The Christmas season is well and truly upon us. Families and revellers are battling through busy high streets looking for the perfect gift to give to their loved ones or a even a cheeky gift or two for themselves. So I’ve put together this list of some of my top picks for the holiday season for the whiskey lover in your life. No matter if they are a novice to the category or a seasoned enthusiast, there’s bound to be something that they’d love to find under the tree on Christmas morning!
Whether your giftees are new to Irish whiskey or a dabb hand at all things pot still, these books will be a welcome stocking filler.
A Glass Apart –Fionnán O’Connor €29.99
According to the biography of the book:
“A Glass Apart is a complete guide to the profiles, production, history, and revival of Irish pot still whiskey Beautifully illustrated work on the history and production of Ireland s national drink of Ireland. This book illustrates the production, history, and appreciation of Irish pot still whiskey and will introduce casual drinkers to the richness of these whiskeys as well as being a collectors’ item for established whiskey connoisseurs.”
This book certainly delivers on its biography. Fionnán is arguably one the foremost authorities on Irish Pot Still whiskey in the world. In this book, he dives into the romanticised history of what was once the most popular whiskey style in the world. He then breaks down the entire whiskey making process and details just what makes Irish Pot Still Whiskey so unique. Fionnán’s passion for the industry led him on a several year voyage of discover all over the island of Ireland. He spent his time interviewing industry greats, and documenting tasting notes for some of the rarest, Irish whiskeys left on the island, many of which are almost completely forgotten. I once read a book review in the Irish Times that coined the term “unputdownable” and I think it would only be fair to revive this term for Fionnán’s publication.
The Whiskeys of Ireland – Peter Mulryan €19.99
Peter Mulryan has worn many hats, presenter, producer, author and now currently is the director of Blackwater Distillery. His newest publication, “The Whiskeys of Ireland”, promises to tell you “everything you always wanted to know about Irish Whiskey, the lifeblood of the people! The history, the difference between single malts and blends, the art of distilling and blending, and the explosion of new distilleries – learn how to taste as well as drink the water of life!”
What I love about this book is that it is incredibly informative and a very easy read. You can pick this book up and read it cover to cover like a story book or even dive in to chapters you know little about and use it as a reference tool. Furthermore, one of the greatest assets that this book possesses is that it does away with the generalised explanations and fallacies about Irish whiskey and carefully details what actually happened and how these generalisations came about. This is a great book to really jump into, especially for those new to the category. A top pick in my book, pardon the pun.
Top Whiskey Picks
Dingle Whiskey Distillery’s Single Malt – €65
This is the first general release bottling from the guys at Dingle Whiskey Distillery. This is one of the first casks that have breached the 3 year threshold that dictates the legal definition of Irish whiskey. Thus, by that fact this whiskey will be on the young side but all reports so far from the wider whiskey community have only been good.
That said, taste is actually not the reason that I have placed Dingle’s single malt on this list. Up until now, all new independent whiskeys entering the Irish market could only be sourced from three different distilleries, limiting the possible differences between new independent products entering the market. This new release represents the first new source of whiskey in the country in several decades. To me, it represents the new possibilities and new flavour spectrums that Irish whiskey will be able to offer in years to come. A true gem for the Irish whiskey enthusiast in the family or even just something super cool and local for the whiskey novice in your life.
Personally, I’m very excited to get my hands on a bottle of this, although, I’m completely torn between what I would do if I got my hands on a bottle of Dingle whiskey. On one hand, I’d want to keep a bottle for my collection, but on the other, I’d also love to crack it open and see what the future might hold for Dingle whiskey…. To be honest, I may just have to pick up two in the end.
Writer’s Tears – Red Head €48.99
This year the guys from Walsh Whiskey have taken a new step with their ultra successful Writer’s Tears portfolio. Stepping away from the classic pot still blend recipe for Writer’s Tears, Walsh Whiskey have released a new oloroso sherry matured single malt. Its a beautiful rose gold coloured whiskey, which is non-chill filtered and comes in at a 46% ABV. The beauty of the new red tinged whiskey is only matched by the lovely red tinge that the packaging possesses.
This is one of my favourite releases of the year. The creamy sherry notes are complemented perfectly by the biscuity maltiness. This is an extreme example of value for money.
Powers John’s Lane 12 Year Old – €63.99
Since its release in 2011, John’s Lane has become the quintessential single pot still whiskeys on the market. This is the closest thing to heavy pot still that Midleton distilleries currently make and is a great example of the complexities that the category of single pot still can provide. An all time favourite with Irish whiskey collectors all around the world.
John’s Lane is crisp and full of pot still spice, due to it’s maturation in second and refill bourbon barrels. This allows the true character of the pot still spice come to the foreground and not be adultered by strong cask finishes.
Teeling Revival Volume II – €115
The second of the Revival series, this 13 year old single malt was matured for 12 years in Bourbon barrels and then spent a further 12 months in ex-Calvados casks. Calvados is a French apple brandy, and these brandy barrels impart a delicious stewed apple/pear quality to the whiskey. This is beautifully paired with spices, cinnamon and a biscuity-maltiness that creates a delicious apple crumble like palate.
This is a very unique flavour profile for an Irish whiskey and absolutely delicious. A great example of the ingenuity that Teeling Whiskey Company are becoming known for.
Celtic Whiskey Club – €60 (in Ireland €70 elsewhere)
This is the whiskey club that comes from the guys in the Celtic Whiskey Shop. Joining this club will entitle the barer of the membership to receive a new or rare whiskey sample every two months in the mail. The members also get the opportunity to share their thoughts with all the other members of the club through tweet tastings and also receive a vote in the Irish whiskey awards. Thus enabling the member to be in a great community of whiskey enthusiasts no matter where you are in the world!
Irish whiskey Magazine – €9.99 per issue.
The world of whiskey is covered in regular soft copy publications, which cover every topic in whisk(e)y, from the use of French Burgundy casks in Scotland to the shortage of aged stocks of whisky all across Japan. Now, for the first time, we see a magazine that is solely dedicated to all things Irish whiskey. The Irish Whiskey Magazine.
The magazine, which will have four publications a year, covers all the current developments in the Irish whiskey industry. It is a collaboration of articles written by industry experts and Irish whiskey enthusiasts giving an in-depth look at numerous aspects of the entire industry. The first issue includes articles on the use of oats in the historical mashbills of Irish whiskey, the ties between distillers in Ireland and the 1916 Easter Rising and interviews with the world’s best bar, The Dead Rabbit.