Tuesday 21 January 2014

Celtic Cask Sé

In the space of little more than one year, the Celtic Whiskey Shop has already released six bottlings in its Celtic Cask series, enough for a great evening's tasting at the Whiskey Palace recently. The shop's owner, Ally Alpine, magicked up a bottle of each - even of the sold out Dó (2) - and poured them for a full house.

In an exotically-accented two-handed act, the shop's Stephen Magennis introduced the range and its whiskeys while Ally revealed how he coaxed empty vintage casks from wine producers around Europe and fine spirit from Ireland's whiskey producers. It was a relaxed, fun and informative night in the perfect venue.

Celtic Casks 1 to 6. Photo courtesy of Stephen Reilly ©

The latest Celtic Cask incarnation, Sé (the Irish word for "six", pronounced "shay"), is double-distilled crystal malt whiskey from September 1991 that spent the subsequent 21 years in a hogshead. (The use of crystal malt is unusual in distilling but it turned up in Bushmills' 1608 Anniversary Edition a few years ago.) The precise origin of this Irish whiskey hasn't been made public but it's one of a large consignment of casks that ended up in the Teeling Whiskey Company's warehouse.

The contents of two hogsheads were transferred into two first-fill red wine Ànima Negra casks from Mallorca supplied by Ally. Seven months later, in November 2013, one of these casks was bottled as Sé while the other continues to mature.

As I said, we had the chance to sample all six of the Celtic Casks side-by-side. There were murmurs of appreciation from at least one corner of the room for each whiskey, and voting on the favourite at the end was thoroughly split. Each will have their own preference among this very diverse range that encompasses all styles of whiskey from the widest possible range of Irish distilleries, finished in a diverse and original selection of casks.

My favourite is Cúig (5), which is an unfinished pot still whiskey but next is Sé, only slightly behind. It's lovely stuff. Here are the official tasting notes. Sounds good, right?
Aromas of fig jam, dried apricots, mace, citrus and pineapple. 
On the palate it is fruity and densely textured with flavours of apricots, exotic spices and dried fruits. 
Warming and spicy on the finish.
There are just 328 bottles of Sé, at 46% ABV. The price is €195.

We will be seeing plenty more of these marriages between Irish spirit and wood from Ally's wine suppliers. There are currently about 20 casks of whiskey stashed away, quietly transforming in their own time, to be released only when they are good and ready.

[There will be a tweet tasting of Celtic Cask Sé on Wednesday, January 22nd at 7:30pm GMT. Follow @Celticwhiskey for details]