Teeling Taster Set - St Patrick's Day 2019

Earlier this month we were lucky enough to receive a taster set of Teeling Whiskey in the post to review on Twitter on St Patrick’s Day. The drams were shared out between Andy and Stu, with the Small Batch blend going to Andy and the Single Malt/Single Grain samples left with Stu.

The Teeling Distillery on Dublin’s banks of the Liffey River have spearheaded the resurgence in Irish whiskey production, the first new distillery to open in the Irish capital for 125 years. Although the Teeling family involvement in the whiskey business spans back to 1792, the new city centre distillery under the management of brothers Jack and Stephen opened in 2015. Along with the core range sampled in this review, they also produce two Brabazon finish malts and a Revival and Vintage collection.

Teeling Small Batch, 46% ABV

Andy let the side down by arriving late to the Twitter tasting (sometimes a 3-year old’s bedtime tantrum just can’t wait) but he soon poured, opened up and tucked into this blend. To give this blend a unique edge, once blended from select casks the whiskey is given some extra maturation time in ex-rum casks. Here are Andy’s “tasting notes”:

Nose: Toffee, malt and banana on the nose with the hint of something darker and spicier from that rum cask finish

Palate: The 46% ABV is appreciated on the palate and it has all the hallmarks of Irish whiskey with dark spice. This is the goth teenager of the range, loitering outside George’s St Arcade no doubt.

Finish: The heat and spice fade away on the finish, leaving a nice trail of nuttiness, banana bread and treacle pudding. Slainte!

Single Grain, 46% ABV

Moving on to Stu who started with the single grain, here are his thoughts. The Single Grain is fully matured in Californian red wine casks and like all Teeling whiskies, bottled with no chill filtration.

Nose: It’s always the nose that captivates me on a single grain… and this doesn’t let me down. Instant hit of honeycomb. It’s light, fresh (lavender maybe?) green fruits to reflect the country’s colours. Demerara sugar. Bit of time to open up and it gets quite earthy/grassy!

Palate: Quite subtle on the palate, the honey remains, the alcohol isn’t too big on this one at 46%, so it’s light and easy, with lots of sweetness.

Finish: It tingles for a while on the tongue with a bit of honey and earth, but the flavours fade fairly quickly. Like St Patrick’s Day itself, it’s over all to quickly… but it still leaves a positive impression, unlike the hangovers!

Single Malt, 46% ABV

Last but not least, the Single Malt. This expression is a vatting of whisky distilled as far back as 1991 and matured in five different wine casks (Sherry, Port, Madeira, White Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon). Stu’s consummate professionalism abandoned him somewhat at this stage, as his lubricated fingers (stop sniggering at the back!) let the sample bottle fall into the dram. Not one to let minor calamity worry him, he soldiered on with the tasting notes.

Nose: Ah that’s the stuff! Spiced chocolate, apple juice, and a similar grape note to the single grain. Some rich unsmoked tobacco in there too.

Palate: Unlike those stumbling out of the bars after too many pints of Guinness tonight... this is a well balanced palate, with a nice amount of malt, fruity sweetness, and peppery spice. Very enjoyable!

Finish: Sweet and lingering, like malt loaf with a nice chunk of butter on there! Very nice indeed.

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So there you have it, our round-up of Teeling’s core range was both a delight and a joy to us on a fine St Patrick’s Day evening. Thanks to Teeling Whiskey and Drinks By The Dram for providing the samples. Get in touch on Twitter if you have tried any other Teeling’s that have knocked your shamrock socks off and stay tuned for more podcasts very soon.

A Drink At The Old Local

I grew up about 10 miles away from the oldest whisk(e)y distillery in the world – Bushmills 1608 in Northern Ireland. In an industry obsessed with pairing up the sometimes unhappy bedfellows of a whisky’s age its resulting quality, you might expect Bushmills to have all the heritage and resources to turn out some of the finest drams known to humanity. If that were true, of course, the entire craft of whisky distilling would be reduced to a protracted game of chicken to see who could hold their nerve, and their whisky casked, the longest.

I am familiar with Bushmills Original, Black Bush and Bushmills 10 from before I ever fully appreciated whisky and have grown to appreciate each of them on their varied and specific merits. In the meantime the distillery has undergone a high-profile change of ownership, witnessed a resurgent Irish whiskey industry and faced more competition in the last couple of decades than it probably saw in the prior few centuries.

I’ve enjoyed the distillery-only release 12-year single malt, as much for the personalised labels printed on site at the distillery shop marking my wedding and the birth of my son, as for its gentle spice and citrus notes. The 16-year malt is a very fine dram; much-celebrated, increasingly hard to find yet almost mourned in some quarters for not being what it once was, if they’re to be believed. I’ve even enjoyed the hot toddy presented to you in the distilllery foyer as you wait to be drawn into a tour that lingers a little too long in the industrial bottling plant before finally sitting you down for a tasting.

It was only recently that I found both the opportunity and the careless slip of the wallet required to try a measure of the top-of-the-range 21-year single malt, in the eponymous Inn at Bushmills. What is certainly true is that this is a very fine glass of whisky, if you can tear your mind away from the pound-to-millilitre ratio provided by the bar’s price list. The sweet toffee nose leads into a complex array of spicy fruit and nut flavours with a rich menthol-tinged, liquorice finish. It is in turns both violently rich and subtly decadent, like a Mafia interrogator who pauses between each flurry of gut punches to fetch you another Macaron.

What struck me most was how much the aromas and flavours were profoundly evocative of the rugged and precise coastline where I spent my childhood. I can say I’ve drank better whisky, sure, but Bushmills 21 was the closest thing to Proust’s madeleine that I’ve experienced – if we aren’t counting White Lightening cider and acute nausea. It seems that in the world’s oldest distillery, age and quality have indeed learned to live side by side very well over their two decades in bourbon, Oloroso sherry and Madeira casks.