Tag Archive: Ireland


Eight Degrees: Sunburnt (Ireland: Irish Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy caramel to red with a cloudy centre. Moderate fluffy brown head.

Nose: Lots of malt chocolate and toffee. Cashew nuts. Slightly roasted. Milky coffee. Slight cinnamon. Orange.

Body: Slight roasted character. Malt chocolate. Kiwi. Soft orange to choc orange. Mild malt loaf. Strawberry.

Finish: Crushed peanuts. Malt chocolate and toffee. Slight roasted character. Slight chalk touch. Choc orange. Slightly dry. Milky coffee. Slight minty menthol. Strawberry.

Conclusion: Normally I find Irish red ales a bit too dry and roasted for my tastes. I like the idea of them but the implementation can be a bit too drying and harsh for me. This, therefore was a welcome beer in blowing that complaint clear out of the water.

This has some of those dry, roasted, nutty notes and it definitely leads out with a dry nuttiness, however it is far from defined by that. Instead this has a very solid toffee core of sweetness that mixes up the style. It rises up mid body, but then eases out at the tail end, into the finish and lets the dryness come back – this makes the dry moments much more manageable and also makes them more an enjoyable and distinct element when they do arrive. Above that small, but critical change to the beer there is also more flavour brought in by that thicker core – you get soft orange, light kiwi and sweet strawberry – all that would look out of place in an overly dry beer.

You end up with a beer that uses the drier red ale style, but isn’t dominated by it. The sweetness is present, but grounded by a very milky coffee character that mixes with it in the middle. The hops bring flavour, but it doesn’t go high on bitterness, nor rely on the hop flavours – it just uses them as subtle enhancement to turn this into a satisfying sipping ale.

So, pretty mellow and easy drinking. A good twist on the style but doesn’t abandon it. Solid.

Background: This is the second to last beer from the Honest Brew‘s set that a friend gave me for my birthday. Many thanks! Don’t know much about Eight Degrees brewing – so this is a new one on me – interesting times! This was drunk after seeing Goodfellas on the big screen, which was a hell of an experience. Broke out some Iron Maiden for drinking music as well.

Paddy: Old Irish Whiskey (Irish Blended Whiskey: 40% ABV)

Visual: Grain to yellow.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Viscous. Strong alcohol jelly like fumes. Toffee. Grain. Hay fields. Fudge. Water smooths and makes nuttier. Light lemon comes out.

Body: Light. Sweet caramel. Lemon meringue. Very light alcohol character. Slightly nutty. Water adds nutty chocolate. Walnuts. Soft lemon. Banoffee pie.

Finish: Caramel. Orange crème. Light wood notes. Flour. Neat spirit air. Nutty. Water makes nuttier and mixed with chocolate. Coffee cake. Soft lemon. Banoffee.

Conclusion: Ok, from the aroma I was expecting something much worse. The aroma is very viscous and alcohol filled, while being pretty simple. Not a good start.

The main body then wasn’t actually to bad. A gentle sweetness, lemon and a small but gently rising nuttiness. In fact later on that nuttiness seemed to take more of a centre stage. There are notes that state the alcohol strength, but more in flavour than any harshness or fire. It isn’t the most complex whiskey I have encountered, nor the most smooth, but it definitely does the job.

Water enhances the nuttiness and brings out nice banoffee pie notes. It is very gentle like this – you can still feel the rougher edges at the centre (edges? At the centre? Ah, ya know what I mean. Hopefully). There are also some rough edges in the finish- not harsh – just a very raw spirit kind of air. This doesn’t stop it being a pretty gentle drinking and satisfying whiskey. A gentle lemon comes out and that keeps the nutty and banoffee notes from dominating and becoming too sweet, thus keeping the sipping character of a good Irish whiskey.

If I hadn’t known how inexpensive this is then, barring the aroma, I would never had guessed. It is not a special, take your time to examine, whiskey, but for the price it is great value. Frankly it is very easy to justify just keeping a bottle around for enjoying with mates. It is genuinely better that a bunch of more expensive whiskeys I have gad. A solid sweet whiskey with a nice range – there is a touch too many alcohol flavours there and a not so great aroma, but mid body it is rock solid. Definitely worth the asking price.

