I’ve started to wonder if the phrase “Founder’s Reserve” means the owner held back the good stuffTM, and released this instead. I kid, I kid. Seriously though, when the most inexpensive offering from a company claims to be a “reserve” of some sort, it strains credulity that the whisky deemed not good enough for this bottling was what… dumped down the drain?
The Irishman is a brand of sourced Irish blended whiskey released by the Walsh Whiskey Distillery Ltd. (which is, as pointed out in the comments, officially distilling as of March 2016 – this bottle is sourced whisky, however). Walsh which also sells the very popular Writers’ Tears. Like Writers’ Tears, this is actually not a “blend” in the typical sense. It is a mixture of 70% single malt Irish whiskey with 30% single pot still Irish whiskey, with no column-still grain whiskey in sight. (Writers’ Tears is 40% and 60%, for comparison.) These components are both triple-distilled and aged in ex-bourbon casks. The final product of uncertain age is bottled at the bare minimum 40% ABV.
The company also has a regular single malt.
At $28 to $40 a bottle, this represents a discount of $5 to $10 off of the price of Writers’ Tears, for a different grain profile.
Nose: Peach, marzipan, and honey. Bubblegum. Markedly grainy, with a hint of grassiness and a little glue / industrial solvents, but less so than cheaper blends. The fruit is well-balanced and light, and the sweetness is present but not cloying.
Palate: Syrupy body. Grain-forward, like too-young malt whiskey, but with more honey and bubblegum. Less fruit than on the aroma, but still lightly sweet. Very low tongue burn, but a little two-dimensional.
Finish: Raw honey, tropical fruits (kiwi), and a little drying barrel tannin and charcoal bitterness. Fades with dry woodiness and herbal bitters.
With Water: The addition of a very few drops of water adds banana custard to the aroma and brings out more grassiness on the palate and finish, emphasizing its youth. I would skip water with this one.
Overall: Much better than your typical bottom-shelf Irish blend, but doesn’t rise as high as the better malts or pure pot stills like Tyrconnell or Redbreast. Still, it has a nice balance of lightly sweet and fruity notes with a mild “green malt” graininess that doesn’t ruin the experience. I think I would personally pay the extra $5 to $10 to snag Writers’ Tears, which has a higher proportion of pure pot still, or just go whole-hog and get a much better whiskey with an age statement by buying Redbreast 12-year.
I need to give Redbreast 12 another go now that my palate has matured some. I remember feeling underwhelmed by the one bottle I bought a couple of years ago, which was surprising in light of the fact that reviewers typically rave about it.
It’s just hard to give my money to the Irish when the Scots do whisk(e)y so much better.
I take umbrage with your “very-much-not-a-distillery” comment as Walsh Whiskey Distillery Ltd. very-much-is-a-distillery. They somewhat recently opened a distillery, maturing warehouses and a visitor centre on 40 acres of pastoral land and have a capacity to produce 400,000 cases annually. Granted they are in the embryonic stages of producing their own whiskey, and the reviewed product was sourced as you correctly note, however they are nonetheless actively distilling (a litmus test if you will for very-much-being-a-distillery; whilst the auxiliary maturing and welcoming of visitors is also ongoing). Umbrage aside, I’ll leave on a positive note by adding I fully agree with your “Overall” synopsis.
Apologies, you are correct. Walsh laid down its first spirit in March of 2016, so we should see some non-sourced whisky from them starting in 2019 or so. I will update the post.