of nowhere. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I found Keeper's Coin to be full of flavor, and I'm usually a sucker for pineapple notes.  Keeper's Coin had plenty of it to go around from the nose to the palate, and the palate to the finish. It also had a very rich mouthfeel.

I have to consider a few things with Keeper's Coin.  First is the fact that this is a 16-year-old Irish whiskey. The second is that I stated for $120.00, I could be persuaded to buy a bottle of Murder Lane, but wouldn't pay much more than that and tossed a Bar rating at it. I'm looking at something three years older for another $30.00. This leads to a couple of questions:

  • Did I enjoy Keeper's Coin?  Most certainly.
  • Did I enjoy it more than Murder Lane?  Truth be told I would rate Murder Lane higher than Keeper's Coin.

While very good, I still can't see myself paying $160.00 for this whiskey. That leaves me with no other rating than a Bar for this one, same as with Murder Lane. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

And my 2020 Whiskey of the Year is...

2020 has been one heck of a year. We've been locked up in lockdown, we've had whiskey events canceled, we've lost loved ones and we've had, of course, yet another miserably long election season.  At the same time, 2020 has been an amazing year, at least whiskey-wise. I've had some mind-blowing whiskeys and been introduced to many new (and new to me) brands. Quite frankly, I ran across very few mediocre whiskeys this year.

But now, 2020 has come to an end, and the end of a year means it is time for the 2020 Whiskeyfellow Awards

Yeah, I know, lots of folks do their "Best Of" lists and I'm no exception. However, my annual "Best Of" lists are different (no, really, they are, I promise). My list is geared to the average whiskey drinker.

First of all, the average whiskey drinker doesn't stop drinking in October. Yet, many of these "Best Of" lists come out then. Um, hello? The year is not over in October!  The only thing I can factor is they're desperate to be the first one to render an opinion. Yawn. I actually wait until the end of the year because I'm tasting stuff all year long.

Even more important is being able to get your hands on something that wins an award. After all, if I'm naming something that is hopelessly out of reach for you, what's the point of my naming it as the "Best Of" anything? So I can have the "Best Of" bragging rights? That's terribly self-centered and absolutely unhelpful.

Anything that is up for consideration must be something I've tasted. Unlike some famous but unnamed folks, I don't have a team of interns separating the wheat from the chaff on my behalf. I'm tasting everything I can get my hands on - good, bad, or ugly. This is something I never want to change.  I don't even want one intern. I love the #DrinkCurious lifestyle. Plus it is my palate you have trusted, not someone else's!

After saying all of that, what will the average whiskey drinker not see on my "Best Of" list to make it relevant?

The Impossible. That means nothing Van Winkle, no Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, no Birthday Bourbon, etc. The average whiskey drinker isn't getting his or her hands on a bottle unless they're very lucky. There is no point to include these.

The Unaffordable. This one is more subjective, I know very few people who can afford to drop several hundred (or thousands) of dollars on a bottle of booze. I know I can't. 

The Store Pick.  Private barrels are awesome. They could very easily sweep a "Best Of" award from me because I pick many barrels each year. But, again, that's not very helpful if the store pick is in Wisconsin and you're in Florida with no reasonable way to get it, or if you do travel, it is gone by the time you get there.

In my opinion, for a "Best Of" list to have any value, it must contain whiskeys you can actually drink. Otherwise, what's the point?

Unfortunately, due to our fractured distribution system, I cannot guarantee that everything on my list is available in your specific market.  I'm not sure anyone with national distribution can. But, everything on this list is reasonably available, even if it means having to travel to another state (meaning, when you get there, you stand a realistic chance of finding it on the shelf).

Lastly, despite the fact I've published over 120 reviews in 2020, I've not tasted whiskeys from every available niche. If you don't see something in the category that you're seeking, it means I either didn't drink anything in that category or, if I did, it wasn't worthy of a "Best Of" award.

Believe it or not, this year I gave a Bar rating to a whiskey that appears on my "Best Of" list. If you're scratching your head about that, the price was the only thing that kept me from handing it a Bottle rating. 

