Produced by Cooley Distillery, Connemara is one of few peated Irish whiskies but, arguably the most well-known. First released around 1996 (from distillate created in 1992), the brand has won a glut of awards on the international stage over the years, and comes in a selection of NAS, age-statement and limited edition varieties.
Nowadays, Connemara is described as peated single malt Irish whisky, but back when it was first introduced in 1996, it came with the moniker - ‘pure pot still whisky’. If we’re being all technical, then Connemara is not a pure pot still whisky - there’s no unmalted barley utilised in the mash. Likewise, being twice distilled, it certainly has more in common with a single malt whisky. Perhaps the labelling back then was intended to clarify the use of pots over continuous stills?
Our bottling is hard to precisely date (no dates, bottle codes or other hints can be found on the label) but, I suspect having explored the late 90s range comes from around 1998. Given that the spirit was first produced in 1992, this would make it no older than 6 years of age. It’s delivered in similar shaped glassware as it’s modern-day equivalent and likewise at the 40% ABV that is standard for much of the entry-level Connemara range.
Nose: Fruit-forward with apple turnovers and spit-roasted pineapples...a little additional sweetness from golden syrup. Then, we’re off slightly left-field with a light mineral smoke, not quite coal dust, but still highly crystalline - a diamond mine perhaps (I’m current writing this from South Africa, so the comparison feels appropriate)? Sitting alongside, countryside aromas - damp hay, farmyard, sty....even some pork cracking in there (straight from field to plate I guess).
Taste: A surprisingly weighty arrival for just 40% with an oily texture that coats the tongue and mouth. However, the initial flavour delivery is weak and undefined. All body and no balls. Stone fruits (of no particular variety), tart grapefruit juice and little else. Things improve in the mid and back palate, where concentrated earthiness (hay and moss) meets chalk and limestone - again with a slightly dusty peat smoke. More pronounced than on the nose, and with an ever-so slight medicinal quality, but fairly background nonetheless
Finish: Short in length with golden barley sugars and tangy salinity.
This older bottling of Connemara is something of a strange beast. Overall it’s light, innocuous and easy-going, and with some interesting aromas and flavours. But, properly considered, this gentle nature comes at the expense of both flavour development and complexity. What there is going on here is all too brief and lacking definition to really excite the senses. I’ve found modern bottlings to have more character.