The (relatively) new kids on the block are all about quality, heritage with the added aim of contemporising Irish whiskey. Indulging in the history of independent bottlers and bonders, Two Stacks fancy themselves as craftspeople re-creating a once considered ‘dead art’ with the objective of pushing and shoving their way to the forefront of Ireland’s undisputed whiskey revival.
The skill of bonding, is indeed a unique one which, if carefully nurtured, has the ability to really produce some quality liquids. Brands such as Mitchell and Sons, Gilbeys and most recently JJ Corry have shown the capability of these types of whiskey and the success they can bring. Shane McCarthy, Liam Brogan and Dónal McLynn, fresh from the ventures of Ireland Craft Beverages, a distribution company, decided in their infinite wisdom that producing, like distributing, could become a reality.
Their modus operandi of producing contemporary whiskey has really shown through. Cask finishes of Apricot Brandy, Tawny port, Sauternes and Barbados Rum have given Two Stacks a unique identity and one that certainly chimes with their mission statement. Their innovation does not stop with the liquid in a bottle either; ‘Dram in a Can’ (it is what it says on the tin…..literally) has proved extremely popular throughout the island and overseas too.
After reviewing the Apricot Brandy cask for Malt Review a couple of months ago, I shamelessly left Dónal’s name out of the review. After a very apologetic conversation ensued, I further shamelessly promised I would include his name in the following review if he wanted to send me more samples, which he obliged to do. His generosity is fully valued; the package that the sample arrived in was stunning, a very generous sample of the new Two Stacks in a branded bottle alongside a branded Two Stacks copita glass. Lovely touches like the gold emblazoned Two Stacks logo on the premium box, and the Two Stacks ‘reveal tape’ is maybe considered minor detail, but the fact is that it’s the small things that matter and something I get really excited about.
Anyway, on to the whiskey. What is the Polaris edition? As many of you will know, Polaris is the North Star, but its meaning and symbolism are a lot more significant. Used by astronomers and ancient explorers, it’s a permanent marker to ensure one always finds their way. And with regards to Two Stacks, their comment that “the North Star in our logo symbolises steadfastness, to always bring quality, adventure, and trust, that every time you pick up a Two Stacks whiskey, you won’t be lost” may seem slightly corny. Still, it’s new, fresh and clearly thought through.
The whiskey itself is a 9-year old Irish single malt aged in a first-fill ex-bourbon barrel before a final 6-month finish in ex-Cabernet Franc Red Ice Wine cask from the Niagara region
of Ontario, Canada. However, the adage of the ‘first Irish whiskey to adopt an ice wine finish’ is, I believe, to be incorrect, as Writer’s Tears recently produced an ice wine whiskey albeit below cask strength. This whiskey, however, sits at a dreamy 59.85%.
Price: £71.34 (700ml)
Nose: There’s an immediate abundance of strawberries and raspberry sorbet, a real mix between fresh and zingy aromas that are powerful and intriguing at the same time. There’s also a lightness to it, which initially comes through as plums, pineapple juice and nectarines. Then the nose transforms into a sweetfest of fruit salad sweets and pear drops. Spice provides that all-important depth element, and the peppery notes come through nicely.
Palate: The sweetness thankfully continues and is really pronounced. Initially, the sweetfest carries on, and blackcurrant Chewits and fruit pastilles linger. The bourbon influence is evidenced too, as its nuances of vanilla and honey deliver.
Finish: There’s a continuous warmth and spiciness to the finish. Black peppercorns and some light ginger provide the shove to ensure this whiskey finishes as strongly as it does. The finish is medium length, which is unusual given the ABV, but it still gives an assured desire to go back for another sip.
Well then! This whiskey is undoubtedly contemporary; given it’s the second ice wine finish to hit Irish shelves; I’m confident it won’t be the last. Firstly, the age statement surprises me here; the depth, range of flavours and intensity suggest something older. Therefore, the Two Stacks guys have done exceptionally well sourcing this liquid. Secondly, the harmony between the berries, stoned fruit and confectionary, then the added spice element takes this to the next level. And with what seems like a signature trademark move for Two Stacks, making it cask strength has given it the ‘edge.’
I know I received a sample bottle; however, when looking at the actual bottle release, I don’t think there’s anything else that quite stands out as well. Again, I feel that the contemporary aspect of Two Stacks’ philosophy has rubbed off on their design. The minimalist labelling, the gold logo and the hand-waxed bottle tops are seriously attractive. I, for one, am very much looking forward to the next whiskey in this impressive and intriguing series.
So why the score? It’s bold, different and innovative. The bottle design is beautiful and it really sings to me. The liquid is seriously tasty inside too, the mix of bourbon and ex-Cabernet Franc Red Ice Wine cask is a serious marriage that has been well-thought-out and is measured in its approach. The price is a smidge on the high side, but given the rarity of the cask, the ‘by-hand’ business model and the increase in the price of living, I think they’ll probably be given the benefit of the doubt.
Disclosure: The samples that informed this article were provided to the Water of Life team by Two Stacks free of charge. Two Stacks have not had any other input into this article, nor has the Water of Life team relinquished any editorial control