Irish Whiskey Week – Day 7: Connemara 15yo 1992/2007 “Single Cask” (46%, OB, Cask #K92/34 4126)

Irish CloverThis will conclude our Irish Whiskey Week, a week that was lurking in the mud and only came into fruition when it was almost too late. I already published the first Tyrconnell review here and was writing the second Tyrconnell review (The Port one) when it hit me that I could make this into a Irish Whiskey Week. Irish Whiskey deserves that. In the end Ireland only has three distilleries that are “big”, Bushmills, Midleton and Cooley. No Bushmills Whiskey was reviewed here this time, Midleton was only featured with Jamesons 18yo and the rest are all really Cooley Whiskies. Even The Wild Geese are supposed to use Whiskey made by Cooley. Maybe I should have called this a Cooley Whisky Week…

Let’s finish this week off with a hopefully nice Single Cask Connemara, or peated Cooley Whiskey if you prefer. Strange enough this and a lot (but not all) of its brothers and sister single casks were bottled at 46% ABV instead of Cask Strength. When I look around, even all these Single Cask Connemara’s are sold out, so if you happen to find one get it if you’re interested.

Connemara Single Cask (with a different cask number)

Color: Light gold

Nose: Very light peat, creamy with vanilla. I smell more smoke than peat actually. Again a very elegant peated Irish Whiskey. Clay (a fresh uncolored clay brick kids play with). Very deep, toned down wet wood. Smoked kippers. Needs some air to open up, but I really like what I smell. Behind the smoke there is also some nice sweet fruits and salty licorice and mint. Meaty.

Taste: Sweet almonds. Sugared nuts. Small hint of peat, very elegant and toned down. Warming. Great balance. Ashes and a tiny amount of wood bitterness. Definitely a very tasty whisky, a mile (not miles) away from the regular young Cask Strength version, which is a lot cleaner, but also full of aroma, with less complexity. The finish is long and goes down the throat like a syrup, slowly and warms you up nicely. It leaves you behind with salty lips. I called this more complex than the cask strength version, but in itself it is not very complex, shall we say medium complexity?

Again we have here a very good Irish Whiskey that is impossible to buy these days. Not a lot of Connemara is bottled as a single cask and I’m wondering why. It is great stuff, even when its reduced to 46% ABV. I hope more bottling will be made like this. It’s a shame it’s that scarce.

This is the end, Irish Whiskey Week is over. A final comment? I have to say that this final Connemara is very different from my beloved Redbreast 15yo, and maybe even a tad better, what lovely stuff. I was surprised at the quality of the Jameson’s 18yo and how it reminded me of the Redbreast. Another plus was the quality of the Kilbeggan 15yo blend and the quality of both Connemara’s. But the sad thing is that all the good Irish stuff is hard to come by. Kilbeggan and Connemara Single Cask are both almost impossible to come by, and that’s a shame.

Points: 88

Irish Whiskey Week – Day 6: Connemara “Cask Strength” (57.9%, OB, 2007)

Irish CloverAnd here is yet another Cooley Whiskey with another brand name. I started with The Tyrconnell Single Malt which was acquired Cooley in 1988. Tyrconnell was mothballed already in 1925. The second Cooley Whiskey was Kilbeggan, a Blended Whiskey and here is the third one:  Connemara. Connemara is the brand used by Cooley, for their peated double distilled Single Malt Whiskey. There is a fourth one and that is Greenore, a Single Grain Whiskey made from corn exclusively.

Cooley Distillery is located on the Cooley Peninsula in County Louth and it was converted in 1987 from an older potato alcohol plant into a two column still distillery by John Teeling. In 2012 Beam Inc. acquired Cooley for €71 million.However, Beam itself was taken over by Suntory Holdings in 2014 to form Beam Suntory.

Connemara Cask Strength (mine looked like this but at 57.9% ABV)Color: White wine

Nose: Lightly peated, and lightly woody. Elegant, as long as a Whisk(e)y can be called elegant. Very light and young otherwise. Soft citrus fruits, lemon sherbet. No barley or hay, but there is some lemongrass. Very clean and a little bit meaty. Dirty wood smoke, like from a fire that was not only from (wet) logs. A type of peaty Whiskey that needs a copious dinner to go with it. Nice and interesting.

Taste: Yeah, lemon sherbet again and light peat ánd smoke. Fatty and sweet and very tasty. Even though this is very high in Alcohol at 57.9% ABV, it is not extremely hot. Its creamy, with Madagascar Vanilla, not so much vanilla ice-cream, just chew on a tiny portion of the dried bean. The peat makes this Whiskey chewy and the some even trickles through into the taste. So its prickly but not hot. Excellent stuff full of upfront aroma’s.

Sure it’s young, and yes it may be overly complex. But it is well made and very tasty and dirt cheap to boot. I already had one of these before, when it was fairly new and came in a tall green glass bottle. It was more than ten years ago, and it was young and clean back then too but I still was very impressed by it. This time there seem to be more dirty food notes into the Connemara, which makes it less clean, but what remained is that I’m still impressed by this Whiskey. Definitely a contender for the Cask Strength Bang-for-your-buck award (If I would have one). I have to get me some of this again. I only hope now Jack Teeling sold Cooley the new owners continue to make this Connemara as excellent as it ever was.