Let's get on with the show...

Best Bourbon of 2020:  All I care about is the liquid inside the bottle. I don't care if it is sourced or someone's own distillate. This year, it goes to Lux Row Distillers for Blood Oath Pact 6, and my April review will tell you why it is so deserving.

Best American Rye of 2020:  I had a few top candidates for the Best American Rye. Some were surprisingly young. But, when the dust settled, Woodinville Whiskey Company's 100% Straight Rye came out on top. It was full of flavor, had an attention-grabbing nose, and easy on the wallet. My July review provides all the details you'd want to know.

Best American Whiskey of 2020:  This is not to be mistaken for the Best Whiskey Made in America.  Rather, there exists a category called American Whiskey, which, at least for me, is any whiskey made in the United States that isn't Bourbon or Rye. I considered Wheat Whiskeys, Single Malts, Triticale, and blends. I tasted some fantastic American Whiskey this year, but the easy stand-out was Barrell Dovetail. Feel free to read more from my August review.

Best Scotch Whisky of 2020:  Here's the issue with Scotches this year - I tasted some stupendous ones. Yet, many of what I sampled are just too difficult for most folks to find (or priced through the ceiling). Hidden amongst that was a shining star called BenRiach Curiositas 10. This Speyside whisky is an excellent way to dip your toe into peated whiskies, and it is shockingly affordable. Check out the review from July.

Best Irish Whiskey of 2020:  This was easily the most difficult category for me to judge. Considering that Irish Whiskey was near-death not so many years ago, its resurgence is a great thing to see, and it came close to a flip of the coin for me to choose my winner, but my favorite Irish Whiskey of 2020 is out of The Dublin Liberties Distillery and it is called Murder Lane. It was finished in Hungarian Tokaji casks and was so impressive, it caused me to run out and buy a bottle of Hungarian Tokaji! 

For what it's worth, I've never had a barrel finish lead to my seeking out what was in the barrel originally, and you can read my review of Murder Lane.

Best Asian Whisky of 2020:  Last year, an under-the-radar Japanese whisky took the award. This year, I looked to mainland Asia and, from India, I discovered Paul John Nirvana. The weird thing is, Nirvana is a Rodney Dangerfield whisky, meaning it doesn't get a lot of respect. My recent review will explain why this undervalued Single Malt earned its place and my respect.

Best Flavored Whiskey of 2020:  This is a new category for my "Best Of" list and one I would have never imagined would ever even exist. Typically, flavored whiskeys are for mixing, but this year I found several that were delicious when drunk neat. The winner is Select Club Pecan Praline Ultra-Premium Whisky. Mrs. Whiskeyfellow may have had some influence here, and you can read why.

Before I get into the Best Whiskey of the Year, I'd like to pause a moment and disclose my Santa Wish. This one violates everything that exists with my "Best Of" list, but it was so amazing and could quite possibly be the best whiskey that's ever crossed my lips. I'm talking about The Kingsman Edition 1989 Vintage by The GlenDronach. I can't even pretend to afford the $1300.00 bottle, which is why it was disqualified from my list, but you can read all about this Highland Scotch if you'd like. So, Santa, please?

And the 2020 Whiskey of the Year is... (Drumroll, please!) Last year, it was a Rye that took the top spot. And, while Woodinville was delightful, it didn't come out as the top dog. The one whiskey that drove me crazy with curiosity is the winner of my 2020 Whiskey of the Year, and it goes to The Dublin Liberties Distillery for Murder Lane!

Congratulations to each of the category winners! I'm looking forward to an even better 2021. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Dublin Liberties Murder Lane Single Malt Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


"Named after an unmarked alley between Bow Street and James Street in Dublin, it is said that people who went down that lane never came back. There was an archway with an oak devil hung above it, and it was seen as a place of no return." - The Dublin Liberties Distillery

I've been having some fun with The Dublin Liberties Distillery. This will be my third review of its whiskeys - the first being Oak Devil and the second Copper Alley. I don't talk much about marketing because, for the most part, it is fluff. But, in the case of The Dublin Liberties, these backstories are fascinating and spooky.  Overall, it has no effect on my tasting notes or recommendation, but it sure beats, "My grandpappy's grandpappy was a distiller of yore and we found his secret recipe on the back of a child's painting discovered in the attic of a neighbor at an estate sale."

