Disclaimer – This review was completed with a sample of whiskey sent by Lambay Irish Whiskey. This in no way altered the review.
Above me I can hear the cry of gulls as they fly overhead. A sweeping vista of green and the bleating of sheep mingles with the rich blue tone and slow waves of the ocean. On the beach the sand feel soft between my toes, and despite the chill wind I’ve thrown off my jacket to feel that see breeze, and as I look towards the peak of the island I spot a wallaby making his way amongst the rocks. I don’t know if we locked eyes, but I like to think he saw a fellow traveller from his country. This is Lambay.
It wasn’t well known until recently but I worked with Lambay Irish Whiskey for just under a year as their Brand Ambassador, primarily in Ireland but travelling through the UK and Europe attending shows, talking to people and introducing them to a brand new whiskey, with many laughs. I’ve not spoken of it on my blog as I wanted to keep them separate, I feel that if you work for a company anything you have to say about them on your personal blog must carry numerous disclaimers. Generally the best response is simply not to mention them in any capacity, much in the same way that The Dramble stating their editorial lead works for Bimber distillery.
Unfortunately my time with Lambay had to come to an end. When the Covid pandemic hit at the start of 2020, like many people I had a discussion with my work place and we realised I would be unable to continue my work there. So I guess the question is firstly why am I writing about this, and as many people have asked me what did I think of the company? Let’s lay into the second question first.
I absolutely loved it.
My time with Lambay was amazing. I’ve worked through multiple countries the world over with multiple companies, but Lambay will always hold a special place in my heart. The time I spent with them was incredible, as a Brand Ambassador it allowed me to travel to the whisky shows I never thought I would see, taste whiskeys I never thought I would be able to, and helped me refine and hone my host skills and better my tasting proficiencies. The people I met, the experiences, being the only person in a whiskey festival adding salt to whiskey, I loved all of it.
I bear no ill will to Lambay, it was their not their choice or mine for a pandemic to happen but these things just happen, and I know the new Sean Fenny is going to knock it out of the park (check out his twitter and give him a follow, he’s fantastic).
So why am I writing this? As I said I have no ill will towards the company. Since leaving I’ve thought to talk about the company for a while but could never find a good reason, but a small package containing a drop of their new whiskey gave me the perfect reason. So, who are Lambay? It starts with the Baring and the Camus family.
Alexander Baring on the left, Cyril Camus on the right
The family owners of Lambay Island, the Barings, have a long and interesting history. Current owner Alex Baring works with what is called ‘The Lambay Initiative’, a project designed to cultivate and preserve the island for the generations to follow whether his family or others. The family first came to own the island in 1904 when Cecil Baring and his wife Maud Lorillard purchased the island almost on a whim after seeing it advertised in The Field, ‘Island for Sale’. He paid a little over £5000 for it, imagine you could get with that money nowadays.
But for those who love a bit of music trivia it’s the sixth Lord of Revelstoke James Baring that you want to hear about. Aside from flying for the RAF and building the landing strip on the island that remains to this day, he also bought the Regent Sound Studio in London in 1961. While under his ownership and serving as manager a few well known bands and artists would record there, The Rolling Stones, The Who and Jimi Hendrix, real fringe bands I know. It’s a family history that’s quite something to research, and always worth thinking about over a whiskey.
Now that’s a fine list of musicians
The other half of the equation is the Camus family. Headed by Cyril Camus, Camus is a family owned Cognac producer now in its 5th generation. With five generations of Cognac blending and maturation expertise, Master of Maturation Yoneal Barnard selects the cognac casks that will best attribute to whiskey maturation while also looking over the complete whiskey maturation and blending process. Lambay Whiskey would be born from these two families, brought together by the joy of living.
And Lambay island itself, where the whiskey sleeps and finishes in cognac casks within the Sea Cask Room, slowly taking in the impact of the environment which impart unique aromas to the whiskey. Visiting that room was a treat, though I never got to have the room to myself. On a side note, if anyone would like to lend me a kayak no questions asked next time I’m in Ireland that would be grand.
