G’day guys and welcome to another in an uninterrupted string of articles on Irish whiskey. In my last article I wrote about Ireland’s exploits sailing the globe, and their connection with the sea. Well in this article I’m bringing you a label that’s ratcheting up the connection with sailing with another unusually oaked whiskey.
This label, Teeling, is one I haven’t had anything to do with until now, so I’m eager to give it a go. Such is the purpose of this site, to explore all the wines and spirits I can get my hands on, especially to try all the different Irish whiskey and bourbon. This Irish whiskey’s hook is that it’s also oaked for a short period in used barrels from Flor de Cana, that famous Nicaraguan rum label.
This label’s claim to fame is being the only one in town since the old Jameson distillery shut down in Dublin, and being a key contributor in the surviving of Irish whiskey. In the beginning of the label, they possessed a distillery in the Liberties area of Dublin, already so popular with distilleries that it was called the “Golden Triangle”. Teeling later sold their distillery to a larger neighbour, William Jameson (no points awarded for guessing who he worked with), only for it to go bankrupt and shut up shop in the Twenties during the economic crash. In the late Eighties, John Teeling, a relative of the original founder, Walter Teeling, later bought another distillery originally used to distill potatoes into alcohol. He converted it into a whiskey distillery to renew the label. Evidently the investment was a success. As not only did Teeling live again, the original distillery was sold to another label in 2011, obtaining several whiskey barrels in the agreement. At present, they are housed in their new distillery in Dublin in Market Square, not far from the label’s original distillery on Marrowbone Street. Hence the name of another of their many whiskeys available on the shelves; a poitin called the “Spirit of Dublin”. Poitin being the Irish equivalent of moonshine or eaux-de-vie; a white spirit of high alcohol content of indeterminate edibility and arguable quality, often made illegally. Poitin, I have to imagine, served the same purpose as eaux-de-vie. An alcohol distilled deliberately strong, drank with little care by sailors with hard lives to get blotto. I haven’t actually tried the Spirit of Dublin yet so I can’t speak for whether or not it reflects this medieval definition. But what I am here to determine is the label’s next bottle in the food chain is like, their small batch. I’m not going to pretend either, that their usage of rum barrels didn’t catch my eye. Exactly how the rum barrels came to be in the possession of the Irish I couldn’t turn up anything on unfortunately. So let’s give it a go.
The bottle is black and defined. Weighty and centred, almost muscular in its body. The label paper is textured. Being small batch, it has some involvement of which batch precisely it is on the bottle, not which specifically however on it though they do list the bottling date.
As I attempt to open the bottle, the paper label tears offs. It does this a few times until I give up and reef it off where the wrapping is cut to tear away from the cork, looking torn and untidy. I feel like a kid again trying to get the price tag off a DVD. (DVDs, remember them? And CDs. I can’t be the only person still using them because I want them to work the first time, thanks for nothing Bluetooth) Eventually I get to the cork. I expected to be greeted with a nose of thick brown sugar and molasses, contributed by the rum barrels. To my surprise, the nose is that of dark, melted cooking chocolate. A sickly sweet nose, expected of a liqueur. I pour myself a glass over ice, I expect the nose might change, but to my surprise it almost disappears completely. All I can make of it is a faint spice nose of barley, something like The Famous Grouse, a Scotch peated so lightly neat you’d swear it isn’t there at all. So now I drink, by this stage I think “Surely now, the rum barrel must show itself” but to my astonishment, nothing even vaguely resembling rum. So by this point, I’ve ruled it out as a hook. Some little trick of the trade maybe, but this certainly doesn’t show itself as a main factor. So let’s taste this again with no real expectations. The taste is not one typical of Irish whiskey. Jameson is smooth, Tullamore Dew is smooth, this is almost like water were it not for the finish of cooking chocolate, identical to the nose. And it burns deeply and hot inside my chest, like a solid helping of Cognac. It’s amazing how all of these contributing factors come together and it comes out tasting so clean but almost empty of all those tastes typical of all the things it’s made of; barley malted and unmalted, both kinds of oak it’s barrelled in.
In closing: This whiskey fits into the same sort of Irish classics like my last article’s feature, Bushmills. Of labels that have been around for hundreds of years. I encourage you all to try this label, a lot of its taste is unexpected and surprising, difficult to describe accurately. I think I’ll pour myself another. Cheers.