Drinking a €5,500 whiskey

“Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like.”

Money has to go a long way these days; the pandemic has indisputably made us tighten our purse strings and be less frivolous with money. And now, it just so happens to be the silly season for whiskey releases; therefore prioritisation is a must, research is vital, and above all else (for me anyway), price is fundamental.

You will see from my reviews that I harp on quite a bit about value for money. After all, my aim from ‘The Beginning’ was to allow The Water of Life’s readers to make better-informed decisions. Rolling back to Belfast Whiskey Week at the end of July, I was very surprised and intrigued to realise that a 3cl sample of the Craft Irish Whiskey Company’s (CIWC) latest release was enclosed within the ‘bonus box.’ Why was this interesting? Well, it shouldn’t have been, considering there were 49 other whiskies. But significantly, this whiskey, the ‘Brollach,’ is priced at €5,500, eclipsing by over ten times the most expensive whiskey that I have sampled, and probably by over 100 times the value of any of the whiskies in the box, which also asks the question how the bonus box itself was comparatively so cheap?

Jay Bradley, a self-claimed whiskey aficionado, founded the Craft Irish Whiskey Company and sister company, Whiskey and Wealth Club. As per the website, Jay uses the CIWC to achieve his mission; re-establishing Irish whiskey, but as an ultra-luxurious product. The CIWC is a whiskey company like no other. They simply are not interested in producing their own whiskey; they’re procurers and self-finishers, which I suppose by definition, makes them bonders. You certainly can’t fault his passion either; born out of a plan his father and he created to reinstate Irish whiskey’s reputation for an unwavering commitment to craft, purity and skill; he has undoubtedly, albeit controversially, raised the profile of Irish whiskey.

The CIWC has now released three whiskies: the Devil’s Keep (29-year-old single malt), the Emerald Isle (unknown age) and the Brollach (20+-year-old), each priced at €10,000, €4,000,000 (offers of upwards only considered) and €5,500 respectively. You are right to gasp. Take, for example, the Emerald Isle, which contains a Fabergé Celtic Egg handcrafted from emerald and 18-karat gold, a Fabergé 22k gold watch, a Cohiba Siglo VI Grand Reserva cigar, and a gold-plated cigar cutter. I can’t imagine the whiskey’s price makes up even 0.02% of this, so clearly, it’s not about the whiskey, which is confusing considering this was recorded as ‘the world’s most expensive whiskey.’ Perhaps it should have been marketed as a Fabergé egg sold with a bottle of whiskey?

Let’s talk about the Brollach, though. This whiskey is ‘born from a bond’ between Jay and his father and is the ‘culmination of a search for an exceptionally rare whiskey of exquisite flavour.’ From an unknown location, presumably Cooley’s, the whiskey has been double distilled and matured in bourbon and French oak Madeira casks for ‘over two decades.’ I’m not sure what makes this whiskey exceptionally rare; is it because it’s a double-distilled Irish whiskey, over 20-years-old, or the fact 661 bottles were produced? Either way, I’m not entirely sure that any of these things make it rare. Perhaps the cask selection, management, and maturation present a rare flavour or maturation, which I would argue is probably the least rare thing about a whiskey.

So, if it’s not the whiskey that makes up the farcical price tag, then what does? To be fair, the presentation is exquisite, not £5,500 worth by any means, but still jaw-dropping. The Brollach comes in a bespoke, handcrafted box and includes four whiskey stones, a pipette, a sample of water, a whiskey sample, and 2 ‘Finn’ glasses. Still, not exactly the millionaire’s menagerie of the Emerald Isle, and certainly nothing to warrant the excessive price tag. So why then does the CIWC charge so much? Well, I suppose they just can. Irish whiskey is a victim of its own success. With the rapid rise and popularity of Irish whiskey, fans are seeing more extortionate pricing and effectively being priced out of it. Less knowledgeable whiskey fans are being taken for a costly ride believing that the liquid inside the bottle must be incredible because something is advertised as exceptionally rare, presented beautifully but usuriously priced. This review will hopefully reveal all.

The Brollach

661 bottles produced

NAS (“Over two decades matured…”)

43% ABV

£5,500 (not including shipping…) (now sold out)

Nose: A real festive concoction on the nose with plenty of raisins, apricots, figs, sultanas coming through very powerfully; imagine a boozy Christmas cake. There’s a fair bit of sweetness too; I picked out some aniseed, bitter cherries and some coconut lingering around too.

Palate: Lots going on, as with the nose. It’s quite creamy, with an assortment of spicy crème brûlée, bitter dark chocolate and creamy sticky toffee pudding. There’s still some festiveness remaining from the nose with stewed apples and spicy Christmas pudding. There’s a slight hint of some spice too, with black pepper providing the warmth.

Finish: lacks a bit of depth to the finish; what I did get, I quite liked. There is, however, some heat generated with the spice, more creaminess and a touch of marzipan to finish.

Summary

Okay then. Honestly, the whiskey is good, but not amazing by any means, and certainly not enough to warrant spending €5,500. I’m not even sure it’s good enough to warrant a €150 price tag. I found it quite sweet in many areas and, therefore, a bit one dimensional. The spice offers up a bit of warmth, but the finish was just lacking. It’s pretty much what I would expect from some 21ish-year-old whiskies, maybe just slightly less.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say this. This whiskey is massively overpriced for what it is. Do not buy this whiskey if you are not a millionaire. There are far better, cheaper and valuable (if you are that way inclined) whiskies that you can buy for your hard-earned money and watch appreciate over time. If you are a millionaire, buy this whiskey, heck, get two! I get the feeling that the only people who will buy this are either incredibly ostentatious or buyers who aren’t relatively as affluent but are easily misled into buying something they believe to be worth the hype.

Personally, I don’t feel that what CIWC have done is wrong; all they need to do is sell a bottle of their Emerald Isle (which they have already done, but gave the money to charity….fair play), and they have won. They’ll sell more, and that’s great for them. I’ve loved having the opportunity to try something priced so high, but I’ll stick to my comparatively budget whiskies at the moment, thank you very much.

Score: In terms of the scoring guide and considering the price, the score reflects the highest that I could possibly go; it is drinkable, it’s not brilliant, as per the scoring guide. If, however, this was priced, say around €100, I’d probably give it a generous 5.

3/10

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