Type: Single malt whiskey
Origin: Ireland 🇨🇮
Malt Mileage rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Malt Mileage Rating: ★★★★
Type: Single malt
Recommended use: Serve neat, with ice, dash of water, mixed
Malt Mileage Rating: ★★★★
Type: Irish single malt whiskey
Price: AU$70 / US$60 / £35
Price: AU$58, US$20-30
With St Patrick’s Day approaching Malt Mileage continues its Irish whiskey tasting journey with Powers Gold Label Irish whiskey. As noted last time in the review of Green Spot, there are three things that make most Irish whiskey distinctly Irish; three things that some might say constitute the Holy Trinity of Irish whiskey (to keep with the St Patrick’s Day theme). First, it tends to be distilled three times (as opposed to twice, as most Scotch whisky). Second, it tends to be made from malted and unmalted barley (as opposed to being made purely from malted barley, as most Scotch whisky). Third, the Irish spell whiskey with an “e” whereas the Scots spell whisky without the e.
Powers Gold Label is a an Irish whiskey that has been distilled three times and made from a blend of pot still and grain whiskies. It is not quite the pinnacle of Irish whiskey on paper, but it is probably not meant to be given its very reasonable price.
Rough, raw and rugged, honey and mild vanillas underlie ground pepper, cardamom and lashes of ethanol. The ethanol pierces through the thin layer of American oak, stringing the nose but at the same time caressing it with sappy sweetness not dissimilar to alcohol based aloe hand sanitizer.
A kick of spice awakens the palate and as the spices begin to fade shades of honey emerge and bursts of ethanol crackle on the palate like popping candy, releasing a sharp vodka-like flavour alongside some sweetness. The pot still character is in the distance, and it intensifies towards the finish with beaming cereals.
The finish offers the fading spice and the flavour of Irish pot still, which grapples with nagging notes of ethanol. It is cereal rich, with hints of honeyed sweetness and hard green tea candy.
Consider it. This is a good quality whisky for the price, and though it seemed to have flickers of immaturity there was enough flavour from the pot still whiskey and the American oak to keep a smile on my face. While I am not particularly tempted to go back for more of this whiskey, it is quite hard to find a whiskey of this quality at its price point – sans of course Jameson, Glenlivet 12 year old and Glen Grant 10 year old.
With St Patrick’s Day fast approaching it seems fitting to embark on an Irish whiskey tasting journey until the big day. In 2015 St Patrick’s Day falls on 17 March 2015, and that day is dedicated to a Catholic saint who famously explained the confusing concept of the Holy Trinity using a three leaf clover (the shamrock) in Ireland. The Holy Trinity, in Catholic teaching, is the idea that God is in three persons or beings – the Father, the holy spirit and the son (Jesus). As over a decade of Catholic education has made clear, this concept is far from simple so to ease the cognitive pressure let us skip the dogma and move onto another divine creation – Irish whiskey!
There are three things that make most Irish whiskey distinctly Irish. First, it tends to be distilled three times (as opposed to twice, as most Scotch whisky). Second, it tends to be made from malted and unmalted barley (as opposed to being made purely from malted barley, as most Scotch whisky). Third, the Irish spell whiskey with an “e” whereas the Scots spell whisky without the e. Now that, my whisk(e)y brethren, is the Holy Trinity of Irish whiskey.
On this lead up to St Patrick’s Day 2015 the first Irish whiskey to be tasted by Malt Mileage is Green Spot. Green spot is a pot still whiskey that has been distilled three times, is made from malted and unmalted barley and the word whiskey on the bottle is spelt with an “e”! It even has the word “green” in the name, which, though probably a reference to the use of unmalted barley, is nonetheless a tribute to the Emerald Isle. You cannot get any more Irish than that, unless of course the bottle comes with a beard redder than mine.
Green spot is matured in American bourbon and sherry barrels.
The aroma of bubblegum, green apple soft candy, peach, apricot and whipped cream is first noticeable, followed by honey, cereal and barley, crushed nuts, pecan, vanillas, dew, green strawberries, burnt chocolate brownie, caramel, treated wood and nutty Flaxseed.
