Reviews, musings and whisky adventures.
Keep on waffling!
Posted by: Nick
You can’t help but smile when articles on (sometimes) serious whisky blogs have titles which sound like Famous Five novels. But the headline does succinctly sum up what’s going to happening across the next month or so.
The holiday has already begun for m’colleague Ted who is off in South America, checking out the Amazon, walking the Inca trail and saying hi to the wildlife on the Galapagos Islands.
While tomorrow, I am off on an equally exciting holiday – and one that may be of interest to you, my fellow Wafflers. I’m going to be spending six weeks travelling through Europe – including nearly a fortnight visiting The Motherland. That’s right, people: I’m going to Scotland!
While I’m there I will be filling my days with multiple distillery visits, including but not limited to: Balvenie, Glendronach, Aberlour, Glenfarclas, Glen Moray, Talisker, Oban, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Kilchoman, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg. Naturally my reactions to all visits will be revealed on the blog in due course, though possibly after I’ve returned home. However, if you keep an eye on a social media pages – in particular Instagram – then you’ll get a taste of what I’m up to. Just not literally, sadly.
Anyway loyal Wafflers, thanks for your support over the years. We’ll be a bit quiet on the blog for a while but will return as strongly (and as sloshed) as ever in August.
Keep on waffling,
Nick and Ted
Posted by: Nick
Dan Woolley only drinks whisky. Not beer, not wine, not vodka. Not even crème de menthe. Some would say he’s obsessed – himself included. His wife made him choose between her and whisky. He’s happily single now.
There is one whisky, however, that he obsesses over above all others: Laphroaig. He is one of the top brand ambassadors for Islay’s peated behemoth and I count myself enormously lucky to have spent an evening in his company as he talked us through seven (yes! Seven!) different drams of Laphroaig. While the majority of guests were enamoured by the smoky sensations in their glasses, not everyone was convinced. This is a fact Laphroaig have not only come to terms with but embraced, forming the theme of the dinner: Opinions. As Dan said: “if we all liked the same thing we’d all be drinking vodka lime and soda and I’d have killed myself a long time ago.”
The Central in Devonport put on a fabulous event with many amazing courses all created from local ingredients. In particular the natural Spring Bay oysters went down a treat – particularly with a dash of Laphroaig Select cask dribbled on top.
The Select Cask was up first – an entry level for sure – but while sipping it I learned about the fascinating range of casks that went into creating it. A Whisky Waffle favourite was up next, the Quarter Cask, a whisky which spends the final nine months of its gestation in 100L barrels like a chain smoking baby.
It wouldn’t be a Laphroaig night without the highest selling peated whisky on the planet: the 10 Year Old. Made to an “old family recipe” it packed the required peaty punch and is the ever faithful “backbone” of the Laphroaig flavour. Next up was Dan’s favourite, the Triple Wood. It was sweeter and fruitier than those that went before thanks to two years spent in Spanish Oloroso barrels.
Dan then laid down the Lore, a dram he described as their most ambitious whisky yet. Distillery manager John Campbell attempted to create a bottle of Laphroaig that tasted like what was offered 200 years ago. I can’t vouch for its accuracy, but it was certainly one of the tastiest and smokiest of the night. In the words of Dan, “it makes Port Ellen taste like Johnny Walker Red”.
The final two drops were particularly special – made even more so by the lack of availability worldwide. Drinking the 18 Year Old and 25 Year Old was a weird experience as by this end of the night my palate had stopped noticing the peat in each dram and I was discovering subtle and nuanced flavours underneath. The 18 was lighter and mysterious, like chasing a nymph through an enchanted wood. The 25 was a Laphroaig dessert whisky – strawberries, white chocolate, whipped cream and other naughty indulgences. The peat was hidden away at the back of the palate and made me wish I could repeat the tasting the next day but in reverse order.
The night concluded in a truly memorable fashion, as every participant in the dinner was presented with a customised Laphroaig bottle to take away. Mine was particularly appropriate considering the tasting notes found within this very article. Dan graciously added his signature to the unique bottle, along with this piece of wisdom: “Do you know what the best whisky in the world is? Free whisky.”
It was an educational and enjoyable evening, capped with a rousing toast which I can’t help but repeat: “LONG LIVE LAPHROAIG!”
Reviewed by: Ted
As romantic sounding Scotch Whisky names go, Aultmore of the Foggie Moss is definitely up there. You can almost feel the mist swirling around your body as you tread through a Scottish fen on a cool autumn morning.
