Glendalough Wild Irish Gin ($34.99) County Wicklow From the producer: "To make this extraordinary gin, we forage wild plants in the mountains around the distillery. What we pick goes fresh into the still within hours of foraging.
All the plants are sustainably picked by our full time forager, every day we distill. We take a lot of care that we don't adversely effect the areas we find them in. That means sometimes using scissors rather than picking to make sure roots aren't pulled, or maybe skipping a few before picking the next one, or finding different patches of the same plant, to make sure an area isn't over-foraged.
Our aim is to leave no trace that we were ever there. It's harder work but worth it to keep the mountains beautiful and wild.
Then these wild botanicals are painstakingly slow-distilled to tease out delicate flavours, in very small batches of less than 250 liters. Some go in the pot, and some are hung in a basket to let vapors extract their essential oils. The cut-points are decided batch by batch, by smell and taste (never timed or automated) as if each batch is the first.
This brings the flavour of our Wild Gin to a whole other level. The knowledge, experience and man-hours in each bottle are what make this liquid so special."
From me: The first time I tried this Gin, I fell in love. It's one of my top three of all time, and it's also my house go-to. I love that the botanicals are hand harvested from the wild, and that they go into the still fresh, rather than dried. I think that informs the delicacy of the flavor. Do watch the video found here.
Writers' Tears Copper Pot Irish Whiskey ($40.99) County Carlow From the producer: "Writers’ Tears is a unique vatting of Aged Single Pot Still and Single Malt whiskey. Distilled entirely from Pot Still and Malt, without Grain, this is a truly special Irish whiskey. Writers’ Tears is triple distilled, non-peated and matured and aged in American Oak bourbon casks. A gold Medal winner at the International Spirits Challenge in London and one of the highest rated Irish Whiskeys in Jim Murray’s Iconic 'Whiskey Bible' 'Altogether a very unusual Irish Whiskey, a throwback to the last century where spiced Pure Pot Still whiskey was married with Floral Single Malt' – Jim Murray . It has also been added to Ian Buxton’s publication '101 Whiskeys to try before you die.'
Nose: Flashes of apple with hints of vanilla and honey over a distinctively pot still base. Palate: Gently spiced with a burst of ginger and butterscotch with background notes of toasted oak. Finish: Long Elegant finish with subtle notes of milk chocolate and almonds."
From me: This is the first Irish Whiskey that really made me take note. It's easy and mellow with a depth of flavor that will leave you satisfied. I like that it's a family-owned business, and that they are committed to maintaining the integrity of their product. Put down the Jameson and pick up the Writers' Tears!
Prizefight Irish Whiskey ($43.99) County Cork From the producer: "When Flor Prendergast decided to create a whiskey, he brought in his American friend and spirits maverick, Steven Grasse, who had an idea that required a transatlantic collaboration: whiskey from Ireland, finished in rye barrels from America. They formed Pugilist Spirits to bring this idea to life, with whiskey distilled and aged in West Cork, Ireland and rye barrels sourced by Grasse’s own Tamworth Distilling in the U.S.
Inspired by the Irish-American connection, Grasse had the idea to call the whiskey Prizefight. The brand tells the incredible stories of the Irish who came to America and became the greatest fighters of their day. Each bottle commemorates the boxing legends who came with nothing and fought for everything.
Prizefight is a collaborative Irish whiskey, distilled and aged in Ireland, and finished in American rye casks. The result is incredibly complex whiskey, a smooth and mellow spirit that packs a punch but never burns.
Prizefight is a blend of 10-year-old malt and 4-year-old grain, finished in rye barrels for 6 months.
Tasting Notes: Fresh and clean with fruit, floral, and spice notes. Sweet and refreshing up front, followed by a subtle hint of bitterness and a spicy finish."
From me: I like the transatlantic approach that the producers use for this Whiskey, and as a lover of Rye, I definitely appreciate the spicy note on the finish. The prizefight to which the name refers was between Yankee Sullivan and John Morrissey, which is notable for our area because Morrissey was one of the founders of Saratoga race track. Pour a glass and drink a toast to Ireland, to scrappy fighters, and to the legacy of John Morrissey!
West Cork Distillers Glengarriff Bog Oak Cask Whiskey ($39.99) County Cork From the producer: "West Cork Distillers’ Glengarriff Collection of Irish whiskeys are single malts aged for 4 years in sherry casks before being finished in barrels that have been charred using natural fuel sources obtained from the iconic Glengarriff Forest in Southern Ireland. Each barrel is prepared using a proprietary charring device that was hand-built by West Cork Distillers with the guidance of a local fifth-generation blacksmith. Each of these special release whiskeys delivers a unique flavor profile that embodies the innovative spirit of West Cork Distillers.
Bog Oak Charred Cask: Aroma - Spice, dried leather with a sweet dried fruit undertone Taste - Intense spice, malt and cracked pepper Finish - Spice, nutmeg and long lasting malt"
From me: This will be the most unusual Irish Whiskey you'll taste. There's an earthy undertone to the flavor that I find really compelling, and there's more smoke than you might be used to from Ireland. I would call this the wine drinker's/Scotch lover's/cigar smoker's Irish Whiskey. The method for imparting this flavor profile is also unique: rather than smoking the malt, the barrels used at the end of the aging process are charred using a bog oak fire. The result is both light and earthy.
1. Taste with as clean a palate as possible. Try to avoid smoking or chewing gum just beforehand. If you have just eaten, drink some water to clear the flavors of the meal.
2. Keep an open mind. Try new things! We all get into ruts when it comes to our palates, but the fun of a tasting is that you don't have to commit to the whole bottle. If you don't like what you've tasted, you can spit it out.
3. Spit or swallow--it's up to you! Just make sure you use the spittoon!
4. See, swirl, smell, sip, savor. Give attention to all aspects of the wine. Here are a couple of links that explain the process:
5. Have fun! Wine tasting has an air of elitism around it, but unnecessarily so. Your palate is your own-it's as individual as you are-and the most important part of appreciating good alcohol is knowing what you like and why you like it. You don't have to use fancy words or spend a lot of money on a bottle. As the kids say, you do you!