Posts Tagged With: Grain

Tasting Notes: The Pogues Irish Whiskey

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The Pogues Irish Whiskey

Released by West Cork Distillers, The Pogues Irish Whiskey is a blended whiskey that has been matured in oak barrels for just three years and one day (i.e. exactly as long as needed to technically call it “whiskey”). The packaging notes that the whiskey is “bottled by West Cork Distillers”, but being a blend and without a statement to the effect, there is no apparent information as to whether or not it is crafted and distilled there too – but you’d hope so! The blend is reportedly a 50:50 split of grain and malt Irish whiskies and was crafted by two entrants in the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame: Irish master blender Barry Walsh and longtime Springbank maestro Frank McHardy. The packaging and bottle is branded with The Pogues lyric “I am going where streams of whiskey are flowing”, so with that, let’s pour some and get it flowing…

ABV: 40%

 

Nose
M: So many woody smells in there and a sweet lingering something. It’s kinda oaky, kinda piney, kinda something else. Whatever it is, it stands out.

Taste
M: A bit harsh upfront with the booze but the woody flavours fade away to some vanilla sweetness. Slightly orangey towards the end.

Finish
M: A decent coating of the throat but the flavours do not really hang around. It’s a chest warming boozy delivery but thankfully, without burning a hole though it.

Verdict
A totally woody nose (which is surprising given its young, young age), which makes way for sweet vanilla, chewy malts and gentle fruit. The classic Irish whiskey ‘mouthfeel’ is there (just) with a little fruit and spice along the way. A touch of water helped to tame the harsher delivery, and whilst it didn’t reveal any other flavours, it did bring out the vanilla sweetness a bit more. It’s an enjoyable sipping whiskey. I’ve grown up with The Pogues’ music accompanying many a boozy evening and was hoping that they wouldn’t put their name to something terrible… and they haven’t. It didn’t blow my mind or anything like that but it wasn’t unpleasant in any way either, but that’s just personal opinion. The fact that it has some slick branding behind it and the backing of an Irish musical and cultural institution will undoubtedly shift the units and I’d be surprised if there were not further releases or variants of this made in the future, following its initial decent sales and positive reviews. At the price point for a good Irish whiskey, it would certainly make for a good gift too… particularly for when the bells are ringing out…

Categories: Tasting Notes, The Pogues, West Cork Distillers | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Colour By Numbers – A Lagavulin Case Study

You will sometimes hear whisky being referred to as ‘liquid gold’. This is mainly due to the value associated with it, but it also obviously refers to the various shades of golden beauty that the liquid can have. In spite of this however, when whisky is being made, the ‘new spirit’ that is created from the distillation process is actually colourless. In fact, you cannot call it ‘whisky’ unless it has been in a barrel for 3 years, and it is this aging process and the interaction with the wooden barrels that gives whisky its distinctive colour.

Auchentoshan's Spirit

Auchentoshan – 0, 1 & 2 Years Old

Clearly, the longer that the liquid is in the barrel, the more time it has in contact with the wood and the more of the wood’s qualities therefore infuse into the whisky. Put simply, the older the whisky, the darker it gets. WU were lucky enough to go to a warehouse tasting at Lagavulin where local legend and distillery hero Iain Macarthur (a.k.a. “Pinky”) entertained us and took us through a selection of drams taken fresh from the barrel, from which we could really see the effects of aging on their wonderful whisky.

First up was the ‘new make’ spirit that was fresh from the still that day. At a fairly astronomical 68% ABV we expected this to blow our heads off, but surprisingly it didn’t – though it still packed a punch! Perfectly colourless, you could essentially just taste the barley and the distillery’s distinctive peat once you got past the alcoholic burn. Not something that you should have every day at 10.30 am!

WU meet "Pinky"

WU meet “Pinky”

The second dram was a 9 year old from the barrel, and the barley taste was still there but it almost felt like it had more of an alcohol burn, despite ‘only’ being 58% ABV. Not surprisingly, the whisky had taken on the colour and tastes of the barrel, but was still relatively light gold in colour compared to the staple Lagavulin 16.

The third sample was straight from the barrel after 11 years, and the liquid was a touch darker again in colour. This dram had developed quite a sweet taste from the wood and a noticeably smoother finish to its predecessors but still packed quite the punch.

Lagavulin Warehouse Tasting

Lagavulin Warehouse Tasting

Next up was a 15 year old – one year away from the distillery’s core output – and it had really taken on caramel notes from the wood, matching the sweetness with a softer finish, but still delivering lots of smoke and peat. This dram was now at that rich, deep gold colour that Lagavulin is known for.

Last but not least, we skipped a few years and had a dram of a 31 year old Lagavulin. Now this was a real treat for us, and whilst the value of the dram isn’t known as it is fairly unique and only available from the distillery, the estimate was that each dram would be worth £100-£150. Interestingly, the colour of the liquid itself hadn’t actually deepened that much compared to the 15 year old and whilst it still had an obvious woody taste and sweetness, it was mysteriously returning back to that original barley taste that we had first encountered in the new distillate.

Barrel Chair

Barrel Chair

Oddly, the interaction between the spirit and its wooden surroundings can actually vary from barrel to barrel. So much so that two barrels containing the same base liquid, which have been made from the same wood and have been aged over the same period of time, can produce two entirely different coloured end results. To combat this, some distilleries choose to add a caramel to get a uniform colour, so that customers ‘see’ the same product time after time and whilst this may be disappointing for some purists (and is even denied by some distilleries), it is essentially drawn from necessity to keep the buyers happy. What this goes to show is that whilst whisky-making it is not an exact science, there is still some truth behind saying that it is colour by numbers.

Categories: Whisky Waffling | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beckham’s New Club

Earlier this week we saw the launch of a new whisky within the Diageo family: Haig Club. This “collaboration” expression was launched by none other than David Beckham. With such a star involved it kinda feels like a real-life version of Bill Murray’s Bob Harris advertising Suntory in the film Lost In Translation, albeit Mr Beckham is far from washed-up!

At WU, we’ve got mixed feelings on this.

Firstly the ad itself talks instantly about the bottle. Obviously, with Becks on board, image is going to be important, but what does that say about the whisky? Also, to be frank, when you look at the bottle itself, it leaves you wondering whether you’d pour it into a glass or put a dash on your neck before heading out for a night on the tiles. It’s unique, we’ll give it that.

Secondly, they talk, very briefly, about the flavour. It’s distinctive apparently. That’s it. And with all participants in the ad raising their glasses aloft, full to the hilt with ice, you’ve got to ask whether that’s a good message about a whisky. WU are yet to taste this dram and a full review is imminent, so we will reserve judgement for now.

Thirdly, and this may be the most important aspect, the whisky itself is a single grain whisky. Haig is, of course, known for its grain whisky, but this has got us thinking: is this an attempt by the big money to stylise grain whiskies and up their game outside of the malt whisky world? The market is definitely becoming more and more saturated with different malts, particularly those that have been matured in numerous different vats – you may have seen that Jura recently released a whisky that has been matured via 7 different casks!! Clearly the marketing team have been trying to think outside of the box here and certainly getting Beckham’s chiseled looks behind it will raise attention worldwide. Are we therefore going to see a rise in sales of grain whiskies? Maybe. Our thoughts are that this could go one of two ways but could very well be a master stroke by Diageo. We’ll just have to wait and see, and put it on ice for now…

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