Wednesday 18 January 2012

Concannon Irish Whiskey

I spent a couple of years in Silicon Valley once, oblivious to "California's first Irish-American winery" practically on my doorstep (or at least closer than Napa, which I did visit). It has taken the launch of a new Irish whiskey to finally clue me in to the Concannon Vineyard.

It's run by John Concannon, great-grandson of James Concannon, who emigrated from the Aran Islands in 1865 at the age of 18 and who, remarkably, established himself and a winery in California.

Yesterday, Concannon Irish Whiskey was launched at a party in San Francisco, involving 300 people and a "traditional Irish boxing match".

It's a four year old Cooley blend and, ordinarily, such a young whiskey wouldn't attract much attention. But this one is special. According to Noel Sweeney in the video below, there is quite a high proportion of malt in this blend and some of that malt is finished in Concannon's own Petite Sirah red wine casks for four months. In the finished whiskey, says Noel, you get a berry flavour on top of the usual characteristics of honey, vanilla, etc.

(That video is a rather nice vignette of Cooley's operation. You can spot the cooper, John Neilly, master blender, Noel Sweeney and global brand ambassador, John Cashman. The casks on their sides behind Noel Sweeney look like wine casks; I wonder if they are Concannon's.)

I haven't tried the new whiskey yet but someone who has reports:
I am happy to say that Concannon Whiskey is very nice! The Petite Sirah has given the whiskey a light berry finish that is amazing. I know for some people a wine finished whiskey is not their cup of tea. This is one that works very well.
It will go on sale in February at a recommended price of $24.99 for 750ml. There is no plan yet to release it in Ireland. If I hear more, I'll update this post.