In fact, the whole distillery is shrouded in an air of mystery, with its locale outside Keith (not a particularly romantic name admittedly) in Banffshire historically being the haunt of smugglers (at least according to the bottle and you can always trust marketing guff right?).
Founded in 1895 by Alexander Edward, owner of the Benrinnes distillery, Aultmore has had a tumultuous history, changing owners and being mothballed several times. For many years Aultmore production was used exclusively in blends, with only the occasional distillery release to excite collectors (apparently if you befriended the right people you could get a wee dram at the local pub too).
In more recent years Aultmore was purchased by Bacardi and placed under the stewardship of its subsidiary Dewars, who had actually previously owned the distillery for a short time during the 20s. In 2014 Dewars released ‘The Last Great Malts’ range, featuring distilleries used in their blends, including Aultmore (I suspect other brands may have a different opinion about Dewars owning the ‘last great malts’ however).
Typical of a Speyside dram, the 12 Year Old is a light gold/straw colour, while the 46% ABV strength is a nice surprise. The nose is light and sweet, with an abundance of grain, apples, grass, honey, lemon and a hint of polished steel at the end.
The flavour is bright and sharp, sparkling around the mouth, initially sweet before transitioning to dry at the end. Timber, grain, spice and lemon grass race across the tongue, while the finish is like Tom Yum soup, hot, sweet and sour all at once.
Thankfully, the experience isn’t like a puff of mist evaporating in the morning sun like some other exclusively bourbon-casked whiskies, with the delicate flavours given some much-needed depth by the higher bottling strength. If you’re looking for a decent drop that really embodies that light, floral Speyside style, then the Aultmore of the Foggie Moss 12 Year Old delivers just that.
Posted by: Ted
Moonshine, of the liquid rather than the lunar variety, tends to conjure up images of rough folk with an equal number of teeth, brain cells and chromosomes distilling liquor through an old tin can and a car radiator in the backwaters of America. Da-da-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding… can you hear the banjos duelling in the distance? Somehow then, it seems rather incongruous to find a product calling itself moonshine hailing not from the Appalachian hinterlands, but Tasmania, Australia, home to a burgeoning high-class craft distilling industry. According to Tasmanian Moonshine Company (TMC) manager John Jarvis however, there is a very good reason their product bears that epithet.
I met up with John at the Spirit Bar in Burnie, where a small but enthusiastic crowd had gathered to try the range of products offered by TMC. Produced at Devil’s Distillery (est 2015) in Moonah, TMC uses 100% Tasmanian malted barley to create their spirit. Now, malted barley is of course what you use to make single malt whisky, but because the spirit released by TMC is less than two years old it cannot legally be called that.
While generally a very friendly bunch, Tasmanian whisky producers are also very protective of the world-class brand they have created. To keep relationships on a good keel between all parties, John and his colleagues decided to steer away branding that could be misconstrued as whisky-related and fittingly call their product moonshine, a traditional name for any unaged or underaged spirit.
TMC produces a range of products on their 1800l pot still and 380l reflux still, including Vodka and Tasmanian Mellifera (a spiced honey and citrus liqueur) as well as Cold Drip Espresso Coffee Liqueur, Tasmanian Midnight (a fennel based liqueur similar to ouzo or arak) and their frankenstein fusion child, the Licorice Infused Coffee Liqueur.
Of more interest to whisky drinkers is the Tasmanian Malt Barrel Aged New Make. After spending a relatively short time developing character under oak, the Barrel Aged New Make is released at around 18 months of age. It’s youth actually works in its favour according to John; “we wanted to make something to fill a hole in the Tasmanian market, something that we don’t have to sit on, can release quite regularly and that is easily accessible. Prices in Tasmania for single malt can be crazy… I don’t think there’s really any other products at the price point we are aiming for.”
John was also keen to talk about the interesting casking employed by the distillery: “My head distiller just wanted to do one cask type, but I like to experiment. As well as ex-bourbon American oak barrels, we also have other casks like sherry, port and tokay that are made from Hungarian oak sourced directly from Hungary by our cask maker. I definitely think there is an effect on the resulting flavour; I’ve heard people are asking to get hold of Hungarian casks now too.”
