This is our 2nd Irish Whiskey in the 2016 Kensington Wine Market Whisky Advent Calendar, but it is unique. It is the first ever single grain Scotch whisky in any of the three editions (2014, 2015 and 2016). Like single malt, the implication of the word single with reference to grain whisk(e)y, is that it is from a single distillery. Grain whisky is typically made from either corn or wheat in Column, Continuous or Coffey still. If single malts are the highlights of a Blended whiskey, grain whisky is the body. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t potential.
Grain whisky is generally cheaper to make and less characterful. It is less expensive to produce because the distillation can be done more quickly and in larger batches. It is less charaterful because they distill or refine the alcohol to a much higher level of alcohol, which leaves behind fewer impurities. It is these impurities which give different single malts their own house character. Grain whiskies are much less easily distinguished from one another. Most grain whisk(e)y is not very interesting, because it is put into poor quality wood. It is not there to add pleasant characteristics. That being said there are some fabulous grains out there, and some of the older Scottish single grains are starting to become very popular. This is in no small part because they offer the consumer much better value.
But what of this Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey? It is fully matured in California red wine barrels and bottled at 46%. The whiskey was awarded the “World’s Best Grain” at the 2014 World Whiskies Awards. It is one of very few single grain Irish whiskies, and was distilled at the Cooley distillery, before the family sold it to Beam. See below.
Dublin’s last distillery closed its doors in 1976, part of an industry-wide consolidation which saw the Emerald Isle left with but two distilleries, Bushmills in Northern Ireland and the giant new Midleton Distillery in the Republic. Even to this day most Irish whiskies hail from the New Midleton Distillery in Cork. But this has begun to change, in recent years distilleries have been popping up all over Ireland. It all began with John Teeling in 1987 when he converted a closed government potato ethanol plant into a whisky distillery. The Cooley Distillery made quite a name for itself in the two and a half decades it operated independently, until selling to Beam Global (now Beam Suntory) in 2011 for USD $95 million. In addition to a huge pile of cash, John Teeling and his sons walked away from the sale with impressive stocks of matured whiskey, the are the basis of the Teeling Whiskey brand which includes award winning single malts, single grain and blended Irish whiskies.
The sale of Cooley Distillery and the success of the Teeling brand has afforded the family the opportunity to bring the it’s distilling heritage back to Dublin’s, Liberties area. The Teeling Distillery, Dublin’s only active distillery is the first one to be built in the city in 125 years. The Irish whiskey industry’s fortunes are changing, where as in 1987 there were just 3 distilleries including the new Cooley distillery, there are now more than a dozen active distilleries in Ireland and more planned. It will be many years before the whiskies from Teeling’s new distillery reach maturity, in the meantime lets hope they keep releasing excellent stocks from their old one. Especially single malts like this one which consist of stocks distilled as far back as 1991 and finished in 5 different wine casks (Sherry, Port, Madeira, White Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon. Like all the other whiskies in the range, the Teeling single grain is non-chillfiltered and bottled at 46%.
Teeling Single Grain - 46% - Matured in Ex-California Cabernet Sauvignon Barrels – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: double caramel corn, brandy filled chocolates, silky honey and pure vanilla extract; soft earthy tones, crisp but gentle spice and subtle leather; easily identifiable as a grain whiskey, but not sharp or rough. Palate: huge caramel notes, butterscotch and creme brule; more caramel corn, white chocolate and mixed berries smothered in whipped cream; fruits become darker and more jammy, with more crisp but delicate spice and soft leather; waxy Strawberry Twizzlers. Finish: light but long; warming and full of character: more berry fruits, Straberry Twizzlers and slowly fading spices. Comment: this is probably the most unusual whisk(e)y in the 2016 KWM Whisky Advent Calendar, but it is very pleasant and full of chaacter. An unusual grain!” – $65
Stay tuned tomorrow, for KWM Whisky Advent Day 12!