I’m going to start this review by stating that I am an amateur whisk(e)y writer. I don’t have years of experience behind me in the whiskey industry, merely years of consuming said amber liquid. I still consider myself to be learning with each dram I sip. I neither possess a degree in brewing and distillation and so cannot fully expound the scientific explanations of how water, yeast and barley (other grains are also acceptable) end up producing the nectar we know as whiskey!
I am no Jim Murray, Charles McLean or Dave Broom. I have no Fleet Street journalistic experience, instead, I’ll have to make do with a ‘B’ in GCSE English. (I missed out on an ‘A’ by a couple of marks… I should have asked for a remark, but sure life is too short for regrets!) I do, however, like everyone else on the planet, possess a palate and an opinion (and yours is equally valid as mine) which like the rest of the writers here at Malt, I wish to use honestly and hopefully in an entertaining and informative manner.
As Adam alluded to in his review of 2017, whiskey is an expensive product and we as reviewers, amateur or not, have a duty of criticism especially as people actually buy stuff off the back of such critique and recommendations. For most people the thought of spending £50 or more on a bottle of whiskey is a considerable amount, maybe only hitting that heady height when buying gifts for that special someone, to mark a special occasion or when feeling particularly generous to oneself.
At present in the Irish whiskey realm, the middle ground of £40 to £70 is a veritable bloody battlefield of brands old and new. Indeed it is a battlefield littered with perils too. I do find it generally intriguing at how many new Irish whiskies are throwing themselves into this price bracket. Maybe it should come as no surprise really, as Irish whiskey is booming and substantial units are being sold even at these prices.
One such entry is today’s review, The Quiet Man 12 year old Single Malt. Earlier I mentioned Jim Murray and I did so because in his latest Whisky Bible he has awarded this particular expression 93 points out of 100! High praise indeed and enough of a reason for many to open their wallets and part with their hard earned cash and then post on Instagram what a great dram they have just bought…after all Jim says so!
How about a little info about the whiskey then? The Quiet Man brand is owned by Niche Drinks who are at present building a new distillery in Ebrington Square, Derry/Londonderry, which will open in 2018 and solely produce malt whiskey with an expected output of 500,000 litres of pure alcohol a year. Until such times though they are supplied by third parties. In the case of the 12 year old single malt, we have Bushmills to thank. Don’t bother looking up their website for information on this expression though… it’s not there.
Anyway, its 12 years old, non-chill filtered, bottled at 46% and matured in ‘select Kentucky bourbon casks’ according to the label. Thanks to the good people of Fairleys Wines, my local bottle stop, I got a bit more info about the maturation. Maturation was done in 2nd and 3rd fill barrels before being re-racked into fresh, 1st fill Kentucky bourbon barrels. Now I had already tasted this once before I got this nugget of information and first impressions had alarm bells ringing but at least I now knew why!
A bottle will set you back £53.85 at Fairleys. Thanks to Mark Fairley for the sample.
The Quiet Man 12 Year Old – Review
Colour: pale straw.
On the nose: On first nosing, it’s sharp, prickly and oaky. This eventually mellows out to hint at ripe banana and pineapple, followed by honey and vanilla but overridden by an excessively spirity overtone. Water dampens the sharpness a little and brings out the banana and pineapple notes more.
In the mouth: Surprisingly thin in the mouth. Initial short burst of honey and vanilla is quickly overtaken by oak and pepper. The tropical notes of the nose barely register. The finish is really short and has an unpleasant metallic tinge to it. Water does little to open up any new flavour profiles, perhaps a little citrus. If anything water destroys what little structure and mouthfeel already there but does lessen the metallic notes on the finish.
Yikes! I don’t know whether to congratulate Bushmill’s for getting rid of stock they deemed unsuitable for their own use or to feel sorry for Niche drinks for being sold a pup. I’m not saying this to be controversial but I cannot begin to imagine how Jim Murray scored this 93 points. I have tried this on a number of occasions, at different times of the day and still find it hard to find many positives. On my initial tasting I knew that tired casks had been used, I wager 3rd fill casks made up the bulk of the matured spirit as there is just so little there on the palate and however long the spirit spent in the 1st fill barrels has clearly been too short. The re-racking just cannot hide the faults of the base whiskey. As ever, this is solely my opinion… please feel free to try a bottle of this but I’d warn you that you are wasting your money on a very poor experience. In fact, I’d even recommend the Bushmills Red Bush over this!