Ireland ranks so high on my personal Whisky Country Top 5 (mostly) thanks
to one distiller: Cooley. And Cooley secured a position close to my heart with
one of its brands: Connemara - an affordable peated Irish single malt whiskey.
There are dozens of different brands of Irish whisky, but many are so-called
'3d Party Brands' - all of them are really produced by only three distilleries:
Here is just a small selection of the available brands of Irish whiskey;
(40%, 3d Party brand of Clontarf Irish Whiskey Company, Ireland, Bottled +/- 1999)
Nose: Lots and lots of vanilla. Overwhelming. A little grainy. Hint of smoke?
It feels a little 'chemical', not unlike the yellow banana scum sweets.
Taste: Vanilla. Clean. Thin. A little bit grainy. Stale beer. A bit sharper than I'm used to. superficial, sweetish finish.
Score: 56 points - I have to admit that I'm not particularly impressed by this particular Irish whiskey.
(40%, OB from Cooley Distillers, Ireland, Bottled +/- 1999)
Nose: Sweet and smoky start - Smoked ham and melon. Banana's later on, with other fruity notes also; more oily too.
Becomes very peaty for an Irish whiskey. Very good! Interesting development. The nose scores a lot better than the taste.
Taste: Peat. Sweet and long, quite a burn... Sweetness disappears quickly. Soapy intermezzo, bitter finish.
Score: 78 points - not a lot of 'depth' perhaps, but very nice and accessible.
(40%, OB, Peated, Ireland, Bottled +/- 2003, 5cl)
Nose: Gentle, sweet and quite spicy. Not terribly peaty, actually... Not quite enough for me...
In fact, I think this batch is notably less peaty than earlier (+/- 2000) and more recent batches.
Taste: Beer. Sweet. Quite slick. Hmmm.... Very smooth on the surface, but a tad gritty underneath.
Score: 75 points - enjoyable, but nothing to get too excited about; earlier & later batches are much better.
(40%, OB, Peated, Ireland, Bottled, +/- 2008)
Nose: Rich and round with very complex 'old' fruits. A beautiful profile. Organics & a hint of creosote. Tar?
Taste: Big with much more wood & less sweet fruits than I imagined. Feels a tad thin, but very interesting.
Score: 83 points - There's obviously peat, but not a great deal. A tad too thin to rise higher into the 80's.
(40%, OB, Bottled + 2004)
The packaging is absolutely brilliant; a wooden tube with wooden inlays - quite classy and unlike anything I've seen before.
Nose: Sweet organics and spices. Very interesting. Most complex bouquet so far. Then the peat emerges - lots of it.
Salt liquorice. Something medicinal as well. Did I imagine that hint of mint or menthol in the back of the nose? Some sour fruits?
Opens up beautifully after two or three minutes and shows lots of development. Rotten peanut. Hint of chloride? Vanilla pudding?
Taste: Starts off softer than the nose - and it isn't as sweet either. Dry. Smoky finish.
The smoke becomes the dominant impression after a few minutes. It lacks depth, though.
Nothing wrong here, but the mouth feel is nowhere near as big and beautiful as the nose.
Score: 81 points - a step up from the NAS version, although it isn't really convincing on the tongue.
With a palate to match the nose it might have made the upper 80's, where no Irish malt has gone before...
Even as it is, it outclasses some Islay malts - some official bottlings from Bowmore in particular.
(40%, OB, Peated, Ireland, Bottled +/- 2008)
Nose: Light fruits, some dust and a pinch of peat. Explosion of complexity after a few seconds.
Then some 'grain whisky' traits emerge. A roller coaster of aroma's. Then tar & creosote. Quite amazing.
Taste: Oy… No sweetness during the first few seconds, but then the sweet fruits explode on the palate.
What a fun whisky! With a little more staying power it would have reached the upper 80's.
Score: 85 points - but I should point out that not all other malt maniacs were as enthusiastic as I was...
Connemara NAS Cask Strength
(60%, OB, Dumpy Bottle, Ireland, Bottled +/- 2004)
Nose: Oooaaah. Starts of surprisingly light, grainy and complex. Strawberry yoghurt?
Smoke emerges after a few minutes, followed by organics. Maybe some wood?