Points: 86

Irish Whiskey Week – Day 5: Kilbeggan 15yo (40%, OB, 5000 bottles)

Irish CloverKilbeggan distillery a.k.a. Brusna Distillery a.k.a. Locke’s Distillery, was founded in the small town of Kilbeggan, County Westmeath in 1757 by Gustavus Lambert. The distillery was formerly a monastery and is situated near the Brusna river. Kilbeggan is now claimed to be the oldest working distillery in the world. One of the two stills at the distillery was made early in the 19th century and is considered the oldest working Pot still in the world. The distillery was dormant for quite a while, but Cooley restarted the distillery in 2007. Today Kilbeggan an Cooley are part of the Beam Suntory group.

Kilbeggan 15yo is a small batch blend, made with Cooley Whiskey, since Kilbeggan Distillery wasn’t running 15 years ago.

Kilbeggan 15yo

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Fruity and fresh. Lovely. Vanilla pods and vanilla ice-cream but also a little dusty. Very nice and sweet grain in the nose. Slightly burnt wood (and new wood) with toasted bread.

Taste: Lots of vanilla and dried yellow fruits. Caramel and fresh toffee. Lovely stuff, I would pour this over pancakes. Peach yoghurt. Again toast and slightly smoky. Sweet, sappy wood. Nice hint of bitterness in the finish to hive the whole experience some balls. Excellent! Since this is a blend, don´t be surprised the finish is rather short, but who cares the Whiskey is simply delicious!

I love Cooley Whisky, but what makes this Blend really work is the high quality grain Whiskey that in here and it seems to me that there are a lot of first fill Bourbon Barrels (or Hogsheads) used. This 15yo is discontinued and is replaced with the 18yo in the same style decanter. Decanter you say, after-shave bottle imho. The 15yo was 5.000 bottles stong, of the new 18yo a mere 4.000 bottles were filled. I hear the 18yo surpasses this 15yo, and if that’s true get it if you can, since both are probably sold out everywhere.

Points: 85

Irish Whiskey Week – Day 2: The Tyrconnell 10yo (46%, OB, Finished in Port Cask, Circa 2007)

Irish CloverWhy not continue our Irish Whiskey Week with another Tyrconnell, but first I’ll start with my thoughts about finishing Whisk(e)y in casks that previously held(fortified) Wines.

I come from a time where every single cask that was released was good by itself, so when the first finishes emerged we were quite suspicious of them. Was the Original cask too tired to produce a well aged Whisk(e)y? Especially Port finishes were considered to be strange. The color turned slightly pink, and the Wine bit, that leaped out of the glass was pretty harsh. Now that I (and Whisky makers) understand Port better we have learned that the best kind of Port for Whisk(e)y is Tawny (or Colheita or any other form of a Tawny, or oxidized Port, like old Whites). So today finishes have become more popular. I see a lot of people raving about different kind of Sauternes finishes, Marsala finishes, PX finishes and so on. On a more personal note. In the old days I found the odd Rum finish pretty pleasing, but it seems to me Rum isn’t a first choice from the industry anymore.

The Tyrconnell 10yo Port Cask FinishColor: Light copper gold

Nose: Strong and spicy. Malty and winey, but the winey bit isn’t overpowering the whole. It really is only an (balanced) addition. Adding something new to the Tyrconnell profile. Quite some creamy, wooden depth with licorice. Fresh cut oak. Earth and clay. Fresh butter. Good stuff. Spicy and powerful.

Taste: This packs a lot more punch at 46% ABV than the standard Tyrconnell. This version is also a lot more spicy and “older”. Cask toast and licorice, and medium wooden bitterness. All kept in check. The body is well-balanced and creamy, but towards the finish a sweet and slightly sharp and acidic winey note comes to the top, that also throws the Whiskey slightly off-balance. I also get some cardboard and bitterness in the finish. It doesn’t take air so well, so drink up, don’t let it sit too long in your glass.

Since I have just recently tried the “normal” Tyrconnell, does this one resemble the other one? Well no, but that may not only be the Port finish. First of all, a huge difference is made by the 46% ABV. 6% more alcohol is quite a bit. Second, this version is 10yo, and may even hold older Whiskey in the mix. And yes there is some Port going on, but as I mentioned above, this is not overpowering. If you can get past the finish, it does resemble a Tyrconnell though, again a sign they didn’t overdo the Port. Definitely a step, or two, up from the standard version, but still it didn’t quite work for me. Still not a big fan of finishes I guess…

Points: 79

Irish Whiskey Week – Day 1: The Tyrconnell (40%, OB, Circa 2008)

