Along with The Irishman, Writers’ Tears falls under the Walsh Whiskey umbrella. In the traditional Irish Copper Pot style, this whiskey contains both malted (60%) and un-malted (40%) barley. It’s non-age stated, sourced from an unnamed distillery and then blended and bottled by Walsh Whiskey at 40% abv.
Many thanks to Darryl for supplying this sample and the photo. You can follow him on Instagram at @whiskeysith.
Nose: Classic Irish Copper Pot character. When I first poured this into my glass, I got a white wine note, like a Chardonnay. After a while in the glass, this has faded substantially. This is replaced by juicy, fresh cut apple and graham crackers. I’m guessing that these are first fill Bourbon casks as I still get a good dose of cinnamon and a touch of vanilla. This is a little bit floral as well. The oils from a freshly expressed orange peel round this out. Quite an expressive nose for such a low ABV.
Palate: The entry is oily and coats the mouth immediately. Very strong high-quality apple juice vibes (like the stuff you find in hoity-toity organic food markets) initially and that carries through to the end of the experience. Subsequent sips dial that back a bit, however. The vanilla and cinnamon reassert themselves during the development. The peel and flesh of a navel orange as well as ripe pear float on top. The spice and citrus make the tongue tingle a bit. Smacking my lips reveals a slight toasted walnut note at the end of the development
Finish: A nice dark chocolate starts to form at the beginning of the finish. The sweetness from the apple, the bitterness from the chocolate and the fading spice end the experience with a nice balance.
I’ve been meaning to try Writers’ Tears for a long time and now I see why this whiskey has such a devout following. It drinks beyond its proof, has a lovely mouthfeel and possess a nice, balanced finish. Darryl has sent me a number of core expressions and special releases from this brand and I’ll pepper them in here and there to see what different maturations and barrel finishes do to this impressive base.
Nestled in the rolling hills of Co. Down just south of Belfast on Killaney Estate lies a whiskey distillery that has big ambitions and the people and passion to back it up. Founded by Dr. Terry Cross who also owns the Bordeaux winery Chateau de la Ligne, Hinch distillery is a world class facility that spares no expense in the pursuit of making their mark on the world stage.
Since they have only been laying down their own new make spirit in oak since late last year, they are sourcing their whiskies for now. A fact they have been completely transparent about. Called their Time Collection, their five core releases include age stated expressions, a small batch entry-level bottle and a traditional Irish pot still with a small amount of oats in the mash. Our focus today will be on their peated single malt. For the longest time, Connemara stood alone as the only peated bottle you could find on the Emerald Isle. Now, you probably need more than two hands to count them all. And you’re going to need a lot more hands in the future, that’s for sure.
The Hinch Peated Single Malt has ben matured for at least for years in first-fill bourbon casks from Kentucky. It was bottled at 43% abv. Both Sean Kinkaid (@seankincaid) and I will be letting you know what we think of this one.
Sean Kincaid’s review
In the glass the light color is the first thing I notice. Whether it’s youth or the type of casks used, we shall determine.
Nose: The next thing I notice is the smoke notes wafting over the table to my nose. There’s definite peat smoke, more along the earthy, mineral type smoke and seemingly quite strong. As I bring the glass to my nostrils, I am picking up a sweet peat along with a floral sweetness. Almost to the point of being botanical. That could be from the youthfulness or maybe just the distillate has some floral notes in it. The smoke is like if someone extinguished a bonfire on a wet beach but using pine tree branches and some flowers to put the fire out. I also get a good dose of citrus fruit off the nose. Tangy and bitter, like orange peels or grapefruit. It almost reminds me of the younger bourbon-matured Kilkerran/Glengyle style peat influence without much of the Campbelltown funk. This nose is so interesting I keep going back for more.
Palate: First thing I notice is the citrus fruit notes. With the peat not far behind. A more standard peat note than on the nose. Very citrus forward and easily reminiscent of Islays output. For what I assume is a rather young peated single malt this has a great mouthfeel. Silky and not overbearing. More wet beach smoking fire notes. That grows more earthy and minerally with time. Still a touch of that floral impact kicking around that could almost lean towards a herbal type note. A touch of salt. Not brine but, salt. Like salted honey.
Finish: The peat smoke and citrus/floral notes fade with a medium finish. On the finish is the only slight tingle I get at all. The lasting note is almost a salted sweetness with a slight twang from the peat. Again super interesting to me. This is only my second time having this and the first time having it on its own. I am glad I have more left in this bottle to come back to.
Paul Bovis’ review
Nose: This is a peat lovers dream for sure. It’s not Laphroaig levels of medicinal, but it is leaning that way. It’s salty and briny. A good dose of iodine in there as well. This is a very sea breeze across a tidal flat for me. There’s a bit of a salty sea shell mineral note and an underlying sweetness of vanilla and toffee. As I dig deeper, there’s a bit of wet dirt and earthy spices such as clove and a bit of nutmeg. Might be just the faintest whiff of that Hinch shortbread cookie note, but I may be overthinking it. Wonder if I will get more of that on the palate?