Today's review is of Murder Lane, a 13-year Single Malt that was first aged in ex-Bourbon barrels, then finished for an undisclosed period in former Hungarian Tokaji wine casks. I'm a whiskey guy. While Mrs. Whiskeyfellow is a cork dork, I've never heard her mention Hungarian Tokaji, and as such, I was curious and looked it up:

"Tokaji is the name used to describe wine from the Tokaj region in northeastern Hungary. Though dry wine is made here, the region’s most famous wines are lusciously sweet, and this is what most people refer to when they use the name Tokaji. The sweet wines of Tokaji are some of the world’s greatest." - Wine Enthusiast

Like everything from The Dublin Liberties, this one is sourced from an undisclosed distillery. It is bottled at 46% ABV (92°) and there were 1278 bottles in the batch. Expect to pay at least $120.00 for a 750ml. That's getting into super-premium pricing for Irish whiskey.

I'd like to thank Quintessential Brands, the parent company of The Dublin Liberties, for providing me a sample of Murder Lane in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  Now, let's #DrinkCurious!

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Murder Lane appeared as a golden amber. It created a thick rim that led to fat, sticky droplets that glued to the wall. They eventually fell back to the pool, but it took a bit.

Nose:  The lusciously sweet note that Wine Enthusiast suggested was appropriate. Aromas of pineapple, Honeycrisp apple, green grape, vanilla, and Whopper candies. As I breathed the vapor in my mouth, it was like eating pineapple. 

Palate:  The mouthfeel was oily and offered a medium body. On the front, I tasted milk chocolate, honey, and toasted coconut. As the liquid moved mid-palate, citrus flavors of orange and lemon danced in tandem, then was joined by apricot. On the back, the sweetness continued with butterscotch, but that then morphed to clove and cinnamon.

Finish:  Where's the wood?  It waited until the finish to appear!  A strong presence of semi-dry oak married with cracked pepper. The spice was long-lasting, but it started dropping off with tobacco leaf, then full-monty sweet with peach before finally fading out.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I don't know who is doing the actual distilling for The Dublin Liberties but I wish I did. I've been impressed with what they're packaging, and Murder Lane is no exception. I'm also damned intrigued about Hungarian Tokaji and want to grab a taste (and that speaks volumes, I'm not really a wine guy). I loved what I drank, and I have nothing to criticize except the cost. At $120.00, I could be persuaded to buy it. But, I've also seen it at $180.00, and Murder Lane just isn't worth that. Take price out of the equation, and this one of the easiest Bottle ratings I'd offer. Factor it back in, and this is a Bar. Find a good whiskey bar and try this one first. I'm sure you'll love it, and you can decide for yourself if you're willing to shell out the dough. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Dublin Liberties Copper Alley 10-Year Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


Last month, I reviewed The Dublin Liberties Oak Devil five-year Irish whiskey. It was a blend of malt and grain whiskeys.  I went into detail as to the history behind the distillery. 

Today, I'm reviewing their Copper Alley ten-year Single Malt. Copper Alley is named for what the distillery describes as a journey between Heaven and Hell.  The alley was located by the "medieval Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin.  By day, it rang to the cries of hawkers, tradesmen, tanners, and merchants. By night, the pickpockets, cut-throats, tavern-keepers, and brothel-owners plied their busy trade." 

Just like Oak Devil, this is sourced from an undisclosed distillery.  Being a single-malt, it is made from a mash of 100% malted barley. It was then aged a decade in ex-Bourbon barrels, then finished for another six months in 30-year old former Oloroso Sherry casks personally selected by Master Distiller Darryl McNally

"My inspiration for Copper Alley was going back to the original methods of Irish whiskey making. Having rested for 10 years in Bourbon casks, I felt it just needed something extra to really bring it to life. Working with our cask partners, I came across some 30-year-old Sherry casks of exceptional quality which I knew would give the whiskey an edge. This is a one off – there are only 31 casks, so this is a whiskey which will be little repeated." - Darryl McNally

Once dumped, the whiskey was non-chill-filtered, then bottled at 46% ABV (92°), and a 750ml will set you back about $58.99.

