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Mar 20

Irish Whiskey Tasting

Ah, Irish Whiskey. The 1/4 of me that is fully Irish demanded that I celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in style, so Michelle and I headed over to Party Source to trade in green beer for an Irish Whiskey Tasting. The tasting was led by the EQ center’s Jay Erisman. We recently came across a Forbes.com article on the Top 10 Irish
whiskey’s and were pleased to learn we had tried 5 of them in this

On the list:

  • Bunratty Potcheen
  • Redbreast
  • Power’s Gold Label
  • Bushmill’s Black Bush
  • Michael Collins Single Malt
  • 1951 Knappogue Castle
  • Connemara

Ireland has 3 current distillers, Bushmill’s  (Northern), Midleton (South), and Cooley in
the central area. These three account for all current Irish Whiskey
production. This consolidation occurred in the mid 1900’s and there
were only two distillers until 1995 when Cooley came back onto the

When we arrived, we were given a dram of Bunratty Potcheen. Potcheen (or Poitin) is
probably best compared with good old Kentucky Moonshine. Potcheen, up
until recently, was for export only and was illegal to sell in Ireland.
That has changed over the last few years, but it’s always nice to see a
bottle marked For Export Only in bright green lettering. The smell was
reminiscent of bubble gum, mostly Bazooka Joe. The flavor was fresh and
minty. The overall impression was of sweetness. I thought this was a
nice way to start, Michelle created a new smiley for this :-0, meaning she was overwhelmed by the alcohol and burning.

My Rating:

As a note, after the first taste on many of these, I added a drop of water to the whiskey. Michelle added a drop of water to all of them to help her, as she’s not a big spirits drinker to begin with.

Review and notes after the jump

– Kevin

Following the Potcheen, we got into the true tasting. We started off with 12 Year old Redbreast. Redbreast is out of the Midland Distillery and was characteristic of the fresh and zesty flavor I usually relate to Irish Whiskey. This also had a little more burn than the Potcheen.  Overall, this was a nice entry to the traditional styles of whiskeys. Redbreast is also a Pure Pot Still style of distilling. This means that the traditional Pot Still was the only type of distilling used to create this release. Pot Stills claim to leave more of the initial flavors of the ingredients used in creation. 
My rating:   Michelle’s rating: :-0

 PowersPower’s Gold Label (Midleton) was the #1 whiskey sold in Ireland last year, according to our instructor. At the price of roughly $16, this was the lowest priced whiskey tasted. This has 70% pot still with 60% of that being unmalted barley. This had a nice caramel smell and was Michelle’s favorite of the tasting so far. It had a nice smooth characteristic that comes from a well blended whiskey.

My rating:   Michelle’s rating:

Bushmill’s Black Bush
(Bushmills) is a higher end entry from the Bushmills distillery. I noticed a buttery nose, no oak or smoke on the palate, but overall I was not crazy about this drink. I think it tasted stronger than either the Redbreast or Power’s even though the alcohol content was the same. I think I like a smoother style of whiskey, as evidence from my Bourbon tasting, as opposed to a stronger more upfront jolt. This was still a very nice drink, but there was just not enough complexity for me to pick this as one of the better whiskeys tasted. Michelle got over her stunned expression by sipping more Powers and handed her Bushmills glass to me after one taste.
My rating:   Michelle’s rating:

Michael Collins
(Cooley) is a mid-level selection from upstart Cooley Distillery. Cooley has done something interesting with this single malt as they have added a small amount of peat to the distilling process. Anyone who has tried an Islay single malt is familiar with the complexity of the flavor, but here it’s not present until the finish. It was a pleasant whiskey with a slight kick on the end. Michelle liked it until the finish when the peat reared its head and turned her happy face into a more neutral reaction. I was impressed with the attempt of trying something a little different than what is traditionally seen from Irish whiskeys.
My rating:    Michelle’s rating:

1951 Knappogue Castle
(B. Daly Distillery) was easily our favorite whiskey of the evening. The casks were bought in 1960 and the whiskey was left in the sherry casks until 1987 when it was all bottled. This long time (36 years) in barrel added a very nice oak flavor and also lengthened and softened the finish. I think one of Michelle’s main complaints on many spirits is the high alcohol taste present. This was also 80 proof, as were the others, but it had a much softer characteristic that added to the enjoyment. I keep reading that this is one of the rarest whiskies to be found, but our store had several bottles available before the session.
Our rating:

(Cooley) ended the tasting and is another example of Cooley trying something a little different. As my Islay post mentions, the peat flavor is currently something that is sparking the interest of consumers, so Cooley has decided to put out a brand of Irish Whiskey that hopes to capture the peat drinkers and give them another option to the heavier Scotch varieties. I enjoyed this more than the Laphroaig as the undertaste was a little crisper and had characteristic Irish taste. Michelle just isn’t a fan of the peat.
My rating:    Michelle’s rating:

In the end, we purchased a bottle of the Knappogue Castle, as they were selling it for an absolutely unbelievable price. We considered purchasing some Powers as well, but have left that one for another time.


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Posted by Michelle at 4:56 pm in Scotch & Whiskey | Permalink | Comments (4)

4 Responses to “Irish Whiskey Tasting”

  1. Dave says:

    I know this is a rather old post, but I just wanted to throw in a comment. In my opinion, the 1951 Knappogue Castle is in a totally different category of “whisky tasting” then the rest of the brands you tried. Of course it’s going to be better.
    Powers is one that I haven’t tried. I’ve had Jameson, Redbreast and Black Bush. The Redbreast and Black Bush are usually highly regarded by Irish Whisky drinkers and so I’m excited to try Powers. If it’s comparable, I’m all for a less expensive brand. :)
    Thanks for the post.

  2. Kevin W. says:

    Thank you for this! Wonderful, engaging, and spiritedly transmitted. I particularly enjoyed the synergistic male and female experiences of the different whiskeys.

  3. Kevin W. says:

    And for sure, Powers is the best value in whiskey. Period.

  4. In Awe says:

    1951 Knappogue Castle is currently going for ~$1300 a bottle. Are you sure you picked up a bottle of the `51? I’m jealous, lucky girl.

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