Spirit of Dublin

Posted 17 March 2019 by Matt / In Group Tastings
Spirit of Dublin

Like Hansel, Irish whiskey is so hot right now – but it wasn’t all that long ago that the number of active distilleries across Ireland numbered just 3. As of writing there are now 19 active distilleries and at least another 13 in various stages of planning and building – an incredible resurgence. The future is clearly bright, and at a glance with 19 distilleries producing spirit you’d expect a sizable variance in liquid styles. But, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll quickly see that in terms of aged stock, there’s barely half a dozen distilleries with enough mature reserves to produce bottlings with a double-digit age statement. Whilst the industry pushes forward with its revival there’s a huge swathe of bottlings being released that source their whisky from the longer established sites – and, frankly, a glaring lack of transparency from a number of the new producers doing the sourcing.

To the unconverted, a look at Teeling’s range might suggest a long established distillery with an incredible depth of matured stock. However, all but the recently released Teeling Pot Still has been sourced from Cooley – which the Teeling family sold to Beam Suntory back in 2011. Like many producers, the need to create expressions to get the cash flowing whilst the new distillery (located in Central Dublin) becomes established requires sourcing of liquid. In the case of Teeling, this is perhaps a little more transparent than some of the newer distilleries – all of the aged stock was purchased from Cooley as part of the sale to Beam. This means there’s  a great reserve of liquid to tide the distillery over as it starts to create its new DNA, and likewise, a pool which can be drawn from to potentially combine with the new spirit that’s being produced in Dublin.

This strange situation of incredible demand and interest, but a dearth of aged liquid from all but a few producers presents an interesting dichotomy – hotness has inspired investment, employment and incredible growth – but it won’t be until a decade hence that the new face of Irish whiskey will be front and centre and possible to truly explore and understand. Like so many industries, whisky including, future fortune is stimulated by past success, but it can rarely be totally defined by it. Fawning over desirable often delicious older liquid is all very well and good, but that won’t be the shape of the industry in 20 years’ time. Hopefully there’s enough folks along for the longer term ride to sustain the currently level of hotness that’s now all too evident. That was then. This is now.


The Dramble reviews Teeling Small Batch

Bottle Name:  Teeling Small Batch

ABV: 46%
Distillery: Teeling
Region: Ireland

Teeling Small Batch was first introduced in February of 2013 – some two years before their Dublin-based distillery was established. It’s still the company’s biggest selling bottling – globally exported to over 60 markets. Small Batch is an NAS blended whiskey that’s been matured in ex-bourbon for an unspecified amount of time before the malt and grain elements are married. These are then re-racked into ex-rum casks for a 12 month finishing period. The resulting whiskey is bottled at 46% ABV and is available for a little over £30 – Master of Malt seem to have one of the best prices in the UK.

Nose: A welcoming combination of fresh and dried fruits – ripe pears and apricots alongside dehydrated banana chips. Light brown sugars push through strongly with choux pastry and grainy brown bread reflecting the marriage of malt with grain. In the background, leafy greens, cut grass and warmed soils. The addition of water broadens things out with honeydew melon, beeshoney, cut flowers and crackerbread.

Taste: A good transition from the nose, with a pleasant weight from the ABV. Blackberry jam and banana bread mingle with oaky vanilla, steeped black tea and lemon verbena. There’s still plenty of demerara sugar (rum induced?), and further sweetening from creamy fudge. Spicing is quite pronounced with perky cinnamon and anise providing both tang and bite. Reduction introduces grassiness – part fresh, part dried, alongside more defined drying oakiness.

Finish: Medium in length and predominantly focussed on the ex-bourbon cask – toffee and vanilla pods.

Teeling Small Batch is rather likable – whilst drinkability is high, there’s something of a swagger here with a delivery of confident assertive flavours. Sure, it’s generally young stuff with fairly limited complexity, but at the same time, it eschews templating itself into a derivative ‘smooth’ Irish whiskey persona. Well-made. Well priced.

Review sample provided by Maverick Drinks

Score: 82/100

The Dramble reviews Teeling Single Grain

Bottle Name: Teeling Single Grain

ABV: 46%
Distillery: Teeling
Region: Ireland

There’s an increasing number of young grain whisk(e)y’s being produced – no real surprise – the demand is there, and the production costs are relatively constrained compared to malt. But, it wasn’t all that long ago that many a whisky fan would be turning their nose up at a grain product – whether it be young or well-aged. How times change.

