My meandering around the world of whisky has taken in a variety of nationalities – American, Japanese and of course Scots – but until now I haven’t mentioned Ireland.
This is something of an oversight, not least because the Irish will have you believe that they invented the stuff. They’re hardly unique in this claim, but it’s certainly true that whisky production has been documented there for just about as long as anywhere.
What better way to mark Saint Patrick’s Day with a dram or two of the Irish stuff?
Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey comes courtesy of Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board). It’s quite pale in the glass, but the nose certainly lives up to the name – big warm smoke and just a hint of honey underneath. A splash of water just frees up the peat more; as a huge fan of Islay, this is a good thing!
It’s honey sweet on the tongue, with a nice lingering alcohol hit. Lacking some of the depth and complexity of other whiskies, it more than makes up for it in sheer tastiness. Water brings out some more fruity, almost berry like flavours, and flattens out that alcohol leaving the peat loud and clear.
From previous experience, I was expecting a more distinct flavour – this is the most scotch-like Irish whisky I think I’ve tasted, with just a touch more honey sweetness than I’d normally expect. This isn’t exactly a criticism – I do love scotch – but if I wanted a scotch whisky rather than an Irish one, well, I have a cupboard full.
The second dram of the evening is Black Bush, Bushmill’s “special” blend, from my own stockpile. It carries no age statement, but has been matured in sherry casks giving it a slightly darker, richer colour.
That comes through hugely on the nose too; almost more sherry than whisky – the green fruitiness of the sherry, with just a barest hint of an almost bourbon-like raw grain to it. The sherry fades somewhat with a splash of water and allows some of the wood of the cask to come through more.
The bourbon feel continues in the mouth; there’s an almost caramel sweetness and more of that grain – the sherry is less pronounced on the tongue. Water flattens out those flavours somehow; they’re less intense but spread wider with a sweet start, blending smoothly into a grainy tail that lingers very pleasantly.
Definitely the better of the two drams tonight; the sherry nose is overdone but there’s some nice complexity in there, especially with a splash of water.