GSN Review: Clontarf 1014 Irish Whiskey

clontarf-1014-irish-whiskey Here we have a whiskey that commemorates a crucial battle in Ireland that took place almost exactly 1000 years ago.  On April 23rd, 2014, Brian Boru the High King of Ireland fought against Mael Morda mac Murchada the rebellious King of Leinster.  Unfortunately, High King Boru lost his life when some Norsemen in the hire of the Mael Morda slew him as they fled the battlefield.  Because of this, Ireland became many small kingdoms and all of Brian’s work toward uniting Ireland was lost for centuries.

Clontarf 1014 (80 proof)
Visual: Medium-light gold.
Nose: Nutty, caramel cream, and oak wood.
Taste: Light, smooth and sweet with a fair amount of vanilla.  I’m somehow reminded of a maple-frosted cinnamon bun.
Finish: Long lasting sweetness.
Overall: A very dessert-like Irish whiskey.  This will be a good choice for your next Irish Coffee.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Clontarf 1014

GSN Review: 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey

2-Gingers-irish-whiskey2 Gingers, although a true Irish whiskey was created by a Minnesotan by the name of Kieran Folliard.  Folliard was a bar owner who saw bottle after bottle of Jameson’s emptied by his thirsty customers.  Thinking he could come up with an equally impressive product, he contracted the Kilbeggan (formerly Cooley) Distillery to craft a four-year old blended Irish whiskey to his specifications.

As for the two ginger haired beauties portrayed on the label?  They are Kieran’s mother and aunt, whom I assume enjoyed their dram of Irish on occasion. 

2 Gingers (80 proof)
Visual: Honeyed gold.
Nose: Mellow notes of malted grain, more caramel than citrus.  Pleasantly traditional.
Taste: Quite smooth and quaffable.  There is a hint of bitter woodiness towards the end, but in my mind that’s better than too much sweetness.
Finish: There’s a bit of fire here which I find surprising.  It’s not necessarily in the distillation, but I think rather in the blending.
Overall: A well done Irish, which stands up to many of the big boys.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: 2 Gingers

GSN Review: Green Spot Irish Whiskey

green-spot-bottle-1At one time, there existed several “spots” of whiskey including red, blue, yellow and green.  Today, the only one that has consistently withstood the vagaries of time is Green Spot.

Why the name?  Originally the colored spots were used on the casks to designate the length of aged whiskey within.  Simple as that.  It also happens to be one of the few bonded spirits in Ireland.  The license being held by Mitchell & Sons wine merchants.  Most of the bottles are sold in Dublin from their storefront, and in general only about 500 cases are bottled per year.  So, this has been a difficult whiskey to obtain until Pernod-Ricard recently managed to have Green Spot imported into the US. If you can find it, pick up a few for the bargain price of only $50 a bottle.

Green Spot is a blended 7-10 year old single pot still whiskey, aged in new bourbon and sherry casks.

Green Spot (80 proof)
Visual:  Golden yellow.
Nose: Rich, sweet and malty.
Taste: Smooth and rich with a mellow spiciness.  Definite peppery notes come from the bourbon barrels and the sherry barrels give it a wine-like sweetness that comes through at the very end.
Finish: A lot of interesting character develops rapidly.  Sweet, then peppery, then woody, then vine-fruit, then malty, and a rustic sensibility.
Overall: At first it seems like a typical Irish single pot still, but there’s more than that going on here, than let’s say what you find in Redbreast (another of my all-time favorites).  Green Spot has a bit of terroir which for the life of me, seems elusive.  It’s almost as if Ireland itself has been captured in the bottle.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Irish Distillers

GSN Review: Tullamore DEW Phoenix

S1244-2The town of Tullamore in Ireland has a long and interesting history of firsts.  The original distillery (no longer extant) was built in 1829.  Daniel E. Williams (the D.E.W. in the name) who became general manager in the 1880’s brought electricity, telephones and motor cars to the town.  In a very real sense, he brought the town into the modern era through whiskey.

The other notable event which took place in Tullamore was the world’s first major aviation disaster.  On May 10, 1785, a hot air balloon crashed in the town and the resulting explosion caused well over 100 homes to burn down.  And yet, this tragedy drew the community together, and like the phoenix, they rose and rebuilt the town again.  To this day, they hold a yearly Phoenix Festival, and their coat of arms depicts a phoenix rising from ashes.

