Trader Joe’s carries a number of interesting whiskies in the US states in which it has the legal ability to sell liquor. It carries the value peated dram Finlaggan, which despite its youth is a fine fiery peated single malt scotch at an unbelievable price. I thus jumped at the chance to pick up a bottle of their new Single Malt Irish Whiskey. The bottle states that this is double-distilled single malt whiskey made in Ireland by “an independent family-owned distillery in County Louth, Ireland.” That leaves no doubt whatsoever that this 4 year-old (or so) malt comes from Cooley, which is not only the only independent distiller in Ireland today,but also the only family-owned distiller AND one of only two makers of Irish single malt (Bushmills is the other). Oh yeah, and Cooley is located in County Louth. Cooley also makes Tyrconnell and Connemara, both Irish single malt whiskeys.
Update 12/28/2014: Note that Cooley is no longer independent. It was purchased by Beam Global in 2014.
This particular malt is bottled at 40% ABV and retails (at my Trader Joe’s) for a round $20. If you like good whiskey on the cheap, go stock up on this one now.
Nose: Lemon oils and tangerine. Grassy mild peat, somewhat herbal. Glue. Undertone of toasted cereal grains.
Palate: Medium-bodied. This is no
Finish: Lingering. Lemon pervades, fading into walnut skins, charcoal, spent ashes, and a bit more bitterness.
With Water: A drop of water perfumes the nose, bringing some more delicate notes. It also smooths out some of the rough edges on the palate. The added water is an improvement.
Overall: For the price, this is eminently drinkable straight. Certainly it’s not going to win any awards, but with a pleasant lemon nose, nutty/cereal on the palate, and no “cheap blended” aspect in the finish, this is an easy value. It’s not as elegant and well-balanced as single-malt scotch, nor is it as flavorful and textural as single pot still Irish whiskey, but it straddles the line and provides an inexpensive alternative to a palate weary of both. Sku theorizes that this is a vatting of the malts Tyrconnell and Connemara, and I think he’s likely right.