Background: Grabbed this one on a whim, I was already grabbing some whisky from The Whisky Exchange and this mini was under three quid, so seemed a fair thing to take a risk on. A full 70cl bottle is fairly cheap as well – a quick google shows prices between 20 and 25 pounds. The bottle is plastic rather than glass, but that is not too unexpected at this price point. Drunk while listening to Ihsahn: After – I hadn’t listened to that strange mix of guitar noise for awhile, so broke it out.

The Pogues: Irish Whiskey (Irish Blended Whiskey: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep ruddy gold.

Viscosity: Generally fast thick streaks.

Nose: Honey and custard. Lightly floral. Some alcohol burn. Smooth. Oak. Heather. Brown sugar. Water adds pears.

Body: Smooth and light. Stewed fruit – apricot slices. Honey. Guava juice. Apples in pastry. Pears, also in pastry with dash of cinnamon. Water adds more pears and green fruit. Toffee and caramel. Kiwi.

Finish: Light, Brown sugar. Apricot syrup and honey. Guava juice. Cinnamon spiced pear. Some oak. Water adds caramel and a light menthol air.

Conclusion: I’ve been on the scotch too long, the first sip of this was so light and smooth I damn near did not notice it – I had to pause and reset my expectations before going on. It especially was unexpected, while smooth, the aroma had a quite full character and even a hint of some alcohol. The body, well, the first sip was more just a feel of whiskey than flavour, giving a clean sheen over the mouth. This was not a good sign.

Though, now prepared I returned and took a larger mouthful. That did the trick. Still no heat; still smooth as heck, but now filled with gentle soothing fruitiness – a mix of green and orange fruit. Now lifted by gentle sweetness in a honey style. Almost too easy drinking, this is a 40% abv drink I had to remind myself, but rewarding for it.

I was hesitant to add water – it seemed like the whiskey was set just right, and considering how light it was to begin with I could only see things going downhill. Still, as a whiskey explorer I need to take suck risks, for you, my dedicated readers. So I added a few drops. It genuinely did it some good – and actually seemed to even thicken the body somehow. I’m guessing it was more the fact that I already had previous layers of whiskey already on my tongue, but any which way it did not hurt. It brought out more green fruit, more sweetness. I didn’t add much water I will admit, but yeah, against all my expectations this really boosted up the flavour while keeping it lovely and smooth.

I am impressed, I was expecting an ok but mediocre whiskey relying on the tie in to the band. I got something that really shows the smoothness of Irish whiskey perfectly, and the flavour as well. It even survived a bit more water which I tested adding it at the end of the dram, and brought more green fruit out. Considering 40% abv is the absolute lowest a whiskey can go and still be whiskey, and the light feel, it is pretty darn robust water wise.

So, yeah, good if light neat, very good with a touch of water, not too expensive – Yeah, impressed indeed. Not a gimmick, just a damn good whiskey.

Background: I have to admit, I have no real attachment to The Pogues, I just grabbed this as it was a chance to try some different Irish whiskey without committing to buying a full bottle. Sorry to all Pogues’ fans. Anyway, grabbed from Independent Spirit, the official whiskey of The Pogues. Drank while listening to Black Sabbath – Paranoid. Just to be a bit of a dick really.

Hyde 10 Year Rum Finish

Hibernia: Hyde: 10 Year Rum Finish (Irish Single Malt Whiskey:10 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Gold.

Viscosity: Very slow thin puckering.

Nose: Raisins, or rum and raisin ice cream. Alcohol air but creamy and floral.

Body: Smooth and creamy. Rum and raisin ice cream. Alcohol warmth. Vanilla and almonds. Toffee. Water smoothes and makes even creamier. orange crème and chocolate.

Finish: Raisins. Ice cream. Light oak. Currants. Creamy. Water adds strawberry crème and Belgian chocolate. Oatmeal in milk.