Palate: A lovely evolution. The entry is oily and mouth coating. Surprisingly so for its 43% abv. The peat doesn’t hit you straight away. It builds slowly through the development. Initially, there is a lovely hit of everything I love about Hinch’s sourced whiskey. Lots of vanilla and toffee as well a big dose of shortbread and digestive biscuits. I’m also getting that malted cereal note as well. As the development progresses, the peat starts to creep in. More of that “surf n’ turf” that I got on the nose. The saltiness shines through as well as a bit more of that wet dirt and a slice of lemon peel. What I love so much about the mid part of the development is this perfect marriage of peat and that Hinch shortbread note that I have come to love. Earthy baking spices and oak round this out. There is enough shortbread at the end to balance it out.
Finish: Mostly a continuation from the development. There’s a nice, spicy kick initially. The baking spices are joined by some cracked black pepper. The oak tastes a little bit wet, but there is enough of the spice and shortbread to temper that a bit. The sweetness fades about half way through the decent medium finish, but I don’t find the wet dirt, baking spice, oak combination to be off-putting. They’re mostly in balance with each other.
With water added…
I would say the peat is even stronger now, but the shortbread note is much more pronounced as well. Peated shortbread. Is that a thing!? It’s more salt and brine than iodine. Water hasn’t helped on the palate. It’s not quite as rich on the entry or as mouth coating. Also, there is a bit too much of that wet oak mid-palate, which throws things out of balance. The finish follows from that and it’s too oaky for me.
I’m hard pressed to say if this is my favorite Hinch expression or the Pot Still. They both have so much flavor, texture and character. I’m of the mind to have this without water, but I always add some at the end, just to see how things turn out. Without water, there is an almost perfect balance everywhere. I am a big Laphroaig fan, but I would reach for this Hinch Peated Single Malt any day over the 10 year. It’s that good.
The Dingle Peninsula, as a whole, is probably the most beautiful place on earth I have ever been to. I seriously left a piece of me behind on the bluff overlooking Dunquin Harbour. The town of Dingle is magic personified in a small town. From the B&B’s that are literally on top of the pubs on main Street (Strand Street) to the pubs that double as a hardware store, to the distillery found just outside the town. If you do find yourself lucky enough to visit heaven on earth in Dingle, make sure you take a drive out along the Sales Head drive from town and stop at Dunquin Harbour. Just stand there and take it all in.
I have been lucky enough to try all 5 batches of the Dingle Single Malt that have been available (Batch 6 just released in Ireland recently) and I have liked every one. They are fairly youthful yes, but vibrant and exciting. The varying cask usage between batches also kept me on my toes. I liked a couple more than the others but they were all up my alley in terms of palate.
Now to the bottle at hand. The first thing I notice is the packaging. A striking dark navy blue with gold foil trim including a more prominent logo that I call “The Dingle Man”.
Bottled at a very nice 46.3% abv and non-chill filtered, cut down to bottling proof with water from their own well 240 feet below the ground.
In the glass it has a nice golden honey hue with a slight touch of red on the edges. Very skinny but super slow legs on the glass as I twirl. Just begging for a nose and a taste.
Nose: On the initial nose there is a familiarity evident immediately. That Dingle sweet malt note that I do really like. Sitting side by side riding shotgun is a fruit sweetness. Like a creamy strawberry, and a bit of tart fruit that I find in most Dingle releases. Like a sugar coated rhubarb stock that I used to eat as a kid. The PX casks add a heavier fruit note deeper down. A touch of spice comes through with some time in the glass. An underlying nutmeg, and citrus. Like a slice of sugar dusted orange peel or lemon slices in tea. This is more complex than I would have predicted.
Palate: On the initial sip, the immediate note I pick up is the salted/spiced toffee and vanilla. It’s clear the bourbon casks used are top tier. They show up in Spades right off the hop. There is some spice here for sure. Some white pepper, and again the nutmeg almost reaching to cinnamon. The fruit notes come through after. Starting off with orchard fruits. Caramelized apples and stewed pears with the honey and vanilla. This starts intermingling with a bit of the sherry fruit sweetness. Bringing along fall/autumn fruits and that herbaceous feeling. The most unique note I find is a slight chocolate leading to a fresh roasted coffee bean note. This caught me by surprise and I really like it.
Finish: The spice has come back again. Almost tingles down and then back up on to the tongue. More of the salted honey and pepper with a touch of cinnamon. This one has a bit of everything but never feels disjointed. It evolves instead of fighting itself. And it leaves me feeling satisfied. I need to keep reminding myself that this is their core release which is readily available and will not disappear quickly like previous batches. Being only roughly 5 to 7 years old there is definitely a touch of youth that shines through but it’s not off putting in any way. I also do love that there is still an evident “Dingle” note found in this bottle, which ties it in with the batch releases.
