So it’s that time of year again… what time is that you might ask? Award season.
Now I’m being slightly facetious here, because there is no real award season nowadays. This is because whiskey award ceremonies are ten a penny. There almost seems to be a weekly announcement that some X brand has won Y amount of medals at an award ceremony in somewhere like the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for best Irish whiskey that was hand chiseled from a block of solid barley by the current owners’ great great grandfather in the year of 1752. So one might be forgiven for rolling your eyes at another award ceremony round-up or even forgiven for not noticing one has taken place at all because of the sheer amount of white noise that all these awards generate on Facebook.
Well, I am here to cut through this aforementioned white noise to tell you that there was one awards ceremony that took place this week that deserves your attention. In the beautiful surroundings of the new Tullamore D.E.W. distillery, throngs of Irish whiskey ambassadors and enthusiasts took their seats on Thursday (20th Oct) for the 4th annual Irish Whiskey Awards. Now I know what you’re thinking, if I’ve just spent my entire opening paragraph planting my tongue very firmly in my cheek when writing about these awards, what makes this any different? Well to be honest it’s a whole host of things.
The Irish Whiskey Awards takes a refreshing viewpoint when examining the original objective of spirits awards. Essentially, these awards were set up to bestow a mark of quality and/or value for money on a product so that consumers would be able to have an extra point of affirmation before purchasing a bottle and locking in this large financial investment decision. Funnily enough I’m not being facetious when I say “large financial decision” either. I think the consumer is right to seek extra affirmation from one source or another when the wrong decision is going to cost them €60, €100 or even €250 for a bad bottle. Thus, Ally Alpine, of the Celtic Whiskey Shop, created these awards to bring back the focus of these awards to the consumer, not to masquerading as such when in-fact hiding a money making scheme in the background.
Ally opens the categories to all spirits producers and bottlers across the island, free of charge, with one of the only stipulations being that the product must be available for consumers to purchase at the time of the awards. Dead bottles are of no interest to this consumer focused awards. If it’s not going to be on the shelves it won’t be in the awards.
This consumer mindedness follows through to the judging panels also. Instead of hiring a group of trumped up “spirits experts” the judging panels are composed of a maximum of 160 members drawn exclusively from the Celtic Whiskey Club and the ranks of the Irish Whiskey Society. Now these judges are not professional spirits tasters but they are seasoned spirits drinkers and since the tasting is performed blind the idea is that they will deliver a genuine opinion of the quality of the spirits, direct from the consumers’ palate. As such, these awards produce some great results that can either shock whiskey fanatics or drag undervalued gems out into the limelight for all to see.
Although, if that wasn’t enough to convince you of the consumer mindedness, all the profits from the awards ceremony are donated to Mary’s Meals, a charity that is attempting to eliminate hunger as a daily struggle for millions of children all across the world. Thus, making these awards a labour of love (as well as some blood sweat an tears to organise I’m sure) for the team at the Celtic Whiskey Shop. The awards deliver an unbiased view of the Irish spirits category and the quality that it beholds.
So at this point I’m sure you’re wondering who actually won these awards, well look no further, as the whiskeys and whiskey bars are listed below, for all other awards please check out the full awards list:
Irish Whiskey of the Year 2016 (Overall Winner)
Knappogue Castle 14 year old, twin wood.
Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey
Winner – Redbreast 12 Cask Strength
Gold Medal – Redbreast 21 Year Old
Gold Medal – Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy
Gold Medal – Redbreast Lustau Edition
Irish Single Malt (12 years and younger)
Winner – Dunnvilles PX
Gold Medal – The Famous Galway Bay Whiskey
Gold Medal – Teeling Single Malt
Irish Single Malt (13 years and older)
Winner – Knappogue Castle 14 year old, twin wood
Gold Medal – Knappogue Castle 16 Year Old Single Malt
Gold Medal – Glendalough 13 Year Old Single Malt
Irish Single Cask Whiskey
Winner – Marrowbone Lane Irish Whiskey Society Bottling
Gold Medal – Power’s Single Pot Still Celtic Whiskey Shop Cask
Gold Medal – The Irishman 17 year old Single Cask
Irish Cask Strength Whiskey
Winner – St. Patrick’s Cask Strength whiskey
Gold Medal – Spade and Bushel 10 year old Single Malt
Gold Medal – Dingle Distillery Cask Strength whiskey
Irish Blended Whiskey (RRP less than €60)
Winner – Teeling Small Batch
Gold Medal – Jameson Black Barrel
Gold Medal – Jameson Crested
Irish Blended Whiskey (RRP more than €60)
Winner – Midleton Very Rare 2016
Gold Medal – Jameson Distiller’s Safe
Gold Medal – Jameson Blender’s Dog
Irish Single Grain Whiskey
Winner – Teeling Single Grain
Gold Medal – Kilbeggan 8 year old
Gold Medal – Hyde 6 year old single grain bourbon cask
Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year 2016 (Overall Winner)
Dick Mack’s, Dingle, Co. Kerry.
Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year Leinster
Winner – The Dylan, Kilkenny
Gold Medal – The Palace Bar, Dublin
Gold Medal – Bowe’s Bar, Dublin
Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year Munster
Winner – Dick Mack’s, Dingle, Co. Kerry
Gold Medal – The Folkhouse, Kinsale
Gold Medal – The Shelbourne Bar, Cork
Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year Connaught
Winner – Garavan’s Bar, Galway
Gold Medal -An Púcán, Galway
Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year Ulster
Winner – The Duke of York, Belfast
Gold Medal – McCauls Bar, Cavan
Gold Medal – Fealty’s, Bangor
Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year International
Winner – Patrick’s Bar, Paris