Before I get to the tasting notes, I'd like to thank Quintessential Brands,  the parent company of The Dublin Liberties, for providing me with a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review of this whiskey.  Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious. 

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Copper Alley appeared as, well, copper. More specifically, it was the color of copper topaz. It provided a fairly thin rim with fatter, fast legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  If you could stuff a bunch of fruit in a grenade, pull the pin, and stick it in a glass, you'll get the nose of what this whiskey has to offer. Prune, raisin, and pineapple were easy to pick out. Underneath that were molasses and nuts.  When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, pear and thick vanilla rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was full-bodied and extremely creamy. It coated everywhere. Dried cherry, raisin, orange peel, and peach smacked the front of my palate. At the middle, I tasted dark chocolate, toffee, and malt. The back yielded flavors of dry oak, cinnamon, mint, and ginger. 

Finish: The finish began with a nuclear explosion of sherry. I chose that descriptor because it was incredibly long and fruity. The fallout was spicy, with ginger, oak, and white pepper. As the spices faded, it became nutty before completely ending.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Copper Alley had the right amount of sweet and spicy. This is atypical of Irish whiskey, a category I already enjoy, and Copper Alley shined a whole new light on it.  For a decade-old, higher-proofed whiskey, it is priced competitively and I believe this is one you'll happily drink. I'm a fan, and I'm slapping my Bottle rating on it. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Friday, November 20, 2020

The Dublin Liberties Oak Devil Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


Founded outside the walled city of Dublin in 12th-century Ireland, The Liberties was a district of illicit trade and a bit of chaos. While considered part of Dublin, it was not subject to its laws or government structure. The Liberties was the center of Dublin industry, and you'd think with all that commerce, there wouldn't be impoverishment and destitution, but that is how much of the populace lived - at least until very recently. It has been the center of various rebellions almost since its inception. 

In the 1700s, a carved Oak Devil stood over the entrance to the Dublin Liberties, inciting mayhem and damnation within the riotous quarter known as Hell. The Oak Devil is now gone, some say he was made into whiskey barrels, others say he was seduced by the whiskey angels. - The Dublin Liberties Distillery

If you're wondering why the rumors of the devil's demise include being made into whiskey barrels, The Liberties has a rich history of Irish distilling. Guinness has been there for generations, Jameson, Teeling, George Roe & Company, and Powers were there long ago.  Teeling has been reborn, and The Dublin Liberties Distillery is new to the scene.

Owned by Quintessential Brands Group, who also counts The Dubliner and Dead Rabbit in its portfolio, The Dublin Liberties Distillery is headed by Master Distiller Darryl McNally.  Their five-year release, Oak Devil, is a blend of sourced malt and grain Irish whiskeys that have been aged in former Bourbon barrels. It is non-chill filtered and then packaged at 46% ABV (92°) and retails for about $38.00.

I'd like to thank Quintessential Brands for providing me a bottle of Oak Devil in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, it is time to #DrinkCurious

Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, Oak Devil appeared like an oaked chardonnay. It was absolutely golden in color. An ultra-thin rim left surprisingly thicker, fast legs to drop back into the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose: I found this to be light and fruity, with aromas of apples, citrus, and melon. They were followed by fresh hay and ended with floral perfume. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, the only things I tasted were vanilla and brown sugar.

Palate:  Like the nose, the mouthfeel was light - almost lighter than air. Flavors of apple cider and caramel started things off, but it wasn't like eating a caramel apple. Come mid-palate, I found cinnamon spice, and on the back, a blend of nutmeg and milk chocolate.

