Bargains, or even just plain old value, is hard to locate if you’re in an airport. The shelves are bursting with Gaelic names and marketing bling, but all seemingly at a price. More and more I find myself avoiding the whisky retail area and seeking refuge in a long queue, gazing at the strangely hypnotic departure boards, dreaming of distant lands and foreign whiskey adventures.
There are exceptions to every rule. Sometimes it is best to pick up a litre of your favourite staple such as a Talisker or Ardbeg 10 year old. A whisky that is reliable and not endowed with marketing costs and fancy packaging – they’ve already made it to base camp and are quite happy where they’ve pitched up. Nowadays even this safe vantage point is under threat thanks to the competitive supermarket sector. After all, what’s the point of buying the Talisker 10 when you know it’ll be on special several times a year down at your local supermarket or online?
There are still bargain basement purchases to be had with the Connemara single malt being a prime example. It’s not a huge flashy whiskey or a big name that demands obedience. Instead priced at just over £20 its a tasty dram from Ireland with a little peat thrown in for good measure. Outside of the airport, it tends to retail for around £36 and at this price, it’s more difficult to recommend – so please don’t click on that commission link. See its that value versus experience equation once again.
Recently, thanks to the power of Twitter I was made aware of an old RTE news segment that was broadcast in May 1983. These 9 minutes not only give you a sense of history with the distillery but also the local population pulling together to save a site that could have so easily become lost to us all. We can appreciate the challenge of bringing back the distillery to life with many buildings falling into a state of disrepair that dated from 1757. This puts Kilbeggan into the era of the great lost Scottish distilleries such as Kennetpans.
The generation of distilleries that initially thrived in the 1700’s before legislation – in Scotland – put an end to their golden years. Sadly one-by-one they closed and fell into ruin and enjoying history, I still feel slightly embarrassed or even angry about how Scotland has failed to look after its distilling history. Especially today with so much money flowing through the system and into tax-efficient setups outside of the UK. Diageo has a track record with its use of outward domestication as a single example and I’m sure other companies do seek efficiencies amongst the legislation of the land. Nothing illegal in this certainly, but when proceeds of whisky are not benefiting and protecting the roots of the industry, it is a very sad situation.
Connemara previously was distilled at Cooley, as is most Irish whiskey. Kilbeggan itself does distill and this is the name you’ll see on most bottles going forward. The masterplan will be greater exposure for Kilbeggan as its stock becomes of sufficient age and quality to supplement Cooley with its support of the Connemara brand. The presence and branding have meant the original name of Lockes Distillery has been quietly shuffled into that iconic Father Ted retirement home. Here you’ll also find the 16 men of Tain, the dayglow Glen Scotia Highland cow, and cases of Jura whisky that stretch for miles in an underground warehouse that contains the Arc of the Covenant, Richard Paterson’s tan formula and the remains of Macallan collectors who died in the stampede for the latest Folio release. It makes for an interesting social visit!
This Connemara Distillers Edition is double distilled, bottled at 43% strength and features artificial colouring. As for the peat its a good question. Ultimately, if local Irish peat was being utilised I’m sure the marketing bods would be heralding such a feature. Instead, the reality leads us to believe that like all good things it’s from Scotland. It’ll set you back in the region of £48. Much like some of the Diageo range in Scotland, the distiller’s edition simply is the use of a finish to bump up the price. In this case, Oloroso casks are used after maturation in ex-bourbon casks for an unspecified period to give you a wee twist on the staple expression.
Connemara Distillers Edition – review
Colour: a faded honey glow.
On the nose: a little pine resin brings a real freshness that leads towards a gentle aromatic peat. Honey, pear drops and freshly sliced green apples. It’s an inviting and approachable nose without grabbing you by the throat. A little smoke that transcends into smoked bacon, then barley sweets.
In the mouth: it’s a little flat and non-defined. A lashing of vegetative peat but this moves quickly aside leaving a slight pepperiness and little else. Apples again and then smoked cream and brown toast. A touch of redness from the finish but its all a bit flaccid.
A very inoffensive whiskey but one that lacks the price appeal of the standard Connemara release. Instead, you’re paying substantially more for a bottle that fails to really warrant the asking price. Quite surprising, as I had reasonable expectations for this whiskey but sadly it falls way short of what I had envisaged.
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