Clonakilty Distillery TalkDram Tasting
Clonakilty Distillery is located an hour away from Cork City in the south west of Ireland on the Wild Atlantic Way and has been producing pot still spirit since 2019 when production started at the new distillery site.
Founded by the Scully family who have been farming in the area for 8 generations they have set out to produce the finest single pot still spirit. Then again, who sets out to create the 2nd best spirit they can? Interestingly they are using there own barley as well as that of local neighbours to produce their spirit. On top of that they are also looking at using heritage barley varieties that may well give them a different take on the pot still category. Keeping theses varieties alive and in use in whiskey production is to be applauded though.
While we wait on Clonakilty's own spirit to mature they have been sourcing whiskey from other distilleries to bring a single grain and blends to market. My first introduction to them was at Whiskey Live Dublin last year (remember those heady days when you could actually attend a whiskey festival?) when I managed to nab a sample of the Cognac Cask finish distillery exclusive.
So when I saw that TalkDram Tastings would be offering a Clonakilty tasting I naturally though signing up was a no brainer especially as it afforded an opportunity to try the pot still new make.
On offer in this review then are three blends and the new make pot still.
First up is the Double Oak which contains 50% 4 - 12 year old single malt with 50% 10 year old grain that has been matured in x-bourbon barrels and then finished in Virgin Oak casks and NEOC (New Era of Cask) which are ex-red wine casks from Bordeaux that have been shaved and re-toasted. This is bottled at 43.6% and is available for the price of £46.95 from Irish Malts.
Next is the Port Cask finish which contains 10 year old triple distilled single malt and 9 year old single grain before being finished in Port Cask from the Douro Valley. Priced at £45.95 from Irish Malts.
Third on the list is the Cognac Cask finish which is a vatting of a blended spirit that has been further matured in one 1st fill ex-cognac casks and two 2nd fill ex-cognac casks for a period of 19 months. This is bottled at 47% and is priced at €63 from the distillery shop.
Finally I take a look at the new make pot still.
Clonakilty Double Oak 43.6% abv
Nose: immediate white pepper - then fruit - peach, pear, dried banana, salted butter, lemon peel and pines needles, juniper and pencil shavings with a faint aroma of 7 Up.
Palate: very creamy - vanilla, cream soda, agave syrup and light malt. Becomes savoury and herbal - juniper, lemon thyme, orange peel, toffee apples and ginger ale.
Finish: a drying finish with menthol, pepper and oak tannins.
Clonakilty Port Cask 43.6% abv
Colour: Setting sun gold
Nose: again a bit of an alcohol hit with herbal notes and a dry pepperiness - then red fruit - raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and a balsamic reduction. Some mango too. Almonds, furniture polish, raisin and ginger.
Palate: Nice creamy mouth feel again - a little prickly heat of alcohol and oak tannin initially which gives way to sweetness. Stewed berries, sticky port, caramel and then turning herbal again with dried lemon and orange peel, quinine dryness which leads to milk chocolate and hazelnuts.
Finish: Wood spices and a hint of chocolate.
Clonakilty Cognac Cask 47% (Distillery Exclusive)
Nose: Initially sweet then floral. Honey, apple strudel and cracked nuts - walnuts and hazelnuts. Fruit salad sweets and fabric softener.
Palate: Not really as sweet as the nose suggests - stewed apples studded with clove and cinnamon bark. Allspice & ginger heat. Light toffee notes but limited flavour progression.
Finish: Short and dominated by ginger heat and cocoa powder.
Clonakilty Pot Still New Make 58% abv
Colour: ummm....it's new make
Nose: Stone fruit - unripe apricot and peach with a real salinity too. Then pepper and pot still spice. Green malt, honey, strawberry towards the end.
Palate: Really oily and viscous - cereal flapjack sweetness - honey, nuts and malt, strawberry laces. There is an earthiness here too with plenty of spice bite.
Finish: sliced lemons with a little saltiness too.
So while the blends are fairly solid with the Port Cask probably just acing it for me slightly over the Double Oak but they have serious competition at the price point which is hard to look past. Frankly I found the Cognac cask underwhelming. (UPDATE: Ewan Paterson from the distillery kindly reached out to me and explained that the sample I got of the Cognac Cask at Whiskey Live was batch 1 and only had a 5 month finish in the cognac casks. Batch 2 which is listed above in the details had a further maturation of between 18 to 24 months in the cognac casks and the distillery feel this is a superior batch over batch 1.)
Take Black Bush and Jameson Crested or Black Barrel out of the equation (I mean for the price I hate to keep repeating myself but Black Bush is nigh on untouchable) you still have the likes of The Silkie or the uber impressive Dark Silkie. The Pearse Lyons Original 5 year old, Teeling Small Batch, Writer's Tears and Irishman Founders Reserve.....all cheaper and in some cases a much better experience (I'm using Irish Malts as a price guide here folks).
Yes these Clonakilty have their own thing going on but I don't think they capture my attention enough that I'd rush out to buy them over some of the options listed above.
Saying all that the real surprise was the pot still new make which was delicious and bodes well for the future of Clonakilty's own spirits.
Next up from Clonakilty are the Collaborations blend range. More on that to come.