Thursday 23 October 2014

The Irish Whiskey Awards 2014

The second annual Irish Whiskey Awards took place in Kilbeggan Distillery last night. I couldn't be there which was unfortunate as I thoroughly enjoyed the first one.

The awards are organised by Ally Alpine of the Celtic Whiskey Shop and judged by the members of the shop's Celtic Whiskey Club and the Irish Whiskey Society. Everything is tasted blind and I know the number of samples participants had to get through was huge so it seems comprehensive too.

The runners-up are listed on the awards website. I mention only the winners below.

Overall Best Irish Whiskey 2014
Redbreast 21 Year Old Whiskey
This doesn't surprise me at all. It's wonderful whiskey. The other whiskeys that stood out for me over the last year were Teeling's 26-year old single malt and the Celtic Whiskey Shop's Cúig.

Irish Single Pot Whiskey
Redbreast 21 Year Old Whiskey
Irish Single Malt Whiskey (12 years & younger)
Jack Ryan's 12 Year Old Whiskey
I haven't tried this one. Clearly I've been missing out. It was made by Teeling for Jack Ryan's pub in Beggars Bush.

Irish Single Malt Whiskey (13 years and older)
Teeling 21 Year Old Whiskey
I thought this category would be Teeling's this year, but for the 26-year old, rather than the 21-year old. Their 30-year old could easily have taken it too.

Irish Blended Whiskey (RRP of less than €60)
Powers 12 Year Old Whiskey
I don't know what was in the running but last year this category was won by Writers Tears, a blend of pot still and malt whiskeys (unlike most blends which include grain whiskey). I'd still be inclined to give the nod to Writers Tears but it's good to mix it up and it'll certainly encourage me to revisit Powers 12yo.

Irish Blended Whiskey (RRP of more than €60)
Jameson Gold Reserve
My favourite of the Jameson range (though I feel I've never given Rarest Vintage Reserve a fair chance; tastes of that are few and far between, however). I can't think offhand of a current blend I'd rate higher than the Gold. (That said, however, I tried a new blend last night that blows the rest out of the water, and most single malts and pot stills besides. More about that in a later article.)

Irish Single Cask Whiskey
Celtic Cask Naoi
This is not even released yet but clearly the panel members were able to try it. Lucky sods. I'll be hoping for a sip at this weekend's Whiskey Live in Dublin.

Irish Cask Strength Whiskey
Redbreast 12yo Cask Strength
I had some only last night. I rate it very highly.

Irish Single Grain Whiskey
Teeling Whiskey Single Grain
When Celtic Cask Trí came out late last year, I speculated that we might finally have enough single grains for a proper showdown. And here it is, in a new category for the awards.

There's a rumour of another limited edition single grain on the way so Greenore and Teeling might face some fresh competition next year.  

Irish Poitín
Teeling Whiskey Company Poitín

Jack "Three Gongs" Teeling

Irish Liqueur
Coole Swan
If you think you know what an Irish cream liqueur tastes like, try Coole Swan. And then tell everyone how fabulous it is. It has been around for six years now but the word has not reached most bars and shops. That needs to change.

Irish Whiskey Barrel Aged Irish Craft Beer
Franciscan Well Jameson Stout
I can't think of too many barrel-aged Irish craft beers but I do like the effect of whiskey casks on beer so I hope to see more of our many craft breweries giving it a go.

Irish Whiskey Bars of the Year
Leinster: Palace Bar, Dublin
Munster: Dick Mack's Bar, Dingle
Connaught: Garavan's Bar, Galway
Ulster: Duke of York, Belfast
International: Whisky and Alement, Melbourne, Australia
Overall: Dick Mack's, Dingle, Co. Kerry
This is becoming a very healthy category with 33 nominees from around Ireland and another 7 from the rest of the world.

Of the winners, I have first hand knowledge of just one: The Palace Bar, in Dublin. The Palace has gone further than most to showcase Irish whiskey with their Whiskey Palace lounge, and their house whiskeys, including The Palace Bar Fourth Estate Single Malt and the imminent Three Generations.

Dingle is obviously a bit of a hotspot for whiskey now, with the Dingle Distillery and now the overall Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year, Dick Mack's. I hear good things about the pub from the Irish Whiskey Society vice president, Peter White. He's a Dick Mack's regular and has encouraged and assisted their embrace of whiskey this last couple of years.