Last night I had the pleasure of participating in a Talkdram tasting with Killowen and WD O’Connell. Firstly to Talkdram, you guys are doing some bloody spectacular work and I hope you keep it up. Secondly to Killowen and WD O’Connell, christ you’ve got yourself some cracking whiskeys right here.
While my notes are on twitter and available to read whenever you like that damn 280 character limit doesn’t really help, so I thought I’d pop my full notes down here. I should point out that I wont be going into details about the distillery or the whiskeys themselves but will be including hyperlinks where you can learn all about the whiskeys straight from the source, this is all about tasting notes. Enjoy.
First off the mark was the Killowen Txakolina Acacia Cask, ten years of age and 55.8%.
The nose off this is spicy and heavy on those citrus notes, a plethora of grapefruit and lime zest with a squeeze of passion fruit immediately apparent. Then there’s a touch of mango and deeper still the mango core itself, slightly bitter but providing great balance. Its all dusted and sprinkled with some chai and there’s a stick of incense burning in the background atop a sandal wood bench that’s been scored and scarred by time with a following of a huge banana plantation. The entire dram smells hot and tropical, its a blast of sunshine in the glass and once left there for a few moment its starts to turn thick and pushes out tropical fruit juice, we are in flavour country.
On the palate there’s at first a semblance of the fruit from the nose as the heat of the 55.8% comes through, really accentuating the spice and the wood suddenly comes into the fray like the breakdown of Twisted Transistor but on the palate rather than the ears. Brilliant. Tannins, vanilla, some clove hints and then it returns to the fruit suddenly but we’ve bitten through the flesh and are deep into the core, seeds, pips and pulp. The white of the citrus is evident here but provide a good tannic and spicy mouthfeel that slowly turns waxy with a slight fire, though very pleasant.
Off the finish its all ice cream and sorbet, a waffle cone stacked with vanilla, mango, passion-fruit and a final hint of some old iron pipe water, just like home.
Christ that was an experience. Remember the old adage of too much of a good thing? I don’t know if Killowen have heard that. If they did they’ve probably ripped up whatever they found it on while screaming that nope, they’ll pack all the good things into a whiskey. Except something that’s a particular favourite of mine, that brings us neatly on to the next whiskey….
W.D O’Connell Bill Phil Batch 1, a Peated offering at 47.5%. Damn I miss Peat.
The nose hits wet earth, mushrooms frying in left over bacon fat and olive oil with some soibous and a hint of hugo. Hold on, there’s some orange juice, are we having breakfast? A sweet one apparently, as it turns to parma violets and BBQ grilled pineapple followed by a slice of homemade lemon meringue pie. As one of the founders of Talkdram Omar would say, that’s Dram good. Please don’t take legal action, I have nothing.
The palate is nice wet peat thrown about next to an early morning kelp dump, we jump into the Irish Sea and find a hidden feast of Octopus rings and some lovely lemon juice. Next up there’s a strange addition of some fruity soft drink, fanta, pasito, solo? Oh god now we’ve got some bubble gum, and then its on to hazelnut marzipan studded with macadamia nuts before returning to the seaside at night with a blazing bonfire of salt water logged logs burning all colours of the spectrum. Some brilliant peat right there.
The finish is a mix of a smoldering bark fire beaten down by a slow drizzle and a leftover hungi pit, filled with the intoxicating redolence of hot healthy soil, lamb and pig fat.
I’ve always questioned Ireland’s lack of peated whiskey. On the one hand you have Connemara which is fine, just fine, and then you have W.D O’Connell. It feels like it picks up Ardbeg and shakes it down for its lunch money, that’s the only way to describe it. And while many peated whiskeys fall into the mistake of being one dimensional, it takes you through everything you could want in a dram, incredibly balance and with a complexity like a M. C. Escher painting (google painting with staircases everywhere, you’ll know the one). I can’t fault it for taste, only it’s supply; Batch 1 was only 600 bottles. I’m gonna need this fix again soon guys!
So you’ve got here two distilleries that have seen the way Irish Whiskey works and said nah mate, I’m gonna do this instead. And they’re damn fantastic. I wish I had a smarmy thing to say after that but they are just bloody good. And you should try them.
I don’t make any money off this website. It actually costs me money. But if you want to support people doing something fantastic and real work, considering heading here to buy the W.D O’Connell and here to buy the Killowen Txakolina Acacia. If you don’t like it, contact me and I will send you a video of me shaking my head at you, because you should like these whiskeys.