Trader Joe’s Single Malt Irish Whiskey

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 pure single pot-still product. Lightly citrusy, with some slight smoke like smoldering wet grass and citronella candles. Toward the end nutty hazelnut butter and toasted almonds, and a bit of bitter charred wood.

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.

Trader Joe’s Single Malt Irish Whiskey
40% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $20
Acquired: (Bottle): Trader Joe's in San Jose, CA. $20

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  • I’m curious if this release will continue under the new Beam ownership of Cooley. They have been reigning in stocks to ensure enough for releases under the Cooley label, which Hasn’t ended well for independent bottles.

  • and I meant to say “reining” in stocks, although I guess you could say they’re ruling over them as well, but that doesn’t fit with what I was trying to say.

  • How strong is that ash-y aftertaste? That’s what ruins Tyrconnel and Connemara for me, so if it’s strong then I won’t bother having a friend get a bottle for me.

    • I would say it’s not nearly as obvious as it is with Connemara. I’ve only had the Madeira-finished Tyrconnell, where I didn’t notice any ash, peat, or smoke at all, so I can’t compare.

      I had to taste it several times before I even noticed the peat – it’s that subtle – but if you don’t like Tyrconnell or Connemara, and this is probably a vatting of younger versions of those two malts, I doubt you’d like this either. On the other hand, it’s only $20 ‘wasted’. 😉

  • I was intrigued whilst at Trader Joe’s to spy a “house” branded Irish: Single Malt and double distilled. Aged in American Oak for a somewhat short time. Well, for $20 how can one lose.
    At first taste I have to say, not bad at all. As was mentioned in an earlier review, “eminently drinkable”. Somewhat tame, although Irish most often does not come off as bold. The Trader’s offering would be a good place to begin an appreciation for whiskey in general and Irish in particular.
    This will be a nice new member of my collection.

  • Given the low price, a single malt and it only being aged for 4 years (or so), I found it to be an enjoyable dram. However, I have decided to experiment with it by pouring it into my own 2 liter charred, new oak barrel for further aging. We shall see what happens…

  • Sounds like great value. I enjoyed the review.

    “It’s not as elegant and well-balanced as single-malt scotch”…

    There is as much bad scotch as there is good stuff. Not all of it is elegant or well balanced.

  • Just saw my TJ’s carrying a TJ’s Single Malt Irish Whiskey which looked almost like the one described here. Except the price is 24.99 and the label says “Aged 8 Years”. Think it’s the same/worth it?

    • Hi AmyC, I haven’t seen that one at my TJ’s, but it sounds like a good price. Does it still say “County Louth, Ireland” on the side? If so, it’s probably older barrels of the same whisky I reviewed above. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the same level of quality, but $5 more for 4 extra years sounds like a deal to me. 🙂 Cheers!

  • I just bought the TJ’s Single Malt Irish Whiskey for 24.99 and “Aged 8 Years”. I would have to insist that this is an authentic “single pot”, having tasted many. I am buying a case of this. Seriously, this is a superior whiskey. It’s wonderfully fragrant on the nose, has layered, delicate accents, well balanced, and lingers pleasantly but doesn’t overstay. Eminently drinkable. It doesn’t scorch the palette and it doesn’t SUCK, like Jameson’s, which is only fit for a dire medical emergency or to kill slugs in the garden. Yes, I know, down in Middleton this is blasphemy, but just use your tastebuds!
    There’s plenty of bad, trailer park whiskey out there. Treat yourself to something nice, and at $25 a bottle? Fugedaboudit!