A Night in Belfast Part 2 - Irish Whiskey Magazine & Echlinville Distillery
To get us started, Irish Whiskey Magazine founder and owner, Serghios Florides explained how the magazine in conjunction with Fionnán O'Connor, were doing a series of articles called 'The Seven Sips' which traced the history of whiskey and in particular Irish Whiskey through the ages ultimately leading up to where we are today. One of the articles penned by Fionnán was entitled 'For the Love of Oats' and highlighted the customary use of oats by Irish distillers back in the early 1600's when distillation was very much a farmyard activity. Excitingly Echlinville distillery had agreed to try an experiment with oats in a mash bill leading to the evening we were attending.
Fionnán himself had a background as a brand ambassador back in the day for Diageo helping to establish the Bushmills Single Malt line up as well as hosting whiskey classes in Bourbon and Branch, a speakeasy style bar based in San Francisco. He also managed to get UC Berkley to agree to let him teach a class on the history of whiskey! As if that wasn't enough, Fionnán is also the author of the book 'A Glass Apart' which looks at the history of Irish Pot Still whiskey.
Fionnán's knowledge of Irish whiskey history was really second to none and his enthusiasm for the subject was truly contagious. It was interesting to here that through his research through old excise records how prevalent the use of oats (because they can pretty much grow anywhere), wheat, rye and other grains was in Irish whiskey production at the very early stages. This of course was to do with the fact that distillation was happening on farms up and down Ireland and was a good way to use up excess grain before it spoiled. It was through this research that the idea was hatched to try to distill a new make that would hark back to those early days of whiskey production.
Of course although the recipe may be equivalent, todays distillation standard is much, much higher so the final product would be an indication of the past rather than a true reflection. What these old excise books highlight too is that the use of multiple grains in distillation, something seen to be at the forefront of whiskey innovation in todays world especially in the U.S. is actually something that was commonplace in Ireland hundreds of years ago.
So what did the new make pictured above taste like? Here's my quick notes from the evening.
Really doughy, lots of cereal, mcvities rich tea biscuits, some green orchard fruit but the cereal dominates.
Extremely viscous and mouth coating, much thicker than any style of new make I've tried before. Porridge, sourdough bread, biscuits and intense pepper notes. The finish was like licking the glue off brown paper envelopes....sounds rank but I quite liked it!
Still doughy and cereal rich but now with cocoa powder and golden syrup notes
The viscous mouthfeel is still intact. Huge dollop of bitter cocoa, toasted rye bread, nutmeg, raisins and a hint of vanilla.
It was amazing the flavour profile that had developed from just two weeks maturation and it was an extremely interesting dram. Serghios then told us that another evening would be arranged to see how the spirit had fared after 6 months or so of maturation, something that all in attendance were eager for.
Bright yellow gold
Very layered....honey, vanilla, tropical fruits, ripe banana, rum soaked bread and butter pudding, crème brulee.
Medium bodied and oily, sweet but not sickly and matches the nose very well with the honey, vanilla and tropical fruits up front. Banana bread, caramel, toasted almonds with a long sweet finish.
Just a superb tasting whiskey which I would have bought a bottle of there and then. However, Shane Braniff (owner of Echlinville Distillery) who had joined us for the final part of the evening suggested he wanted to let it sit in the cask for another 6 months or so. Personally I thought it was ready to rock there and then, but I don't own the distillery.
It was a very informative and entertaining evening and I very much look forward to the follow up!