Finish: As airy as the mouthfeel was, the finish seemed to go on forever. At first, I got a mocha blast, which gave way to charred oak and cinnamon.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Oak Devil was uncomplicated but sometimes that's all you want. It has a low barrier of entry, especially considering it isn't 80° like many of its Irish brethren. The Dublin Liberties recommended pouring Oak Devil over ice or using it as a cocktail base. I did neither - I drank it neat. Guess what? It required neither. I enjoyed it just fine as is and I believe you will, too.  As such, this one takes my Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Busker Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

Apparently, I'm on an Irish whiskey kick right now. That's okay, I go through various cycles of stuff I like to explore. Truth be told, I started in Scotch. Then I discovered Bourbon and my mind was blown. Since then, I've branched out to Rye, Indian, Japanese, and, yes, Irish. I believe the attraction of Irish is it was at one time, until Prohibition, the most popular whiskey on Earth. Then, for a variety of reasons, including Prohibition (bastards!), the love for this elixir waned. The cool thing, however, is that Irish whiskey is enjoying a resurgence that has exploded.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed The Busker Triple Cask, Triple Smooth Irish Whiskey, it easily snagged my Bottle rating.  It was a blend of three different whiskeys from The BuskerSingle Pot Still, Single Grain, and Single Malt.  Today I'm drinking one of those component whiskeys - Single Pot Still. 

Distilled by Royal Oak Distillery, which is the source of brands such as Writer's Tears and The Irishman, Single Pot Still starts off with barley. However, the mash is a blend of both malted and unmalted barley. Malted barley is typically going to offer chocolate and cereal notes, unmalted barley typically will lead to spicy notes. It is then run through a copper pot still, which takes longer to process than a column still. Pot stills usually create a more flavorful spirit, whereas column stills are built for speed and consistency. Both provide delicious whiskey, and, of course, so much depends on what happens beyond distillation.

The Busker Single Pot Still carries no age statement, but to fit the definition of Irish whiskey, that means it is at least three years old. It matures in ex-Bourbon barrels and ex-sherry casks, then packaged at 44.3% ABV (88.6°), and a 750ml bottle runs under $30.00.

I'd like to thank The Busker for sending me a sample of this whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Busker appeared caramel in color. I have to say that's darker than most Irish whiskeys I've perused. It left a thin rim on the wall, which generated fat, slow drops to fall back into the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  An aggressive aroma of malt started things off. But, I also smelled honey, brown sugar, and apples. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, I tasted only honey, and it was fairly thick.

Palate: The Busker had an incredibly oily mouthfeel and heavy body. Again, this is atypical, at least in my experience, with Irish whiskey. As expected, however, was a total lack of any "burn" on the palate. On the front, I found vanilla and sweet honey. That morphed mid-palate to milk chocolate and red grapes. Then, on the back, a compelling blend of toasted oak, apricot, and cereal.

Finish:  The finish began as spicy, with oak and, of all things, rye.  That would be a result of the unmalted barley. When the spice fell off, it became a rich caramel. Unfortunately, the finish was short-to-medium in length. I would have loved to have it remain in my mouth much longer.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Out of nowhere comes this brand called The Busker, and let's just say with two of their four expressions under my belt, I'm impressed. This isn't going to blow your mind like the premium selections from Midleton, but when you're talking return on investment, The Busker Single Pot Still delivers. As one of the three components of The Busker's blend, I could pick out how the Single Pot Still influenced that. At the same time, this is a totally different experience. My only complaint is the finish was too short. I wish it could have gone on and on like the blend did. But, that's not a legitimate gripe, just an observation.  This one is taking a Bottle rating for me, and between the two I've tasted, I believe I like the Single Pot Still slightly more.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Monday, November 2, 2020

Grace O'Malley Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


Irish whiskey has been growing by leaps and bounds. What once was frighteningly a dying breed just a few years ago has turned things around and is now one of the fastest-growing segments. If you search the shelves of your local liquor store, you'll find a bunch of choices, but they all come from a small number of distilleries. Except, in the last year, that population has grown because what's been sitting in warehouses waiting to become at least three years old is the new distillate from unfamiliar distilleries. 

