Spirits Confidential with Max Solano
Whiskey Up! For St. Patrick’s Day
As St. Patrick’s Day quickly approaches, it, just like other “holidays,” sometimes takes on other meanings in addition to what they originated as. March 17th is a day of celebration, which includes imbibing many types of Irish beverages, from whiskey to beer to poitin! But Saint Patrick’s Day is the feast day of St. Patrick, who is the patron saint of Ireland, if you have not put 2 and 2 together! He was born in Roman-occupied Britain in the late 4th century, was kidnapped at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave. He eventually escaped but returned around 432 to convert the Irish to Christianity. By the time of his death on March 17, 461, he had established monasteries, churches and schools. Many legends grew up around him. For example, one states that he drove all of the snakes out of Ireland and used the shamrock to explain the Trinity. Ireland came to celebrate his day with religious services and feasts. It was even rumored that the potential origin of whiskey started with St. Patrick himself, although I would not be wagering my money on this last one!
It was Irish immigrants, particularly to the US, who transformed St. Patrick’s Day into a largely secular holiday of revelry and celebration of all things Irish that we are accustomed to today. Cities such as Boston (of course), New York and Chicago with large numbers of Irish immigrants, staged the most extensive celebrations, which included elaborate parades. Of course, many of us, who are not even Irish, use St. Patrick’s Day just as another excuse to libate. So, if you feel compelled to break out your finest green wardrobe and drink on this day, here are some delicious and unique whiskeys to really bring out the Irish in you!
LAMBAY (Single Malt & Blended)
Although Lambay is not a distillery, the whiskey is named after an isle off the east coast of Ireland that is a natural preserve. The whiskey is offered both as blended and single malt expressions produced by an award-winning craft distiller located in West Cork in the southernmost part of the country. Lambay, partially owned by Camus Cognac, is the very first Irish whiskey to be double matured and aged in Cognac casks for up to six months. The single malt, however, once dumped into the Cognac casks, is shipped to the Isle of Lambay where it’s aged and influenced by the maritime environment before being shipped back to West Cork where it’s bottled. Lambay is produced in the traditional Irish whiskey manner where it’s triple distilled. And, if you’re wondering why there’s a puffin on the label, it represents the most abundant protected species of bird on Lambay. Definitely, a new and unique experience!
DINGLE (3RD RELEASE)
The Dingle distillery first started laying down whiskey for aging in 2012 and in 2016 began putting out its first release. The distillery is located in a converted sawmill in Milltown on the outskirts of Dingle in the southwest region of Ireland. Dingle produces both single malt and single pot sill whiskeys. Produced in very small batches, this single malt third release is triple distilled and double cask matured in both ex-bourbon casks and finished in port pipes for several months.
Brand new to the Las Vegas market is the oldest expression and newest release by the famed Mitchell & Son Co. (New Midleton/ Pernod Ricard)—the Red Spot 15-year Single pot still Irish Whiskey. Mind you that the Mitchell family’s relationship with John Jameson spans over six generations. Originally, the Mitchell family were wine merchants at approximately the turn of the 19th century who began supplying the John Jameson distillery with many used wine casks for aging Jameson’s whiskeys. Years later, the Mitchell family decided that they wanted to get into the whiskey business and started procuring whiskey from the Jameson distillery for themselves. Because they were new to the business, barrel maintenance was not a skillset they yet possessed, so they started adding blobs of different colors of paint on the barrels to indicate the approximate ages of their whiskeys. Along with the Green and Yellow, the Red Spot represents the oldest of the lineup.
Red Spot is traditionally triple-distilled and aged into three individual types of oak casks: ex-bourbon casks, Spanish oloroso sherry butts and Sicilian Marsala wine casks, for no less than 15 years underneath the streets of Dublin. Then, the three are vatted together and bottled. It was definitely love at first taste for me!
The name “Connemara” derives from the name Conmacne Mara, which is an early tribal grouping that had various locations situated in different parts of Connacht, Western Ireland in very close proximity to the ocean. This whiskey is quite unique and made at the Cooley Distillery that was established in 1987 from a converted alcohol plant by John Teeling. Cooley happened to be the very first independent whiskey distillery to open in Ireland past the 1960s merger of the remaining whiskey producers creating the Irish Distiller’s company.
So, what makes Connemara so unique? Traditionally, just about all Irish whiskey is triple-distilled, which is appealing to many people that are not into the bolder Scotch-style whisky. However, just like almost all Scotch, Connemara is distilled twice. Secondly, when we think of smoky whiskies, we also traditionally think of Scotch, not Irish. However, Connemara was the very first Irish whiskey in modern times to be made how traditional Scotch was by using peated malt and giving it that distinct and rich smoky profile. Also, whereas most Irish whiskey is bottled as a blend, Connemara is made from 100% malted barley, pot distilled and bottled as an Irish single malt. In the end, more character, more flavor! Enjoy the various age statements, wood finishes and bottling proofs.
So, whichever of these unique fine drams makes their way to you, let’s all raise a glass and toast to St. Patrick’s Day!