Conclusion: What I have always like about Irish whiskey is the smoothness, however sometimes it can become too light for me, but I have found a big oak ageing can result in the best of both worlds. For example Teeling small batch matches lovely with the rum ageing. This takes that idea but puts in a more viscous character that a single malt can bring to really fill out both the creaminess and the raisins characters, adding to that smooth base.

The result is basically a rum and raisin ice cream whisky and it is delicious – so very easy to drink, but it doesn’t need any time to build up the flavour – you can grasp it almost immediately with the big but smooth flavours coming through.

Water doesn’t really alter the character, just lets you shift the intensity until you find a point where you are happy. I didn’t go overboard, but I did add a reasonable chunk of water and this still had a good grip and texture. The only real change was this kind of milky oatmeal mouthfeel that came out.

For flaws? Well, while this has a wonderful theme and keeps to it well, it does not change much – playing the same sweet toffee and vanilla base, with rum and raisin ice cream as the main deal the entire way through. You don’t really need to examine it too deeply.

Still, it is very easy drinking, and with the consistent character it would do well for a sharing session with friends. Well worth taking some time to kick back with and very enjoyable.

Background: Bias warning – This sample was provided to me free for tasting noting as part of a promotion the distillers were running on twitter. As always I will attempt to be unbiased. Based on Teeling Small Batch, Irish Whiskey seems to work well with rum finish, so I was looking forwards to trying this. Drunk while listing to some Fear Factory- I had seen them live recently so they were still in my head.

Teeling Single Malt

Teeling: Single Malt (Irish Single Malt Whiskey: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very pale gold.

Viscosity: Very slow thin streaks.

Nose: Grain fields and alcohol. Heather. Smoke and granite. Water adds peaches and cream.

Body: Smooth. Vanilla. White chocolate. Oak. Slight metallic notes. Slight granite. Lime. Toffee. Water unlocks peach sweets and cream. Warming.

Finish: Light wood. Toffee. Water adds peaches.

Conclusion: Another whiskey that benefits from adding just enough water. Though this one is more finicky than most about where the sweet spot is. Too much or too little and this is a fairly modest grain field, grit and alcohol whiskey. Not bad but nothing to really write home about. With just enough water you get the most unusual elements – soft peaches both natural and hard sweet styled. That was unexpected and wonderfully long lasting in the finish. I could take my time and just let it float in my mouth.

Now it could be because I added more water too soon and it returned to the lesser experience, but while nice it did seem a touch one note. Again I will remind people I was working on a small sample here if you think I have given it a hard ride. However I did enjoy it like this – the rest of the whiskey character is pretty much what you would expect so I cannot rate it too highly, but there is something so very nice about soft peaches slipping down with a whiskey air.

So, I can’t say seek it out, but if you do find it in your hand, treat it with care – add water drop by drop until you find that sweet spot of peaches, then add no more lest it be ruined. In my humble opinion of course. Your mileage may vary.

So, it is ok – I can’t see why it is quite so late in the calendar as it is a bit simple for a lot of the time. I’d say stick with the excellent small batch from Teeling instead.

Background: Ok, second to last time “Ok, bias warning first: This is a part of the Masters Of Malt Whisky Calendar given to The Bath Whisky and Rum Club, part of Independent Spirit, who invited me to assist with the notes in return for uploading them to alcohol and aphorisms. Sounded a very fair deal to me. Also, due to this we each only had half of the 3cl bottle so thoughts are based on a smaller exploration than usual. On the other hand I could not say no to the chance to try so many new whiskies. Many thanks!” Looking online this apparently has quite a mix of whiskey. Up to 23 year old spirit, added in a whole mix of oak. Teeling already made a very good impression on me with their small batch, so this promised to be a good one. Note. I made a special note on this to make sure I spelt it “Whiskey” not “Whisky” if I missed any – many apologies.

Tullamore DEW 12 Year Special Reserve

Tullamore D.E.W. : 12 Year Special Reserve (Irish Blended Whiskey: 12 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Clear light gold.

Viscosity: Mix of slow and fast medium thickness streaks.

Nose: Grain fields. Clean and soft. White bread. Floral. Very mild gingerbread.

