Whisky Ladies Irish Celebration – Redbreast 12 year 40%

A few months ago at the soft launch of “The Quiet Man”, Michael Morris told the tale of how the Irish Distillers Ltd team, in their single minded focus to revive the industry and bring Jameson to the top, intended to drop Jameson Redbreast completely. However after hue and cry from Redbreast fans, decided to drop the “Jameson” preface instead to sit back and watch in amazement as Redbreast became so popular, it ensured pot still whiskies continue to have a special place on the world whisky map!

So it was entirely fitting that our Whisky Ladies Irish evening with Jameson Brand Ambassador Ciaran Hanton closed with the best known Irish pot still whiskey – Redbreast.

Rebreast 12 year 40%

  • Nose – Light caramel, quite sharp, a bit of spice like cloves, cinnamon, a big sherry influence, heady dry fruits, cream, toast
  • Palate – Very spice forward, nutmeg, there was a bit of a debate on whether it was balanced and complex or sharp and bitter or smooth and sweet. Take your pick! As we continued to sip, most of us finally settled on sweet meats and raisins.
  • Finish – Roasted spice, almost like a heartburn

With the Redbreast, Ciaran shared how it got its name from the friendly Robin. He also noted how, like Green Spot and Yellow Spot, it began as a bonded whiskey – meaning the stock was purchased by the merchant, in this case Gibeys – and further matured in their casks. As a wine importer, Gibeys had access to sherry casks which found new life maturing whiskies.

Since then much has changed however there is no question Redbreast became the worlds top selling Irish pot still whisky.

And what did we think? Truth be told, the Yellow Spot was a hard act to follow. There was no doubt the sherry influence and that this was a sharper spicier dram than the other pot still whiskies we tried that evening.

All in all, it was a merry night of good company, sociable drams with tales told to colour and spice up the experience even more!

What else did we have in our Irish night?

Our experience was courtesy of Pernod Ricard, tasted from a bottle opened in August 2018.

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Whisky Ladies Irish Celebration – Yellow Spot 12 years 46%

When I first tried Yellow Spot in 2013, it stood out for its approachable yet complex character. Over the years, I’ve kept my eye out for it, yet always found it in more sociable settings like a favourite bar in Singapore and not a proper “tasting” environment.

So when there was an opportunity to introduce Yellow Spot with Jameson’s Brand Ambassador Ciaran Hanton to our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai – it was an enthusiastic yes!

And what did we find?

Yellow Spot 12 year 46%

  • Nose – Brown sugar, fruity – again like the Green Spot we found pears, honey, vanilla, a nice crème brule, cinnamon spice, then apple pie
  • Palate – Love it! Denser than the Green Spot, peach pits, spicier, had that lovely oily silky roll around in your mouth, very tasty, shifting over time from white to red fruits
  • Finish – Light yet ginger spice – quite lovely! Perhaps even some candied apple at the end too with a sweet close

For many ladies, this was the “now we are talking” moment. Settling in to sip, savour and enjoy. Quite  few shared this was their favourite of our Irish evening.

Meantime our Irish whiskey education continued with Ciaran sharing that Yellow Spot is not a “finished” whiskey like those that say start in an ex-bourbon cask then are “finished” for a further time in say a sherry cask. Instead, Yellow Spot gains its character from whiskey that is matured in three separate casks – ex-Bourbon, ex-Sherry and ex-Spanish Malaga – then is blended together.

What is interesting is how the Sherry and Malaga, a sweet fortified wine made from Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel grapes, adds a subtle yet discernible elements. What matters most is they come together in harmony to make for an enjoyable dram.

What else did we have in our Irish night?

Our experience was courtesy of Pernod Ricard, tasted from a bottle opened in August 2018 with Jameson Brand Ambassador Ciaran Hanton.

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Whisky Ladies Irish Celebration – Jameson Caskmate Stout Edition 40%

Whisk(e)y and beer – separate beverages yet found as companions and occasionally as hybrid experiments.

In this case, the story goes

Like all the best conversations, the one between Jameson’s Head of Whiskey Science and the Head Brewer of a local craft beer brewery, started at the bar. A swapping of whiskey and beer barrels soon after, resulted in Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition – triple-distilled, blended Irish Whiskey that has been patiently finished in Irish craft beer-seasoned barrels.

And what did we find?

Jameson Caskmate Stout Edition 40%

  • Colour – Dark gold
  • Nose – Chocolate, butterscotch and flowers, very yheasty, dry cereals and a bit dusty, coconut, one even found Kahlua coffee liqueur, some hazelnut, cream
  • Palate – Very sweet, caramel, bitter orange and hay – some found it had a ‘hops’ influence, others didn’t discover any discernible stout element beyond the chocolate
  • Finish – Limited yet pleasant

Jameson’s brand ambassador Ciaran Hanlon shared that as Jameson is a mix of malted and approximately 10% unmalted barley, with the unmalted barley adding a creaminess and pepper spice. The thing was, though we could find the cream we didn’t find much spice – at least in this whiskey.

He went on to share that unlike some blended whiskies, Jameson is a single distiller blend and attributed the triple distill approach to producing a smoother style.

While there is no age statement, Ciaran noted typically Jameson has whiskies from 4-7 years, matured in ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and for this special expression, ex-stout barrels.

In this case, the whiskey barrels first go to the craft brewery Fransisco Well to give a little extra whisky “ooomph!” to the stout beer, then the same casks come back to Jameson to work their wonders for six months on the whisky.