As I finished this glass off, I kicked back and looked over at the photo that I took myself, that is now poster-sized and hanging in my kitchen of Dunquin Harbour. I pictured myself with this bottle sitting on the bluff up above the winding pathway, the wind blowing in off the ocean and just taking it all in as I was so lucky to do once before.
Cheaper blended whisky, in general, tends to get scoffed at when it comes to seasoned whisky drinkers. Too busy chasing their unicorns, single casks and cask strength bottles, a fair number of that cohort tend to pass by blended bottles on the lower shelves. If they grab anything at all, it’s likely to have a Jamieson’s or Johnnie Walker label slapped on it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some fairly bad blends out there. A “Lost in Dramslation” podcast episode was entirely dedicated to some of these bottles that made you say, “WTF?”. That being said, if you ask around, do your research or even just take a chance on some of the blends you see on the shelves, you may just find your new favorite daily drinker. Plus it won’t break the bank, allowing you to save up for your next fancy bottle.
Like Irish whiskey in general, blended Irish whiskey is going through a bit of a renaissance as well. Even on the upper end, bottles like J.J. Corry’s The Gael offer phenomenal value. For just over $100 CAD, you get a blend that has up to 28 year whiskey in it. Try picking up a Compass Box blended scotch like that for less than double the price. No chance. On the cheaper side of things, there’s more to Jamieson’s than their standard green label bottling. On top of that, there’s West Cork, Flaming Pig, Dublin Liberties (Dubliner) and so much more. What makes Irish blends intriguing is that they are a blend of grain and single pot still, which is itself a mixture of malted and unmalted barley. This helps to separate their profiles from blended scotch, sometimes dramatically.
With the help of Park Whiskey Society’s own resident Irish expert, Sean Kincaid (@seankincaid), I was directed towards the distillery whose bottle I’m reviewing today. Kilbeggan holds the bragging rights as the oldest continually-licensed distillery in Ireland. Established in 1757, Kilbeggan has had a pretty storied history. At the heart of the distillery is the town of Kilbeggan itself. Through thick and thin, openings and closings, the residents of Kilbeggan have played a major role in keeping their distillery alive, or at least licensed for hundreds of years. Now owned by Beam Suntory, Kilbeggan is riding high on the latest Irish whiskey revival.
Kilbeggan Traditional Irish Whiskey is their entry level offering. Unlike most Irish whiskies, it is only double distilled. It’s non-age stated, probably colored and chill filtered and is bottled at 40% abv.
Nose: The one major issue I have with this whiskey is that as soon as you pour this into your glass, you get a moderate paint thinner note that can be a bit off-putting to some. If you let it sit for at least 15 minutes, it does go away. Replacing that is a very strong green apple note. It’s worst feature turns into it’s best so do be patient with it. Underneath all of that green apple is some youthful grain and malt notes. A little barley sugar and light caramel for sure. The vanilla and mild cinnamon I get off of this is probably thanks to the ex-Bourbon barrels this was matured in. Over time, some pineapple shines through. The vanilla is more of a vanilla wafer now.
Palate: The entry is light and sweet. Green apple, vanilla custard and caramel. The transition into the development is slow and gradual. On the front end, the tropical notes start to creep back. As I keep swishing this around my mouth I get a tiny bit of oak, some clove and black pepper as well as some rich milk chocolate. That milk chocolate note continually builds into the finish. It’s a nice balance between oak, spice and sweetness.
Finish: On the shorter side of medium, but not surprising for the abv. The spice is gone immediately, but the chocolate and oak stick around for a while with a little bit of citrus thrown in for good measure.
With water added…
That green apple note has faded away considerably. The tropical notes are now bubbling to the top. I’m getting a little bit of ginger now as well. The caramel is more of a toffee sweetness and there’s a splash of oak. The entry is substantially creamier and mouth coating now. The black pepper is a little stronger, but so is the oak making, this a little spicier and more bitter than when sipped neat. There’s also a very faint, youthful metallic note towards the backend of the finish. I’m note getting quite as much chocolate as I did without water. The finish has a bit more oak and some toffee. It’s not quite as balanced as it was before.
When I first poured this whiskey, the paint thinner note kind of turned me off. However, I gave it a second chance recently and after I waited for that note to fade away in the glass, I really started to enjoy this one. For me, it’s turned into the perfect “after work” starter dram. Something I can sip while making dinner or nagging my kids to do their homework.
To be honest, I’m not sure that I will buy this bottle again. Instead, I would pay $10 more and get my hands on another bottle of their single grain (corn) expression. That’s another one that wasn’t a favourite of mine to start, but turned into a delightful summer dram once I gave it a chance to shine.
We’ll be reviewing all four of their available expressions including their unique take on rye and their fantastic single grain.