Body: Smooth – no burn at all. Lime. Oak. Muted liquorice if held. Lemon. Brown bread. Light orange. Water makes more fruity and open.

Finish: Lightly oaken and clean alcohol. Lime cordial. Orange crème. Waters adds lime and cream.

Conclusion: This is a very light and very clean whisky – very pure, very easy to pour down the neck. No burn and an effortless character to it. Or, as I call it, a whisky very specifically designed to be aimed at people who are not me.

I mean, I am not saying it is a bad whiskey – by far the opposite. It does what it sets out to do very well – delicious light citrus notes in a sprit so light that the flavours seem to float on your tongue in its absence. But that is its advantage for some, and the issue for me – there is no weight to it, and without that it cannot move me.

Now I can see why a lot of people who don’t traditionally like whiskey would like this – it keeps the flavour but removes a lot of the harsh edges that can put people off. With it being so light I was a little nervous about adding water, what if it vanished completely?

Water actually helped, the lemon notes became more full – almost like lemon curd rather than being so light as to be lost – somehow water managed to make it bigger but not harsher. There I will give it its due, here there is just enough weight to the citrus building up that it becomes what would be on the lighter end of what I consider an easy sipping whiskey. Now it is not going to become a favourite for me, but that is just because my tastes don’t go that way.

So I tried adding a tad more water. It killed it dead. Ooops.

So, a whiskey for these who normally don’t like whiskey, or for those who prefer the gentle end of the spectrum, and if taken with water, one for a gentle break for the rest of us.

Background: Yes, it is from the Master’s Of Malt Whisky Calendar again. So, bias warning time again! “Ok, bias warning first: This is a part of the Masters Of Malt Whisky Calendar given to The Bath Whisky and Rum Club, part of Independent Spirit, who invited me to assist with the notes in return for uploading them to alcohol and aphorisms. Sounded a very fair deal to me. Also, due to this we each only had half of the 3cl bottle so thoughts are based on a smaller exploration than usual. On the other hand I could not say no to the chance to try so many new whiskies. Many thanks!” this time however it is Irish Whiskey – so a bit different. Triple distilled, Irish Whiskey tends to be smoother than its Scottish cousins. This was drunk while listening to a few OCRemix tracks, including this remix of the classic Dynamite Headdy tracks. That game was cool.

Teeling Whiskey

Teeling: Small Batch Whisky (Irish Blended Whiskey: 46% ABV)

Visual: Light gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Raisins. Some alcohol burn. Pencil shavings. Water soothes and adds floral notes.

Body: Smooth. Pears and custard cream centres. Raisins. Dried spice. Noticeable alcohol. Plums. Oak. Glacier cherries. Water soothes and makes sweeter. Toffee. Apple comes out against darker fruit. Marzipan or maybe almonds.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Dried spice. Oak. Malt loaf. Again water soothes to add toffee and apples.

Conclusion: Thanks to the guys at Independent Spirit for introducing me to this little gem. Then again, considering they got money out of me afterwards, it probably wasn’t born of a hundred percent altruism. But still many thanks.

Now, taken neat this thing is a bit fiery, it has lots of raisins and dark fruit, and a bit of spice, but it is a bit of an effort to get to them. Nice but you struggle against the initial burn. The flavours don’t feel too heavy, but there is still a certain weight to the whisky.

Now, with water, now that is another story. With water the smoother Irish whiskey character comes into play. There’s very easy sipping toffee and custard, but bringing that out has not diminished that raisins and dark fruit character before; It still hangs on, as does the warming spice, now warming you with that character rather than alcohol burn. A satisfying improvement. You quickly realise it is a whiskey that really needs that water, but with it, it carefully straddles the line between flavour and ease of drinking. Now at a bit stronger than normal abv, it goes down way too easy with water, but always gives you a flavour experience that is worth it.

Some easy drinking whiskeys can seem slightly dull, or light, but that is not an issue here. The rum cask ageing is just what was needed, accentuating the character with dark fruit notes, but not to the degree it overwhelms. It reminds me of my now vague memories of Caribbean rum cask aged Bushmills which has not existed for many a year. In the absence of that, this makes a nice replacement.

