Potstilled.com has collaborated with the Dylan Whiskey Bar to bring you a liquid version of one of our articles. Drink with us as we explore some of the Irish whiskeys that are really thinking outside of the box, when it comes to innovation and differentiation.
The whiskey flight is available from the Dylan Whiskey Bar in Kilkenny from the 1st to the 31st of July for €15. Join in the conversation on Twitter @Potstilled_
Irish whiskey has had an incredibly impactful and often turbulent history over the last few hundred years. It went from being the tipple of choice for the House of Lords and the Tsars of Russia to being almost obliterated from the annals of history. Many factors attributed to the collapse of the Irish whiskey empire but regretfully it was the Irish distillers’ reluctance to innovate that aided in their ultimate demise.
Thankfully, the current Irish whiskey landscape is shaking itself of these unyielding ideologies and innovation is beginning to establish itself in the industry. As the industry continues to explode, innovation takes on its own importance, allowing consumers to receive a product that is differentiated, of good quality and ultimately, value for money.
Too often fancy marketing can blind the consumers in a haze of industry jargon and insignificant information which sadly tries to generate sales based on confusion rather than quality. The objective of this flight is to cut through the confusing marketing jargon and take a look at three different companies that are creating genuinely innovative product offerings for consumers to enjoy.
So, join me on a marketing free, innovation expedition to explore new flavours coming from these companies that have voyaged into the relative unknown realms of Irish whiskey. I have begun a recent collaboration series with a number of whiskey centric bars around Ireland to deliver my interpretation of different emergent themes within the industry.
Join me in the first instalment of this sipping series at the Dylan Whiskey Bar in Kilkenny. One of the reasons I have chosen to start this series with a look to the future is due to their dedication to the past. In a previous spirit adventure, the team in the Dylan Whiskey bar transcribed a number of ingredient lists from the Red Book of Ossory, which is a religious text in the town dating from the 1300’s. You can find many of these tinctures and tonics included in their signature cocktails today, creating a very intriguing mix of modernity and the historic, which I felt was a perfect setting for us to take a ‘drink into the unknown’.
If you do not have the pleasure to be joining the Dylan Whiskey team in Kilkenny for this series you can of course try this at home. The voyage is a personal flavour discovery, as such, I will not be furnishing this introduction with tasting notes, but instead I will describe the innovative techniques that have excited me about each of these three whiskeys and why they have made the cut to be featured on this flight The objective of this flight is to make a liquid introduction to three whiskeys, which I feel have pushed the boundaries of the familiar, copy and paste cask finishes within the industry at present. No two on this list are alike, no two have begun their lives in the same way but hopefully all will complete their existence in the glass that is planted firmly within your hand.
If you are playing along at home, allow me to introduce the whiskeys to you. There should be three whiskeys: one single grain, and two single malt whiskeys. The first two whiskeys are sourced whiskeys, which were purchased from unnamed producers and then transferred into a new cask for an interesting cask finish. The final whiskey in our line-up, takes the final position for a couple of reasons; firstly, it is unlike the others that have preceded it. It is not a sourced whiskey, but in-fact distilled by the company producing it. Furthermore, its production methods far succeed a simple cask finish. The maturation innovation in this whiskey are quite frankly not witnessed anywhere else, it is up to you to decide if that is for better or worse though. Finally, it is also a slightly-peated whiskey and peat has a tendency to bleed the palate. It is my suggestion to leave this offering until the end as to allow your palate to remain uncorrupted throughout the first two tastings.
So to begin.
Ballyhoo – Single Grain
Port Barrel Finish – 43% ABV – 86 Proof
Connacht Whiskey Company.
This young distillery, nestled in the heart of Ballina, Mayo, decided to branch out from their existing portfolio of cask finished malts and looked to the oft-neglected single grain category. Single grain whiskey is often touted as too aggressive to be matured or finished in any casks other than ex-bourbon barrels, which is why I was intrigued and incredibly delighted to encounter Ballyhoo single grain whiskey, matured in ex-bourbon for 4 years and then subsequently finished in Port barrels. This was an interesting project took an almost entirely homogenous category and added their own personal twist to create an intriguing offering. They have created a quality whiskey offering in a category that not many dare venture into. I commend the Connacht Whiskey Company for thinking outside the box here and experimenting to create a whiskey with some new flavour characteristics for the category.
Lambay Single Malt
Cognac Cask Finish – 40% ABV – 80 Proof
Lambay Irish Whiskey Company
From the get-go, this cask finished whiskey is attempting to push the boundaries of the banality of some other cask finished whiskeys in Ireland. Both the cask they have finished in and the location where they stored these casks has discernible influence in the finished product. Lambay’s partner in this venture are French cognac producers, Camus Holdings, who’s supply of cognac barrels were crucial to the personalisation of this whiskey. Lambay are one of the first Irish Whiskey producers in recent history to finish their whiskeys in Cognac casks and as if this wasn’t enough they are actively storing these cognac/Irish whiskey barrels on the island of Lambay itself. This coastal island provides maritime maturation conditions which coupled with the cognac casks delivers a unique flavour profile that will only progress as subsequent releases are able to mature even further on the island of Lambay.
Glengariff– Single Malt
Peat Charred Cask – 43% ABV – 86 Proof
West Cork Distillers
This is a fascinating whiskey all around. West Cork Distillers are a very innovative distillery operating out of Skibbereen, West Cork, who have taken the Irish whiskey industry by storm. They are known for engineering most of their own distillery equipment and even boast having the fastest wash still in the world. So, it really is no surprise that they have been included in this flight, this whiskey really is the quintessence of ‘unknown’ flavours. In all honesty, I have no idea how the idea for this whiskey was conceived. Apparently dissatisfied with the usual cask finishes of fortified wine and rum that was circling the market, the boffins in West Cork decided to create a device that could char their own barrels with whatever fuel they desired. As such, they decided to utilise Irish peat (turf) to char these barrels with, creating an incredibly innovative, kind of reverse process peated Irish whiskey. If your head hurts trying to understand this process its ok, mine does too. Either way, the process worked and produced a series of peat charred cask whiskeys, which is unlike any peated or unpeated whiskey on the market currently.
I hope you get the opportunity to sit back, relax and explore these innovative whiskeys that deliver their own unique look at Irish whiskey. Each is unique in its own way, be it due to the location of maturation, choice in cask finish or just its own redesign of the entire process. If you want to delve further into the flavours or details of any of these whiskeys, ask your bartender! The folks at the Dylan Whiskey Bar are incredibly knowledgeable and I am thrilled to have been asked to collaborate on this flight with them!
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Enjoy the taoscáns,
Chief Editor Potstilled.com