Mad March Hare, 40%
"They still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse, and white lightnin's still the biggest thrill of all."
I'm not going to reach for Merle references in these reviews, but I'll be damned if I ignore one that's looking me right in the eye. This is poitín, Ireland's fabled "mountain dew," the white lightning of the Auld Sod. (See what I had to say about it in the sidebar at the bottom of the page here.) Mad March Hare got off to a rough start, being set for production at the Rathmooney distillery in Dublin; when that collapsed, they found digs in western Cork, an all-malt, pot stilled spirit, according to founder John Ralph. And that's about all I can tell you about it...for sure. Except how it tastes.
Well, it smells like it just came off the worm. Fruity and a bit feinty, grain, fat, and wet copper on the nose. A rare visual note: it rolls slowly in the glass, like chilled vodka. Ominous. Poitín, of course, has a reputation as a wicked strong and weird liquor, but this is at 80 proof only. Time to put that aside and taste it. It is thicker and a bit oily on the tongue, with a grainy sweetness. Not that hot, and there's an appealing mineral touch, almost like graphite from pencil leads. The sweetness is a bit much, but it's not gross. I'd want to mix this, probably with a bit of tea or light fruit juice, like apple. For all the Mad March Hare look, this is fairly tame, especially at 80 proof.
Egan's Single Malt Irish Whiskey, 47%
|Through a bus window; sorry.|
Spiced fruit and malt in the nose, with some heat and bright bark/pine hints. Quite nice on the tongue, and not clearly identifiable as one or the other...maybe Cooley, but I thought that was cut off by Beam Suntory. Okay, so it's a relatively dry and warm single malt, intensely focused in a tight spot of malt, like a Munich helles, not really wandering into the fruitiness thing. There's a fast flash of heat, then that unrelenting dry, almost dusty malt.
I'm liking that; it's not a whiskey that lets you relax, more like a sergeant of a whiskey. Come on, lad, there's drink to be had here, pay attention! None of this sweet fruit languor for us, hey? The finish is firm, without being overly oaky, but there's a touch of sweet alcohol in the middle that's not quite as happy-making as the rest of this, though it passes quickly. It's a different chapter in the Irish whiskey book, for sure, and that's a plus.
The Palace Bar Single Malt 14 year old, 46%
Dingle Whiskey Bar in Dublin, and really wanted more of this. I'm glad I swallowed my usual reluctance to lay out long green on a bottle (90 Euro), because it's real good, and...it's gone. I got bottle 910 of 1000. It was blended and bottled by the folks at Teeling Whiskey Co. from casks selected by W. Aherne (owner of the Palace Bar) and Palace bar patrons. That's pretty cool.
Now, when you have a whiskey in a bar, with new friends and old, and the craic is great, and the hour is late...well, you have to wonder the next day just how good the whiskey really was. So I was a bit nervous the first time I opened it up. Sigh...no worries.
Doughy sweet malt, orange marmalade, and light baking spices, well-balanced and oh so pleasant. On the tongue, this blows away all the sophistry about "what is Irish whiskey?" Anyone familiar with whiskeys and whiskies would pick this out as Irish right away. The fresh and lively malt so high in the mouth and nose, the happy fruitiness of it, and the light hand of the oak, all come together and make merry, warming and yet cooling at the same time. Whiskey is a mystery. Whoosh, that's good stuff. I am going to draw up just short of that "Stellar" rating, though, if only because it's just a bit on the simple side. I want more depth, and a bit more rounded in the middle, where it gets a little hot. But that's very much on the high side of Good!
Well, Merle, you went out on your birthday. Kind of the way to do it. Hope I hear a lot of you this coming week. You didn't live forever, but you had your share. Cheers, fella.