So, to commemorate these two key events, Tullamore DEW has debuted a limited edition high-proof whiskey.  A triple distilled blend of grain, malt and pot still whiskies, it is aged in old oloroso sherry casks and bottled at 55% ABV.

Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix (110 proof)
Visual: Sunny gold.
Nose: Lots of woody top notes, layered with vanilla essence.
Taste: Smooth and almost chocolatey with a creamy mouthfeel.  Lots going on here, due to the higher proof.  Adding a splash of branch water brings out more caramel and vanilla with a dry, bittersweet edge.
Finish:  Remarkable and long-lasting.  There is a richness and body here, which few Irish whiskies have attained.
Overall: A lovely whiskey which should be in every enthusiasts bar.  I hope that they decided to produce it on a regular basis.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Tullamore D.E.W.

GSN: Backbar Review – September 30-October 4, 2013

indexPernod Ricard’s Irish Distillers has extended its Redbreast Irish whiskey brand with a new 21-Year-Old extension. Rolling out this month, Redbreast 21-Year-Old is made from a malted and unmalted barley mash, triple distilled in copper pot stills and then matured in a combination of American Bourbon barrels and Spanish Oloroso Sherry casks. The new entry is currently available across the U.S.—as well as in the U.K., France, Ireland and Germany—priced at $180 a bottle. Redbreast 21-Year-Old marks the ninth single pot still Irish whiskey in the Irish Distillers stable, as well as the brand’s oldest offering to date, joining Redbreast’s existing 12-Year-Old, 12-Year-Old Cask Strength and 15-Year-Old variants.

indexSidney Frank Importing Co. is aiming to reinvigorate its Jägermeister liqueur brand with the launch of its first U.S. extension, seasonal offering Jägermeister Spice. The limited edition expression hits national distribution today, priced at $22.99 a 750-ml. Jägermeister Spice (25% abv) uses the same 56 different herbs, blooms, roots and fruits as Jägermeister Original, but highlights the vanilla and cinnamon spices to give it a warmer taste profile.


indexCampari America’s Cabo Wabo Tequila brand has expanded its range with Cabo Diablo, a new coffee liqueur. Featuring a color-changing label, the 35%-abv offering is made with a blend of Cabo Wabo Blanco Tequila and Arabica coffee liqueur. Cabo Diablo will be available this fall across New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Wisconsin, priced at $22.99 a 750-ml. The coffee liqueur joins Blanco, Reposado, Añejo and Uno entries in Cabo Wabo’s 100%-agave portfolio.

indexPernod Ricard is extending its Paddy Irish whiskey brand with two flavors, a honey offering to be known as Bee Sting, and spiced apple-flavored Devil’s Apple. Paddy’s new flavors are launching in the U.S. this month, backed by a millennial-targeted marketing campaign titled “Sleep when you’re 30.”


indexSan Francisco-based Anchor Distilling has released Berry Bros. & Rudd’s Blue Hanger blended malt whiskey in the U.S. for the first time. Now in its seventh limited release, Blue Hanger’s current edition is comprised of one hogshead of Bruichladdich 1992, one butt of Bunnahabhain 1990, four hogsheads of Miltonduff 1997 and two hogsheads of Bunnahabhain Moine (peated) 2006. Blue Hanger 7th Limited Release will be offered exclusively in the U.S., with a total of 3,088 bottles available, priced at $99.99 each.

indexFormer Sidney Frank Importing executives Rick and Sarah Zeiler have launched a new shot brand, Coldcock American Herbal Whiskey. A Bourbon infused with herbs including green tea, hibiscus, eucalyptus, cinnamon and ginger, Coldcock is 70-proof and retails at $19.99 a 750-ml. Already present in California, Georgia and Indiana, the new brand is launching in New York, South Carolina, Tennessee and Nebraska today, and will soon hit New Jersey, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois and Texas.


imagesBeam Inc. is extending the John DeKuyper & Sons Crave chocolate liqueurs range with the launch of Crave Chocolate Truffle. The new flavor is available nationwide with a suggested retail price of $17.99 a 750-ml. bottle. Chocolate Truffle (15% abv) joins Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Cherry and Chocolate Chili in the Crave range of flavors.



hollynog-Project1-2Pewaukee, Wisconsin-based Midwest Custom Bottling, bottler of RumChata, is launching Holly Nog—a new spiked eggnog—in the U.S. this holiday season. Made with wine and Wisconsin dairy cream, Holly Nog (owned by Midwest Custom Bottling, while RumChata is owned by Agave Loco) will be available at both liquor stores and wine-only stores, as well as in the dairy aisle of grocery stores. The 14%-abv entry comes in 750-ml. bottles, priced at $9.99 each.