One such new whiskey is Grace O'Malley Blended Irish Whiskey. Grace O'Malley is a newer brand that has old roots. The distillate comes from Great Northern Distillery in Dundalk, which is owned and operated by John Teeling, the founder of the Cooley Distillery. Great Northern is the second-largest grain distillery in Ireland. 

The real Grace O'Malley was a legendary Irish pirate queen. Born in 1530 to Irish nobility, she fought hard for Ireland's independence from England. She was declared an enemy of the state, and a fierce pirate. She was twice arrested and sentenced to death, yet managed to curry favor and garner her release in exchange for all of her possessions. She met Queen Elizabeth but refused to kneel before her as O'Malley did not recognize the Queen's ownership over Ireland. 

Grace O'Malley Irish Whiskey bucks the norm as well. It contains the highest malt content of any blended Irish whiskey at a whopping 46% (meaning the remaining 54% is distilled from grain). Some of the distillate was double-distilled, some triple-distilled.  Master Blender Paul Caris personally selected barrels ranging in age from three to ten years. Each had different cooperages:  French oak, American oak, rum were highlighted. Once the blending was complete, it was bottled at 40% ABV (80°), and a 750ml will set you back about $39.00.

Before I tell you if Grace O'Malley is the queen of Irish Whiskey or not, I'd like to thank them for sending me a bottle in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Grace O'Malley presented as a dull gold in color. It produced a medium rim that led to fat, sticky legs which pretty much refused to drop back into the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  My whiskey library filled with aromas of malt and fruit.  As I brought the glass to my face, I sniffed out honey, vanilla, citrus, apple, and pear.  When I inhaled the vapor through my mouth, I was able to narrow down the apples to Granny Smith.  

Palate:  Things started off with a watery mouthfeel.  Overall, it featured a medium body.  On the front of my palate, I tasted flavors of apple, vanilla, lemon, and orange. Cocoa and toasted cereal grains took over at mid-palate. Then, on the back, it was pure honey. 

Finish:  The finish was shorter than I'd hoped for. It was a lovely blend of toasted oak, vanilla, pink peppercorn, and date.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  It is admittedly difficult to dislike Irish whiskey. That's not to say there aren't mediocre examples, but Irish whiskey is known for being smooth and easy to sip. I enjoyed my pour of Grace O'Malley. There was more going on with this than I expected. I would have preferred a longer finish, but that only means it gets sipped faster. I'm lobbing my Bottle rating at this one, I'm betting it will make you happy, too. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Busker Triple Cask Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


Life can be full of surprises. Right now there is a resurgence in Irish distilling that goes beyond the big boys expanding their reach. What started a few years ago is now coming of age and ready for the market. One such example is Royal Oak Distillery, which is built on an 18th-century estate in County Carlow. Imported by Disaronno International, Royal Oak has both pot and column stills.

The distillery produces four versions of Irish whiskey: Single Grain, Single Malt, Single Pot Still, and a blend of the three.  Today I'm reviewing The Busker Triple Cask Triple Smooth which is the latter. A majority of the blend is made from the Single Malt and Single Pot Still expressions, with the remainder Single Grain. The Blend is matured in three different casks formerly holding Bourbon, Sherry, and Cantine Florio (1833) Sicilian Marsala. 

This is for the wanderers, the sharers of stories, the followers of dreams, living unabashedly. Meet The Busker, its roots now deep at Royal Oak Distillery, the home of Irish Whiskey Culture [...] But only in wandering far has it found its true place in the world here among the spirited, like you. - Royal Oak Distillery

There is no age statement on the label, but all that means it was at least three years, as that's what's required by Irish law. The Busker is 40% ABV and retails for $24.99.  It hit the market in September and while not common, it enjoys a wide distribution in the United States.

All that information is nice to know, but in the end, the only thing that really matters is how it tastes.  I purchased this whiskey at a local store, I've cracked it open, and I'm ready to #DrinkCurious and tell you all about it.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Busker appears as an obvious gold color. It created a medium rim that generated thick, fast legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. When I suggest fast, they dropped as quickly as they formed.

Nose:  The fruitiness was unmistakable. I could smell it before it came anywhere near my face. Aromas of plum and raisin were easy to pick up, the banana and pear less so. When I inhaled through my open lips, it was a palpable flavor of vanilla.