With a generous splash of water some more salty and peaty notes materialise.
Taste: Nice! Bittersweet, hot and smoky (and surprisingly drinkable) at cask strength.
No big change with water.This fire water should satisfy even the most hardened Islay snob.
Score: 82 points - every bit as good as the previous expression that came in a taller bottle.
Connemara NAS 'Cask Strength'
(57.9%, OB, Peated, Ireland, +/-2008)
Nose: Solid peat. Something fishy? Then lighter fruity notes emerge. Hint of chloride?
Then sweaty notes and other organics. Wow! The fruits keep evolving too. Loads of development.
Taste: Solid, peaty and dry. Salmiak and smoke. I don't find salmiak very often in Irish whiskey.
Score: 88 points - the nose shows lots of development in very little time. An old favourite improved!
This has always been my favourite expression in the range, but now it seems to have grown extra balls.
In fact, it was submitted to the Malt Maniacs Awards 2008 and six out of eleven jurors voted for silver too.
(50.5%, OB for Whisky Fair Germany, peated malt, C# K92/34 4184)
Nose: Ah! Freshly sweet and a tad farmy. Spicy too. Later on some very green veggy smells. Complex.
Taste: Salmiak and sweetness, Smoke too. Salami. The elements you usually get with peat monsters.
Score: 87 points - it's great that the best casks at Cooley are now released as single casks.
(58.5%, Tasttoe & Guy Boyen, C# K92/34 4188, Dst. 31/08/92, Btl. 12/04/08)
Nose: Similar to the TWF bottling, perhaps a bit punchier. A smidgen fruitier too. Sweet. Later veggy.
Taste: Hah! A strong salmiak impression again just like the TWF bottling. Excellent mouth feel.
Score: 87 points - perhaps a tad less complex than the 1992/2007 The Whisky Fair release, but a brilliant mouth feel.
Cooley 12yo 'Peated'
(60%, Cadenhead's World Whiskies, Bourbon Barrel, April 2004, 234 Bottles)
Nose: Surprisingly medicinal. Meaty with loads of lovely organics. This beats the 'official' Connemara in the nose.
That being said, I assume the official bottling is a little younger than this Cadenhead's bottling.
Taste: It was peaty on the palate, and a little bit medicinal as well. Hot.
Actually, it feels hotter than the Connemara C/S OB, even though that's bottled at 60% ABV as well.
Score: 84 points - as recommendable as they come (but not quite 'highly recommendable' yet).
Cooley 15yo 1992/2007
(56.4%, The Whisky Fair, Bourbon, 312 Bts.)
Nose: Fresh and vegetal. Also a hint of something metallic here. Sourish. Rhubarb. Apple.
It receives bonus points for complexity, that's for sure. A mellow fruitiness; a perfect summer whiskey.
Taste: The bourbon cask has a very dominant presence. Strong tannins in the middle and the finish.
Quite hot, even after I added a few generous drops of water. It feels younger than 15 years though.
The 'plywood' tannins really are a tad too harsh for my tastes - not the best cask Carsten ever chose.
That being said - it does have charms. After a LOT of time and some water tropical fruits emerged in the finish.
Score: 77 points - a very nice nose but too woody on the palate for me to actively recommend it.
Erin Go Bragh 6yo
(40%, OB, Ireland, Bottled +/- 2000)
Nose: Soft and subtle; a little stuffy before the fruits emerge - mostly apple. Some organics in the back.
After five minutes spices and faint chemicals emerge - and rhubarb perhaps? Subtle but interesting.
Taste: The palate fits the nose as a glove; soft, sweet and smooth with gentle apple overtones.
Score: 76 points - after enough time the nose almost made it into the 80's, but the finish drags it down.
Green Spot NAS
(40%, OB produced at the new Midleton distillery for Mitchell & Son in Dublin, Bottled +/- 2003)
Nose: Very distinctive with sake and rice waffles - a bit like the 'Dark Whisky' from Poland. a hint of oil.
It becomes richer than most Irish whiskeys I know. Tea. Yeah, this is quite complex.
Taste: It was softly sweet on the palate with rice crackers as well. Gooseberries too. Growing too bitter in the finish.
