Along comes an Annual Limited Edition (This is the 2016 edition, number #01… I guess the ‘0’ signifies that they have confidence there will be at least 9 more?) called “The Bartender’s Malt”. This is an NAS release assembled via some media stunt involving a cadre of 12 “international” bartenders of some renown, apparently.
The Quiet Man, a new brand partnered with Luxco for distribution, is the first Irish whiskey bottled (and soon, distilled) in Derry, Ireland in more than 100 years. While the distillery is under construction (slated for completion around now, early 2018), the brand sources Irish whiskey with a “high” (undisclosed) malt percentage, and marries the blend in first-fill ex-bourbon barrels.
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 Cash 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.
Hazelburn 12 seems to have come into its own. It has funky, oily notes that lovers of Springbank will know well, but paired with honey and vanilla and pear instead of peat. A pleasant, floral-forward malt with a deep complexity.
The Irishman is a brand of sourced Irish blended whiskey released by the very-much-not-a-distillery Walsh Whiskey Distillery Ltd., 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.
Produced by the same bottler (NOT distiller) who sells The Irishman blend, Walsh Whiskey Distillery Ltd., 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.
As a value malt, this has a few ticks in its favor over the Classic, which it is replacing in the permanent Auchentoshan portfolio. $35 is not an unfair price for this light, straightforward NAS malt.
Auchentoshan 18 is a clean, light, elegant malt. That said, it doesn’t show a great deal of improvement over younger Auchentoshan, and seems to be aged in a way that picks up minimal wood.
If this was once Auchentoshan, the sherry monster murdered it and stuffed it in a closet. While Auchentoshan Classic is understated, vanilla, and crisp, this is resinous, sticky-sweet, and overripe. That’s not to say it’s bad.
The basic 8-year is priced quite high for its age, and for me occupies a no man’s land between affordability and cult appeal. If light whisky is your thing, you owe it to yourself to splurge on one of the expressions of Hazelburn. If you like robust and fully-flavored malts, steer clear.