Saturday 3 August 2013

The Gathering Single Malt 11 Years Old

Do you know what The Gathering is? It's ten thousand different enticements to come to Ireland during 2013. It's hard to describe but, by way of example, here we all were two weeks ago, riverdancing along Dublin's quays:

Well, maybe not all of us. That weekend I was at another gathering, just behind the dancers on the bridge, in the Convention Centre. That was the Alltech Gathering, an International Craft Bewing and Distilling Convention.

Ads in the UK and the US, and on Facebook and elsewhere are inviting everyone to come to Ireland and meet others with similar interests or similar surnames or similar hair colour or whatever. Just come!

On your way home again, you might want to bring something of The Gathering back with you. Chances are, you will be passing through an airport with an outstanding selection of Irish whiskeys. To commemorate 2013 and its special theme, The Loop (at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports) has teamed up with the Teeling Whiskey Company (TWC) to create a unique souvenir.

It's an 11-year old single malt whiskey, called The Gathering. It's a vatting of several casks, all ex-American bourbon, apparently. Two casks are from 2001 (that's where the 11 years comes from), another is a hogshead of 21yo crystal malt (Bushmills used crystal malt in its 1608 anniversary edition a few years ago) and, finally, there is "a dash" from another 21yo cask just to tie it all together.

There is no indication where the malt was distilled but the "single" in "single malt" means it all came from the one distillery.

It's bottled at 46% so it's not chill-filtered. It has a very healthy colour that is all natural. There are only 1,000 (very attractive) bottles in this release, hand-signed by Teeling's master blender, Alex Chasko, and packaged in a substantial presentation box.

It sounds expensive but, remarkably, it isn't, going for just €69.95. At that price, it makes a great gift, and it should sell quickly on that basis alone. But how does it taste?

The Loop very kindly gave me a whole bottle to explore at leisure (a rare event but a welcome one, because it gives me a chance to really get to know a whiskey. Full disclosure: I was also treated to lunch at a Michelin-starred restaurant for the press launch, which has never happened to me before!).

Teeling aimed here to showcase what Irish whiskey can be by starting with the typical smooth, sweet Irish profile, then adding layers of complexity. When I take a nose of it I'm reminded of stepping on board a tall ship, with that mix of hemp, tar, wood and varnish, but it's not overwhelming and it doesn't swamp a note of fresh apple.

The taste is that of a very spicy Christmas cake followed by a long, lingering finish of peach yoghurt with echoes of creaminess, fresh fruit and a hint of sour.

There is nothing I would want to change about this whiskey. I'm really enjoying it. We are promised further collaborations between TWC and The Irish Whiskey Collection at the airport but this first one is already a winner, and a steal at €70.