This surely is a very pleasant dram, but it could have done with some more complexity.
Score: 78 points - but I should add that this whiskey was difficult to score.
(40%, OB, Irish single grain whiskey, Bottled +/- 2004)
Nose: Subtle, but developing very quickly. From a sweet flowery start to smoke in seconds.
More powerful grainy elements after a minute. Very entertaining, a good summertime whiskey. Gentle but firm.
It sweetens out after a few more minutes with honey and something nutty. Something 'earthy' in the back of the nose.
Taste: Fairly weak start, developing into a bittersweet centre. A tad uneven in the finish.
Relatively smooth for a grain whiskey, but it's still a little too 'gritty' on the tongue for me.
A dry heat livened up by flashes of menthol freshness. Gooseberry skins? Maybe too dry.
Not the perfect profile for somebody with a sweet tooth like me, but the nose wins the day.
Score: 72 points - and that's from a freshly opened bottle, mind you! An unexpected surprise.
It had something that reminded me of the 'Platte Valley' corn whiskey, but this is much smoother and more complex.
Greenore 15yo Limited Edition
(43%, OB, Cooley, Grain whiskey, Ireland, 5000 Bottles, Bottled +/- 2006)
Nose: Clearly a grain whisky at first with an 'acetone' attack. Sweetens out quickly, settling down.
Clean with some faint vegetal notes in the background. Light in style with an evolving complexity.
After some 10 minutes it starts to really open up with bakery aroma's joining the grain attic bouquet.
Then the faintest hint of sulphur - gunpowder - and other organics. Smoke. Wow! A brief 'peacock's tail'.
Taste: Extremely smooth on the palate, almost like a bourbon. Big centre, hint of smoke in the dry finish?
Some malty notes, oddly enough. After some breathing the centre became a little nuttier. Roasted almonds?
Score: 78 points - the perfect crossover whiskey for bourbon lovers looking for some more complexity.
(46%, OB, Single Grain Irish Whiskey, Cooley, Bottled +/- 2012)
Nose: Sweet with a hint of smoke. Unfortunately, there's little complexity or development beyond that.
Taste: Sweet and smooth, just like the younger expressions. However, there's very little development over time.
Oddly enough, this is not nearly as complex as the 15yo. It shows little beyond the typical 'acetone' of grain whiskey.
Score: 66 points - which almost makes be believe that this sample was possibly spoiled by oxidation - or even light?
Until I get the chance to try a big bottle I would recommend the (cheaper) 8yo or 15yo expressions.
(40%, OB, Irish whiskey, Bottled +/- 1997)
Nose: A fairly complex aroma with more subtlety and entertainment value than the regular expression. Slightly 'bourbony'.
Taste: A pleasant, gentle flavour. The style is clearly Irish and won't offend many people. I still prefer Scotch malt whiskies though.
Score: 56 points - which means that I liked it, but I'd still choose some of the 'premium' blended Scotch whiskies over this one.
Locke's Single Malt NAS
(40%, Distillery bottling for John Locke & Co. Ltd., Bottled +/- 1999)
Nose: Slightly oily, becoming very fruity! Raspberries. Red Oranges. Peaches.
Salt & a hint of peat. A lot of other fragrances in the background as well.
Taste: Smooth. Very sweet and fruity. Melons. Some citrus tones as well.
Develops into a slightly peaty burn with lots of salt. Very versatile.
Score: 73 points - better than a few Scotch single malts...
Midleton NAS 'Very Rare'
(40%, Irish whiskey, Bottled 1996)
Nose: Fruity. Gooseberry. Organics in the background. Hazelnut liqueur. Very sweet - in a good way.
The nose shows amazing complexity for an Irish whiskey. But how will it perform on the palate?
Taste: Mellow and a little fruity. Sweet. This may be very rare, but it doesn't taste too remarkable.
Score: 81 points - a recommendable whiskey. In fact, one of the best unpeated Irish whiskeys I've tried.
Tullamore Dew NAS
(40%, Bottled +/- 1995)
Nose: Rather complex for an Irish whiskey - much more so than my previous bottle which was bottled in +/- 1993.
Taste: Soft, honeyed and extremely drinkable, although this whiskey not as complex as the nose would suggest.
