Note the spelling. Whiskey here is with an ‘e’, which means that we are in fact dealing with a non-Scottish drink. It’s an Irish single malt whiskey.
We’ve been hearing in the press about the rise of Irish whiskey – and, in fact, I suppose it’s really an Irish phoenix rising from the flames, for this was centuries ago the dominant spirit of the whisk(e)y world. It’s even popular thinking that whisk(e)y came across to Scotland from Ireland in the first place.
In 2013 there were four Irish whiskey distilleries: Kilbeggan and Cooley, which are owned by Beam; Bushmills, which is owned by Diageo; and Midleton, which is owned by Pernod Ricard. Now there is expected to be another two-dozen more distilleries coming on-line, and the Irish whiskey industry is investing £780m over the next 10 years. The Irish government has recently moved to protect the product’s provenance as well, ensuring authenticity. It’s a serious business now, though it’s not expected that all may survive.
As a side note, Mark Reynier, formerly of my beloved Bruichladdich, is launching his own Irish whiskey brand at Waterford – and this is one I’m very much looking forward to trying in a few years. Bruichladdich even sent over its old iconic still as a favour.
Teeling is one of the big new Irish whiskey brands. It has actually been around for a while – although Teeling Distillery is the first new distillery in Dublin in 125 years, the company has existed since 1782. John Teeling bought and converted a former State potato schnapps distillery in 1985, adding various stills to the operation, and so has a bit of a head-start on the competition.
Teeling Single Malt Whiskey is bottled at a healthy 46% ABV, and costs just under £40. There is a range of other whiskies, including a single grain whiskey, but this one is made with 100% malt whiskey. In fact five cask-finished whiskeys went into it – Sherry, Port, Madeira, White Burgundy and Cabernet Sauvignon. Some of these whiskies were distilled as far back as 1991, from Teeling’s old operation (Mr Teeling is sitting on a pile of venerable casks).
In the mouth: what was lacking in the nose is more than made up for with the taste. A more intense fruitiness explodes: grapes, sweet apples, blood oranges, rhubarb, tinned pineapple, all with a lovely honey and malty vibrancy binding it all together. Redcurrants. Fresh plums. Digestive biscuits. There’s a warm undertone of black pepper, ginger, all spice. Vanilla, naturally, but there’s so much going on in this. The texture is very impressive and all in all it’s exceptionally well-balanced. It’s a very tasty whisky!
It reminds me of a very good blended whisk(e)y, in many respects; and that’s a compliment for its approachable texture and balance of flavours. But, considering Teeling Single Malt Whiskey costs under £40, I’d go as far as saying it’s one of the best whiskies you’ll find in 2015 around this price range. The nose was a little timid, but the taste is hugely impressive.
At this price, should buy a bottle immediately. Does the Scotch whisky industry have anything to fear? If this is anything to go by, quite possibly. I’d like to taste a lot more Scotch of this quality for less than £40.