Palate:  A thick, buttery mouthfeel coated everywhere, leaving nothing untouched. There was no ethanol to distract from what I would experience. On the front, I tasted a combination of vanilla and dark chocolate. As the liquid moved to my mid-palate, the only thing I discerned was malt. Then, on the back, it was an interesting marriage of cinnamon, raisin, and toasted oak.

Finish:  A long - very, very long, lasting finish of vanilla, white pepper, and toasted oak would not give up. There was absolutely nothing harsh about it.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is a $25 Irish whiskey and it isn't overly complicated. In fact, it is the opposite. But, it leaves other similarly-priced competitors in the dust. The Busker is everything you've ever heard about Irish whiskey - smooth and simple. I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it, especially since this is an off-the-radar distillery. Cutting to the chase, this is about as easy of a Bottle rating as it gets. It is delicious, anyone can afford it, and I can't wait to see what else comes out of this distillery. Cheers! 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Beginner's Guide to Whiskey Review

Sam Green holds the honor of being the first person to earn the title of Whiskey Sommelier in Southern California. Despite that, he's not spent decades dealing with whiskey. After all, he's only in his late twenties. But, don't let his age fool you - Sam is passionate about whiskey and spent his entire adult life studying it.  

As always, I'm big into disclosure. I've known Sam for a couple of years. We've never met face-to-face but we do converse from time to time. The circle of whiskey writers is smaller than you'd think and we tend to know one another. Saying all of that, friendships are irrelevant when it comes to my composing reviews. It is my reputation on the line, and for me, my reputation is everything.

Shortly after publishing my most recent book review, Sam approached me and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing his brand new book, Beginner's Guide to Whiskey: Traditions, Types & Tastes of the Ultimate Spirit. Like I tell everyone, I'm always interested in reviewing anything whiskey-related, so long as the person making the request is prepared for me to write an honest review. Sam agreed, and he sent me a copy of his book. 

With that, the necessary disclosure is done.

You can get your own copy from Amazon. It is a shorter read at 144 pages and will set you back $14.99. It is a smaller paperback and the font size is large enough to see without eye strain. There is a Kindle edition available as well for $9.99.  Spending $15 on a book isn't much, but what matters is, is it any good?

Here's the thing. I'm far from a beginner. I've been reading and writing about whiskey for several years. I was curious if this book would be interesting or bore me to tears. 

Sam's book is divided intuitively. It starts with a brief history of whiskey. He then talks about how whiskey is made, with the first half dealing with grain and fermentation, and the second with distillation, aging, and finishing. He then talks about the major whiskey categories:  Scotch, Irish, American, Canadian, and Japanese. Then, he finishes with proper nosing and tasting methods and pairing whiskey with food. There are a few cocktail recipes as well.

This is a primer for beginners. Sam does a good job of writing at a level where things are easy to understand without treating the reader like an idiot. That's much more difficult than you can imagine and, as someone who writes educational pieces myself, I know it requires rewrites and revisions as you wonder if it is insulting or over someone's head. At the same time, as an experienced reader, it flows easily and naturally.

He even managed to teach me a new way to explain Bourbon with his ABC's of Bourbon. I've never seen it put together like that but it made a ton of sense. 

The font used was the proper size and offered no eye strain. 

Bottle, Bar or BustI appreciate non-fiction books written in a conversational tone rather than instructional. I believe that's because I write similarly. I also find it to be a more effective writing style than the latter. If you write the way people talk, the flow is better and the mind is open.

If I was I a whiskey newbie or at least someone fresh to learning whiskey basics, Beginner's Guide to Whiskey is a very easy read. I finished it in three fairly short sessions. I don't fathom anyone is going to finish it and remain confused. Sam touches on all the important points and I was left with the impression someone will walk away with newfound, useful knowledge, able to communicate with experienced whiskey connoisseurs without feeling left out of the conversation. As such, I believe Sam accomplished his mission, and happily hand over my Bottle rating.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:
  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it