Malcolm Jolley tastes some interesting Irish whiskeys with their producer, Bernard Walsh.
Bernard Walsh was in Toronto recently and brought with him from Ireland some bottles from the Walsh Whiskey Distillery, makers of Writers’ Tears and The Irishman. I caught up with him, and the whiskeys, along with a small group of journalists and drinks trade professionals at a tasting organized by Walsh’s Ontario importing agents, Woodman Wines and Spirits. Apart from his general fondness of Canada, and enthusiasm for it’s thirsty whiskey market, Walsh was in town because the LCBO is featuring Walsh Whiskey as a ‘Distillery Feature‘ and a much larger array of Writers’ Tears and The Irishman whiskeys than ever.
I first met Bernard Walsh and tasted his whiskey last year when I interviewed him for this GFR post, in which he tells the story of setting up Ireland’s first whiskey distillery since the 19th century, how he fond himself at the vanguard of an independent whiskey revolution, and why pot still whiskey is Ireland’s best. This meeting was all about tasting, as we had a chance to try seven distinct whiskeys made by Walsh with 100% Irish barley since, as he said, “I think Irish whiskey ought to be made with Irish barley.”
The first flight of whiskeys were from Walsh’s The Irishman label, and we began with The Irishman Founder’s Reserve ($54.95). Made in a single copper pot still it had a lovely rich nose and was both weighty and sweet on the palate but also surprisingly fruity. This was a good drink, attuned I think to the tastes of a wino like me. From there we moved onto The Irishman Single Malt ($64.95), wherein the fruit notes were more in the nose and my notes on the taste were “clean, smooth, gentle with a pleasant of bitterness on the finish.” Walsh explained he made this single malt “for people who don’t like single malts.” Point taken. On our third whiskey, things started to get interesting. The Irishman Founder’s Reserve Caribbean Cask Finish ($99.95) made with rum barrels from St. Lucia. Guess what’s on the nose: yup, tropical fruits, and on the palate too, bananas and pineapple with a sweet finish. The LCBO has the only North American allocation of this small batch whiskey. It would make a great after dinner party drink, especially if you got your guests to try and guess what it was. Our last whiskey of the first flight was The Irishman Cask Strength ($189.95) which comes in at 54% alcohol by volume. This whiskey is something else, gentle despite its strength with a viscosity on the palate as well as a herbal and salty character on the finish that really came out when I added, at Walsh’s suggestion, a drop of water to my glass.
Our second flight began with Writers’ Tears Red Head ($69.95) finished in Sherry butts (Olorosso from Gonzalez Byass) and rendolent with fruit including cherry, or more like Kirsch. Walsh whiskeys really do, I think, suit a wine lover’s palate, and this one in particular. This allotment of Red Head is the second or third time it’s been in the LCBO, Walsh explained, and the few thousand bottles they send over always sell out quickly. Our next whiskey kept up the link between Walsh Whiskey and wine: Writers’ Tears Copper Pot Cognac Cask Finish ($99.95). In this glass I found notes of sweet cooked fruit and dried apricots, and an earthiness on the finish. Our last whiskey was the Writers’ Tears Cask Strength ($179.95). At 53% a.b.v. it was a little hot on the nose, but remarkably gentle on the palate, with notes of butterscotch and a little spice. It was very good, indeed.
Find out more about Walsh Whiskey Distillery at walshwhiskey.com.