Irish CloverTime for another of Master Quill’s “Weeks”. This time we’ll be doing the Irish Whiskey Week. Irish Whiskey is something I would love to love. Ireland is a beautiful country with lovely people, and in Whisk(e)y they have become something of an underdog. I already have on my lectern a very good Redbreast 15yo that was bottled in 2005, and that bottling especially, turns out to be somewhat of a cult Whiskey, but I like to have some more excellent Irish Whiskey on there, so the search starts here…

The Tyrconnell (a racehorse) was once the biggest brand of the Watt distillery which dates back to 1762. Still on the label is the year 1762 as is the name of Andrew A. Watt & Co. The modern Tyrconnell was revived by the Cooley distillery, which today is part of Beam Suntory. Cooley also revived the Kilbeggan brand name, and Beam Suntory today calls the company Kilbeggan Distilling Co., with Cooley and The Tyrconnell to be two of its brands. There are two more brands you might have heard of: Greenore (a Single Grain) and of course Kilbeggan itself. As could be read earlier Jack Teeling sold Cooley to this group and started fresh with Teeling Whiskey.

The TyrconnellLets have a look at two Tyrconnell’s, first the standard The Tyrconnell at 40% ABV with no age statement (NAS), and the next review will be about another Tyrconnell Single Malt Whiskey.

Color: Light gold

Nose: Petrol (as you can have in a good Riesling) and malt. Fruity, as in apples and pears. Dry grass and toned down lemon sherbet. Machine oil and honey. Dusty toffee. Sweet, but more from fruit sugars and honey, than from sugar itself. Very nice and also interesting nose with a little bit of pepper and toasted wood. Industrial, but I very much like that.

Taste: Sweet and malty. Some of the Industrial warm oil notes return in the taste. Petrol is here too. Malty and sugary sweet, with some air it develops into honey sweetness. It is young, yet not vibrant, slightly under-developed and for my taste a tad too sweet. Entry into the mouth is nice and oily, sweet, than a nice body shows itself, but quickly hides. Towards the end everything seems to turn into water. Extremely short finish with some woody bitterness.

Very interesting Whisky with a nice, but light, industrial revolution profile. The old owners issued quite some single cask bottlings of The Tyrconnell and I hope the new owners will do the same, hopefully at cask strength. For a NAS bottling it is quite nice, and sure shows some potential. Tweak the stuff with some older ex-Bourbon cask Whiskey (for a longer finish) and maybe up the strength a bit and in my opinion you may have a winner!

Points: 74

Cooley 13yo 1999/2013 (51.4%, The Whisky Mercenary)

Cooley! How cool is that! As the label states, this is peated Cooley so probably spirit that was made to become a Connemara. But what is Cooley?

In 1985, Jack Teeling bought a former state potato alcohol distillery and two years later converted it into an independent Irish Whiskey distillery with a column still and two pot stills, located on the Cooley Peninsula in County Louth, hence the name. Cooley is known for distilling only twice, where other Irish distillers distill three times.

25 years later Mr. Teeling sold his distillery for €71 million to Beam Inc. On January 13th 2014 however, Japan’s Suntory Holdings sort of bought Beam Inc. for about €10.2 billion, making Cooley part of Suntory now. In the same deal our beloved Laphroaig, will enter the Japanese outfit wich already contains Bowmore.

Cooley 13yo 1999/2013 (51.4%, The Whisky Mercenary)After selling Cooley to Beam Inc. Teeling bought Diageo’s recently closed Great Northern Brewery in Dundalk with a group of investors and is converting it into a distillery. Great Northern made Harp Lager, Smithwicks, and Carlsberg (for the Irish market) and Diageo moved the production of these beers to their Guinness St. James Gate brewery in Dublin. Production of Teeling Whiskey should commence after the summer of this year. Today Teeling Whiskey is already on the market, obviously sourced from another distillery.

Color: White Wine.

Nose: Sweetish, light, lemony and young. Very fresh, lightly smoky, dusty and fatty peat. A long time ago, I had a tall bottle of cask strength Connemara (59% ABV), and this smells very similar. Grassy and lemongrass. Alcohol, chocolate and a bit fatty. Hints of wood. Lemon again which pushes the peat and smoke to the background. The smoke returns after some breathing. Bonfire. The wood and fire notes are really great. Small hints of toffee, cardboard and strangely enough some perfume. Empty glass has a lot of smoke and toffee notes.

Taste: Smoky sweet and quite a lot more peat than in the nose. Wood, ashes. Bonfire again. A little bit of bitterness from the peat (and the wood). Quickly turns dry and fatty. Soot, ashes and a lot of dust. Animalesk (there is that word again), with lemons. Quite some balls for an Irish Whisky. Cloying toffee with nice depth. Lacks some zest, or freshness, to be a proper Irish Whiskey if you ask me. Salty lips. Finish is half-long and somewhat introvert.

On the nose, quite a nice Cooley. Taste wise it’s also nice, but not very complex. WYTIWYG (What You Taste Is What You Get). Definitely a nice Cooley, but I have to say there are some more outspoken examples around. Great nose though.

Points: 83