Hey Pandas, it’s time for another Irish whiskey. But first, mind the spelling: the Irish assert their difference from the Scots by spelling their whiskey with an extra “e”. During the early 19th century, when Scottish distillers began to produce more whiskies, Irish distilleries who believed their spirit was superior decided collectively refer to their spirit as “whiskey” as a means to distinguish their stuff from Scotch.
Teeling Distillery is a relatively new distillery only established in 2015. Its whiskeys exemplify the two most important elements of Irish distillers, first: a signature light and crisp taste profile and second: a highly innovative distillation team with different styles of whiskey and cask types.
Within 5 short years the Teelings are already the forefront of Irish whiskey distillation. Today, we tasted the Teeling 15 Year Old Single Cognac Cask Finish, and we weren’t disappointed at all!
Distributor: Original Bottling (OB)
Classification: Irish Single Malt Whiskey
Style: Single Malt
Cask: Bourbon, Cognac Cask Finish
Age: 15 Years Old
Behind the Label
The Irish whiskey industry
After experiencing a decline in its whisky industry from around 1919 through till the 1970s, Irish whiskies have more recently made a comeback. Since 2015, Irish whiskey has enjoyed a 13% year-on-year growth in sales. Between 2010 and 2021, the number of whiskey distilleries in Ireland grew from just 4 to more than 32. Some of the most popular brands of Irish whiskies are the Jameson, Redbreast, Bushmills, Green Spot, and our subject today, Teeling.
The most popular brands of Irish whiskey include Powers, Midleton, Redbreast, West Cork, Tullamore D.E.W, Dingle, Knappogue, Connemara, Bushmills, J.J. Corry, Yellow Spot / Green Spot, and Teeling (Image Source: Forbes)
We have discussed why Irish whiskey is beginning to appeal to millennials more than Scotch whisky can. One important reason is the generally smoother taste profile. Another is the unusual and sometimes radical cask experimentation employed by the Irish. Teeling’s whiskey exemplify these two elements, with its signature light and crisp taste profile and highly innovative distillation team.
(Image Source: Teeling Distillery)
A brief history of Teeling
Amongst the array of exciting new distilleries in Ireland, Teeling Distillery is an extremely young distillery only officially opened in 2015 by Jack and Stephen Teeling. Although the Teeling Distillery of today was officially opened in 2015, Teeling’s history stretches back to 1782, Jack and Stephen’s ancestors, Walter Teeling, set up a distillery in Dublin. Within 5 short years the Teelings are already the forefront of Irish whiskey distillation, represented by a phoenix logo which symbolises the re-establishment of the Teelings’ place in whisk(e)yland.
Teeling Distillery looks somewhat like a building out of a Wes Andersen film (Image Source: Teeling Distillery)
Teeling sees itself as a disruptor; the team, led by Jack Teeling, Stephen, and master distiller Alex Chasko, spends a great deal thinking of new ways of creating whiskey. These include making ‘re-imagined’ whiskey with an old Dublin character, and proprietary fermentation techniques. The team pushes possibilities in Irish whiskey-making so much so that a whopping 25% of Teeling’s whiskey production is dedicated to whiskey experiments.
We can see that the commitment is real if we consider that Teeling’s core Single Malt is made with maturation of 5 different cask styles - Sherry, Port, Madeira, white Burgundy and Cabernet Sauvignon casks. The distillery’s spokesperson said that Teeling’s aim is really to “challenge existing perceptions of Irish whiskey” with bolder flavours.
Teeling’s award-winning core range of Single Malt is intended to feature of bolder flavours of dried fruit, citrus, vanilla, spice and cloves to challenge the existing perceptions of Irish whiskey (Image Source: Master of Malt)
As Teeling’s spirit comes of age, we felt that the Teeling’s range of whiskey is well worth exploring to showcase the distillery’s style and character.
Distilled at Teeling Distillery in Dublin, this single cask release is a limited edition selected by liquor retailer Tudor House for their 25th anniversary. This expression has been matured for at least 15 years (presumably in ex-bourbon casks) before being finished in ex-Cognac casks. Bottled without chill filtration and at a natural cask strength of 56.2% ABV.
If you have been paying close attention, you might point out that this bottle is 15 years old but Teeling Distillery was only established in 2015. What’s going on?
To be sure that we weren’t scammed, I went to do some further digging and found that the founders of Teeling Distillery were actual owners of another much older Irish distillery called Cooley Distillery (it produces the Connemara Peated Single Malt). In 2012, Cooley was sold to Beam (now Beam Suntory), but the Teeling brothers managed to negotiate and keep 16,000 casks of aged whiskey.
The Cooley Distillery on the Cooley Peninsular in Ireland. The distillery was converted in 1987 from an older potato alcohol plant by entrepreneur John Teeling- the father of Stephen and Jack Teeling. (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)
So the older age statement whiskey currently sold under the Teeling brand is most likely actually distilled in Cooley Distillery.
And with that, lets dive into tasting this dram.
In the glass, this whiskey is a very pale gold colour that somewhat resembles white wine.
On the nose, very nicely floral and perfumed aromas and a very subtle maltiness. A distinct note of light lemon cake or lemon oil, some honey and some breadiness. Yes, there is also some lavender here. This develops into a distinctive but very slight spiciness of star anise and black pepper as you bring it away from the nose.
On the palate, the first thought that comes to mind is how reminiscent this is of a refreshing chilled sauvignon blanc drunk on a hot day. This is light bodied. Very crisp and bright refreshing notes of citrus and green apples (more like green apple candy actually, than actual green apples that are sour as heck). There is some subtle manuka honey notes. This crispness and brightness is very distinctive of almost every Irish whiskey.
But that’s not all. You would recall that this one was finished in Cognac casks. Unlike straightforward Irish whiskey, there is an added dimension (perhaps 30-40%) of moderately sweet dark fruits – red raisins, prunes, and some hawthorn candy flakes (山楂). This develops to an oaky vanilla texture and a little bit of dark chocolate and roasted nuts. There is also a little spiciness of star anise and pepper, but this heat fades surprisingly quickly despite the high ABV.
The finish is medium length, with fading raisins and appley notes. Very light bitterness of ground coffee. There are also some peppermint elements toward the end.
This is great. It combines the lightness and smoothness of Irish whiskey and adds a Cognac twist to it. The high ABV packs a bit of a punch and spice, but the characteristic smoothness of Irish whiskey comes through nonetheless. The Cognac flavours of dark fruits and dark chocolate are well integrated into the foundation of refreshing citrusy notes.
I rate this 3 rainbows for its bright and multidimensional character.
This is also particularly interesting because a comparative tasting with a Teeling Small Batch will showcase the different contributions of the Cognac cask from that of a rum cask. Definitely worth a taste.
Anyone who enjoys white wine – particularly Sauvignon Blanc- would love this. And with its light and crisp profile, this is a great pairing with Mediterranean seafood dishes. Have it with some haloumi cheese and grilled octopus leg from my favourite Greek restaurant Blu Kouzina.