A warm summer evening, steak on the grill and sun setting through the trees. What better way to relax, clear the mind of the ordinary, hum-drum concerns of the day? A perfect time to enjoy a fine cask aged spirit.
The spirit in question this evening is Connemara, an unusual Irish whiskey, not just because it is a single malt but because it is twice distilled (unlike most Irish which is triple distilled) and most unusually it is a peated malt whisky.
Usually the preserve of those hairy, wool sweater wearing Islay scotch single malts, I was therefore interested to see how the Irish approach the whole “peat” thing.
The whiskey marketing men’s message that “Irish whisky is smoother, lighter and more drinkable because we triple distil and never use peat – unlike those brutish Scots over the water” (poetic licence yes I know) has always been something that I have tended to mistrust. My thoughts: how come a nation that is literaly built on peat – half the nation seem to burn it in their fireplaces regularly – seem so averse to using peat when distilling whiskey? The history books tell of a time long ago when Irish whiskey would have almost certainly have been at least as smokey as anything coming from Scotland.
So to the tasting:
On first taste my concerns that the mouthfeel would be underwelming due to the low (40% abv) strength and therefore certain chill filtration were at least partially laid to rest. All things considered, the mouthfeel here is still surprisingly rich and mouth coating. One can only dream how wonderful and uncious this dram would be at 43% or (and now Im really dreaming!) at 46%abv an above.
There is certainly something special here though. Something uniqely Irish in the detailed character of the peat smoke character. I cant quite define it – something powerful but at the same time fresh, crisp and mentholated. Reminicent of the fragrant Gauloises Menthol breath of random french girls on my first teenage trip to Paris.
The finish: thankfully more satisfying than that first trip to Paris! For starters Connemara doesnt expect you to pay the entire bill and then disppear with her criminally insane boyfriend who, it turns out, was working away in the kitchen of the little restaurant you’ve been dining at all evening. Connemara is more of a class act than that. Bitter sweet hints of vanilla reveal themselves as the herbal menthol peay smoke subside.
A truly memorable Irish whiskey – the very best of the crop – Im scoring Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey 93pts.
I suspect I would award this whiskey 96pts if it stopped being so French, and “went all the way” at 46%abv. C’est la vie 😉
Music to drink this to: Joe le Taxi by Vanessa Paradis. Classic ’80’s French pop. Can’t you just taste the Gauloises?