Thursday 14 November 2013

Celtic Casks Trí, Ceathair, Cúig

A haon, a dó, ... a trí, a ceathair, a cúig... The Celtic Cask count continues to climb. Aon (1) and Dó (2) came at the end of last year, and as 2013 winds up the Celtic Whiskey Shop has released Trí (3), Ceathair (4) and Cúig (5). (And word is we might get a Sé (6) by Christmas too!)

All are bottled at 46% and, of course, are not chill-filtered or coloured. They come in wooden presentation crates.

Celtic Cask Trí Irish Single Grain

This grain whiskey was aged for ten years in first-fill bourbon casks (7 Jun 2001 - 7 Dec 2011), then finished in a second-fill 250 litre Mallorcan red wine cask before bottling.

(The first fill of that wine cask was the original, fondly remembered Tyrconnell Ànima Negra finish. The cask is now on display in the shop.)

Along with Teeling's wine-matured Single Grain and the standard Greenore Single Grain, there are enough expressions for a grain category at next year's Irish Whiskey Awards, perhaps.

Official tasting notes:
Freshly baked cookies, caramel toffees, banana bread, dried citrus fruits and Demerara sugar. 
Initially sweet with great mouth-feel & a buttery, soft texture. Well integrated flavours of toffee, milk chocolate, custard creams leading to more citrusy fruit flavours. A sweet finish with flavours of sultanas, dates and crème caramel. 
Incredibly long and full bodied for a grain whiskey.
There are 417 bottles, going for €90 a pop.

Celtic Cask Ceathair Irish Single Malt

This Cooley single malt was matured in first-fill bourbon casks for 10 years. In December 2011 it was transferred to a 250 litre cask from Vinhos Barbeito, a producer of exceptional quality madeira.

We are used to our whiskey being matured in fortified wine casks but they are typically only "seasoned" with sherry, say, for two years before being emptied and shipped off to Ireland. The Celtic Whiskey Shop, on the other hand, is somehow able to persuade Europe's finest wine houses to part with casks that have aged their wares for generations. Celtic Cask Aon's Palo Cortado cask was 80 years old. This madeira cask is 60 years old.

The result of finishing in this thoroughly madeira-infused wood is - I can attest from sampling at Whisky Live - spectacular. Official tasting notes:
Highly complex aromas of beeswax, lemon, baked apples, fruit bread, and toffee with some spicy nuances of nutmeg and cinnamon. 
Initially quite dry on the palate then a wave of citrus, melon and tropical fruit flavours hits you. Highly complex fruit flavours including white grapes, ripe galia melon, sultanas, figs and lychees. 
The finish is more warming and spicy with some ginger and cinnamon spice along with some lip smacking tropical fruit.

There are just 377 bottles, at €125. That madeira cask, by the way, has been refilled and stashed away for another few years.

Celtic Cask Cúig Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

This one has a curious story. It's a triple-distilled Irish pot still whiskey, distilled in 1991 at an undisclosed location (well, we can guess) and matured in a first-fill bourbon cask for over 13 years. It then spent the next 8 years out of cask before Ally Alpine, owner of the Celtic Whiskey Shop, rescued it, wresting a mere 107 bottles from the angels' grasp.

The price is an eye-watering €350 which reflects both its rarity and quality. I've tried various single pot still single casks and my initial impression of Cúig (again at Whisky Live) is that it surpasses any of those. Don't take my word for it; there is a rumour that Michael Lawlor might crack open a bottle at the forthcoming Christmas Whiskeys tasting on Dec 4th.
Intense and complex with aromas of dried citrus peel with touches of ginger, allspice and mocha. 
Juicy, complex and spicy. Great depth of flavour. Flavours of dried fruits, boiled sweets, citrus peel and allspice. 
Gloriously spicy and oily. Like an old, heavy pot still whiskey but smoother and more refined.