New Whiskies

Batch 135

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Batch 135: Green Spot, The Irishman, Jameson Caskmates, Midleton Dair Ghaelach, The Retronaut, Writer's Tears

As we near St Patrick’s Day (on 17 March), it’s time for another Irish whiskey special, rounding up a batch of recent releases. And, from innovative finishes to cask strength spin-offs, Dave Broom has a number of treats in store.

Cork meets California in our first whiskey, as classic single pot still Green Spot is given a spell in ex-Zinfandel casks sourced from famed Napa Valley winery Chateau Montelena. It’s definitely one for those who like their whiskey on the soft and sweet side.

This batch also includes the 2017 releases of two cask strength examples from Walsh Whiskey, spin-offs from the company’s core brands: The Irishman and Writer’s Tears. Both are vattings of single malt and single pot still, and both offer good, reliable drams – with Writer’s Tears the more restrained of the two.

We’re back at the Midleton distillery for two more whiskeys this week, including an IPA cask finish from the giant of Irish whiskey, Jameson. Part of the Jameson Caskmates initiative, it’s a creditable effort, although not Broom’s favourite IPA finish.

He’s much more impressed by Midleton’s latest Dair Ghaelach expression, Bluebell Forest, which goes so far as to specify exactly which tree (number five, if you’re interested) was used to make the Irish oak cask in which it was finished. Beyond the back-story, it’s a single pot still whiskey of substance and balance.

Lastly, there’s a whisky from one of the many new distillery ventures currently popping up all over the Emerald Isle. Retronaut is a 17-year-old single malt, bottled by the Blackwater Distillery while it waits for its own new make to mature. Broom resorts to sporting cliché – it’s ‘a game of two halves’, he says – but he finds its quiet freshness highly appealing.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Green Spot Chateau Montelena Zinfandel Finish

    Green Spot Chateau Montelena Zinfandel Finish
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single Pot Still
    Region
    Ireland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A slight pinkish colour. There’s punnets of sweet red fruits: cherry, strawberry, that ooze towards syrup, then it flirts with cherry brandy and vanilla, before some pot still spiciness asserts itself. In time, things take on a slightly darker hue with kir, pomegranate molasses. Overall, it’s fat and sweet, with the wine in charge. With water you pick out more soft runny toffee, a slight peachiness and candied sweet potato. It shows some maturity if you allow it to develop.

    Palate

    As sweet as you might expect from the nose, with an almost bland start in terms of flavour, though there is this immediate sense of the tongue being coated. It picks up more character by the middle of the tongue, where there’s milky coffee, red berry cheesecake, apricot, cherry ice cream and custard. The back palate has much needed drying oak and spice as, finally, the clean, apple-like Green Spot elements add some firmness. Water softens things slightly, adding in more of the pot still elements, but then the Zin elements surge back in. Soft, though with a lot of time you do get a little more assertiveness.

    Finish

    Marzipan, then black pepper on strawberries.

    Conclusion

    Finished in a Zinfandel cask from California’s Chateau Montelena. If you like your whiskey soft and almost liqueur-like, then this is for you. If you want some structure, then maybe stick to the good old Green Spot classic.

    Right place, right time

    Cherry-oh baby.

    The Irishman Cask Strength, 2017 release

    The Irishman Cask Strength, 2017 release
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54%
    Production type
    Blended Irish Whiskey
    Region
    Ireland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Big and robust opening, with orange zest, milk chocolate, some cocoa powder, ripe fruits and, in time, a background vegetal element. As it develops there’s a little more oak, while a sprig of mint is thrown in for good measure, along with fresh cereal, dried lime and some Crunchie bar. Water allows the pot still to show more: hot wax, toasty wood and dried mango though, in time, a more youthful edge takes charge.

    Palate

    A decent wallop of flavour, with some oak, light rhubarb crumble, then immediately into latte coffee and spice (helped of course by the alcohol) and touches of nut. Energetic might be the best word. The back palate is more… considered, with lightly oily mature notes and more oakiness. Water allows all of this to flow more easily.

    Finish

    Biscuity and with touches of dried fruit and tayberry.

    Conclusion

    A clever vatting of single pot still and single malt aged in first fill ex-Bourbon. A banker.

    Right place, right time

    Though the evening started at great pace, by the third pub we were all mellowing.

    Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition

    Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Blended Irish Whiskey
    Region
    Ireland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A sweet, cooked fruit opening with bright spices, spearmint and a hint of oak. There’s some substance here and a warming element that brings to mind clove, then coffee bean, peanut brittle, bitter melon and some lemon thyme. Then comes an increasing amount of tangerine (well, fizzy orange, to be honest). Water initially makes things juicier, but this steadily deepens into a rootier base note.

    Palate

    Very soft, sweet and quite supple with that tangerine (jelly now) appearing on the tip of the tongue before softer elements billow out in the middle, along with some slightly green acorn-like elements and spiced chocolate on the end. The IPA element seems to bind well, adding drive and a bite to the finish, which works well when neat. When you add water, the hops become more thrusting and take control, flipping the balance. What was soft is now drier, slightly roasted and a little uneasy. I’d leave the water alone.

    Finish

    Mint and menthol, and an acidic twang.

    Conclusion

    A decent glass, but not my top IPA finish.

    Right place, right time

    As hoppy as an over-sexed rabbit.

    Midleton Dair Ghaelach Bluebell Forest Tree No 5

    Midleton Dair Ghaelach Bluebell Forest Tree No 5
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.3%
    Production type
    Single Pot Still
    Region
    Ireland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Gentle, with some refined, elegant wood (like a freshly sanded floor), lightly oily, with a ferny/oak moss-like element in the background, alongside light chocolate and tablet. It does benefit from water as now you get the full effect of springtime wood, then redcurrant and an estery lift before cinnamon, nutmeg and a touch of fresh cigar come in. Though still restrained, water shows greater layering and complexity.

    Palate

    Soft, yet substantial, the tip is all Walnut Whip, an immediate spiciness, along with tobacco, before getting a hot citric lift of sansho (Szechuan pepper) and pink grapefruit. When water is added, the mellowness of the mid-palate adds a soft creaminess, which is balanced by baked peach and apple pie before more pot still spices (there’s now added clove) crunch in on the back. The oak is always in perfect balance.

    Finish

    The spiciness continues, along with sweet oak and a light oiliness.

    Conclusion

    The latest in IDL’s exploration of native oak, this is a single pot still whiskey aged first in ex-Bourbon, then finished in a cask made from a single Irish oak tree from Blunden Estate’s Bluebell Forest in Co Kilkenny. This is a substantial glass of whiskey, but the balance is always there, and there’s none of the overpowering resinous flavour which you often get from virgin oak.

    Right place, right time

    A slow air.

    Retronaut 17 Years Old

    Retronaut 17 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Ireland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    This has a surprisingly piney start, adding a freshness to the delicate berry fruits, whitecurrant, sweet pear and russet apple. A herbal element grows (especially with water), adding touches of angelica and juniper. Rather lovely.

    Palate

    The botanical elements aren’t immediately apparent on the palate. Instead, there’s juicy cereal from the word go, with lemon oil, sweet elderflower that leads into a silky mid-palate that’s given a balancing, nougat-like crunch. Soft orchard fruits dominate the back palate – though this is relative. Nothing shouts here. Water lightens matters and, while you don’t lose the overall sensation of freshness, over-enthusiastic addition does ruin the impact. All in all, very attractive.

    Finish

    Fresh fruit salad with a sprinkling of sumac.

    Conclusion

    A game of two halves here, but thankfully both enjoyable. The first of Blackwater Distillery’s new whiskey range, which is (openly) using sourced whiskey until its own make matures.

    Right place, right time

    Pine woods in springtime.

    Writer’s Tears Cask Strength, 2017 release

    Writer’s Tears Cask Strength, 2017 release
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54%
    Production type
    Blended Irish Whiskey
    Region
    Ireland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Lighter than The Irishman, with some currant leaf and a crisp, cereal-driven delivery, before it softens into peach Melba. Water enhances the fruity elements.

    Palate

    A very soft start, suggestive of clotted cream and some toffee, that gives way to an almost syrupy feel that’s given a light textural crunch by toasted hazelnut, before some black fruits and more pot still start to develop. Water loosens the grip on the back palate.

    Finish

    Slightly tight. Spicy.

    Conclusion

    Another of Walsh’s pot still/single malt vattings, and a more restrained style than The Irishman. Take your pick.

    Right place, right time

    Less Beckett, more Flann O’Brien.

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