I was invited to take part in another whisky – or in this case whiskey – tweet tasting recently, but was unable to take part due to a last minute change of plans. I tried the usual suspects to see if they would like to take part but no one was free. Seeing as how I had the samples, and I said to the chaps at Walsh Whiskey that I would let them know what I thought, I thought I might as well to a wee tasting myself.
The tweet tasting included four samples supplied by Walsh Whiskey Distillery, if you have never heard of Walsh Whiskey then you may have heard of some of their bottlings, namely the Irishman and Writers Tears which have won several awards over recent years. They are an Irish company which only recently started producing their own whiskey, but they also have a range of blends, single malts and Pot Still bottlings that they sell while waiting on their own stuff maturing.
The tasting pack came with a folder including some distillery information and some information behind the whiskeys that we would be trying on the evening. The samples were as follows:
- Pot Still New Make Spirit – 75.5% ABV
- The Irishman 43% ABV
- Writers Tears Copper Pot 40% ABV
- Writers Tears Red Head 46% ABV
I tried to not look at my twitter feed before I had my wee sampling session as I like going into things blind and not be led by what others found in the drams, hopefully I’m not too far off the mark, so let’s get to it!
Pot Still New Make -75.5% ABV:
In Ireland there are 3 main types of whisky produced. The first two, malt and grain whiskey, are quite common, the third is a little bit different and this is known as single pot still whiskey. Single pot still whiskey, as it sounds, is produced in a single pot still, the same style as those used for malt whiskey. The difference here though is that the mash bill will comprise of both malted and unmalted barley. This sample has come from the Pot still side of production at the Walsh distillery.
This is a very sweet and fruity character of new make, and very light as well, as a result of the triple distillation. The big thing that comes through on the nose here for me is apples and fresh berries – mostly brambles (black berries) for me – with a light suggestion of malt, and a lot of sugary sweetness. With time, baked apples, yoghurt coated raisins and bruised pears. There is remarkably little alcohol on the nose for how strong it is.
Well. There is the alcohol, and a strange bitterness too through the development. On the palate there isn’t much to discuss, there is a bitter-sweet grassy note, again a touch of apple and thats about it. New make is always a strange thing to try; I’ve never been a big fan of drinking it. It is always very fruity and sweet on the nose, almost sickly sweet. Then on the palate it has a big blast of alcohol and the flavours are more driven by the grains used. There is good reason they lock this stuff away in a cask for years on end, it’s drinkable, but not overly palatable.
The Irishman 12yo single malt – 43% ABV:
The Irishman is a single malt – back on familiar ground – that has been triple distilled and then matured in 1st fill Bourbon casks, meaning they have been used previously for the maturation of Bourbon in America and this is the first time that they have been used for the maturation of Irish whiskey. Being matured solely in first fill casks and being triple distilled I’m expecting some big cask influence to come through here.
It’s quite unusual on the nose this one. The first thing that comes across to me is green apples, but not fresh apples, it’s almost like a synthetic green apple sweet taste. This is accompanied with rich oak, demerara sugar, a sprinkle of cinnamon, vanilla and some coconut too, and strangely enough I think I can get strawberries here too. You can tell straight away that fresher casks have been used here as there are quite a few Bourbon-like characters coming through.
Wow, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here, I hate using the word smooth in relation to whiskey but this just is, it is so smooth and light on the palate, its lovely. A good amount of spice comes through on the palate; there is some white pepper, nutmeg and again a slight sprinkling of cinnamon. Nuts are fairly prominent here too with coconut again and a fatty almond-like taste too, all with a good pasting of golden syrup over the top.
Writer Tears, Copper Pot – 40% ABV:
Copper pot is a blended Irish whiskey comprising of around 60% malt whiskey and 40% Pot still whiskey, no grain whiskey is used in this blend. All the content has been triple distilled and has again been matured in former Bourbon casks. This blend is sort of a remastering of an old recipe, known as the ‘Champagne of Irish Whiskey’, which is said to have been enjoyed by many writers in its day. It is said that they enjoyed drinking this so much that when they cried their tears would be Whiskey – alcoholics!
Like with what we have tried so far again apples are quite prominent, red apples this time. Plenty of sweetness too here with a lovely milk chocolateyness, salted caramel and a creamy vanilla custard. There are lots of fruits present too with nectarines, strawberry jam and kiwi fruit, as well as a pear cider-like smell. All finished off with milky porridge with drizzly honey on top.
More spice is present here with vanilla, ground dried ginger and cracked white pepper. The apples again come through with over ripe pears and dried orange. It is also quite woody on the palate with bitter tannins and a fair amount of drying woodiness, which is joined by the slightest touch of cask char through the development and bitter dark chocolate.
Writers Tears, Red Head – 46% ABV:
The final dram of what has been an excellent selection thus far. The Red Head is so named as it has been matured solely in Oloroso sherry casks, though to my eyes it isn’t hugely darker than the other samples so I’m assuming it must be mostly refill sherry casks. Like the others this has also all been triple distilled but this one is again a single malt and not a blend like the Copper Pot.
It is definitely refill casks that they have used here and I think it’s is just as well, the light character of Irish whiskey would be completely dominated by the use of first fill sherry casks resulting in you basically getting sherry, the fact that they have used refill casks means that it still actually tastes like whiskey as opposed to sherry, which personally, is what I want my whiskey to taste of! There is a gentle aroma of fruity Oloroso sherry with raisins, mixed peel and walnuts, as well as a nice sherry cask spiciness with ginger, cinnamon and cloves. There is a big note of pear drops to start with which over time merges with the other aromas creating a strange carrot cake-like nose.
The spice from the casks is much more robust here with a fiery ginger mouth feel accompanied by cinnamon sticks and crushed cardamom pods, as well as a drying sherry oak wood character. Dried fruits and mixed peel come through with baked apple pie and rum and raisin ice cream. The development becomes quite tannic but is lifted by a honey character which rides through to the finish.
Well. That was a lovely wee tasting. I wish so much that I had been able to take part in the actual tweet tasting as I’m sure it would have been a great night and it is interesting comparing notes with others. I must say a massive thank you to Steve Rush from the Whisky Wire and the good folk at Walsh Whiskey for providing the samples, and also apologise for not being able to take part in the night. I will definitely enjoy what’s left of these samples and may have to look into getting a bottle of the Writers Tears Red Head, my definite favourite of the four.