Thanks to /u/Scotchguy_TO for this sample.
I enjoy Irish Whiskey. A few years ago that was, for some reason, a statement that had people up in arms in some whiskey circles. Now it’s fine. Thank goodness.
Irish Whiskey used to be the norm. Prior to the coffey still it was the drink of choice. Things changed, there were some boycotts because the British are terrible (spoilers for the last 500+ years), and they went from 100s of distilleries to 4.
I could literally just write about how terrible colonialism is in the rest of Ireland outside the distilleries and continues to this day for the rest of this review. I’ve been having a lot of negative thoughts lately and I really don’t want to be a doomer. Visit Ireland. It’s a beautiful place. Spend money there if you can.
Obtaining older Irish whiskey is something that doesn’t happen to me. Irish Whiskey can be pricier, the really good stuff rarely leaves the island, and frankly people write it off. Enter Knappogue Castle 1951, a 36-year-old release from the late 80s when I was still dealing with a preschool teacher who felt my head may be too large and my mother should worry, less I become a stagecoach driver.
So what is this? It’s Tullamore, however most likely the one you haven’t had. At least it was for me. Tullamore (the first original one) closed in 1954. This was made before it closed. Mark Edwin Andrews searched and found a variety of casks that were laid down in 1951, vatted them together, and released the whiskey in the 80s.
I’m assuming the reason you can still find it and buy it is because it wasn’t cocaine, it didn’t entice the people who had survived the 80s and it wasn’t grunge so Gen X wasn’t going to spend the money either.
So there’s some hype. It’s a single pot still from a time when Irish Whiskey was having some colonial issues… wait, that doesn’t narrow it down… it’s from the cold war?
Whatever, let’s just drink this, shall we?
Price: € 1,800
Stated Age: 36-years-old
Cask type: Sherry Casks
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Freshly made almondine, sugarplums, pear galette, chocolate chip cookie dough, cotton candy, fresh dill
So let’s get to the heart of the matter: For those of you who haven’t read my previous reviews (welcome!) I call anything at 40-43% as accountant’s strength. Why? Because it’s the lowest level you can have and still write “whiskey” on the label. Why? Well the lower the strength the less intricate flavours you get.
That doesn’t happen here. Instead you get this full, impressive nose. Amazing baked goods, nuttiness, chocolate, and even fresh dill and plum notes. My cynical heart nearly breaks to think it was low abv. due to whiskey losing alcohol to time rather than some annoying teetotaler mentioning they could make more money if they reduce it down to the legal minimum.
Taste: Lemon, oak, vanilla, tobacco, peach jam, oats, floral
Less complex than the nose. And very light. Yes, I spent some good time with it and let it open up over multiple hours. There were nice notes. Frankly beyond some of them being a tad rough inherently (looking at you oak and tobacco), it’s a tad simpler than I was expecting.
Finish: Papaya, lemon muffin, tobacco (thyme, heather, light), mineral, musty, grassy/anise
Less simple than the taste but just as light. If you put this whiskey through a slit it’d confuse you and have waves. There, a physics joke, I hope I got it right.
Floral, more tobacco, and a strong cereal note. Not your typical Irish whiskey.
Conclusion: An interesting whiskey with lovely notes. Sadly quite light.
I read a review for this whiskey that says it’s legendary because of the flaws. Maybe. And I can’t speak to what batch this is or if it’s a good one or not. Also I can’t really speak to a distillery release that was made 3 years before it was closed down while one of the largest human empires was slow fucking it to death. That level of pressure from a major world power can really screw with your work ethic.
No matter what, you should try this if you have a chance. If you’re a richer Irish Whiskey fan then finding a bottle should be on your to-do list. Yes, it’s flawed. Yes, I’m not a tobacco fan, and that probably hurt my love for it.
The nose is out of the world. The newest Tullamore Dew doesn’t come close to this. Heck it’s hard to compare it to the legendary Irish whiskies that have recently popped up.
If none of that sways you and you’re just looking for an older whiskey then it’s a skip. There’s others cheaper that are easier to get. Maybe if you’re looking for one of the few birth year whiskies left from 1951: Then it’s perfect.
End of the day it was pretty cool to try, and I really hope we continue to see Irish Whiskey grow, as I’m a big fan.
World Whisky review #412, Ireland review #116, Whisky Network review #2129