When each 300l cask is deemed ready to release, around half the contents are decanted, with the remainder allowed time to develop further before leaving home. The casks are also tapped according to what the distillers feel is ready at the time, meaning that the character of the spirit changes from release to release. Interestingly the cask type is not actually mentioned on the bottle, so punters will be kept on their toes, but John is sanguine about this fact, commenting “we’ll never be able to make the same product indefinitely anyway, unless we move away from single barrel releases and start vatting, so I think it’s fine.”
On offer that evening was a Hungarian oak tokay cask release at 43% abv and a Hungarian oak port cask release at a rather sexy 67% abv. On the nose the tokay was smooth and sweet, with notes of leather and beeswax, while the port exuded caramel, rust, red meat and dark timber. On the palate the tokay was crisp, lively and herbal, while the boozy port delivered red wine tannins, pepper, honey glaze and oaky notes.
As well as the depth of flavour, the colour was also pretty impressive for spirit of that age; “I’ve actually had arguments with people who think we colour our spirit,” remarked John “but of course we don’t, it’s all from the good quality casks we use.” While definitely young tasting, I can report that both Barrel Aged New Make releases had a surprising completeness of character that was very pleasing to the senses and left an impression of finished and polished product rather than an undercooked malt spirit just released as a cash grab.
Of course, this would suggest that Devil’s Distillery is able to produce a very high quality new make and fortunately John had some on hand for us to try. Even more exciting was the fact that he had two different cuts of the new make, one containing pure hearts and the other with a mixture of hearts and tails (this sentence probably sounds a bit disturbing to anyone who is not familiar with spirit production)!
The hearts were not for the, er, faint hearted, bottled off the still at an eye watering 73.5% abv, while the heart/tail mix was positively tame at ‘only’ 68.5% abv. On the nose the pure hearts were light, sweet and delicate, with a nice graininess. In comparison the heart/tail mix was rubbery and as someone commented, smelt like a barn floor, which if you’ve never experienced it is a mixture of sweet fermenting straw and an underlying tone of, ahem, cow business. On the palate, the hearts were sweet, with a crisp, crystalline feel, whereas the heart/tails were once again rubbery, with vegetably, fermented grain notes.
The amazing thing was that, according to John, there was only about 20% run difference between the two cuts, demonstrating how much the character of the spirit changes over the course of a distillation. You may be surprised to know, however, that those funky flavours in the tails can completely change when you add them to the hearts and can be vital for defining the character of the finished product.
While TMC will continue to release its current lineup of moonshine products (although maybe grab a bottle of Tasmanian Mellifera as John says he’s sick of grating orange peel), down the track the company will also be leaving some spirit to age for a bit longer under oak until it ticks over that legal line and magically transforms into whisky. The first release is slated to be a 3yo 20l bourbon cask finished in Hungarian sherry oak and will be released under the label of ‘Hobart Whisky’ (“I still can’t believe we scored the rights to that name,” says John with delight). If the barrel aged new make is anything to go by, then the whisky is likely to be a cracker.
As the night drew to a close, the guests were left contented by a healthy dose of good company and excellent moonshine. While we tend to focus on malted barley that has been transformed into whisky here at Whisky Waffle (it’s kinda in the name), the Tasmanian Moonshine Company proves that if you start with an excellent malt spirit and make good use of your barrels, then ‘young’ doesn’t necessarily have to equate to ‘bad’, or ‘rough’, or ‘unfinished’, or whatever other label you want to throw at it.
I still want them to learn the banjo though.
Thanks to Kirk and the Spirit Bar crew for hosting the event and providing tasty cheese platters. Thanks to John and the Tasmanian Moonshine Company for making the trek up to Burnie to entertain us.
Posted by: Nick
Michael Briggs, head distiller of Iron House Distillery is the most relaxed empire builder you are ever likely to meet. This is because he’s not an empire builder. He’s a bloke – who has just happened to build an empire.
Iron House is more than a whisky distillery. It is also a brewery and a vineyard, while the still is also used to create various styles of gin, vodka and brandy. With all these products on the go you’d be forgiven for thinking Iron House was an overly complicated business. Michael (or ‘Briggsy’ as he’s known to one and all) avoids this by sticking to one overarching philosophy: KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Iron House is located at the majestic White Sands Resort on the East Coast of Tasmania. The resort was purchased by Briggsy’s father-in-law some 15 years ago. The place was slightly run down and frayed at the edges but fell into hands willing to turn it into something special (although it is said by some that it may have bought just to get access to the boat ramp!). Once the premise was secured the next phase in the plan was to create something to sell on the taps – which is where Briggsy stepped in, forming Iron House Brewery.
