Sunday, March 18, 2012

Irish Whiskey On St. Patrick’s Day




Not all of us were lucky enough to be able to attend a St. Patrick’s Day party this year, so I had to find another way to celebrate this great holiday – fortunately, New York City’s Union Square Wines & Spirits came to my aid by having their annual St. Patrick’s Day tasting of a wide variety of Irish Whiskey products. Of the 16 Irish Whiskeys on the tasting menu, I was only able to sample a few and still remain vertical, so I’ll only focus on a small subset from the menu. Apologies in advance if I’ve somehow managed to skip one of your favorites.


One of the best Irish Whiskeys I’ve tasted at this price point was the Tullamore Dew Single Malt. Aged for 10 years, this 80 proof Whiskey is unique not only among the company’s offerings, but for whiskeys in general. At this tasting, I was fortunate to meet Tim Herlihy, Tullamore Dew’s Brand Ambassador who is obviously quite knowledgeable about their product line. He told me that this is a relatively new item among Tullamore Dew’s selections and that it was something of an experiment by the company in order to try a kind of whiskey that was different for them – they wanted to appeal somewhat to Scotch drinkers without completely alienating their old customers.


Tullamore Dew’s Single Malt is double-distilled, which distinguishes it from the rest of their products right off the bat – everything else they make is triple-distilled; again, the reason behind doing this was just to do an alternate way of manufacturing their whiskey. One other thing that’s quite different about this one – and this is the major distinction here – is the fact that they age their whiskey in a total of four different types of casks. Yep, you read that right, I said four – here’s how it works …


The four casks consist of Old Bourbon, Dry Olorosso Sherry, Madeira and Port Wine. Primarily, the whiskey spends approximately its first nine years in the old bourbon casks. After that, it is then transferred to either a sherry or port cask; a blend of the whiskey from the sherry and port casks is then poured into the Madeira cask, where it spends the next six months finishing. All of the care that is taken to produce this fine whiskey can be experienced in both its rich aroma and smooth taste.


Another item from the tasting menu that I’d like to bring to your attention is Coole Swan Superior Dairy Cream Liqueur. Now, when you think of an Irish Cream Liqueur, naturally, the first thing that comes to mind will be Baileys – certainly, that’s everyone’s go-to. As a result, when you see another Irish Cream Liqueur of a comparable price, you might feel that it isn’t worth trying since it’s likely a Baileys clone. That was the exact same mistake I made when I first encountered Coole Swan, but fortunately, I was not blinded by my prejudice because I decided to take a sample anyway – and now I’m glad I did because Coole Swan is really something special and if you haven’t tried it yet, then by all means, do yourself a favor and grab yourself a bottle the next chance you get.


Coole Swan is made with single malt Irish Whiskey; one caution here is that if you’re on a diet, this may not be the liqueur for you because it contains 16% butterfat cream, the highest amount allowed by Ireland. According to the distributor’s representative, the cream is so fresh that “it goes from cow to bottle within 72 hours”. Surprisingly for a liqueur, there is no sugar added – but make no mistake, it is sweet. Its sweetness comes from other ingredients – specifically, melted Belgian chocolate, dark cocoa and Madagascar vanilla. This one is rich and heavy and will coat your tongue (possibly even leaving a little bit of a film on your teeth after drinking).

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