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Monday, 21 March 2011

Kiss My Blarney


Ever felt like you've needed a weekend to recover from the weekend you just had? Well, you can pretty much guarantee that a trip to Dublin for St Patrick's Day will leave you owing somebody several weekends. As we mentioned in our last post, Caskstrength was over for the St Patrick's Day celebrations and specifically to try our hand at a little bit of presenting on Jameson FM, a radio station set up within the old Distillery building in the centre of Dublin. And what a blast we had. Thank you to everyone who tuned in, sent emails and generally made the experience a lot of fun indeed.

On the night before, we met up with one of the most knowledgable chaps we've come across when it comes to Irish whiskey - Kobus Van Zyl, head barman at the Four Seasons Hotel. Kobus was one of our guests on Jameson FM and we thought it would be fun to challenge him to a live nosing competition on the day. After meeting him and seeing the incredible selection of whiskies he has at the bar, we were very scared indeed. Kobus has assembled a dream list of Irish whiskey from rare and vintage bottlings, through to some excellent single cask releases, which are well worth seeking out. Our highlight was one of Connemara's 1992 single casks:


Connemara - Irish Whiskey - Single Cask release - Cask 4293 K92/35 - distilled 4th September 1992 - bottled 28th November 2006 - 46%

Nose: Soft notes of vintage peat (old Ardbeg style), cream soda, fudge, white chocolate and an abundance of fresh vanilla pods. It screams brilliantly matured first fill bourbon cask from every pore.

Palate: The soft peat lingers, with a creamy cereal note following closely, a dash of water revealing some citrus notes and a rich vanilla fudge sweetness.

Finish: More soft gentle peat lingering for a very long time.

Overall: A superb bottling all round. well worth seeking out.

After getting that all too familiar kid-in-a-candy-store feeling, we decided to beat a hasty retreat due to our early start, so headed for a quiet Guinness at our hotel. Anyone who's heading to Dublin looking for a few whiskey gems should visit the Four Seasons- and many thanks to Kobus for being such a good sport!!


Post the mountain of Irish breakfast from a local cafe, (white pudding...Mmmm ) we were ready for the onslaught at the Old Jameson Distillery. The Global Broadcast is now in its 8th year and it's clear that the distillery have a well oiled machine in place. When we arrived, the place looked completely different to how it did the day before; over 30 international radio stations from Chile to Finland had assembled themselves around a multitude of tables in the main distillery building and the place was buzzing with the call signs and jingles from the likes of Boston WFNX, Tampa WSUN and good old XFM from London. It was completely bewildering sight and we decided to have a dram of Irish courage before we went on air- Red Breast 12yo seemed to be the order of the day and after a few sips we were ready for action.


We managed to sneak off for a few minutes in the afternoon to try something rather interesting indeed- sample from a 1996 Jameson 1st fill bourbon cask, which had been bought over from the Midleton Distillery for St Patricks Day.


Jameson - Single cask 42680- 1996- first fill bourbon - 63%

Nose: Soft gingerbread, hints of fresh coconut, milk chocolate, marshmallows and a distinctly peppery fire, from the spirit.

Palate: A very rich mouthfeel, with a hint of spicy liquorice on the tip of the tongue, into soft chocolate covered caramels, creamy fudge and light zesty orange notes. Direct, yet very complex. A dash of water opens up the spice and the soft ginger notes develop superbly.

Finish: Light and fruity.

Overall: A real insight into the maturation process. Jameson fill their casks at hellishly high strengths (we're told around 82%) but the quality of this cask demonstrates just how the wood can temper such ferocity.


Before we knew it, it was 5pm and some very special guests had arrived to close the radio show, which sent a real buzz round the distillery. Mumford & Sons played a perfectly formed, spine-tingling acoustic session version of their album opener, Timshel, which summed up the ethos of the day and got everyone in the mood for the St Patricks day parties, happening all over the world. But there was only one place to be in our opinion- slap bang in the centre of Dublin with a pint of the black stuff in one hand and a whiskey in the other.

See you again next year Dublin!!