Lough Ree Distillery – The Bridge – Barley Harbour

As a known whiskey lover in my family and circle of friends, I often get asked for whiskey recommendations for drinking or gifting. You know the answer is never straightforward for those of you who have been in the same situation. What’s your budget? Do you know what the gift-receiver likes to drink? Are you looking for something hard to find or readily available? Peaty, sweet? Do you care about the packaging? Do you prefer any brands?

One such situation was last Christmas when a close friend asked me for advice on what gin or whiskey to gift her long time friend. Since they were both from County Longford and my friend’s mother was from Lanesborough, I thought one of Lough Ree Distillery’s releases would be an appropriate suggestion.

Lough Ree Distillery is one of Ireland’s newer distilleries. They are probably more well known right now for their award-winning gin brand, Sling Shot – a gin that uses peat as one of its botanicals. They’ve only released sourced whiskeys so far, and The Bridge Series is their collection of single cask releases. To date, there have been 12 named releases under this series of Irish whiskeys sourced from Cooley, Bushmills, Great Northern, and at least one other unmentioned distillery.

There are a lot more differences than similarities with the releases under The Bridge, and I ordered Barley Harbour as it was one of the few still available. It’s also a 2014 Bushmills malt, so I was a bit intrigued. This Single Cask release Single Malt Irish Whiskey is limited to 354 bottles, matured in bourbon for six and a ½-years, non-chill filtered, bottled at 43% ABV and retails at €60.

Colour: Pale Straw

Nose: Creamy vanilla with zesty undertones

Palate: Honey, chrysanthemum tea, cereal

Finish: Crisp like chilled white wine, then gently fades off

Score: 6/10

Conclusion:

I like it. I like it enough that I managed to put a serious dent in the bottle (you can see from the photo) for the short period I’ve had it, and I’m considering getting another one. Why would I spend €60 for a six and a ½-year-old Bushmills when I can get a pretty good Bushmills 10-year-old for less? I think it’s comparing apples to oranges.

Although there’s plenty of merit to buying Bushmills 10 or any other mass-produced whiskeys near this price range, I think Barley Harbour is a perfect, niche offering, and you don’t need to be from Longford to appreciate it.

A few reasons why I enjoyed this whiskey: First, it offers a whiskey enthusiast a glimpse of unadulterated Bushmills liquid – the canvas that many of our loved whiskeys are drawn to. Matured for six and a ½-years in bourbon and bottled at 43%. That’s it! Where else can you taste that? It’s worth pointing out that Bushmills 10 is blended with whiskeys from sherry butts. Second, it is priced at a premium but not excessively like some new releases. Third, it is a pleasant drink. I didn’t know what to expect when I bought it, but I’m glad I did.

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