indexJack Daniel’s is introducing a limited edition Master Distiller #1 bottle, honoring founder Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel, nationwide this fall. The 750-ml. bottles, which were previously only available in Tennessee and duty free shops, are currently hitting shelves at retail locations across the U.S. ($24.99). Master Distiller #1 is the first in a new series recognizing the seven men who have held the master distiller post since the Jack Daniel Distillery began producing nearly 150 years ago. In addition to Jack Daniel, the list of master distillers includes Jess Motlow, Lem Tolley, Jess Gamble, Frank Bobo, Jimmy Bedford and Jeff Arnett (currently in the position).

indexSerge Imports’ Exclusiv has debuted a new brandy-flavored vodka, XO Napoleon. The new expression will be priced at $10 a 750-ml. and will initially launch in New Jersey, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. Exclusiv XO Napoleon (35% abv) uses 5- to 18-year-old brandies for flavoring and achieves the brandy coloring through the traditional French method of including caramelized sugar. XO Napoleon marks the brand’s tenth offering.

indexDiageo is debuting a new single malt Scotch offering, Talisker Storm, in the U.S. market. Launching nationwide this month, the non-age-stated whisky is matured in oak for a minimum of three years and retails at $66 a 750-ml. Part of Diageo’s Classic Malts collection, Talisker is the only distillery on Scotland’s Isle of Skye.



indexBeam Inc. is set to roll out a new batch of Booker’s Bourbon handpicked by whiskey experts in the coming days. Booker’s Bourbon Batch No. 2013-6 will hit shelves nationwide in early October, priced at $49.99 a 750-ml. The new offering is 126.5-proof and has been aged for seven years. Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe honored his father’s tasting tradition of sharing bottles with friends by hosting his own Booker’s Bourbon Roundtable, which consisted of a select group of whiskey advocates, writers and experts.

imagesBeam Inc. has launched Ice Surge—a new liqueur brand—in select U.S. markets. Targeted toward the shot occasion, the 70-proof range includes Tropical Freeze (pineapple and mango) and Frozen Berry (raspberry, blackberry and açai) variants, both of which are said to combine fruit flavors with a unique cooling sensation. Priced at $16.99 a 750-ml., Ice Surge will initially be available across 20 markets.

imagesPernod Ricard’s Seagram’s gin has added Red Berry Twisted, a gin infused with raspberry and strawberry flavors and aimed at the at-home cocktail occasion.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily

GSN: Backbar Review – September 2-6, 2013

indexIrish Distillers has introduced a new single pot still Irish whiskey, Powers Signature Release. The whiskey will roll out in the U.S. and Ireland beginning this month. Powers Signature Release has been matured mainly in American Bourbon barrels, with the subtle inclusion of whiskey matured in Oloroso Sherry casks. The extension, first unveiled at Whisky Advocate’s WhiskyFest Chicago in April, is the second single pot still whiskey to join the range, after Powers John’s Lane. Concurrent with the debut of the new expression is the announcement that Powers Gold Label is also being given a new packaging and new recipe, featuring a higher abv (43.2%) and will be non-chill filtered (also rolling out in the U.S. this month).

indexAustria’s Mozart Distillerie is set to launch its Mozart R.G. Chocolate Cream liqueur in the U.S. early next year. Made with a blend of gourmet chocolate, vanilla, fresh cream and cocoa butter, Mozart RG Chocolate Cream is aged in Bourbon oak casks for a minimum of six months. The new offering is positioned as a super premium extension to Mozart Distillerie’s Mozart R.G. chocolate liqueur range, which includes Gold Chocolate Cream, White Chocolate Cream, Black Dark Chocolate and Dry Chocolate Spirit expressions.

indexAbsolut vodka has launched Absolut Amber—a new oak-aged expression—in the North American travel retail channel. Handcrafted by master blender Per Hermansson, Absolut Amber is created using a blend of Swedish, American and Bourbon barrel-aged spirits and oak-macerated spirits. According to the company, the 40%-abv offering is a “transformative” product designed to blur the line between white and dark spirits. Absolut Amber is currently available at JFK International Airport, Miami International Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, as well as in Panama’s travel retail segment and select on-premise venues, with additional markets in the pipeline.

