It’s that time of year again. St. Patrick’s Day is upon us and from now through the weekend people will be donning green attire, chugging green beer and chasing leprechauns, or something like that. As enjoyable as that is allow me to suggest one change in these annual festivities: ditch the green beer and have a glass or two of an Irish whiskey instead.
If you find yourself wondering which of the many available to pour for yourself we have compiled reviews of 12 different Irish whiskies from 9 of the Toronto Whisky Society members to help you pick the perfect dram on this St. Patrick’s day:
- Region: Ireland
- Abv: 40%
- Colour: Burnt Gold
- Nose: Mango, soda bread, lemon pudding, light pepper, cilantro, carnations
It’s Irish, that’s for certain. There’s yeast, it’s light, and yet… a nice amount of herbal heat and floral fecundity.
- Taste: Yeast, pomelo, cloves, poppyseed, light caramel, ginger
I hesitate to use pomelo, because it’s been awhile since I’ve had one, yet it screamed pomelo, so I’ll stick with it. Nice grainy texture. Probably comes from the triple distillation. Somewhat sweet. Nice to sip on.
- Finish: Lemon curd, apple, margarine, turmeric? light honey
A finish so fast you’d think it was Don Quixote’s horse. Hard to pick out anything other than a little margarine and lemon. Letting it sit brought out some more honey, but this finish has been beaten by the abv.
- Conclusion: It’s good. It’s nice to sip on, smooth, and has some interesting parts to it. Or to imagine myself a morose writer, more so than a morose person who is working on a novel that hasn’t bottomed out yet. There’s a nice nose and taste to this. The finish is ruined by the Irish Whiskey ‘need’ to be 40%, which is too bad. That said, I’d drink it over Jameson, and the price isn’t too bad.
Writers Tears Cask Strength 2012.
- Bottle #: 1636 of 1,800
- Region: Ireland
- Abv: 52%
- Colour: Medium Amber Honey
- Nose: Honey, pear, ginger, dry, lime, mango, meringue
Big ole blast of honey. Like being beside the hive on a summer’s day. Just slaps you with it’s dick and demands a refund. Big flavours on this dram. Almost like a beefy white wine. Not too complex though, yet… big.
- Taste: Lemongrass, basil, cumin, orange, grape, walnut, white cake
Sweet. Big flavours that were lost before with the 12% abv. difference. Kinda nutty and different types of fruits pop up. Nothing overtly complex, yet nice. Also different than the nose. Where as the nose was all blustery, this, while strong, is balanced.
- Finish: Pepper, ginger, butter, yeast, tarragon, pear, cocoa, grapefruit, anise
Wow. What a finish. It’s a damn crime the normal stuff doesn’t come close to this. It should be higher than 43%. This is really something. Reminds you that it’s an Irish, however has these earthy sweet flavours that pair really well. Good finish on this one. And long lasting.
- Conclusion: This is a big Irish whiskey. It has some not-so-subtle flavours. The finish actually shows up. it’s still somewhat smooth and great to drink. I enjoy this one, it’s tasty, has some fun flavours, and well balanced. I think more time in the oak may end up with some complexity, however I’ll have to wait for that.
Teeling Small Batch, Rum Cask Finish – 46%
- Appearance: Light, uncoloured
- Nose: Sweet, rum cask evident, honey
- Palate: Very sweet. Pez candy , honey caramel, icing sugar. Oak. Bartlett pears.
- Finish: Long, snap peas? Crazy
- Overall: Quite nice. Good dessert whisky. very unique
- Score: 87
Teeling Single Malt
- Region: Ireland
- ABV: 46%
- E150: No
- Chill-filtered: No
- Colour: Light gold
- Nose: Icing sugar, green apple, honey, vanilla, light citrus, floral, yeast.
- Palate: Honey, ethanol, vanilla, ripe banana, apple skin, malt, white pepper.
- Finish:Long finish, malt, oak, white pepper, mineral water.
- Score: 79/100
I bought this bottle after reading it contains some 23 year old malt, and they finish the whiskies in 5 different casks (Sherry, Port, Maderia, White Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon). Was disappointed on how little wine influence is present, since this isn’t very complex. Rather simple dram, light fruits and sweet vanilla malt. The finish kinda killed it with the mineral note, WHERE DID THE FRUIT GO?
Teeling 21 Year
- 21 years old
- 46% ABV
- Ex-bourbon casks before being finished in ex-sauternes casks
- Nose: Peaches, honey, vanilla, apricots, floral and oak.
- Palate: Creamy, Peaches, floral notes. Tropical fruits (guava, pineapple), vanilla, meaty. Apricots, oak. Honey and ginger
- Finish: Medium to long. Sweet and fruity. Honey, pineapple., apricots, leather, oak
- Score: 87.5
Overall a really enjoyable whisky, fruity, not overly sweet, creamy with some nice balance and complexity. One of my favorite Irish whiskies that I have tried.
Redbreast 12 – 40%
- Appearance: 1.2, Chestnut
- Nose: Lots of sweet notes, golden syrup, sultanas, Belgian waffles, slightly green and youthful oak, and a hint of mandarin orange.
- Taste: An odd mix of sweet and sour, white grapes, granny smith apple, overripe banana, custard cream, and lemon rind.
- Finish: Fades very quickly; more white fruits, and very very mild spiciness.
- Score: 78/100
Notes: Redbreast 12 is very very basic. The one positive it has going for it is that other “basic” whiskies in this price range tend to come across as youthful and sometimes a bit harsh, whereas the Redbreast 12 is very mellow and drinkable. As far as really basic sipping whiskies go, this is actually a good one for a beginner.
