Writers’ Tears, a blend from the makers (not distillers) of The Irishman blend, Walsh Whiskey Distillery Ltd., is a vatting of Irish single-malt (probably from the Cooley distillery) and Midleton single pot still whiskey. Read my review of the standard Writers’ Tears here for more.
I felt about the standard bottling that it could do with less watering-down, and along comes a Cask Strength sample for me to verify that assumption! Walsh releases a yearly bottling of the Writers’ Tears Cask Strength (around 2000 bottles a year) with a different label and packaging, and it does not appear to ever make it to the US market. The whiskey is aged in first-fill American oak and bottled without chill filtration. The 2014 edition is a respectable (but not extreme) 53% ABV.
Apologies that my review is from a release four years out of date, but I doubt anyone is going to want to run out and pick up a bottle after reading this. I do hold out hope that recent releases have had better results.
Nose: Abundantly apple-y, with both fresh crunchy apple and farmyard cider. Hot, with a lot of grain on the nose and a large-ish helping of vodka-slash-paint-thinner, which largely dissipates with a rest in the glass. Some caramel, dried coconut, and ripe banana. A rest in the glass also reveals a not-quite-bitter walnut note and butterscotch frosting.
Palate: Medium bodied, waxy or oily. Big flavor here – cascades of nuts (pecan, walnut), meaty coconut, unfiltered apple cider, some bitter barrel char, and chewy burnt caramel and toffee. The bitterness grows, alas, as the taste evolves. Quite tame at 53% ABV, very drinkable.
Finish: Medium-long. The black walnut and bitter charcoal persist, quite obscuring the rest. Fades unpleasantly with more of the same.
With Water: A small splash of water has little apparent effect on the aroma. The palate is softer, with less burn, and arrives sweeter. Still, it progresses into more and more bitterness despite the water, ending much the same way. The finish carries perhaps a touch of apple that wasn’t noticeable before. Water neither helps nor hurts this one.
Overall: I would have been upset to purchase this for the suggested retail amount, and would not likely consider a different year without solid assurances that batch differences would resolve all of the negatives here. First, a nose with heavy amounts of ethanol that must be allowed to dissipate. Second, a progressive bitter flavor on the palate. Third, a finish dominated by more bitterness. On the plus side, the (partial) single pot-still heritage is evident in the coconut notes and waxy/oily palate, and the clarity and punch of Irish single malt delivers excellent apple notes. Still, Redbreast 12 Cask Strength kicks the pants off of this bottling. I’d even prefer to drink the lower-ABV Writers’ Tears for one-third the cost. Hopefully batches from other years are better.