Thanks to /u/cake_my_day for pouring me these samples.
There’s a lot of great reviewers on the internet. Something I envy, and attempted to do myself, is the idea of organizing one’s samples in order to have milestone reviews.
You know what I’m talking about: Person posts their 20th review, cracks open a nice 20+ year Laphroaig, pats themselves on the back, writes a review, and people celebrate. I think it’s amazing.
I used to try that. Now I have trouble keeping track, planning things, and mostly just clump similar things together. Enter the two samples today, both Irish Single Malts, both from Acla Selection, and both without a distillery.
That’s not the biggest surprise, really. Irish whiskey shrunk down to 4 total distillery companies and if people even get a hint that a similar company makes their whiskey versus one they don’t like then they’ll riot and totally remember that.
Side note: Isn’t it fun that marketing simultaneously believes (a) we are all amazingly smart enough to memorize the complicated tangled web of ownership, determining the little difference between brands due to simularities and (b) dumb enough that they can boil the collective frog on lowering quality on brands we do like and we won’t go somewhere else. It’s totally not costing peoples’ jobs or anything.
Where was I before I obviously took the piss out of marketers? Oh, right, two whiskies that I don’t know where they came from. So we can’t base any thoughts on the distillery. But what about Acla Selection?
Acla da Fans (thank goodness I get to write that and not say it) is a Switzerland-based duty free retailer. They started in the 80s as just a duty free seller, but have since expanded and then started obtaining their own independent whiskies for you to buy. All you have to do is go to super rich people’s land (European release, aka Switzerland) and buy this. And then I guess buy these?
Nonetheless both of these are from their Acla Selection, their company cask strength bottling line, versus the higher end one, Acla Special Selection.
Simple marketing, easy to understand? Sounds great. But how did these taste? How well did someone do on picking casks? Let’s see, shall we?
Irish Single Malt Extra Old Acla Selection
Price: €69 for a half bottle
Bottled: January 2017
Number of Bottles: 90
Colour: 7.5Y 9/6
Nose: Coconut, tropical fruit, lemon, wood
The best Irish whiskey I’ve ever had was in a virgin cask. I’ve since had others in virgin oak casks. That said I do get myself all worked up and zooming around the apartment at first. Only at first though. And if I’m calm I’ll get a snack and maybe a few brushings.
Nice coconut and tropical fruit hints at something interesting going on, but then kinda peters right out. Goes to a lemon/wood flavour beyond that which doesn’t really hold up the profile I was hoping for.
Taste: Lemon, grapefruit, mineral, marshmallow, caramel
Lemon and mineral, two things I love in whisky. Grapefruit and marshmallow? Uh… let’s just be friends. Who visit only once a year. Maybe I will send you a holiday card… maybe not.
The acidity and mineral are great here. The tart aspects and extreme sugar elements taste simpler and a bit too much. It’s lovely to have some brightness, however this is like walking out onto snow on a sunny day: A bit much.
Finish: Grapefruit, sand, fennel, herbal, white bread
The finish has a decent amount of earthy, some brine, some tart, and a well developed yeast note. It’s a very small yeast note, which is odd in an Irish, as they usually have more of that going on.
Conclusion: Simpler, feels like it’s trying to be one of the very, very fruity Irish whiskies we’ve seen recently. And while I appreciate the effort it’s not quite made the grade.
So the aspects you’re going to get: Nice fruit, good virgin oak vibes, and a calm finish. Not to mention fruit and mineral that were nice.
The aspects it doesn’t? Sharp sweetness on the taste, the nose doesn’t finish what it’s thinking, and the finish is nice but could be separate.
I wouldn’t be annoyed by owning this. You gotta really love aspects of this though: It’s purely an Irish that fits with Irish fans and maybe the odd Lowlands fans. If that isn’t a niche of a niche, I don’t know what is.
Irish Single Malt 27 1990 Acla Selection
Vintage: January 1990
Bottled: January 2017
Number of bottles: 182
Colour: 7.5Y 9/6
Nose: Cereal, mango, latte, blackberry, pine
Initially my thoughts are that this is a bit closer to what you’ll typically have when you nose an Irish whiskey outside of Ireland. It has nothing to do with how amazing Ireland is to visit: Yes, the people are great, I love the food, the culture is amazing and all that. It’s worth going. That’s not what I’m saying here.
I’m saying the whiskey we get (in non-Ireland) has a different profile than the really nice whiskies (in actual Ireland). Then you get this tart aspect, some woody aspects, and even some coffee and lots of cream. Very nice to nose, if a tad odd. Then it goes to that second, more diverse aspect and leaves the other profile behind.
Taste: Floral, blueberry jam, lemon, honey, herbal/grassy
There’s a good amount of grassy/floral aspects here, which I like, though it doesn’t really grow from “I’m at the park” vibes. The fruity aspect is a lot stronger and takes the cake and doesn’t give a slice to anyone.
It’s odd to have a honey based whisky and not focus on that aspect. Because I’m addicted to honey, you see.
Finish: Brine, light plum, cloves, fennel, brown sugar
Interesting finish. The initial brine almost resets you ready for the finish. Spice, more spice, some lighter acidity, and molasses. Doesn’t quite grow too much however I do love spices.
Conclusion: Fruity, floral, acidic and subtle. What you’re looking for in an Irish whiskey that you can get outside of Ireland. Comes close to some of the more lovely ones they hang onto. I was a tad concerned about it going the distance initially.
In the end it’s alright. It’s not quite there in the pantheon of recent “unicorn” Irish Whiskies, though I’ll note it’s priced the same way. I wouldn’t recommend a bottle to someone, as I think it’s a bit muddied and there’s better alternatives out there for the money.
But at a bar that’s pouring it? Or with a friend? Or as a sample? Heck yeah.
World Whisky review #410-411, Ireland review #114-115, Whisky Network review #2106-2107