A Night in Belfast Part 1 - The Friend at Hand


Back in November I got invited to a special launch night in The Friend at Hand, Belfast. (I have been meaning to write about this much sooner but other things kept getting in the way!) If you have never heard of it or been to it, The Friend At Hand is well worth a visit when you are in Belfast. It is located just a stones throw from The Merchant Hotel, down the cobbles of Hill Street at the heart of Belfast's thriving Cathedral Quarter and it is the brainchild of the Duke of York owner, Willie Jack.

Part off-licence, part museum (dedicated to Irish whiskey), it is a feast for the eyes and can be particularly hard on your wallet if temptation takes over. The selection of Irish whiskey for sale inside is truly enviable, even more enviable are the bottles not for sale....an original George Roe & Co, Coleraine 34 year old, old Bushmills, Jameson and Powers bottles aplenty.

Willie has another cunning plan to come between you and your wallet......shop exclusives. However, The Friend At Hand exclusives are not available online, you will have to physically visit the shop. The first exclusive line is a range of 13 year old triple distilled single malt Irish Whiskey bottled by The Quiet Man. Bourbon cask matured, non-chill filtered and bottled at 46% which will set you back £55 (and if you haven't figured it out by now.....the liquid inside the bottle came from Bushmills Distillery).

The next up is a Powers 14 year old single cask single pot still and this was the reason I was attending The Friend At Hand. A few bloggers, industry insiders and Irish Whiskey Magazine (which I will get to in another piece as the evening lasted longer than expected) had been invited to the launch of said whiskey for an exclusive tasting. My notes on this will follow. To get your hands of this particular bottle will set you back £175 and I think the cask outturned around 280 bottles. It is non-chill filtered, natural colour and bottle at 46% also.


Finally, they also have an exclusive 25 year old Redbreast single pot still! Single cask, cask strength at 53.5% and fully sherry matured this little beauty will set you back a not unsubstantial £375! I'm sure that it would be worth it though, perhaps one day I may own one myself.....perhaps.

You can also avail of private tastings in the shop where you can try the aforementioned whiskies although I do not know how much that privilege would cost.

At the end of the launch we were given a little Powers goody bag that included a 50cl bottle of the newly launched pot still. While I was there I also bought a sample bottle of The Friend at Hand 'Reconciliation', which is the 13 year old Bushmills....I mean, Quiet Man.



The Friend at Hand 'Reconciliation'.

Colour:

Clarified butter


Nose:

Quite a soft nose but very fruity - vanilla, banana, pineapple, nectarine, pear drops. A slight floral note and light oak. Water highlights acetone and butterscotch notes.


Palate:

Interestingly the legs on this are much thicker than the official Quiet Man 12 year old single malt, feels thicker in the mouth too. A slightly peppery arrival (think rocket) which mellows to leave honey, vanilla, banana, clove oil and a forceful amount of oak. Water doesn't do anything for it - don't add water!


Finish:

Medium length, peppery sweet and a lots of dry oak.


Powers 14 Year Old Single Cask Exclusive

Colour:

Amber


Nose:

A lovely thick waft of spicy, oily earthiness! Quite green on the nose, loads of herbal notes, cracked black pepper, pencil shavings which give way to  green orchard fruits in the background. A really dense and satisfying nose. Water brings out vanilla, toffee, a hint of coffee but accentuates the herbal quality.


Palate:

Thick, oily legs in the glass which translates into a lovely thick mouthfeel. An instant kick of nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper leads to liquorice, vanilla and honey sweetness and a backdrop of warming oak. Water means the flavours become a little less distinct but definitely intensifies the toffee and coffee ground notes.


Finish:

Again a medium finish that is spicy and warming with a touch of bitter cocoa and herbal notes.



Overall:

Lets start with the 'Reconciliation'. Over on Malt I recently reviewed The Quiet Man 12 Year Old which to be frank is a disaster. It was interesting to try the 'Reconciliation' side by side with it. The good news is that the 'Reconciliation' is a much better whiskey, it seems to me the casks used for maturation were much better quality and the typical Bushmills spirit fruitiness definitely comes through. At £55 I think it is priced a little to high for a bourbon cask matured whiskey but it definitely offers a better experience than the official Quiet Man 12 year old and it is priced the same.

The Powers is a cracking whiskey and I was saddened by the demise of my sample bottle. A really good pot still whiskey but would I pay £175 for it? Probably not, knock £75 off and I would think about it. However, you can only get it at The Friend At Hand, it's very limited in number and is priced according to other Powers Single Cask releases so I can see why the price is what it is.

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