Matt D'arcy & Co Old Newry & 10 year old Port finish blend
It's a time of tremendous resurgence within the Irish whiskey market now. Currently with 37 distilleries now in production and more being added in either the planning phase or actually in construction no province will be left untouched by the presence of Uisca Beatha.
County Down in particular is turning into a hot bed of whiskey production with the old hands of Echlinville and Rademon Estate being joined by the relatively newer whipper snappers at Killowen, Copeland and very recently Hinch Distillery.
Add to that list a planned distillery in Newry under the Matt D'Arcy & Co moniker. Okay...listing this as a County Down distillery is probably incorrect as the proposed site of Monaghan Street lies on the County Armagh side of the Newry River. That argument can be settled another day.
It certainly sounds like an ambitious project with the new distillery actually being built on the original 1817 site of D'Arcy's Old Irish Whiskey. £7.3 million will be spent building the distillery and visitors centre along with a restaurant and Victorian Bar.
While we wait for that project to come to life the backers of the project have released three sourced whiskies to date. The 'Old Newry' blend, a 10 year old Port Cask finished blend and a 17 year old single malt that has had a 12 month finish in rum barrels.
The 'Old Newry' is bottled at 40% and is matured in ex-bourbon barrels, I have no info on the blend ratio of grain and malt and has a suggested rrp of £34.95. (Edit: the Old Newry actually has a rrp of £29.95)
The 10 year old is a blend of 10 year old grain whiskey and 17 year old single malt again in an unknown ratio. These whiskies are then vatted and finished in Port Casks. Bottled at 46%, it is non chill filtered and costs £84.95 a bottle.
I have no details as to where the liquid was sourced but I'd say it's no stretch of the imagination to suggest it came from a distillery in Dundalk.
My samples were kindly provided by Fairleys Wines in Coleraine.
Old Newry Blend 40%
Colour: dry hay
Nose: very floral straight away with a little nail polish remover. Certainly grain spirit forward. Pear drops, vanilla, honey and oak.
Palate: pretty straight forward - honey, vanilla, some orchard fruit with mild spice - white pepper and a sprinkling of clove.
Finish: fairly short with warming spice and lemon zest
10 year old Port Finish Blend 46%
Colour: light gold
Nose: an abundance of wood spice initially. Again quite floral suggesting more grain than malt. Poached pear with cloves, nutmeg and red wine. Stewed apples, hazelnuts and a light polish note.
Palate: a sweet, jammy arrival. Barley sugar and honey, stewed red berries, clove, cinnamon. Ground ginger and pepper heat mid palate. Some milk chocolate and warming oak.
Finish: of decent length with lingering woody spice and stewed orchard fruit
First off the Old Newry. I have to say this was a pleasant surprise. It's actually a pretty good blend, no off notes. Very simple with limited development but easily sipped. However...it is nigh on impossible to look past that price. At £35 you are playing with some big characters among them the Dark Silkie, Black Bush and Jameson Black Barrel. If it was in and around the £20 mark it would certainly be an interesting enough diversion away from the usual suspects of Jameson, Powers and Bushmills White label. (Edit: the actual rrp of £29.95 to me is still a bit too high. I know I'm being picky but that extra £5 really does open the door to extra quality for not a lot more although I would happily drink this and recommend it over an entry level Jameson or Bushmills...consideration does have to be given to the multinational backing these two have behind them).
Second we have the 10 year old Blend. I have to say that this again was a nice surprise. A lovely nose with a palate that matched pretty well. Again not overly complex but well constructed and pretty tasty. But....(there's alway a but isn't there!) it's the price again. At £84.95 this is ridiculously, and I mean ridiculously overpriced for what it is. I mean we are into Redbreast 12 year old cask strength pricing here and the options of scotch at this price that I'd certainly point you in the direction of over this is frankly mind boggling.
Fair enough the presentation of the box and bottle is great but I don't really care about that. It's the liquid that is key and at the asking price it is found heavily wanting. Honestly I wouldn't expect to pay more than about £45 for this whiskey. (Edit: Thanks to Tony Mckeown from Matt D'Arcys for getting in touch about the pricing. So the bottle at £84.95 are a limited run of 2000 bottles to celebrate the reintroduction of the brand after 100 years. There will be a non-gift box release coming early next year with a price of £49.95 which certainly seems much more reasonable.)
But this highlights a major problem for new brands sourcing mature Irish stock....it's getting very, very expensive due to its limited nature. Sadly, it's not a premium I'm willing to pay when there are other much better value options available both within Ireland and further afield.