On the palate this whiskey is full bodied and spicy, the wood takes hold and is counterbalanced by the sweetness of green pear, nectarine and mango. The fruit is sharp yet sugary and sticky. Honey and caramels then emerge, as the spices tingle on the palate.
The spice remains on the palate with the wood, accompanied by pear and apple core.
Buy it. Green Spot is a superbly crafted Irish whiskey that I would have no hesitation buying at its price. It is a full flavoured spicy whiskey with lots of Irish charm.
Type: New make spirit
Price: $A50 (Aus)
Poitin is Irish “homemade” spirit which, despite being illegal in Ireland from the 1760 until 1997, has a firm position in Irish folklore, art and culture. People in Ireland were known to have distilled wash made from malted barley, thereby making Poitin, in rural areas of Ireland to avoid detection from law enforcement. Despite its potency and alcoholic strength, or perhaps because of it, Poitin became very popular in Ireland though its quality was variable and this is responsible for its infamous reputation. Now that Poitin is legal again, it can be regulated such that good quality spirit can be made. One company taking up the old Irish art of moonshining is Teeling. Teeling’s Poitin is comprised of 80% triple distilled corn spirit and 20% double distilled malt spirit.
Licorice, sourdough, olive bread, cherry stones, fresh mint, peaches in syrup and lovely sweet ethanol sting the nostrils, and underlying notes of wet dog fur and damp cardboard often associated with the tails of a distillation run are particularly prominent when water is added to the spirit. This is beautiful new make, ripe for the barrel, but whether it is ripe for bottling is an entirely different question.
On the palate the spirit is sweet and fruity with soft summer stone fruit, season-all, and powerful citrus peel, as ethanol burns at mid-palate then recedes into the finish.
The finish is sugary with hints of anise seed, rose Turkish delight and – curiously – garlic/onion powder.
Consider it, if you want to know what excellent Irish new make tastes like (albeit mostly corn spirit). For those looking for every day drinking whiskey, stay away – this is what whiskey tastes like before it is placed in oak barrels to mature so don’t expect any oak driven flavours, just sweet ethanol with some tasty congeners distilled from the hop-less (not hopeless) beer people in the whiskey industry like to call a “wash”. Poitin is essentially vodka, but because it has not been “polished” by either distilling it more or running it through charcoal filters it retains flavours from the “wash” (though many vodka producers now do not “polish” their product). I am torn. This is a great new make, but it belongs in a barrel not a bottle. It strikes me as more of a novelty, that something people used to drink when it was difficult or too costly to source properly matured whiskey. I dislike the taste of new make in mixed drinks or cocktails because of its pungent aroma, though this spirit seems sweet and smooth enough to integrate in some mixed drinks if the new make taste is what you are after. For most people, vodka – Belvedere, even Skyy – might be the more sensible option. Proceed with care, only if you know what new make tastes like and you enjoy the taste.
Type: Blended whiskey
Price: $A49.90 (Aus), US$32-38 (USA)
Teeling Small Batch is a no age statement whiskey from Ireland. It is a blended whiskey that is non chill filtered, finished in rum casks and then bottled at 46% abv. The kind of barrels used for the maturation of the whiskies that comprise Teeling Small Batch do not appear to have been made public.
On the nose menthol cough drops meet herbal schnapps with a refreshing menthol nip, but underlying the herbal notes are bread and butter pudding, raisins, banana chips, vanilla cream, raw sugar and coffee drops through unfortunately sweet ethanol pierces through the centre of the bouquet and smells like rubbing alcohol. It seems to me that the sharper piercing alcohol collected (which is collected earlier in a distillation run as “heads” and sometimes merged with some of early “hearts”) have not had time to be sufficiently mellowed by oak which means that they, on my nosing, pierced through the bouquet and snapped aggressively with the cutting smell of ethanol.
