KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2016: Day 11

11 12 2016

Kensington Wine Market obviously wants us to have a very Irish weekend this weekend.  After 8 straight days of scotch, Friday night’s Day 9 dram was the highly impressive Hyde 10 Year from southwest Ireland’s Cork, and now Sunday night we’re back to Ireland for what has become the KWM calendar’s Irish whiskey mascot:  Dublin’s Teeling distillery.  A mini-bottle of Teeling amidst an ocean of single malt scotch is now an official annual Advent tradition, after 2014’s Small Batch Whiskey on Day 10 and 2015’s Single Malt Whiskey on Day 14.  2016 rounds out Teeling’s entry-level trio of whiskies with its highly interesting Single Grain bottling, complete with instant-classic phoenix-rising-out-of-a-whiskey-still label art that gets me every time.  This is the first purely grain whiskey of the 2016 calendar, and its terminology requires a bit of explaining.  “Single Grain” does not mean that the spirit was made out of a single type of grain, even though that would make intuitive sense; instead, the “single” refers to the fact that the whiskey was a product of a single distillery (like with single malts), while the “grain” refers to the fact that it was not made from single malt whiskey’s ingredient of choice, malted barley, but instead came from other grains, most often wheat or corn or a mix of both.  Grain whiskey is often seen as the ugly stepsister of single malt whisky, but while it may not always match the complexity of single malt whisky, good examples can be exceptionally tasty.


This is one such example.  One way to add some jazz and personality to an otherwise potentially straightforward spirit is to mature it in something fun, and Teeling has done just that here, foregoing the monstrously overdone sherry casks and aging its Single Grain whiskey in 100% California Cabernet Sauvignon barrels.  I am emphatically in favour of this.  People all over the world put enough different booze in barrels that there’s a whole world of new whiskey flavour just waiting for the adventurous to find it.  The move pays off here in the shimmering deep golden colour of the whiskey and intriguing aromas of Amaretto, tangerine, copper pennies and crushed flowers, a fun and alluring start that carries forward on a big, smooth and emphatically tropical palate.  Coconut, banana and suntan lotion lead into less island-y notes of Werther’s Original, burnt almond, tapioca and toasted rice, a slightly strange yet utterly enjoyable array of flavours, easily worth the bottle’s $65 price tag.  Up with Ireland, grain whiskey and new aging vessels, and up with underdogs that represent all three!

Whisky Advent Calendar 2015: Day 14

14 12 2015

Ireland!!  The Whisky Advent Calendar visits its 4th country in 14 days today, and the first to spell “whiskey” with an “E” (standard rule of thumb: if the country has an E in its name, it usually spells whiskey with one too, like IrEland and the UnitEd StatEs).  Irish whiskey is represented by another familiar face from last year’s calendar, but this time we’ve been upgraded, from the Teeling Whiskey Small Batch blend from 2014 to tonight’s Teeling Whiskey Single Malt.  Irish whiskey is generally similar to Scottish whisky except that it is almost always triple-distilled (as was last night’s scotch, the Hazelburn 12 Year, which is anomalous in that regard for Scottish whisky, usually only double-distilled) and unpeated.  The same rules apply in both countries to the single malt designation, so this Teeling is made from 100% malted barley that was distilled by Teeling itself.  The component Teeling whiskies that make up this bottle date back to 1991 and have been matured in a borderline crazy FIVE different types of barrel:  sherry, Port, madeira, white Burgundy (??) and Cabernet Sauvignon casks.  Contrast that to the base Teeling blended whiskey, which was aged only in rum casks and tasted like it.  At $70, this is on the cheaper end of the single malt world.


The nose on this whiskey is the epitome of “pleasant”:  vanilla, banana cream, white flowers, black jellybean and Fig Newtons, all sweet-tinged and ready to enjoy.  This core of sweetness is paired with a luscious textural softness on the tongue, which makes the whiskey feel like it’s just floating in your mouth, weightless.  Wine Gums, chamomile, anise, hot chocolate and marshmallows use the pleasantly simmering 46% abv to warm you up on a cold winter’s night like tonight.  This is like the golden retriever of whiskies, friendly and unthreatening and dependable.  It isn’t as complex or challenging as some of the Scottish malts, but it is immediately gratifying, without any flavours that take some getting used to, making it a great intro whiskey for newbies to the spirit world.  And what a rock star bottle and label to boot!

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 10

10 12 2014

Here come the internationals!  After 9 consecutive days of scotch whisky, the KWM finally departed Scotland’s shores and ventured all the way to…well, Ireland for Day 10.  But a short hop is better than no hop at all!  I’m delighted to start checking out the other whiskies of the free world, and almost as delighted to finally get to spell it as I’m naturally inclined to:  “whiskey”.  The bottle told me I could.  I read recently that a handy guide for how you should spell the word “whisky” with respect to a given bottle is to look at where it’s from:  if it’s from a country without an “E” in its name (like Scotland, or Japan), don’t put an E in “whisky”, but if there is an “E” in its name (like Ireland, or the United States), put an E in “whiskey”.  Not sure if that holds up across the board, but it works here.

Stellar looking bottle plus an E in "whiskey" to boot. I'm happy.

Stellar looking bottle plus an E in “whiskey” to boot. I’m happy.

Tonight’s whiskEy is a small batch Irish Whiskey from Teeling distillery, which is a high-malt blend finished for 6 months in ex-rum barrels (take that, Oloroso sherry casks!) and bottled at 46%.  There’s not much that legally differentiates Irish whiskey from scotch whisky apart from their country of origin, although Irish whiskies are almost never peated, are usually distilled three times in a pot still and tend to be less regulated in terms of contents.

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