So I’m in the middle of an Irish whiskey tour. And we’re asked “Does anyone drink Irish whiskey normally?” I, of course, raise my hand.
“That’s great! What’s your normal brand?”
Oh shit. I draw a blank. I can’t quickly explain that I’m addicted to trying everything, that I drink just about every single thing. But at the same time, I can’t just say the Irish whiskies I love, because they are really high end and I’ll look like a snob. Then the German tourists on the tour will be offended when I say a dick joke to make up for it.
So I try and think of a standard whiskey. My mind races, I could say anything and I say… “Connemara”.
Makes sense, right? It’s peated. It’s Irish. Sounds like something I’d drink. The tour guide looks sad though.
“Connemara is an Irish whiskey. However it’s made using more of the Scottish method. Double distilled, peated malt. Not the best example, unfortunately.”
So later on, I realized that I had only ever had the standard, NAS offering from Connemara. Granted I’ve had the cask strength and the non-cask strength versions, however given it came to mind when I went completely stupid, I should really try others.
So I’m back out at Dingle Whiskey Bar and they have both the age stated ones I’ve never had. That I assume is on my to-do list. But isn’t, but I’m an idiot who doesn’t check lists before making assumptions.
Connemara 12 is up first. 12 years, peated malt, not cask strength. From what I could find, this is pure ex-bourbon cask whiskey.
Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Colour: 7.5Y 9/6
Nose: Smoke, chocolate, raspberry, apple, cinnamon, butter, roses
Initial rush of smoke tells me this is a young peated whiskey, and not just false advertising. That’s for the best. Glad that I don’t have to be that paranoid.
Some chocolate, some fruit, and some nice spice. Given some time they’ve even coached out some floral notes that are well developed. It works.
Taste: Rose water, peat, cocoa, heather, cantaloupe, pear
More floral from before, which was quite nice. It goes back to a rougher younger peat after that though, so if that’s not your thing, you may want to hold off.
Luckily it is my thing. The floral actually mixes with the peat to give heather, which a lot of people usually get from non-peated malts and assume is peat. So that’s a new moment.
Finish: Smoke, cinnamon, apple, embers, fruit salad, cereal, cocoa, graham cracker
The smoke is more raw again, though some of it has that nice cinnamon element to it. It’s on the cusp of complexity.
That said, lots of fruit here, some heat/cinnamon, and graham cracker. So you know, that good dessert that you shouldn’t like because it costs $5 to make and is super simple, but somehow works? Yeah, that’s this finish.
Conclusion: Nice malt. They need to work on this a little more to start competing with other peated malts out there. It’s starting to get there, but I feel like the lower alcohol content is pulling the subtle things out.
I enjoy this for what it is: They’ve made an interesting malt, and there’s some interesting floral elements going on. This is quite a bit better than the NAS standard that’s out, and I’d frankly say most people should skip that one and jump to this immediately.
Connemara 22 is the oldest Connemara. Or at least, it was. There may be some single casks that are older. It was released in 2014, and I couldn’t find any age stated ones in a cursory search, but I’m going to say someone has found an older Connemara by now.
Let’s see how this one tasted.
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Cask Type: First Fill ex-Bourbon barrels
Colour: 7.5Y 8/10
Nose: Violets, buttered scone, pop rocks, light brown sugar, orange Madeleine, malt/cereal, chocolate biscuit
That floral aspect from before has really gone bonkers and is the main note here. Lots of light baked notes, butter, and well developed flavours. Little bit sprite-y on the nose.
Love the malt on the nose. Also love that the peat has gone all chocolate. Because I like chocolate. Granted most people who have seen my gut figure that one out off the bat.
Taste: BBQ pork, caramel, graham cracker crust, lemon dill, soy beans, pear
Big molasses and smoke notes. Great caramel, more developed butter, and then it goes kinda dill and umami.
Which can trip you up, let’s be honest. You go from saucy meat to dessert and then over to citrus herbal thing. I wasn’t completely thrown off, though it is a little at odds with itself. Luckily this happens slowly.
Finish: Digestives, rye bread, seaweed, dry, arugula, balsamic vinegar, light molasses
Dry finish. Lots of umami again. Almost gone are the sweeter notes, any molasses, though they linger on the edges.
Have to say it’s too light and dry at the end. Or too far from where it started.
Conclusion: An interesting malt that shows you can be really complex, and really confused about life, all at the same time. I loved the nose. It’s like getting the right kind of floral chocolates, or the right kind of orange baked goods. They are rare, but exist.
Then the taste has this interesting BBQ pork taste, then goes to more of an Asian cuisine flavour, and then eventually is quite dry. It’s not completely leaving you behind, however it is hard to square the finish with the nose.
Overall it was quite nice to sip on though. Really was happy to try it, and if at a higher Abv. I’d imagine it’d be truly amazing. Gotta hunt down some of those single casks.
World Whiskey reviews #241-242, Ireland reviews #59-60, Whiskey Network reviews #1061-1062