Its that time of the year again, for clichés and opening sentences with “It’s that time of the year again.” Another record-breaking year for Irish Whiskey as the renaissance continues: Sales booming, dozens of brands and expressions, awards galore… Things are really looking up and, as has been said numerous times now, we are at the most interesting time. It does seem however that we are heading towards something and it is hard to tell just exactly where that is.
At the minute we are still having to be drip fed the new distillery expressions and the vast bulk of the new brands are relying on the same, rapidly diminishing, new make spirit. If it is Malt then we know it is coming from Bushmills, if it is Grain then it is Cooley, most likely. Some of the new distilleries are producing their own and some, eagerly anticipated ones are ready, at least time wise, but aren’t coming.
Cask finishes are all the rage and it seems as if everyone is running around trying to find something different. Tequila? Ales? Port? … the lists go on. Now I like the differences, it is what somewhere like Bushmills really needs to be doing to shake things up but there is a sense that too many are trying to find a space and it can feel a little overwhelming and sometimes the cask quality is questionable. The veritable Smörgåsbord of tastes are still rooted in the same base spirit.
This year saw the release, and sold out on pre-sale, of a £6500 bottle, The Chosen, from J J Corry. Limited to 100 bottles, in hand cut bottles and hand cut wooden boxes. At the price it was dropped at, and the rapidity with which it was snapped up, you do get the feeling that it is a bit like the worst aspects of the Art market. The Art market is the 2nd largest unregulated market, globally, and there are all manner of shenanigans that goes on, not that for a second am I suggesting any impropriety but it does make one think just how many people out there have six and a half K to drop on a bottle. In a bar this would set you back around £650 a Halfun .
So, what was my favourite Whiskey of the year? A few honourable mentions first. Two Rum cask finished: Dunvilles and Killowen. Both of these distilleries have loads to love about them: Artisanal, obsessed with quality, quirky and ran by people that with passion. The bottlings are both wonderful, different but carrying the same sweet and dark fruit flavour. There is a huge difference in price though but seek them out and you can sit with quality, they don’t disappoint.
And finally to the Whiskey of the year. Drum roll please…
Dingle Potstill Batch number 3. The guys down in the kingdom have been making Whiskey, and Vodka and Gin, since 2012 and they are finding their feet more and more. When the first batch came out it was snapped up by collectors and these days costs 4-5 times the face value to start, but you can get a taste easy enough in many bars, especially The Dingle Whiskey bar on Nassau street in Dublin. Triple distilled, Pot still and a marriage of Bourbon and Port casks this limited release, only 3400 bottles made, has layer upon layer of flavour. Dropping your palate through lighter canned peaches down to cinnamon spiced coffee. A classic that is of value, valued and, likely, valuable. Take yourself off to the Distillery and see what is going on for yourself and it will make the experience all the more lasting and appreciated. Well done guys.