Another year is done and dusted. 2018 is only a mere few hours old. On that note – Happy New Year, I hope it’s prosperous one and the head isn’t too fragile. With 2017 completed it’s that time when every whiskey blogger reviews the year that’s just ended. Guess what, I’m no exception to that! I’ll mainly be focused on the Irish side of things as that’s what I tend to drink plus a slight dabble with Celtic Cousins (Scottish) products.
So 2017… I’d say we can all agree it was a decent enough year, only a few whiskies knocked me of my feet, which we will get to in due course, but I’m going to start with a rant…
It was a mind-blowingly silly year once again for the second hand market. Prices reached staggering amounts, with no thanks to the folks who have no interest in whiskey other than to make a quick buck or two. Can I really blame them though when there are people out there silly enough to part with mega amounts of cash on Facebook Buy & Sell pages or auction sites. One such example that stands out in recent weeks is Dingle. Don’t get me wrong here at all, I’m a fan of Dingle and managed to get my hands on their latest range at RRP but it took a lot more effort than it should have. They released their Single Malt Batch 2, Cask Strength Batch 2 plus a Single Pot Still which are all NAS with RRP’s £58, £110 and £80 retrospectively. Within a few days of release they had hit the second hand market with a 180%+ markup, supply & demand I guess, but will it stop?? Doubtful! Bottle flipping means people like myself who genuinely want to buy and try the whiskey, maybe then talk about it with friends in person or over social media can’t. So here lads, feckin’ stop it!
Onto a more positive notes, for now.
The surprise of the year for me came from a supermarket release, yes you guessed it, Tesco’s Special Reserve… nah only messing, it was the Aldi – Irish Reserve 26 year old Single Malt. The distillate in the bottle has not been disclosed, but read between the lines and it’s going to be between 3 distilleries considering the age statement, Mildelton – Doubtful, Cooley – Possibly and Bushmills – Very Likely! Speculation between whiskey nerds was firmly with Bushmills. If it had a higher ABV than 40%, maybe cask strength and one or two years less in the cask you’d maybe have a gold medal on your hands. Was it a master peace? Nope! Was it one of the best this year? Aye so! and even more aye so with a price tag of £40. A 26 year old Irish Single Malt for £40, I shit you not!! Amazing what can be done when their isn’t a big name on a bottle. For example, a bottle of Bushmills 21.y.o. will set you back £160 or Teeling 24y.o. a lovely 260 gold coins.
Talking of Teeling (max points for that transition) Teeling went and won the top Irish Whiskey award this year with their Revival Vol.IV – 15y.o. Muscat finish. Congrats Teeling. It just goes to show what can be done when the distillate comes from else where. I’m a firm believer that the maturation process is a massive part of the over all picture, it can make or break even the best distillate. June 2018 will be a month to watch out for when Teeling can legally binding call their spirit whiskey. I await the day I get my hands on some.
Keep an eye out in 2018 for what the chaps out at the The Echlinville Distillery release, after all they were awarded Irish Single Cask of the Year 2018 by Jim Murray for their Dunville’s VR First Edition Aged 15 Years. Simple put – it’s outstanding. I was lucky enough to recently try it after sneaking into a tasting they were holding with Irish Whiskey Magazine as they’re collaborating on a whiskey with 10% oats in the mash bill. The smell was like walking into a brown bread bakery, the taste wasn’t bad either. Can’t wait to see how it turns out down the line.
Way back in February, Irish Distillers surprised us with the release of 4 new whiskies under the banner “Method & Madness” so called “experimental super-premium Irish whiskey”. A Single Grain, Single Malt, Single Pot Still and a 31 year old Single Grain. I still don’t get where that 31y.o. fits into the frame work, but that’s for another day. From all 4 it’s safe to say the Single Pot Still caused a decent fuss resulting in frantic dashes to the offies in the hope to add one or two to the collection. Why so? Matured in a combination of ex-oloroso sherry casks & ex-bourbon casks, but that’s nothing special I hear you say!? Well stall the ball… it was finished in French Chestnut casks! A world first I’m near sure. I’ve a few of these bunkered away for a rainy day.
ANYWAY… enough positives for now.