Even neat it should not be written off, it is harsher, but has a worthy character. Harsh edged, but the flavours are slightly better defined. Quality, if harder to interrogate.

So, yes, it does suffer from grain fire, but that is easily remedied with water. It has rough edges, but I have always had a soft spot for that. At its price point this is a remarkably high quality whisky, and a distinctive mix of characteristics. For the price it is a steal

Background: This is an interesting one, lets see how much I can remember, and hopefully get right, from what I was told. Teeling came from one of the founders of a big Irish whisky company, who, on leaving, managed to take get a large selection of casks of Irish whisky. This is made from those casks, blended together, then finished in rum casks. If you are doing a thesis on this don’t quote me on that, I’m going by memory. Whisky addled memory. Anyway, I was given a sample of this at Independent Spirit, and highly enjoyed it, so I bought a bottle, and I am now reviewing it. This was drunk while Listening to Ihsahn – After, to take a short break from my recent riot girl punk kick.

Connemara

Connemara (Irish Single Malt Whisky: No Age Statement: 40% ABV)

Visual: Light yellow gold.

Viscosity: Very fast, quite thick streaks.

Nose: Smooth. Peat. Beef broth. Lime sorbet touch. Pencil shavings.

Body: Very smooth. Custard. Olives. Lime. Dried meat. Vanilla. Peat smoke. Lightly noticeable alcohol. Water makes more golden syrup and more beef. Much more vanilla, now with toffee. More contrast. Cherries come out.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Dried beef. Salt touch. Vanilla. Very drying feel. Light toffee. Water makes less drying, adds more chocolate and fudge.

Conclusion: Peated Irish whisky. This should be an exercise in contrast I thought to myself before sampling. For once I was actually right as well. Go me!

The peat is there, and with it the accompanying meaty character and smoke. Without water it even has slight salt and slight noticeable alcohol. Most of these are very unusual characteristics for Irish whisky in my experience.

However below that there is the pure smooth sweet style that you would expect, all custard and toffee notes. What gets interesting is what happens when you add just a tiny amount of water. The alcohol softens, but the other elements ramp up resulting in much bigger sweetness, but also much more peat elements. There’s almost beef broth notes, it is a lot less harsh, but gives much more flavour.

Like this it really appeals to me, the easy sipping Irish character is classy, but it comes with all my beloved peat. The two traits, though contrasting, aren’t that complex in their individual expression – where you get the joy from is in their interactions.

It makes for an easy to drink spirit that keeps the joy of the heavier peated ones. This is a fairly uncommon occurrence, and while you won’t find a huge amount outside those two characteristics, you have to like it for what it does do. It has a quality and a niche, and for that I can overlook it not having vast complexity.

Background; Ok, there are different expressions of Connemara – therefore this should have some sort of name. Even default Bushmills has “White Label” but nope, no fancy name. So, erm, Connemara.. normal edition. I’ve been meaning to try this for a while – the peated Irish whisky, but never quite got around to it. So, finally, at Brewdog Bristol (Please pretend to look shocked) I gave it a try.

Barneys Brew

Hilden: Barney’s Brew (Ireland: Golden Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Thin off white head.

Nose: Ginger. Sausage bap and fried caramelised onions. Flour dust. Brown sauce.

Body: Sausage. Light lemon. Brown sauce. Caramelised onion. Ginger. Coriander. Wheat

Finish: Sausage sandwich. Wheat. Sour lime. Pepper.

Conclusion: This has to be psychosomatic. Seriously. It is subtitled Belgium Bap Beer, and when I read that it brought to mind all those delicious breakfast baps that got me through early morning lectures at university. So I smiled at the memory, broke open the beer bottle and…

Sausage sandwich bap aroma. Seriously. Suddenly I was bloody hungry. Admittedly it was 9pm and I hadn’t eaten yet, which is the more rational explanation, but seriously!