The name was derived from the location – the area was once a 19th century camp ground for those travelling from the south and allegedly became home to the first tin-roofed building on the east coast, or as the locals referred to it: the Iron House.
Once the brewery was up and running the next logical step was (of course) to make whisky. While this was always part of Briggsy’s plans, the creation of the distillery was borne out of necessity. The amount of beer production per year was exceeding their current market – and rather than expanding to the mainland or overseas, Briggsy decided the left over wash could be put to better use.
A still was duly purchased – from Germany via the USA – and it arrived in pieces with absolutely no instructions. Like a complicated box of LEGOTM, Iron House’s mechanical engineer Michael Aulich assembled it, guided by pictures he found online, and eventually Iron House became the proud owners of a copper column still and an oddly shaped pot still.
While Iron House has yet to release its first whisky, I was able to try some new make spirit (or, to quote Briggsy: “white dog”) fresh from the still. On the nose it packed that fruity high-alcohol punch, though on the palate it was grainy and cerealy (Weet-bixy, for my fellow Australians). It was full of character and intrigued me as to what it would become.
I got a small preview of this downstairs in the bond store. There are multiple barrels within that have been filled for more than 2 years, the minimum age for a whisky. However Briggsy labelled them “legally ready, but not Iron House ready”. His plan is to blend multiple barrels in a Solera system to create a consistent, accessible product. He is a big believer that Tasmanian whisky should not be out of the reach of regular people – from the perspective of both flavour and price. Thus we can expect to have to wait until mid 2019 at the earliest to see an Iron House single malt release (however to tie you over there is some delicious virgin-oak-matured brandy which is nearly ready!).
Briggsy admitted the biggest strength of Iron House is also its biggest weakness. White Sands Resort is found at the most spectacular coastal site and yet this location is over two hours drive from either of the state’s biggest cities: Hobart and Launceston. However, if you find yourself cruising Tasmania’s beautiful East Coast then a stop into White Sands and the Brewhaus Cafe & Bar is a must. The distillery and brewery are separated from the cafe by many large glass walls, through which you can witness the entire whisky making process. It is a truly memorable and worthy addition to the Tasmanian distilling community – and well worth a visit.
Posted by: Nick and Ted
HAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOO EUROPE (and Australia)!!!
It is that time of year again where the entire Continent (and Australia) gathers together in the name of peace, love and whisky.
This year six nations will be competing to take out the 2018 EuroWaffle Whisky Contest, pitting talent, taste and Continental good looks against each other in the world’s most dram-atic contest. As usual, the night will be conducted with the highest integrity, with whiskies judged on their merit rather than for cheap political advantage.
This year the contest will be held in the country of Chapelonia, which stunned the world last year with their winning entry My Hipsters Don’t Lie performed by bearded sensation Andreai. Amongst the crowd will be several past winners, including Lordi (devils for a dram), Conchita (maker of Bearded Lady Moonshine), Alexander Rybak (who matures spirit in his violins) and those old ladies from Russia (you can make more than just bread with barley).
To get into the spirit of the night, the audience is encouraged to slip into their best Eurovision-inspired attire; there may even be a prize for the best dressed!
Tickets for EuroWaffle cost $40 and are available HERE or at trybooking.com. This will cover six European whiskies and cheese platters.
So come along and help us celebrate goodwill between nations and petty political point scoring while Eurovision provides us the perfect excuse to drink obscure European whiskies while dressed up as ABBA.
What: Whisky Waffle Presents: EuroWaffle
When: Saturday the 12th of May at 7.30pm
Where: The Chapel, Burnie
Who: The people of Europe
Why: Because Australia is part of Europe (apparently)
Posted by: Nick
One of the most commonly asked questions I see around the whisky-scented part of the internet is “I’m new to whisky – which Scotch should I buy?” (It’s always Scotch – never which ‘Lark limited-release’ should I buy. But I digress).
We Wafflers rarely get asked this question – I assume because our frivolity and general tongue-in-cheek nature voids us from such serious inquiries – but regardless, I wanted to share my own two cents worth. Why? Because I am unequivocally and without a doubt correct.