The second part of my rant follows along the same lines as the first… Whiskey Clubs! With Irish Whiskey making inroads against its Scottish counterparts and a boom starting to happen I’ve seen a lot of “clubs” starting to appear and being run by so called “Whiskey Experts” who are merely enthusiasts with a decent collection at home. They’re clearing making a massive profit from well thought out schemes, over inflated ticket costs for tasting entry level whiskies. One such club comes to mind held a tasting of 5 Irish Whiskies for £40. I done my calculations and it turned out to be £12 cheaper to pop along to the same venue and buy them yourself. So basically you’re paying £12 for an “expert” to tell you about each whiskey. This club also gets its venue rent free so the overheads are very very small if any really. Also what happens to the whiskey that’s left over? I’d take a guess and say the club is a form to feed their own whiskey collecting habit. All I’m asking for is open and honest transparency to which we can all make our own clear choices on whether to attend or not. For every shoddy club there is a much better ones, just look at Cork Whiskey Society or Whiskey Club NI.
The “WTF Are You Doing?” award is shared by Bushmills & Highland Park this year. I’m going to keep it simple, Bushmills can release something so much better than their pointless Red Bush or Steamship. Look at Black Bush, it’s fantastic for what it is, oh and not forgetting their 16y.o. aged statement. I’ve heard we will be getting another two releases of Steamship and a very old aged statement release sometime this year. Steamship will be crap and the very old aged statement, will be over priced & pointless. They need to buck their ideas up or they’ll be left behind. Give us something new to shout about in a positive way! As for Highland Park they could do with slowing down their almost weekly limited expression releases. I just love getting the emails to let me know of another one (Rolls eyes). It’s only diluting the brand, a brand which has a solid range of aged statements. Whiskey Rover summed it up rather well recently – “Nowadays Highland Park supports more collections than Netflix”. I firmly believe in quality over quantity.
Back to the good vibes…
With a renaissance in Irish Whiskey there has been an uptake in new brands & distilleries appearing on the scene, which is a good thing. Well only if they make the choice and invest in a distillery. We don’t want the same old, same old.
2017 to name but a few seen the opening of Pearse Lyons Whiskey Distillery, Slane Irish Whiskey Distillery, the construction of The Dublin Liberties Distillery plus Ebrington Distillery (The Quite Man) which their doors won’t open until sometime mid 2018. So it will be a few years yet until we get to try their juice. We seen the return of D.W.D Irish Whiskey oh and not forgetting the first whiskey distilled in Connacht in something like 100 years by the folks at Shed Distillery. All very good news.
As for the Celtic Cousins we got the news that the iconic distilleries of Brora and Port Ellen will be reopened by whisky firm Diageo.
Whiskey Highlights 2017
- Dingle – Single Pot Still
- Teeling – Revival Vol.IV
- Glenfiddich – Project XX
- Powers Single Cask – The Friend At Hand release
- Midleton, Dair Ghaelach – Bluebell Forest (Mainly Tree 3)
- The Balvenie – Peat Week aged 14 years
- Kilbeggan – Pot Still – Aged 6 years
- Dunville’s VR First Edition Aged 15 Years
The winner of the year thought goes to:
Redbreast Dream Cask aged 31 years which you can read about here.
I’d like to say thanks to the independent off-sales L.Mulligan Whiskey Shop, The Celtic Whiskey Shop, The Vineyard Belfast, The Wine Rack and KWM Wines & Spirits for making sure I got all I needed in 2017. Ice to the Eskimos springs to mind. I doubt anything will change for the year ahead. Keep it local!
Cheers to everyone else who’s been there to pass on knowledge, have a yarn, read the guff I write and like the odd Instagram post.
2017 was my full year at this malarkey and the craic has been 90. Hopefully 2018 will be a prosperous one. I’ve already got my plan sorted…
You’ll be glad to hear that’s me done, I’m going to shut up now because my heads slightly hungover and I’m off to watch Ulster
hopefully beat Munster in the rugby.
year time, keep safe & keep drinking whisk(e)y responsibly.
Over & out.
Jamie. Whiskey JAC
Please Drink Responsibly. Visit Drink Aware UK for more information