Paddy Flaherty has been having a good 2013. The hundredth year of his eponymous blend has seen new label and bottle designs, a Centenary single pot still release, and now two new flavoured variants: Paddy Devil's Apple and Paddy Bee Sting.
To try these new Paddys, I had to defy the target demographic every inch of the way. First, they are not available in Ireland. Not yet, at least. The French and Americans are getting first dibs.
They are also designed to entice the non-whiskey drinker. Flavoured whiskeys like Beam's black cherry Red Stag bourbon have been hugely successful doing just that in the US. The category is already shifting more than 3m cases a year.
The clearest sign that I'm not the target consumer, though, is the overt snub to folks of my vintage. "Sleep when you're 30" is how they are marketing this to the twenty-somethings. Ouch.
I was determined, however, to cross one last item off my bucket list, and enjoy an apple-infused Irish whiskey before age entirely withers me and it all goes dark.
Happily, I have now tried not one, but two, apple-infused Irish whiskeys, since this new drink has different formulations in the US and EU. Irish Distillers' PR company was kind enough to send me samples of both versions.
Americans, apparently, are accustomed to a substantial hit of cinnamon in their apple pie, so they get this bottling a little spicier than we do in the Old World. They also get some edgier branding: it's Paddy Devil's Apple in the US, but Paddy Spiced Apple in the EU.
I enquired into how exactly this liqueur or spirit drink (adding flavour to a whiskey means it can no longer be classed as a whiskey; it's also 35% ABV, below the legal minimum of 40% for a whiskey) is made. Brendan Buckley, Global Innovation & Category Development Director at Irish Distillers (IDL), filled me in:
PADDY Spiced Apple/Devil's Apple is made with PADDY Irish whiskey and premium grain spirit, which is blended with natural apple and cinnamon flavours and sugar in a small batch production process in vats, married overnight, filtered and then bottled. A red Irish apple style flavour was selected for its combination of crisp tartness and smooth juiciness to complement the nutty vanilla notes of PADDY.
How does Devil's Apple taste? The official tasting notes are spot on, so I refer you to those below. The immediate impression from the US version is akin to the hot vapours from a McDonald's apple pie. If you like the flavour of that dessert, you can now have it without the scorched tongue and sticky shirt-front. Although sugar has been added, it's not an overly sweet drink, and I wouldn't have picked up on its presence had it not been mentioned by IDL.
For the European version, the IDL blenders have clearly decided to balance the cinnamon more carefully against the apple. It's a more subtle spiciness here.
Do I like it? Yes, but I knew I would. Whiskey plus apple plus spice, how could I not? I'll take it with the extra cinnamon of the American version, please. I'd gladly sip one of these in a bar, no ice or mixers required.
Official tasting notes:
US Paddy Devil's Apple
Nose: Fresh apple and lively cinnamon aromatics upfront with background notes of cereal grains, malted barley and hints of mellow toasted wood. Undertones of Classic Paddy Irish Whiskey.
Taste: Sweet, medium bodied, spiced fruit - a perfect marriage of crisp, crunchy, red apple tartness and the kick of earthy, spicy, cinnamon followed by mellow maltiness and mild toasted wood notes.
Finish: Long smooth spicy finish with sweet soft fruit, mellow maltiness and toasted wood characteristics followed by lingering apple tartness & spicy cinnamon notes.
EU Paddy Spiced Apple
Nose: Fresh spiced apple with background notes of cereal grains, malted barley, hints of cinnamon and mellow toasted wood with undertones of classic Paddy Irish Whiskey.
Taste: Medium bodied, spiced fruit - a perfect marriage of crisp, crunchy, juicy red apple balanced with spicy cinnamon followed by mellow maltiness and mild toasted wood notes.
Finish: Short, clean, fruity, spicy finish with sweet soft fruit, mellow maltiness & toasted wood characteristics followed by apple tartness and spicy cinnamon notes.
There is also a honey version, called Paddy Bee Sting in the US and Paddy Irish Honey in Europe, again slightly different formulations for each market. I wasn't looking forward to this so much, not being a honey fan.
I liked it more than I thought I would, however. The American one, in particular, reminds me of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, and we know how irresistible they are. Notes of cereal grains, toasted nuts and honey... it's like breakfast in a bottle. The US version is more syrupy and mouth-coating. The whiskey flavour is further in the background here than with the apple.
I was glad to hear from Brendan that the honey is Irish:
PADDY Irish Honey/Bee Sting is made with PADDY Irish whiskey, premium grain spirit, the highest quality Irish honey - which is rich in fragrant floral characteristics and sweet honeycomb undertones - sugar, natural flavours and water.I wondered why IDL chose to release a honey variant, given that Bushmills has already done so, and before them, Beam and Jack Daniel's. Apple and cinnamon sounds fresh and enticing to me, honey sounds more like a "me too" product at this point. According to Brendan, advance market research highlighted the popularity of a honey expression among the target audience. To be fair, honey comes in many different flavours itself and it sounds like IDL were careful to select one that meshed well with Paddy:
...after much research, we selected a specific Irish honey of the highest quality, rich in fragrant floral characteristics with sweet honeycomb undertones as the signature honey style for PADDY Irish Honey. It complements the honey, vanilla, woodland fragrances, nutty maltiness & mild toasted wood notes of PADDY Irish Whiskey perfectly.
Official tasting notes:
US Paddy Bee Sting
Nose: Fresh, full, rich with sweet, floral & honeyed top notes, background characteristics of cereal grains, malted barley, sweet toffee, vanilla, toasted nuts and hints of woodland spices and herbs. Undertones of Classic Paddy Irish Whiskey.
Taste: Distinctive, smooth and mellow with incredibly rich honey upfront, followed by a deep palate of nutty maltiness, vanilla, sweet toffee, and a touch of spices & toasted wood.
Finish: Smooth rich finish. Soft, grainy, malty and smooth honey. Extremely mellow throughout with a lingering aftertaste of honey, gently fading to a slightly drier finish with woodland fragrances, spices and mild toasted oak at end.
EU Paddy Irish Honey
Nose: Fresh, floral and honeyed top notes, background characteristics of cereal grains, malted barley, sweet toffee and hints of vanilla and woodland spices and herbs. Undertones of Classic PADDY Irish Whiskey.
Taste: Distinctive, smooth and mellow with incredibly floral honey upfront, followed by a palate of nutty maltiness, vanilla, sweet toffee, and a touch of spices and toasted wood.
Finish: Smooth rich finish. Soft, grainy, malty and smooth honey. Extremely mellow throughout with an aftertaste of honey, gently fading to a slightly drier finish with woodland fragrances, spices and mild toasted oak at end.