indexDiageo has unveiled the 10 single malt Scotches set to launch under its annual Special Releases series this year. The limited edition lineup will include a 37-year-old Lagavulin (1,868 bottles available); 12-year-old Lagavulin; 28-year-old Talisker (3,000 bottles); 21-year-old Cardhu (6,000 bottles); 28-year-old Singleton of Dufftown (3,816 bottles); 36-year-old Convalmore (2,980 bottles); 21-year-old Oban (2,860 bottles); Caol Ila Stitchell Reserve; 34-year-old Port Ellen (2,958 bottles); and 35-year-old Brora (2,944 bottles). Ranging in price from around $108 to $3,030 a bottle, the series will be available across the U.S., Northern Europe and select Asian markets starting this fall.

indexCampari America’s X-Rated liqueur brand has introduced Tropix, a new pineapple- and coconut-flavored offshoot. Made with French vodka, Tropix is a yellow-hued liqueur targeted toward off- and on-premise cocktail and shot occasions. The new offering is also being positioned as a low-calorie, female-friendly option, claiming to offer 81 calories per 1.5-ounce serving. Rolling out this month, Tropix will be available in 375-ml., 750-ml. and 1-liter formats, priced at around $24.99 a 750-ml.


indexCampari America has extended its Wild Turkey brand with Wild Turkey Spiced, a new flavored Bourbon offering intended to compete against spiced rums. Retailing at $22.99 a 750-ml., Wild Turkey Spiced’s sweet and spicy profile is said to resemble spiced rum and is suggested to be consumed neat or with cola. Campari says the 86-proof entry is positioned as a male-targeted trade-up from spiced rum and is intended to bring rum drinkers into the Bourbon fold.


indexBeam Inc.’s Jim Beam Bourbon brand has launched Jim Beam Maple in the U.S. A blend of natural flavors and Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey, the new 70-proof entry features brown maple, wood and caramel notes. In national distribution this month, Jim Beam Maple retails around $15.99 a 750-ml.


imagesTrinchero Family Estates has created a new rum brand, Sugar Island, to join its spirits division, TNS Brands, which was launched last year. Made with Caribbean sugar cane, Sugar Island features spiced and coconut-flavored expressions, both retailing around $18.99 a 750-ml.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily

GSN Review: Powers John’s Lane 12 Year Old Whiskey

irish_pow7Powers has been a part of the Irish whiskey scene since 1791.  Originally founded at John’s Lane (hence the name) in Dublin, they moved to the Midleton Distillery in County Cork almost 40 years ago.  Their two main products are the Powers Gold and the Powers 12 Year Old Special Reserve.  This latest release in their small but excellent portfolio is a blend of two pot still whiskies.  One is aged for a minimum of 12 years in ex-bourbon casks, while the second is matured in ex-Oloroso Sherry barrels.

Powers John’s Lane 12 Year Old Whiskey (92 proof)
Visual: Rich golden honey.
Nose: Light and with more caramel notes than oak or citrus.  Toasted coconut, fresh saddle leather, and oak stave.
Taste: Rich and lightly peppery with more hints of toasted nuts, oak, and a touch of honey at the very end.
Finish: Fairly long and intense with a perfect balance of sweet and spicy.
Overall: An exceptionally well made Irish whiskey, deserving of a dram on special occasions.  In spite of the higher proof, not much water is needed to open it up.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Powers

GSN Review: Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey

Kilbeggan-Irish-Whiskey-TubeIrish whiskey is the fastest growing spirit in the US right now, so it makes sense that more and more are making their way to our shores.  The latest is one of the oldest.  Which seems like a conundrum, but it makes for an interesting story.

The distillery was founded in 1757, but exactly 200 years later the distillery closed due to the effects of prohibition and economic troubles from two world wars.  However, in 2007 (250 years after it opened), it began whiskey production again under the supervision of the Cooley Distillery who had been making whiskey under the Kilbeggan name at their distillery in County Louth.  We can look forward to Kilbeggan whiskey crafted at the original distillery from the world’s oldest pot still made over 200 years ago in 2014, when it will be ready for sale.  Until then, we have this version, which is still mighty fine.

Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey (80 proof)
Visual: Medium gold.
Nose: Rich, malty and sweet with caramel overtones.
Taste: Malty with a dry edge, almost a salted caramel taste.  No citrus and just the right touch of wood.  The body is a bit thin, but the flavor is rich.
Finish: Sweet notes go on, and leave a warm autumnal flavor on the tongue.
Overall: Well done, but more reticent than other blended Irish whiskies.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Kilbeggan