Expectations and tastes (along with RRPs and personal budgets) are part of the reason why grain whisky’s reputation and reach have improved – but another big part is undoubtedly innovation. Teeling Single Grain strikes me as a good example of all of these trends. It’s a sourced whiskey that was introduced into the market in 2013 and no doubt sourced from Cooley (previously owned by Teeling). Whilst it’s delivered with no age statement, it’s known to be around 5 years of age – even amongst grain fan circles, that type of low age will often set alarm bells ringing. However, the innovation from Telling comes in the form of the maturation regime utilised to produce their Single Grain expression, which takes this 95% corn whiskey and casks it entirely in Californian Cabernet Sauvignon wine casks. Interesting.  The bottling is delivered at 46% ABV and clocks in at a shy over £40 from Whisky Exchange here in the UK.

Nose: Fresh, lively and quite sharp. Caramel, vanilla, desiccated coconut and toasted cereals are joined by sprightly green apples and tangy alluvial soils. In the background, grape juice, buttered popcorn and some overtly grainy notes of varnish and acetone. Water flavours the wood influence – dulling all the top notes and muddying the profile down to a rather genetic combination of wood chips, and park benches.

Taste: The arrival has some clingy viscosity – and delivers big notes of coconut. The combination of the two gives the impression of solidified copra oil – slippery and fatty in texture. The development follows the nose almost in parallel – vanilla custard, ripe and sweet orchard apples and a medley of cereals – rolled golden oats, Alpen and wheats. Cinema popcorn and buttered toast provide further creaminess, with roasted cashew nuts and cask pepper peeking through in the back palate. As with the nose, dilution is seriously inadvisable – resulting in a dismally vague selection of flavours and too much influence from oak.

Finish: Short with peppery spice and touches of wood paint.

Teeling Single Grain is simple, but quite effective. The grain doesn’t feel brutally young, and has been crafted to delivery some extremely pleasant coconut-forward flavours with an solid mouth-feel alongside. Water is a disaster – but, at 46% this doesn’t require modification nor experimentation anyhow. Don’t expect fireworks here -  there’s a bit too much reliance on the wood (a factor of the level of maturity I’d suggest), but overall the result is generally rather agreeable – especially considering the age.

Review sample provided by Maverick Drinks

Score: 81/100

The Dramble reviews Teeling Single Malt

Bottle Name: Teeling Single Malt

ABV: 46%
Distillery: Teeling
Region: Ireland

Any conversation around Irish single malt invariable revolves around a discussion as to whether a whiskey is from either Bushmills of Cooley. A rather binary guess. In time, with the new range of Irish distilleries coming on stream, there’s going to be much more choice and variance within the market, but for the time being sourced whiskey – especially single malt is utilised extensively by bottlers to build up their cash reserves during their early years.

Teeling’s Single Malt – from their holdings of Cooley single malt stock is an interesting beast. Whilst issued as an NAS, its composition is far from simple -  sherry, port, madeira, white Burgundy and cabernet sauvignon have all been combined to form an end result NAS expression which, according to my research, has some constituent components up to 23 years of age (but probably a rather small percentage). The bottle is delivered at 46% ABV and can be purchased for a little over £40 from Master of Malt – be warned, the price variance on this one is quite large with some retailers changing up to 25% more.

Nose: Bright orchard fruits and plenty of confectionary along for the ride – crisp apples and delicate pineapple with Jolly Rancher hard candy and gummy sweets. There’s a strong aromatic floral undertone here – lavender, cut grass, lemon balm and wild honey. Straight-forward, but rather welcoming all the same. The addition of water brings out creaminess with vanilla and yoghurt alongside cut grass and gooseberries.

Taste: Fruit-forward with sugar-dusted pineapple slices, tart grapefruit and lemon curd. Candy floss and icing sugar provide more saccharine treats, whilst buttery biscuits and sponge cake bring us back down towards a more malt-based mid-palate. Spices build, enveloping the mouth in pepper and ginger – zingy with bitterness increasing in to the back palate. Dilution moves things away from the fruity spectrum with white chocolate, malted bread and rolled pastry.

Finish: Medium with fading peppery spice, sour green apple and prevailing oakiness which falls partway between sappy and resinous.

Teeling Single Malt ticks a fair few boxes for me. It’s explicitly fruity (which is what one wants and expects from Irish whiskey right?), but build on a solid malt base that provides both depth and balance. Whilst more expensive than both the Small Batch and Single Grain released, the quality vs. price still feels pretty good here.

Review sample provided by Maverick Drinks

Score: 84/100


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