The Irishman 17
I feel like I always start these reviews with a confession- anyway, I have never tried any whiskey from the Irishman, with only a few expressions (Writer’s Tears) from Walsh touching my palate; therefore, I was more than happy to oblige when Facebook whiskey big timer Martin McShane generously donated some of his self-proclaimed ‘Number 1 whiskey,’ Irishman 17-year-old.
A relatively new whiskey company, Bernard and Rosemary Walsh established Walsh Whiskey in 1999 as purveyors of ‘The Irishman’ and ‘Writers Tears’ Irish whiskey. It’s a family run business with a dedication to reviving Irish whiskey. Fortunately, the Walsh family motto is ‘Never Say Die, ’ which gives an assured determination and context to their objective to restore Irish Whiskey to its rightful place. Their journey has massively evolved over the years. With their resolve, they were able to produce Irish whiskey’s first blends of premium Pot Still & Malt whiskeys, and in 2008 they created Irish whiskey’s first cask-strength whiskey of the modern era. They have also built the largest manually operated distillery in Ireland, uniquely distilling all three styles of Irish whiskey under one roof.
Their process shows their innovative attitude; they have pioneered the world’s first distillation of Organic Single Pot Still and have introduced a diverse range of unprecedented cask finishes. Walsh Whiskey recently unveiled their most recent release, an entrepreneurial first for Irish whiskey, an icewine cask finished whiskey. For those unaware, icewine is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, allowing for a more concentrated grape juice to ferment.
For me, Writer’s Tears appears like the more fun, experimental sort of whiskey, whereas the Irishman is their premium, statement whiskey consisting of blends and single malts. With a more limited, bespoke range, the Irishman focuses on the tradition, process and refinement to distinguish itself.
Their whiskey stands up to the test too: the Irishman and Writers’ Tears premium Irish whiskey took home 4 Gold medals between them in the very competitive Irish Whiskey Masters Competition in August this year, with Writers’ Tears winning two gold medals in the super-premium blended Irish Whiskey and the Irishman winning gold in the super-premium single malt and blended categories.
So then, the whiskey. To mark Walsh Whiskey Distillery’s 17 years in business and a momentous year for the Walsh family with the commissioning of the Distillery at Royal Oak, Bernard and Rosemary Walsh released their ‘highly exclusive’ expression of The Irishman whiskey. The Irishman 17-Year-Old is their ‘superlative’ Single Malt resulting from 17 years maturation in a first fill Sherry Butt. It’s a triple-distilled expression that has been produced at 56% ABV. It is non-chill-filtered and with no added colour, with a limited single cask release of 600 bottles. If you’re quick and get it before it sells out each year, be prepared to part with £110.
Nose: A real Christmassy fruity concoction. First up, there is a toasted malt loaf with lots of boozy raisins, plums, and prunes before going into the Christmas cake. There’s some cinnamon and spicy ginger in there too. Then more sweetness to finish with marzipan and flat cherry coke seductively teasing me.
Palate: Lots more spice again, with cinnamon coming through more, pepper, ginger and clove all taking centre stage. I get some poached pears and plums too, before being wooed by coffee beans and twister ice lolly.
Finish: A lot of warmth, which seems to go on forever. 56% ABV absolutely nails it, with the right balance of sweetness and spice working in harmony.
What a delightful whiskey that is. I am a big fan of first-fill sherry butts, I don’t tend to drink them that much due to the price, but this one is very reasonable. I’m a stickler for price, and the Irishman won’t get off lightly either, and I know it’s limited edition each year, BUT is £110 priced right? Potentially. They can go up to £160 at auction, but it would make me think twice about parting with that sort of money when the competition is intense.
Irishman has always claimed to enrich the flavour, lengthen the depth, and refine the smoothness, and I couldn’t disagree with them here; their passion is evident, and their product shows that.
My whiskey horizons have successfully been broadened, and I look forward to trying more whiskey from Walsh.