There was a bit of a divide on this one – some enjoyed the chocolaty goodness, others prefer their Jameson “straight” without a twist.

Talk turned to many ladies sharing Jameson was their “gateway” dram into wider whisky explorations. It also is one most found can depend on in a bar to be at a reasonable price point for a reliably good sociable dram. And what’s not to like about that?

And the official tasting notes?

  • Nose – An initial aroma of freshly cut hay is complemented by a crisp orchard fruit character – green apples and pears, with a twist of lime zest. Mild pot still spices appear, deepening from green tea to hazelnut and milk chocolate.
  • Taste – The initial sweet mouth coating typical of the Irish pot still inclusion is quickly complemented by the subtle touch of hops and cocoa beans from the beer cask finish.
  • Finish – Long and sweet with milk chocolate and butterscotch.

After the Jameson Caskmate Stout Edition, we switched gears to pure Irish pot still drams:

Our Irish experience was courtesy of Pernod Ricard, tasted from a bottle opened in Aug 2018. For those curious to explore, Jameson Caskmate Stout Edition is available in India.

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Powers 12 year 46%

One fine evening in Mumbai our tasting group settled down to sample a trio… completely blind followed by the reveal. We closed with a dram from Ireland.

Powers 12 year John’s Lane Release 46%

  • Nose – Distinctly different, pot still, chocolate, hazelnut, milky, bit of varnish, oily, green and spic, tumeric, cinnamon, organic. Opened up and took on a forest quality – particularly spruce wood, green apple, some cumin, bay leaf, a bit of floral like rose essence…. After a long time came back and it was pure candy sweet!
  • Palate – Quite tasty and with spice! Pineapple, more of that gulab jaman with rose essence, while it certainly wasn’t completely, was quite sociable with a happy easy style
  • Finish – Butter, spice, not long but nice
  • Water – Absolutely no need

Our speculations?

One immediately identified it as Irish pot still. Talk turned to Bushmill Black, Powers.. we all found it to bhquite

And the reveal?

Guess what? Powers! It was a nice amiable ending to our evening.

Here’s what the folks at Powers have to say:

Powers John’s Lane Release is a Single Pot Still whiskey that celebrates the origin of the Powers Whiskey tradition and provides a glimpse of the whiskey style that made Powers famous. The distillate has been matured for no less than 12 years, mainly in American Oak casks with a small inclusion of Iberian Oak for balance and complexity and then married to create the distinctive honey and spice flavor of Powers.

  • Nose: An abundance of earthy aromas, leather, tobacco with layers of charred wood, dark chocolate and treacle toffee.
  • Taste: Full bodied spice front followed by vanilla, honey and dried apricot.
  • Finish: Lingering honey sweetness on toasted oak.

What else did we sample that evening?

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Writers Tears 2013 Cask Strength 53%

While I was off jaunting around North America and UAE, my fellow Mumbaikers were exploring whiskies… This is a guest post by Nikkhil, a member of our original Mumbai whisky club.
Pour 1: Writers Tears 2013 Cask Strength 53%
  • Nose: Citrus, lemon/lime hit which quickly faded into some mild honey followed by some baked/toasted cereal grain notes – think Marie biscuit. Then suddenly it turned solventy. The nose kept changing rapidly. Some odd notes of pressure cooker boiled peanuts. Hints of green apple. Overall very temperamental. And the initial citrus hit never returned. 
  • Palate: A swift uppercut! Hot but strangely not raw. Young and rather thin on the palate. We did speculate on this being a high strength bottling. Again just like the nose the heat faded quickly! Very little mouthfeel. Volatile. Bitter cereals, tannic and spirit driven. A very muted development. With water it turned more bitter. Some faint banana and herbal notes. We couldn’t quite place this spirit either in terms of its flavour profile or geography.
  • Finish: There was none! We were all unanimous on that.
Reveal: We were quite surprised (in disbelief) and those in the know of this brand were even more so. One member was disappointed as he had highly recommended it based on his previous encounter with Writers Tears in Glasgow. Another member was equally perplexed as this was high up on his wishlist having been recommended by an Irish whiskey aficionado.There was not a hint of the “pot still” character even though it claims to be a vatting of Irish single malt and Irish pot still.
In my experience Irish whiskies always start spirit driven and solventy and benefit immensely given some time in the glass. Could it be the same with this one? Did we sample it too quickly? Perhaps I should have poured one more, let it rest and then revisited it.
The discussion then turned to provenance or rather the lack of it when it comes to newer Irish whiskey with many NDPs (non distiller producer) sourcing the bulk of their matured stock from Cooleys and Middleton.
Official notes: 
 
  • Nose: Flashes of apple with hints of vanilla and honey over a distinctively Irish Pot Still base
  • Taste: Gently spiced with a burst of ginger and butterscotch with background notes of toasted oak
  • Finish: Long, elegant finish with subtle notes of milk chocolate and almonds

Writers Tears whiskies are a combination of unspecified Irish pot still and Irish single malt, triple distilled and aged in ex-bourbon casks.

This bottle was sampled blind, opened in September 2017 in Mumbai for this tasting. It can be found online at the Celtic Whisky Shop for €150.00.

The 2014 edition all appears to be sold out/discontinued on Master of Malt, however The Whisky Exchange still has the 2015 (2100 bottles at $151)  & 2016 (2640 bottles at $151) available. 

This may be a cask where variation between the years makes a difference. What was stellar one year becomes merely average another year or – gasp! – even a disappointment.

Whiskies sampled in September 2017 by our original club included:

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