Sweet tropical fruit emerge, especially lychee in syrup, accompanied by herbal smoke and underlying floral notes, cinnamon, rose Turkish delight, cooked apple and peaches, honey, citrus and a mild creaminess; a symphony of flavours that are unfortunately interrupted by a somewhat rough and sharp bite of alcohol, which seems similar to the cutting burn of a polished vodka or younger whisky.
The finish continues the sweet tropical theme, as papaya and pineapple merge with dark chocolate, star anise, honey, Irish Moss and herbal medicinal cough drops though that lingering burn of ethanol remains.
Cautiously consider it, if you are after an Irish whiskey under $50 that you are more interested in drinking with company rather than analyzing closely. This whiskey strikes me as a no frills offering from Teeling which, despite some lovely flavours, is disrupted by rough and sharp bites of ethanol. This might disappoint the whisky aficionado. Despite its excellent price, I would not buy it. This whisky is a shadow of Teeling’s other (age statement) products, of which the Teeling 21 year old sits at the very top.
Type: Single malt
Once upon a time Ireland was the world’s leading producer of whiskey (which the Irish spell with an “e”). Then hard times hit. England closed its doors to Irish whiskey after the Irish won their independence in the Irish War of Independence which lasted from 1919 to 1921. The United States era of Prohibition from 1920 to 1933 meant that even Americans could no longer legally buy Irish whiskey, and so within the space of about a decade Irish whiskey lost its two most important export markets. The Scots were also nipping at the heels of many Irish distilleries by making whisky that many around the globe found quite palatable – the more approachable blended whisky, made from softer grain whisky using the Coffey still. This still allowed a whisky maker to produce lots of whisky very quickly, but it was an invention shunned by the Irish who preferred to stick with pot stills to make whisky. Brands such as Johnnie Walker soon dominated the globe, and soon after Prohibition ended and the Americans were allowed to drink again (assuming, of course, the law abiding masses abstained to begin with!) Scotland was the world’s leading source of whisky that could meet the demand of the newly awakened American market. That whisky even became known as “Scotch”. Even James Bond developed a fondness for it, and Irish whiskey was very much in the shadows of Scotch. Until now. Brands of Irish whiskey such as Jamesons and Bushmills have however gained considerable global market share in what appears to be a rebirth of Irish whiskey appreciation, and this whiskey renaissance also brings to light of some the lesser known distilleries that ply their trade on the Emerald Isle. Once such distillery is Teeling.
Teeling produce a number of expressions, but in this post Malt Mileage reviews the Teeling 21 year old. This particular whiskey was matured in bourbon barrels and then finished in Saturenne barrels for 12 months.
On the nose mild perfumed soap combines with apricot jam, butter menthol cough drops, caramel, honey, oregano and rosemary herb bread, anise seed and sweet ethanol often found in a cleanly distilled white rum. There is an underlying woodiness about this whisky, which sits beneath the sugars and occasionally prickles the nostrils with the smell of newly varnished furniture and the whiff of warm leather infused with incense, as lemon scented soap and floral notes develop with intensifying buttery notes and candied peaches. On the palate this whiskey is initially sweet and fruity as it rests on the tongue, releasing toffee apple and cooked apricot as it swirls around the palate. The wood then snaps at the taste buds as the whisky is swallowed, and the sugars are suddenly lost to a wave of drying wood and bitter floral notes – similar to potpourri – and green olives with lemon and shades of honey. The finish offers lingering hints of honey with yellow peach and notes of brine with olive pips and dried petals.
Overall, Teeling 21 year old is an elegant Irish whiskey that offers undertones of sweetness that do their best to reign in the woody twang that rages at mid-palate but it turns out that the oak is simply too big and bold to be tamed – strangely, that is precisely what seems to make this whiskey work so well. Teeling 21 year old is an interesting whiskey that I found enjoyable, but it did not leave me yearning for more. Be warned, there was a distinctive woody/bitter floral note that some may find odd and others may either love, hate or feel indifferent towards. It is best to try this one at a bar before buying a bottle.
Try this whiskey with some mild blue cheese or soft goats cheese, perhaps even a plate of mussels cooked in white wine.