This one arrived in my shopping cart with a hefty dose of hype. For years, Writers’ Tears was available only in Ireland (or, more specifically, not in the US) and many a whisky-lover enjoined traveling friends to bring back a bottle or two. This was also true of Green Spot, incidentally, before that hit worldwide distribution. This relative scarcity, relative value, and super-drinkable whiskey received both a lot of demand and a lot of industry hype before it finally became available in the US. I snagged a bottle for the very reasonable price of $40 before it sold out entirely.
Produced by the same bottler (NOT distiller) who sells The Irishman blend, Walsh Whiskey Distillery Ltd., (have I mentioned recently how much I loathe NDPs – that’s non-distiller producer – who use the word “distillery” or “distiller” in the name?), Writers’ Tears is a novel vatting of 40% triple-distilled Irish single-malt whiskey “probably” from Cooley (but the source is unknown), and 60% triple-distilled Irish single pot-still whiskey from Midleton, the only distiller of mature single pot-still whiskey — for now! The vatting is aged for an undisclosed amount of time in ex-bourbon American oak casks and bottled without chill-filtration at 40% ABV.
The marketing codswallop (there’s a word I need to use more often) has something to do with 19th-century Irish writers drinking whiskey to alleviate writer’s block, and thus crying tears of whiskey. Cute, but irrelevant. They do rightly make a big deal about no grain being used in the vatting (this is only “blended” by technicality, it’s 100% barley), which highlights the 19th-century Irish whiskey industry’s insistence on the use of only barley in the face of new blended whisky products coming out of Scotland at the time. Back then, fashionable people actually did want whisky that tasted less like whisky, and this trend contributed to the fall of the Irish whiskey industry.
Nose: Reticent nose, even after a rest in the glass. Green apple, soft caramels, a prominent nose tickle (hot), indeterminate nuttiness, and a very faint cadre of spices: caraway (odd) and clove.
Palate: Thin body. A lot more flavor than was promised by the aroma; graham cracker, brown sugar, meaty hazelnuts, crystallized sugars but without being “sweet”. It seems a bit austere, likely from that vaunted Irish triple-distillation, but holds its own with a well-balanced assortment of sweets and nuts.
Finish: Short. A tinge of single pot-still oils, a faint reminder that the category exists, but is otherwise lost here. Meaty and nutty, with hay and fresh cracked oats.
With Water: A few drops of water have little effect on the aroma beyond increasing the nose tickle. The palate seems a little confused, and the finish acquires only a hint of bubble gum. Skip the water.
Overall: A reasonably flavorful dram with a disappointing aroma. I could wish they’d skipped the single-malt portion of the vatting and held back on the watering-down. It might have been worth its $40 price tag at 46% ABV. There is a cask-strength version floating around, which I’d be interested to try. Writers’ Tears is more well put-together and thought-provoking than a blended Irish whiskey, but it pales in comparison to Redbreast 12, which is only $7 more expensive in my state, and has an age statement to boot. It has been pointed out that this style of “soft” and (ugh) “smooth” whiskey resonates with drinkers who don’t want strongly-flavored whiskey. If you think Redbreast tastes too much like whiskey, then maybe Writers’ Tears is for you.
As for me, I won’t be buying a second bottle.