It is a big call I know, but I challenge any other objective-minded whisky fan out there to name a better collection of widely available single malts for a newbie. To be clear, one whisky alone is insufficient to demonstrate the depth and breadth of flavours available so I have naturally selected the smallest possible number of bottles: three.
So here they are, in a particular order (that is, the order in which they should be drunk): my top three introductory whiskies:
Number one: Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old
This is the gateway drug. Balvenie produce a smooth and yet interesting drop which is one of the tastiest going around. It is fruity and vanillary, and packed full of the sweet caramel that we associate with Speyside. It introduces the elegance that typifies Scotland’s largest whisky region while also touching upon cask types and maturation. Is there a more perfect first drop? No, I can safely say there is not.
Number two: Highland Park 12 Year Old
Speyside is not entirely what Scottish whisky is all about. There is a vast array of flavours to be discovered from south to north and the Highland Park 12 Year Old showcases pretty much all of them! It is a proper all-rounder of a whisky, with a little bit of sweetness, a little bit of salty sea air and a little bit of smoke lingering in the background. Even though it is technically from the Islands region, it represents the Scottish Highlands better than most mainland distilleries and it an obvious choice for this list simply for its wide reaching flavour profile.
Number three: Lagavulin 16 Year Old
Some people may claim it is unwise to include a heavily peated Islay malt among the top three introductory drams. Those people are of course wrong. Because upon taking one sip of the Lagavulin, the individual partaking in the tasting will either fall instantly in love – or decide very quickly that peated whisky is not for them and the Balvenie wasn’t so bad after all.
For m’colleague and I it was option number one – there is something truly special about peated whisky – and the Lagavulin 16 is the ideal selection. It is more than just a peated whisky – there are hidden flavours to be discovered due to a small amount of sherry maturation – and there are Nick Offerman videos to quote endlessly.
It may be divisive – but it may also be the key to truly ‘getting’ single malts. Plus this will give the opportunity for someone new to whisky to learn to pronounce ‘Islay’ correctly from the outset.
So there you have it: the ultimate top three introductory whiskies. Obviously it cannot be topped, but if you’d like to try, leave a reply in the comments and tell me your own top three. Or we could start a pointless twitter debate about it if that’s more your style.
If you are a whisky-newbie: you’re welcome. Check back in a couple of weeks when you’re a full convert and enjoy our other reviews!
Commence/keep on waffling!
Reviewed by: Nick
Thought that Scotland was the maker of all the peat bombs in world whisky? Well Connemera is here to prove that theory wrong. There really is nothing like a good peated whisky… and this is nothing like a good peated whisky. This is a different kind of peat altogether and although I’ve had this bottle for a fair while now, I’m still not sure if I like it…
Connemara, like most Irish Whiskeys, is not the name of the distillery. There is some conjecture here – while current releases clearly state ‘Kilbeggan Distilling Co’ on their label, my own bottle informs me it was made at Cooley Distillery, a good 120 km up the road. However, I haven’t been sold a fake – Kilbeggan and Cooley are both under the ownership of Beam Suntory and in possession of similar stills, meaning I assume the end product will taste fairly similar either way.
I want to get onto the tasting notes now, because unlike most other reviews I write, the flavours I’ve identified form an integral part of the point I’m trying to make. This whiskey is weird. On the nose I get a hugely specific tasting note – which Ted backs me up on (or at least humours me with). My tasting note is bicycle tyres. Yep. Bicycle tyres. Fresh new ones! It’s nutty, earthy and overall: rubbery. It’s an acquired smell if that’s a thing.
The palate presents some more conventional ham and cinnamon flavours, alongside, not fruit… but vegetables, though I can’t quite pin down which ones. Broccoli perhaps, or turnip maybe (I’ve avoided the Irish cliché of saying potatoes). The finish is where all the smoke can be found – again accompanied by a burnt rubber linger. It’s all a bit bizarre on the first taste… and the second… and the third…
Connemara is a world apart from the delicate floral whiskies produced by much of Ireland and for that I thoroughly commend it. However, as far as peated whiskies go, I think I’m going to have to award this round to Scotland.
Reviewed by: Ted
The history of life on Earth is patterned with extinction. Ever since the first cells formed from the primordial soup some 4 billion years ago, countless species have risen, only to be swept away by the tides of history. Some extinctions are so devastating that they shake the tree of life to its very roots; for example the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event approx. 252 million years ago is estimated to have wiped out around 90% of all species living at that time.
