Friday, May 27, 2016

A Taste Of Teeling

The Teeling range, about to be sampled.
Bottles of Ireland's Teeling whisky have been well received at the club over the past couple of years, so we were delighted this month to host an evening dedicated to the stuff, courtesy of Craig from Eaux de Vie.

The Poitin!
Before opening the first bottle, Craig filled us in on the story of Irish whiskey and how Teeling fits into that. Ireland had once been a far larger player in the world whiskey market than it is today, but its share was devastated by the twin issues of prohibition in the US, and trade restrictions in the UK related to the fallout from Irish independence.

At one stage, Irish whiskey was down to the merged Irish Distillers and that was about it. But, things are looking up, with Craig telling us that sales of Irish whiskey are now going up at the rate of about 20% each year, impressive growth albeit from a low base.

Teeling Small Batch
We didn't get straight into the whiskey. Instead, the first drink of the night was Teeling's poitin, a drink usually known here in its anglicised form as pocheen. It's basically very strong Irish moonshine, and a few club members had hazy memories of having some in the past. Teeling's poitin is not as powerful as some, but at 61.4% it still packs a significant punch alongside a pleasant sweetness reminiscent of pear drops. Not one for a session, but as Craig suggested, a drink to have a bit of fun with from time to time. It retails for £30.

On we went to the first of the four whiskies. The Teeling family has a long history in distilling, going right back to 1782. The modern Teeling company was founded in 2012 by Jack Teeling, who left his job running the Cooley Distillery when it was sold to Jim Beam, but struck a deal to keep 16,000 barrels to get him started with his new venture.

Teeling Single Grain
And the first drop of that we got to taste was the Teeling Small Batch. Finished for six months in old rum casks, it again had a sweetness about it, although at 46% it was a lot lighter than the Poitin. This got an enthusiastic reception from virtually everyone. Available at £33 from Master of Malt, it's good value, too.

This was surpassed by the next dram, though, the Teeling Single Grain, fully matured in Californian red Cabernet Sauvignon casks. If we'd had pear drops earlier, this was a move further into the sweet shop to the toffee jar. As Craig noted, another lighter drop, particularly good for enjoying at this time of year. And again super value, at about the £35 mark.

At the half time break, Craig generously offered the bottle around again and there were several enthusiastic takers!

Teeling Single Malt
The fourth drink of the evening was Teeling's vatted Single Malt, and what a mixed bag it was. The bottle features whiskies aged up to 23 years, matured in a real range of wine casks: sherry, port, Madeira, white Burgundy and Cabernet Sauvignon.

While another enjoyable drop, there was a general feeling in the room that all those influences meant there was just a bit too much going on here. It possibly suffered slightly having come after the outstanding Single Grain, but "it just needs a bit more knitting together" was one comment echoed by a few of the members. It's a little more expensive than the others, but can still be found for less than £40.

Teeling Revival
Craig finished off the evening with Teeling's 15yo Revival, aged in rum casks and produced in honour of the fact Teeling's is the first new distillery to open in Dublin for 125 years. This was another light and very enjoyable whisky with a bit of sweetness, clearly hallmarks of Teeling's range in general.

This turned into a strong contender for the dram of the night, but coming in at over £80, the value offered by the Single Grain perhaps allowed it to edge ahead as our favourite of the evening.

Thanks once again to Craig for a great tasting, and to the team at the Briton's Protection for looking after us as always. Thanks also go to the folks at Aston's of Manchester, who have generously offered club members a discount on these Teeling bottles when we produce our tickets on our next visit.

Craig in full flow.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Speyside Spring Special

The latest monthly tasting was a springtime Speyside special. And while some unseasonal Manchester hailstorms raged outside, we enjoyed a cosy evening upstairs at the Britons with a fine selection of drams.

First up was this 12yo Aultmore. Hopes were high after the particularly good independent Whiskybroker bottling of a 25yo sherried Aultmore went down extremely well at a tasting last summer, but this particular drop ended up getting more solid rather than spectacular reviews from the group.

Very light and pale and with a definite hint of apples and pears, it reminded at least one drinker of the Tesco Finest whisky we'd had at January's budget supermarket night (not necessarily a bad thing, the Tesco dram had been well received and not just because of the amount of Clubcard points it could earn you). Currently retailing at the £42 mark, there's certainly better bottles available for the price.

The evening's whisky master, Tom, came up trumps with the next bottle. This now-discontinued 16yo Longmorn was sourced from Manchester's World of Whiskies, and was one of the last they still had. Hearing this, Tom wisely secured one for himself and one for the club, which is of course as it should be.

There was more apple here and a hint of lemon, although some of us thought it a little chemically. Now retailing in the £70 bracket, considerably more than Tom got his bottles for, the club generally agreed it was now a bit pricey. A reasonable dram all the same, though.

BenRiach is one of the club's favourite distilleries, with expressions such as its 17yo Septendecim getting a delighted reception at past tastings. And the bottle of Cask Strength Batch 1 we had on this occasion proved to be another to add to the list.

Some thought this creamy and others noticed vanilla, but many were pleasantly surprised by how drinkable it was at 57%. So pleasantly surprised in fact, that before long phones were out and bottles were being ordered all over the room at the good value of price of £52. We think we ended up getting nine between us, a new club record!

While no doubt all contributions to the BenRiach coffers are welcome, this was not the only significant financial injection they received last week. Boss Billy Walker announced he had sold BenRiach, along with sister distilleries Glenglassaugh and GlenDronach, to Jack Daniel's owner Brown-Forman for £285m, with a third of that going to the Walkers themselves.

The Aberdeen Press and Journal quoted Billy as saying "it really isn't about the money" which we're sure is true. But then, £95m never hurt anyone.

On we went with another great whisky, this time a Cadenhead's bottling of a 22yo Glen Moray. Initial thoughts were that this was basically an alcoholic Bakewell tart, something of an achievement considering the Peak District is about 400 miles away from Speyside.

It really was very nice indeed, although the price tag (nearly £90) meant there wasn't the same rush to snap it up on the night. One to ask Santa for, perhaps.

The last dram of the night was also the strongest, the peated Glenlivet Nadurra (it means 'natural' in Gaelic) coming in at 61.5%.

It certainly tasted like it which led to a mixed reception from the crowd, some enjoying sensation of having a whisky that slaps you around the face a bit, others finding it a bit off-putting. But at less than £50, it's good value if you like that sort of thing.

The voting for dram of the night initially came down to a tie between the BenRiach and the Cadenhead's Glen Moray (the Glenlivet had a couple of staunch supporters, too), but the BenRiach just got the nod in the end.

Thanks to Tom for an excellent selection of whiskies and thanks once again to the Britons for being gracious hosts. We're all looking forward to May's tasting already.