Anyway, sausage, a touch in the body and then seriously back again. Anyway, thought I’d best fill you in as I’m fairly sure those call to memories had a serious impact in how I perceived the beer. Looking at the back of the bottle and the ingredients now I think I have it worked out. There’s a lot of different spices used, which lots of good quality sausages are shoved full of, which when combined with that odd texture that reminded me of the slightly oily sausage skin could go a long way to explaining the way it came out. But still, mind link or no the flavours are there, and with it the slight tartness becomes brown sauce in my mind. I can’t help it, all these things are linked in my mind now.

Anyway, I think I’ve harped on about that long enough; it’s far from the whole of the beer. There is a slight lemon character in the background, not unusual for a beer made with wheat. The spice, another wheat beer favourite, really has free reign here though. Despite that it is not what I would expect from a wheat beer, hence why I was happy going with rate beers descriptor of golden ale. There is some lemon yes, some sour lime, and yes wheat, and as mentioned hell yes there is spice. However this all combines to an odd, slightly doughy, slightly meaty and quite fresh beer.

It is probably technically not a good beer. The elements fascinate rather than are enjoyed, but I was fascinated by it. Will I return to it? Hell no, a sausage sandwich beer sounds better than it tastes. Glad I did try it though. Looking at other reviews I am wondering if mine was unusually tart, possibly from a very minor yeast infection, as no one else reported that. If so maybe I had a unique experience with this one. Again, if so I’m glad it did. I love the weird life that brings me oddities like this. Not a great beer, but odd as hell.

Background: Last of the beers I picked up during Sainsbury’s new beer festival. This one looked a bit interesting and was grabbed on a whim. Drunk while listening to some chilled out Ulver and was drunk to celebrate completing a 5 star run on Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams. Yes I am a geek. I was tempted to put this under wheat ale as it was made with wheat grist. Also contains cardamom, coriander and black pepper. It is subtitled “Belfast Bap Wheat Beer” which I’m sure put me in the psychological mind for half the tasting notes.

Heineken Ireland: Beamish Irish Stout (Ireland: Dry Stout: 4.3% ABV)

Visual: Very dark red to black. Large carbonation around the glass. Has a creamy inch of slight coffee froth coloured head.

Nose: Roasted nuts and sugar egg casings. Slight sour cream and chives.

Body: Creamy texture. Roasted nuts. Light bitterness and hop oils.

Finish: Creamy, bitter and with slight hop oils. More roasted nuts, Quite oily after a while. Charring and pepper.

Conclusion: It’s been a while since I have been back to the more mainstream side of the brewing market. Well, we do have here a beer aping the Guinness style, right down to the widget in the can for pouring, from Heineken no less. That should fill the mainstream slot for a while.

It has the expected thickness and creaminess to it, a bit overdone for me, but it does have a light roasted character that is done a lot better that the Guinness equivalent. In my opinion anyway. The main body is a bit odd, with the roasted and hop oil character that makes up the most pleasant elements going against a level of creaminess that would put many in mind of John Smiths Never a good thing.

The flavours are actually pretty nice, but it could really do without that Guinness trough of cream effect. A more dry base would allow it a much better show of what it’s got. The hop oils are nice, and the roasted character well done, but it just gets lost against the tide after a while.

For a cream flow beer it isn’t bad, but it’s not a great beer. The worst element can be avoided if you have a half, where it doesn’t have time to get sickly. I’d also imagine it would work a lot better on tap, but that’s a guess.  For a full pint though the finish starts lingering too long and definitely outstays its welcome.

Not overly inspiring, but ok in small doses.

Background: What is Beamish to me? Well the first thought is a Northern Museum, but no, turns out there is a beer as well. From Ireland, not Yorkshire. This confuses me muchly.  Anyway , Beamish was listed as one of Michael Jackson’s 500 beers, though I have a feeling this version differs quite a bit from that one. The bottled version is not made (I think) anymore, and is instead in a “Creamflow” can, creating a Guinness like pour.  However I thought it worth trying anyway. Thus my kind parents grabbed me a can while they were heading around Ireland. Yes I have mentioned its nice having a beer gathering family.  They tried it on tap and complemented it in that version. Many thanks.

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