The Whisky Barrel Bottlings: Cooley 13 Year Old & Dumbarton 1987

Dumbarton 30 Whisky Barrel

Ten years is a long time for a website to be running. Ten years ago Facebook was only really getting under way and MySpace was the social network of choice. Internet connections were a lot less reliable and phones were used for, mostly, making phone calls. But online whisky retailer, The Whisky Barrel, is in its 10th year – which makes it among the oldest-running retailers.

It’s decided to celebrate its 10th Anniversary in the most appropriate manner: selling some special anniversary whisky bottlings. One is Irish, from Cooley, and one is a Scotch grain whisky from Dumbarton. It’s quite nice to taste a Cooley whiskey that is actually proudly Cooley, as opposed to one of any number of Irish brands that are using Cooley whiskies as their own without telling consumers. (Although, technically the label just says “a distillery in Ireland”, though the website states what it is.) This particular Cooley is a 13 year old, bottled by the The Creative Whisky Co. It’s distilled in 2004, matured in a Sherry Hogshead and bottled at 52.7% ABV. It costs just under £50.

The Dumbarton is a 30 year old whisky from Hunter Laing’s The Sovereign range. Bottled at 56.7% ABV, it cost a mere £87, which is a very good price for a single grain whisky of this age (and as I’ve mentioned many times before, single grain whisky needs longer to mature for it to grow in flavour).

TWB Irish Cooley 13

Cooley 13 Year Old 2003 The Whisky Barrel 10th Anniversary Exclusive

Colour: tawny.

On the nose: tart, acidic red fruits, and balsamic vinegar. There’s plenty of expected notes: sultanas and raisins, but also tangerines and

In the mouth: quite a thin texture, but it delivers huge amounts of blackberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants. Give it time in the glass and the complexity begins to show: tomato ketchup, sour cherries, Parmaviolets, barley sugar and apricot jam.

It’s a very nice whisky, and certainly among the tastiest, flavoursome Irish whiskies I’ve had in the past year or so.

Dumbarton 30 - the Whisky Barrel

Dumbarton 30 Year Old – 1987 (Hunter Laing – The Sovereign)

Colour: amber.

On the nose: plenty of vanilla, as one would expect from a grain of this age. Golden syrup. Buttermilk. Tarragon. Floral honey. Baked pancakes. Ground almonds. P

In the mouth: epic flavours on a velvety texture. Lovely syrupy sponge: ground almonds, lemon curd, milk chocolate, custard. Lime marmalade on buttered toast. Crunchie Nut Cornflakes. The sweetness is balanced by the wood, which is by no means astringent: slightly metallic, camphor-like and with ginger and cloves on a very long, warming finish. I have not described a massive amount here, but it’s the way all of this comes together that’s very impressive indeed.

A phenomenally good single grain.


They’re both simply excellent whiskies at excellent prices. I’d actually be happy buying both – they’re lovely drams and are destined to be drunk rather than sitting on a shelf somewhere gathering dust. The Cooley probably edges it for me, though I do have a fondness for sherry matured whiskies.

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