Score: 45 points - but batch variation between consecutive batches is massive. More than I've ever seen among the Irish.
(40%, Distillery bottling for Andrew A. Watt & Co., single malt Irish whiskey, Bottled +/- 1999)
Nose: Seems not 'Irish' at all - much fresher. Soft, sweet and rather clean. Green Apples? Lemons and more citrus later.
Cinnamon. Nutty after a while, with oily and soapy episodes. A lot of development.
Taste: Light and clean, a very soft sweetness. Very nice.
Score: 75 points - An Irish whiskey that is able to compete with plenty of 'bottom shelf' Scotch single malts.
(40%, OB, single malt Irish whiskey, Bottled + 2004)
Nose: Veggy and spicy with a hint of oil. Opens op with more fruits emerge quickly. Then some sour beer notes float to the foreground.
A lot of quick developments. More power and a hint of smoke after five minutes. A nice profile, but a tad superficial.
Taste: Sweet, malty start. A soft beer-like bitterness on the tongue as well.
Score: 73 points - light and refreshing, but it could do with some more complexity.
If memory serves the bottling from the late 1990's had more 'substance' in the mouth.
This list of Irish whiskey brands
is by no means complete. While the attention of the world was drawn to the amazing Scotch whisky revival
of the noughties, Ireland had a quiet little boom as well. Exports and sales are on the rise and quite a few new brands were launched.
This 'Deviant Drams' section is a mere diversion from the main focus of the Malt Madness website: single malt (Scotch) whisky.
My knowledge of and experience with world whiskies and other alcoholic beverages is relatively limited, but I have plenty to say
about single malt Scotch whisky. For example, there's a Beginner's Guide to Single Malts with 10 pages filled with lots of useful
information for (relative) beginners and the 'Distillery Data' section has profiles for over a hundred malt whisky distilleries.
Clicking on one of the links below will take you directly to the distillery profile of that particular whisky distillery in Scotland.
Aberfeldy - Aberlour - Ailsa Bay - Allt A' Bhainne - Ardbeg - Ardmore - Arran - Auchentoshan - Auchroisk - Aultmore
Balblair - Balmenach - Balvenie - Banff - Ben Nevis - Benriach - Benrinnes - Benromach - Ben Wyvis - Bladnoch
Blair Athol - Bowmore - Brackla - Braeval - Brora - Bruichladdich - Bunnahabhain - Caol Ila - Caperdonich - Cardhu
Clynelish - Coleburn - Convalmore - Cragganmore - Craigellachie - Daftmill - Dailuaine - Dallas Dhu - Dalmore
Dalwhinnie - Deanston - Dufftown - Edradour - Fettercairn - Glen Albyn - Glenallachie - Glenburgie - Glencadam
Glencraig - Glen Deveron - Glendronach - Glendullan - Glen Elgin - Glenfarclas - Glenfiddich - Glen Flagler
Glen Garioch - Glenglassaugh - Glengoyne - Glen Grant - Glengyle - Glen Keith - Glenkinchie - Glenlivet - Glenlochy
Glenlossie - Glen Mhor - Glenmorangie - Glen Moray - Glen Ord - Glenrothes - Glen Scotia - Glen Spey - Glentauchers
Glenturret - Glenugie - Glenury Royal - Highland Park - Imperial - Inchgower - Inverleven - Isle of Jura - Kilchoman
Killyloch - Kinclaith - Kininvie - Knockando - Knockdhu - Ladyburn - Lagavulin - Laphroaig - Ledaig - Linkwood
Linlithgow - Littlemill - Loch Lomond - Lochnagar - Lochside - Longmorn - Macallan - MacDuff - Mannochmore - Millburn
Miltonduff - Mortlach - Mosstowie - North Port / Brechin - Oban - Old Pulteney - Pittyvaich - Port Ellen - Pulteney
Rosebank - Royal Brackla - Royal Lochnagar - Saint Magdalene - Scapa - Speyburn - Speyside - Springbank - Strathisla
Strathmill - Talisker - Tamdhu - Tamnavulin - Teaninich - Tobermory - Tomatin - Tomintoul - Tormore - Tullibardine