Yes, I know, whiskey. The thing is, I don't just drink beer and before Christmas I had the chance to go to a Teelings whiskey tasting with work, and it felt a damned shame not to turn booze into blog.
Thanks to the nature of the event there was a good deal of marketing storytelling and it was here that I learned an admittedly common-knowledge and interesting fact; the Teelings were distilling at Cooley before Cooley was sold to Beam, and, crucially, the family took with them the old whiskeys that were ageing in Cooley at the time. This whiskey was then bottled and sold as Teelings; thus, the phoenix on the label. It's worth remembering that all the whiskeys are bottled at 46% and non-chill filtered. The Single Grain is not caramel coloured for certain, the others I simply don't know; I would assume the same.
Anyway, we started with the Single Grain, but I'm not going to write about that now; I have a bottle of my own that I'm going to de-construct on my own time, because I call the shots.
We moved on then to the Small Batch, the regular release. This is aged in Nicaraguan rum barrels and has a mild, sweet nose that echoes the previous inhabitant of the barrel. It's surprisingly fruity on the palate, with citrus and floral notes playing on a vanilla base layer. 46% and a very good standard everyday whiskey. Supposedly it's good in cocktails, but I'm not barbaric enough to find out. It makes a very pleasant sipper.
The Poitín was next, and we were reliably informed that this is in fact the Small Batch from above, pre-ageing; essentially new make spirit. It's a blend of malt and grain, and gives a wonderfully soft floral nose. Apple and macerated cherries, raisins and blackberries with caramel and rose petal notes make cursory appearances too. Juicy and ripe stewed apple and Bramley apple jam play the biggest roles on the palate, and the whole thing is bizzare but tasty without the warmth of the wood.
Next up was the brand spanking new Single Malt, which was being tasted for the very first time outside of Whiskey Live! (this was October, remember). The experience here is more refined and balanced with citrus and tropical fruit playing against spice notes on a warm vanilla and chocalate base layer. The finish has plenty of lingering orange and lemon flourishes, and the experience is at once invigorating and cosy.
We finished the night on the Vintage Reserve 21 Year Old Single Malt. The interesting variable in this expression is the inclusion of Sauternes barrels in the make-up, as well as the use of peated barley - around 3%, apparently. There is a peaty nose too; nothing too intense or phenolic, just a layer of blue turf smoke under the tropical fruit, pineapple, citrus and slightly tart green apple that form the flesh of the aroma. It's beautifully complex, with biscuity vanilla sweetness, toffee, peach and a proper wood character at first, along with the light smokiness that subsides to allow bubblegum sweetness to round things out. There's no sharp sting, just warm, smooth and drinkable whiskey that, with the aid of the peated barley, stays engaging throughout.
The verdict: the Small Batch is a great whiskey, and with a similar price to the typical Irish 'house' whiskeys it blows those right out of the water. As such, well worth the purchase. The Poitín was fascinating to try alongside the Small Batch to see the full effect of the wood ageing, and is delicious in its own right, but I reckon I'd take any of the others over it. Both of the Single Malts were great, but I don't think you get enough bang for your buck with the Vintage Reserve. The best buys, then, would be the Small Batch and Single Malt, though I'm not including the Single Grain in that.
Notes on the Single Grain are forthcoming, but suffice to say for now that it is absolutely worth the buy too.