The rise of modern humans (Homo sapiens) some 200000 years ago certainly hasn’t helped matters. While perhaps lacking the immediate punch of an asteroid impact, humans have both directly and indirectly had a hand in wiping out hundreds of species during our time on Earth. Hunting pressure is hypothesised to have played a role in the disappearance of a whole bunch of megafauna species 10000-50000 years ago, while we know that was definitely what killed off species such as the Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), the Western Black Rhino (Dioceros bicornis longipes) and the Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) which, thanks to a merciless hunting campaign, went from an incredible estimated population of 3 billion to be completely wiped out in the space of the 19th century. Other factors influenced by human activity also play their hand, such as habitat destruction, pollution, disease and anthropogenic driven climate change.
Yet hope springs eternal and many species that look doomed to go the way of the Dodo (Raphus cucullatus) somehow continue to cling tenaciously to the brink, sometimes even managing to claw their way back a bit: The Orange-Bellied Parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) from Tasmania, the Merendón Mountains Snaileater (Sibon merendonensis) from Guatemala, the Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) from Australia, the Volcan Tajumulco Bromeliad Salamander (Dendrotriton bromeliacius) from Mexico, Eisentraut’s Mouse Shrew (Mysorex eisentrauti) from Equatorial Guinea, Green Spot Whiskey (Maculatum viridialis) from Ireland.
From its origins sometime between 1000AD -1400AD (although the fossil record is still unclear whether the common ancestor of whisk(e)y initially arose in Ireland or Scotland), by the mid 1800’s Irish whiskey (Phylum Hibernica) had ascended to become the dominant grain-based spirit on Earth, with Dublin alone producing around 45.5 million litres of whiskey per annum. The most popular style was Single (or Pure) Pot Still Whiskey (Order Bihordeales), made using a mixture of malted and unmalted barley (Hordeum vulgare) (sometimes also utilising a small amount of other cereals such as wheat (Triticum sp.) or oats (Avena sativa)) and usually triple distilled (Class Trinephela) as per the Irish tradition. The style had initially started as a way of dodging a 1785 tax on malted barley, but quickly came to surpass single malt whiskey (Order Monohordeales) due to its popularity.
By the early 20th Century however, the Irish whiskey industry was in massive decline due to a combination of factors. War (the Irish War of Independence, followed by a civil war and then a trade war where the British Empire, Ireland’s biggest market, banned import of Irish whiskey), prohibition in the US (cutting out Ireland’s second biggest market) and questionable political and management decisions all left the Irish industry hurting. In addition, the wide scale uptake of the Coffey still (Subclass Semperfluida), ironically an Irish invention, by the Scottish distilling industry led to the meteoric (pun intended) rise of blended Scotch whisky (Phylum Caledonica, Order Mígmales), which by the turn of the century had overtaken the Irish market. The population of Irish distilleries went into free fall, the hundreds of distilleries that had once operated during the 18th and 19th centuries gradually vanishing until by the 1970’s only two were left, themselves amalgamations of a handful of survivors who had banded together for survival and mainly focused on blends.
What then of the the king of the Emerald Isles, the Single Pot Still Whiskey, the keystone style in the Irish ecosystem? By the time the 80’s rolled around, only two lonely members of this once great lineage were left, one being Redbreast (Rubus pectales) and the other Green Spot (Maculatum viridialis), a curious beastie in it’s own right. Mitchell & Son est. 1887, wine and spirit merchants based in Kildare St, Dublin, would purchase single pot still-style spirit from the nearby Jameson’s Bow Street Distillery and then age it in their own bond store. For the first five years of maturation, half the spirit was kept in casks that had contained darker styles such as oloroso and PX, while the other half spent its time in casks that had been used for lighter finos. After this initial aging period the casks were vatted together and then put under oak again for a further five years before bottling.
Originally known as Pat Whiskey, it was rebranded as John Jameson & Son Green Seal in the 30’s, before becoming simply known as Green Spot. Due to its popularity, other Spot variants soon emerged, with the 10yo Green Spot joined by a 7yo Blue Spot (Maculatum caerulea), 12yo Yellow Spot (Maculatum flaveolens) and a 15yo Red Spot (Maculatum rubrum), the names apparently deriving from the practise of marking barrels with a daub of paint to differentiate between the various age statements. The plight of the Irish whiskey industry soon took its toll however, with only the Green Spot surviving of its relatives. Matters became particularly grim when John Jameson & Son, the source of single pot still spirit for Green Spot, merged with John Power & Son and the Cork Distilleries Co. to form Irish Distillers, basing themselves at the New Midleton Distillery. Fortunately Mitchell & Son were able to strike a deal with Irish Distillers to allowed continued production of single pot still spirit at New Midleton (where Redbreast is also made), saving the brand from extinction. A slightly controversial stipulation of the deal was that the spirit had to be aged on-site in Midleton’s own casks, but Mitchell & Son still retained exclusive rights to the brand and its distribution.
