The Irish Review: Foxes Bow, Hinch Craft & Casks Imperial Stout finish, Lir Green Crest


I've been rummaging my way through the samples again and decided upon three from Foxes Bow, Hinch and Lir. 

Foxes Bow was founded by Tony Foote and Alice Carroll and they went down the crowd funding route to help get things going. According to the Foxes Bow website that while drinking in a San Francisco whiskey bar, he noticed that none of the bottles stood out as an example of modern, contemporary Ireland. 

Possibly it also helped that Irish whiskey is surging worldwide right now and so why not get a piece of the action, right? I mean I do like the branding, it definitely stands out, but as we all know it's what lies within the bottle that really counts!

This is a no age statement blend matured in bourbon and then finished in oloroso and rye casks. That's all the info I have folks, sorry. It retails for £32/€39.

Next up is the Hinch Craft and Casks Imperial Stout Cask finish. This is a collaboration with Whitewater Brewery in Castlewellan, County Down. They age their Imperial Stout in the ex Hinch casks for 6 months. These are then returned to Hinch who fill the casks with their Small Batch blend and are left for 11 months before bottling. Bottled at a hearty 46.4% abv this expression retails at £35.99

Finally we have the Lir Green Crest. This is the sourced brand from Glens of Antrim distillery, owned by the McKillop family, founders of Glens of Antrim potatoes. The distillery should be complete in 2024 but until then we have the Lir Crest range to pick through. The Green Crest is the entry point and is triple distilled, 3 years old and a portion of the blend is finished in virgin oak. This retails for £36.95.

On to the notes!

Foxes Bow 43% abv

Nose: It smells young. A hint of raw alcohol creeps through. Then we get standard Irish blend green apples, vanilla and floral honey. Some caramel sauce and sweet cinnamon. A hint of orange peel, juniper berry and clove.

Palate: Initially we get caramel covered apple with vanilla and just a hint of sherry. Then we get mild peppery spice, a little clove and some cinnamon laced brown sugar. Towards the end the juniper note appears again.

Finish: Short but leaves juniper, citrus and caramel

Score: 4 out of 10

Hinch Imperial Stout finish 46.4% abv

Nose: Honey & juicy fruit gum. Then some floral grain and nougat. Orange peel, vanilla and a hoppy character. A little cocoa too.

Palate: Sweet malt and corn syrup. Tinned apple, caramel, mild pepper and black licorice as well as some dark chocolate. A touch of rose water too.

Finish: Short with a Cadburys Turkish Delight note and warming spice

Score: 5 out of 10

Lir Green Crest 43.3% abv

Nose: The nose is pretty sharp straight off the bat - spirity with nail polish remover. Then we get into green note territory - pine needles, lime peel and tart green apples. There's some beeswax, sawn oak and menthol.

Palate: There is some honey sweetness straight off the bat followed by vanilla and green apples. It then moves into sour grapefruit and postage stamp glue. Eventually we get some ginger and pepper spice as the virgin oak makes its presence felt.

Finish: Very short with that sour note lingering along with a mild spice

Score: 2 out of 10

Overall: Not a massively inspiring lot on this occasion. Of the three I would happily spend money on the Hinch. It may not be complex but at least it's enjoyable and an easy sipper. Much better than the Small Batch that forms the basis of this blend, the stout cask finish has certainly elevated it.

Foxes Bow make quite a song and dance about their 'unique' rye cask, sorry to say guys but Prizefight beat you by around 5 years. Rye is becoming increasingly popular as a finishing cask or indeed as part of the mashbill, think Dingle La Le Bride, Method and Madness Rye and Malt, Shortcross Rye and Malt just for a few examples. At any rate it's an okay dram for sipping but quite obviously designed as mixing fodder. Not one I'd personally spend money on but it's horses for courses isn't it?

It's time for the part I like least, unleashing Grumpy Phil. But alas the Lir Green Crest is just something to avoid. Poorly executed, excessively expensive and, something I don't often get too hung up on, but really poorly presented. I hate the bottle, it's cheap looking and doesn't do anything to entice you to spend money either from a off licence shelf or from behind a bar. It don't like scoring things this low, I really don't, but at this price there is so much better on offer including the two other expressions reviewed today.

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