It’s all kept together by Sabine Sheehan, Brand Manager and Global Brand Ambassador. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting Sabine all you need to know is this, she’s one of the hardest working people in whisk(e)y and is a massive music fan.
Tidy place for £5000…..
So what are we looking at today? Lambay recently released the forth addition to their portfolio which has so far included the Lambay Small Batch Blend, the Lambay Single Malt (now sadly discontinued) and the Lambay Single Cask Cask Strength. The new product, the Lambay Malt Whiskey, is a blended malt whiskey comprised of three separate malt whiskeys sourced from throughout Ireland.
Note, while I state this is a blended malt whiskey the Irish Technical File does not recognise the term to the chagrin of many an Irish Whiskey producer. For this reason Lambay has labelled it the Lambay Malt Whiskey.
So what do we know about the whiskey? The term blended malt (which this is, despite what a piece of paper says) means a blending of different malt whiskeys comprised of 100% malted barley, in the case of Lambay malt Whiskey that’s 3 distilleries, one in West Cork, one from Northern Ireland and one from the East Coast, two of which are triple distilled and one of which is double distilled.
Maturation takes place first in ex-bourbon barrels before a finish within cognac casks, some of which are located on Lambay Island. Before bottling the whiskey is cut to 43% with water drawn from the trinity water well on Lambay Island, and then it’s bottled up and shipped out.
Official notes state the whiskey is best served with a pinch of sea-salt, served alongside a slice of your favourite dark chocolate. Notes of malt, floral, ripe banana and fig on the nose with a palate of coconut, malt, dried berries, nutmeg and cardamom before a finish of long lasting malt with lingering sweetness and a hint of spice.
One sample arrived to a curious Somewhiskybloke who decided to dive right in and discover what the whiskey holds.
The nose opens with a bright afternoon in the garden. Hints of mown grass and violets gracefully dancing around, a bowl of walnuts and chopped marzipan on the table next to us. There’s a hint of iron in the air, some pears, bananas and cranberry juice, all nicely relaxing us as we wax a surfboard with grape scented wax. Finally there’s a touch of malt and tobacco coming together, the hints of cognac and whiskey, grapes and grain joining together.
A mouthful gives us a dose of grape and cranberry juice blending together with some crystallised honey and a small drop of vanilla, poached pears, touches of coconut and raspberries mingling with some goji berries dipped in dark chocolate. Tiny touches of iron flecks in there somewhere before a malty finish with light berries and a hint of sugary spice that nicely lets us relaxing into that garden chair and take a look at tomorrows surf report.
The Lambay Malt Whiskey is a great little drop, perfect for after a hard days work in the garden. I’m not joking about the surfboard wax, it really came through for me and took me back to my teenage years of surf prep. Were I near somewhere with some good surf during summer time pre Covid (stretching I know) I could see this as an accompaniment to a nice barbeque and Drapht’s The Music, especially after being tinkered into some cocktails.
Of the portfolio I’d say this is the second best. I’ve always thought the Lambay Small Batch Blend was above and beyond, not just for Lambay but representing one of the best value for money Irish Whiskeys under €50. I’d buy a bottle and mix until I could find the best cocktail for it, and then grab two bottles more.
I think the biggest question this whiskey poses however is what’s next for Lambay? A blending of double and triple distilled Irish malt whiskeys finished in Cognac, as far as I can tell that’s a first, and while being the first in whiskey nowadays is not too difficult it does beg the question of what is next for the little island. When I asked about this I was informed that Lambay is investigating future Vintage releases, each varying taste profiles and cask finishes per release. I don’t know what to make of that, but I’m keen to find out.
Great work to Sabine, Yoneal, Sean, Jean David and anyone I’ve missed, sit yourselves down and have a drink.
This review is not sponsored or endorsed by any distillery/brand, Lambay or otherwise, even though they used to pay me (they no longer do) and is entirely the words of the author Somewhiskybloke.