Modern Green Spot has evolved to become a non-age statement release containing 7-10yo single pot still whiskeys aged in a combination of new and second fill american oak ex-bourbon cask and the brand’s traditional sherry cask. The colour is probably significantly lighter than its original ancestor, but still has a burnished red-gold hue thanks to the continued presence of sherry casking.
The nose is warm and fruity, abounding with peach, banana, pineapple, lemon and coconut, as well as polished timber, grape seed oil, crushed grass and grains.
The mouth is moderately sharp, yielding honeycomb, apricot, salt, aromatic herbs, pinot and oak, as well as a curious smokiness that briefly appears in the first few sips. The finish is relatively dry and leaves a pleasant citrus tang with undertones of cinnamon, cloves and cassia.
Lovers of Irish whiskey should be grateful that careful conservation efforts have prevented Green Spot and the Single Pot Still style from dying out in the wild completely. In fact, the famed whisk(e)y naturalist Jim Murray has been noted as stating that Green Spot is “…to the true Irish whiskey drinker what the Irish Round Tower is to the archaeologist…Unquestionably one of the world’s great whiskies.” In even better news, the style is now starting to make a resurgence, with a small population of the rare Malaga-matured Yellow Spot 12yo (Maculatum flaveolens malagaensis) being rediscovered, as well as new producers such as Dingle (Family Parvosonitaceae) emerging.
In summary, everything comes to an end eventually right? Luckily on occasion the inevitable can be staved off for a while and second chances granted. As such, I highly recommend that you make it a goal to sample the Green Spot before your own personal extinction comes upon you.
BONUS – Alcohol Taxonomic Hierarchy
Ex. Green Spot
Domain – Alcohol – Spirita
Kingdom – Type – Whisk(e)y
Phylum – Origin – Hibernica
Class – Distillations – Trinephela
Order – Style – Bihordeales
Family – Distillery – Novaemidletonaceae
(Tribe – Independant bottler – Mitchellfileae)
Genus & species – Variety – Maculatum viridialis
Reviewed by: Nick
Ok, let’s get it out of the way now: upon reading the words ‘Black Bush’, who sniggered uncontrollably? I’ll admit that I definitely count myself amongst the sniggerers. I mean, come on… Black Bush? Snigger snigger…
Anyway, now we’re past that: onto the whiskey! It is important to note that Black Bush was not entirely made at Bushmills. A large chunk of it was – Bushmills claim 80% was aged for up to eight years in their Northern Ireland bond store – but the single malt is then blended with grain whiskey made down south at Midleton Distillery.
So Black Bush (snigger) is a blend. A cheap blend, no less, of a similar price to a Chivas or a Johnnie Walker Black Label. So there’s not going to be anything in here to get too excited about. Right?
Wrong. The Black Bush is a remarkable young whiskey punching well above its weight and displaying a depth of character not present in many Irish drams. The clue is in the name: the blackness of the bush (snigger).
This moniker refers to the maturation of the Bushmills single malt – part of it, at least – which has spent years aging in Oloroso sherry barrels. This variation in cask type has added a complex fruity element which really makes this whiskey stand out from its competitors.
The nose is packed with fruit and cereal, or perhaps fruit on cereal. Creamy strawberries nestle among grains, while marmalade and oak round off the edges. The palate is lightly spicy with the rum and raisin flavours from the sherry influence spreading out across the tongue. There are notes of dark chocolate and sweet pastries. The finish is quite dry with hints of red wine grapes and vanilla.
The Black Bush is far from smooth, but this actually works in its favour. Bushmills claim it only contains 20% grain spirit and the blender could have easily rounded off the edges by adding more. However the restraint shown adds complexity to the dram and gives the flavours within a chance to come to the fore.
In conclusion, if you are looking for an inexpensive blended Irish malt with a bit of character look no further than the Black Bush.