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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Whiskey Wednesday #9

One last set of Irish, and this one's from my trip back in March. A three-day press jaunt to the new Tullamore Distillery. We were there for the launch of the new 14 and 18 year old Tullamore Single Malts. I got to see some old friends -- Ian Buxton, Mark Gillespie, and Gavin Smith among them -- and made some new ones. We also drank a large amount of whiskeys, and got in a lock-in at the Brewery Tap in Tullamore. It was a good trip.

The new Tullamore distillery is beautiful. The outside has been done in an old style of stone and tall windows (and in 50 years will probably look old, but it's rather fresh, now), but the inside is very modern indeed: spartan, almost, until you see the rubbed copper of the stills.

Now...none of the whiskeys I'm reviewing here were made at the new distillery. Can't be: the distillery only opened last year. Tullamore's been without a distillery since the 1950s. Irish whiskey's had a really rough patch, but it's back up, and this beautiful (and large) new place is just one more piece of evidence of just how well it's doing. We were told that the Wm. Grant company made the decision to build the place here (just outside of Tullamore, where the old distillery was), even though the ground was not of the best for construction, because they realized that the Tullamore Distillery had to be in Tullamore. Good thinking, boys.

Where were they made? The blend, at Bushmills and Midleton. The single malts? It was confirmed, verbally, that they were both made at Bushmills. Moving forward, they'll be made here, but not for quite a while yet. Here's the stuff...waiting.

Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old Blended, 40%
Didn't have the standard bottling handy (must have drank it all), so we'll go with this. Like that one, this is a blend of malt, grain, and single pot still whiskeys (I remember tasting this one next to the 10 year old and thinking there wasn't enough difference to make a distinction. But it's been a while, so let's see.

Definitely Irish: the single pot still fruity grassy notes are coming through, with a warm note of stewed pear that just rings golden in the nose ("rings" and "golden", of course, being a sound and a the organ of scent; just work with me, okay?). Oh, that's nice. The cereal notes are broad in the mouth, sweet and clean, and the fruit blends in, like a creamy hot breakfast. Fairly simple stuff -- I'd like some more wood character -- and just a touch of dry-oat pull at the end, but a nice glass. Does it rise above? Well, no. Mostly it's just nice.

Verdict: Okay

Tullamore Dew 14 Year Old Single Malt, 41.3%
Both the 14 and the 18 are four-wood whiskeys, aged in bourbon casks, then finished in a combination of bourbon, Madeira, port, and Oloroso sherry casks, with the whiskeys then blended in varying proportions to create a harmonious product. We got details, and I'll add that in a future post, but for now...I'm realizing that this is the first time I'm tasting this "off the premises," in the distillery bar and conference area, a nicely set-up place equipped with distiller, blender, and brand ambassador. It's also the first time I'm tasting it healthy: I was sick as a dog on the trip, and stayed sick for a couple weeks afterward. So this is, in a way, my first time tasting these.

Nicely dark gold in color, with a slight shine of green. The nose is of flowers and mixed pastilles, and high notes of rhubarb, with a darker layer of wood and anise underneath. Now, there is the complexity I was not finding in the 12 year old, and it's not simply piled on, either. Warm cereal breadth rolls with dry fruit, flashes of light caramel, and an undulating floor of solid, firmly-edged wood. The anise is a suggestion; pegs in that wooden floor. The finish is soft, with the oak receding and the dry fruit lingering. Nowhere near as sweet as the blend; not a cereal-heavy malt, either. Bushmills knows it needs wood variety to give its light malt spirit something to work with as it ages; clearly Tullamore has learned the same lesson.

Verdict: Good

Tullamore Dew 18 Year Old Single Malt, 41.3%
Distillery ambassador Jennifer Proctor demonstrates just
how much of the 18 year old Suzanne Redmond and I drank...
and then went and had dinner. Normal night.
Different ratios than the 14 year old, and finished longer in the four woods; a minimum of six months. I remember thinking that the 14 year old tasted fresher, and that I liked it more. Then the rest of the group went off to the hotel, which Suzanne Redmond and I took as an opportunity to sit down at the distillery bar with Jennifer Proctor as our willing host...and Suzi proceeded to work on changing my mind by the simple expedient of pouring more 18 year old in my glass. She's a clever one. It worked, but as noted I'm here, and not sick, so let's see how it stands up!

The nose is more elegant, more restrained; the 14 is almost puppy-eager in comparison. Everything blends together in the 18, even and balanced. The cereal notes are here, but so are clear port-rich tones, and that dry fruitiness, and wood like a cradle. The whiskey spreads rapidly in the mouth, floating and pooling. The sweet fire is fruity and rich, but framed by a solid oak press; it has depth, it most certainly has weight, but it also has a freshness, almost like cool water. Much goes on here, and doesn't stop, evolving right to the final wisp on the breath. What was likely a fairly simple malt has been nourished and nurtured to become a multi-faceted gem of a whiskey. Nothing is out of balance. Finishing this sample.

Verdict: Good

[Disclosure: Wm. Grant & Son paid for my trip, lodging, and meals...well, most of them. I got lunch and a surprising number of beers in Dublin before the official tour started. You can do a lot of damage in a short time if you're determined, and Dublin certainly has the opportunities!]


Bill said...

You might consider putting your scale on the side column next to the posts, or placing a link to the scale explanation in your tasting posts -- I keep forgetting that your "yawn" = "good" and your "good" = "better than good"! For newcomers, I think "yawn" comes across as "not good" and then there's either dissonance when your tasting description suggests otherwise, or confirmation that a given beer/spirit isn't good when your description doesn't clearly indicate that you actually think it's fine.

Bill said...

For an example of one where your comments suggest the beer wasn't good when rated a "yawn" -- the Starr Hill Daily Grind Peppercorn Farmhouse review doesn't suggest that you like it or that it's a "B".

Sam Komlenic said...

I kind of agree with Bill. I've been thinking that "okay" might b a bit more flattering than "yawn." That aside, those older Tullamores sound wonderful!

Lew Bryson said...

You guys may have something there. "Yawn" does sound more judgmental than "Okay." Thanks.

Sam Komlenic said...

Hey, you done blogging???

Lew Bryson said...

Jeez, I don't intend to, but it does look that way. I'll see what I can do.

Bill said...

If writing for this blog isn't in the cards, your posting links to the articles you publish elsewhere would be welcome! I check your Twitter feed now and again, but am sure I miss a bunch of stuff. Hope all is well. The overseas trip and the St. Louis trip seemed fun as recounted via Twitter.

Lew Bryson said...

Trying to get motivated, and I apologize. Might get some reviews up, at least.