Redbreast 21 – 46%
- Appearance: 1.3, Russet
- Nose: Up front, I get a cherry cough syrup vibe, although it isn’t heavy on red fruits or anything; more like a slightly medicinal menthol note or something. I get brown sugar, some ginger, and camphor.
- Taste: Very mellow sweetness up front, almost a floral sweetness, cigar spices, leather upholstery, raisins, brown sugar, honeysuckle, and lychee. There is an odd note I can’t place; it’s almost like a slightly overripe/rotten orange, but in a good way.
- Finish: A really intriguing finish; the cigar and leather is prominent, with some resinous wood mixed with an almost green wood too, and that odd orange note from the taste exerts itself.
- Score: 86/100
Notes: The Redbreast 21 has one of the most unusual and unique profiles I’ve had in recent memory. There are two or three notes in here I really had trouble describing and placing, those being: the mix of odd youthful and simultaneously older resinous wood, the almost rotten orange note, as well as the cigar/leather vibe. A really intellectual dram, if I don’t sound too pretentious for calling it that.
Adelphi Limerick Slaney Malt 23y
(48.3%, ex-sherry cask, 1991-2015, cask #10694)
This is an independently bottled Irish whisky by Adelphi with whisky from an undisclosed (Cooley) distillery. Named after the Limerick distillery in Ireland, which was the sister distillery (as in both owned by Archibald Walker) to the original Adelphi distillery in Glasgow.
- Nose: Orange soda, toasted coconut, papaya, milk chocolate, kiwi, apple skins, floral perfume
- Taste: Mango, lychee, apple juice, tapioca pudding, oak, toasted coconut, cinnamon, lightly floral
- Finish: Lychee, young coconut meat, oak, white pepper, hint of tree sap
The nose is sticky sweet, a full bouquet of (mostly tropical) fruits with chocolate/nuts beneath the surface and a light hints of floral perfume. To taste, light fruits and fruit juices lead the way into creamy dessert-like notes, finishing off with some wood and spices.
The flavours are gentle, sweet and very soothing. Delicious stuff, with some unique notes that I don’t think I’ve encountered before. Though the nose could be a bit stronger, and I wish those beautiful coconut/lychee notes on the finish would hang a bit longer… ultimately I’m nitpicking here as I think this has to be my favorite Irish whiskey to date.
- Score: 90/100
Jameson Special Reserve 12 – 40%
- Nose Ethanol, grain baking spices
- Taste Grainy with a bit of heat, lemon, custard and hay, custard on the finish
- Overall This is an enjoyable enough dram, but rather boring. There is nothing that stands out as being either great or bad.
Jameson Crested 10 – 40%
- Nose Honeysuckle, lemon, sea air
- Taste Baked goods, lemon, milk chocolate, grain undertones with a medium mouth feel. There is a long finish that is very pleasant.
- Overall This is very drinkable and complex. This is a big step up from the 12. I can’t taste the sherry in this blend, but it has great balance and flavours.
So which is better? The Crested blows the 12 away. I would recommend skipping the 12 and grabbing a bottle of the crested as it is the most interesting Jameson’s I’ve had. If you like the cask mates you will pick up some of the same base notes in the Crested, but the Crested is much more interesting and overall a better whisky.
Bushmills 16 – 40%
- N: Very fruity with lots of red fruits (plums, dates, figs) as well as some banana and peaches, chocolate, mint, oak, orange peel. Nice and rich and fruity.
- P: Very fruity again, pineapple, peaches and cream, honey, banana, raisins, milk chocolate, oak. Very thin.
- F: Short. Peaches, cocoa, and oak. Slightly bitter at the end.
Overall: I love the flavours that came from the combination of bourbon, sherry, and port casks used to mature this. The dark fruits and chocolate mixed with the lighter more tropical fruits and honey were just delicious together. However, in my opinion being bottled at 40% and chill filtered just killed what could be a great whisky as the flavours are too muted with a watery mouthfeel. The whisky starts very nice with a lovely nose then starts to go downhill as the palate is also nice but washed out and then the finish too short and weak. If Bushmills took a lesson from Teeling and bottled this at 46% this could be fantastic.
- Score: 80
- Specifics: 40%, Irish
- Setup: Neat.
- Colour: 1.0 deep copper
- Nose: light pine ash, light rubber, bit of herbal, salt and taffy, a bit of plastic or hardened resin, lemon rind.
- Taste: sweet and peat, honeyed green tea, hint of smoked cod, grapes, medium viscosity.
- Finish: short, mildly drying, nutty sweetness.
Comments: A simple but very clean and light whisky. The nose is easily the best aspect of this dram. In your mouth, the peat is very present but doesn’t bowl you ever. Coupling with the short finish makes this an ideal second step for someone looking to explore peat.
Overall feel: 73/100
There were definitely some highlights, as well as a couple lowlights, from the whiskies we tried but overall they were well received. One trend I noted is how much better the whiskies bottled at 46%+ fared in general compared to one bottles at the typical 40% abv for Irish whisky. It is definitely good to see more and more Irish whiskey bottled above the minimum abv and I hope that continues. With more new Irish distilleries planned to open and new releases coming out more and more frequently this is an exciting time for Irish whiskey and I for one am looking forward to seeing what’s in store in the future. We hope you enjoyed reading our thoughts on these fine Irish drams and hope you enjoy one or two yourself today, Sláinte!