New releases from Irish distillers, bottlers and bonders are now as prevalent as new distilleries popping up. We’ve reviewed Two Stacks twice before on the WoL, but interestingly, this is the first time we are reviewing one of their new, what seems like monthly releases: a Single Grain whiskey. It’s significant too; the Irish whiskey industry is revamping old mash bills, experimenting with different casks and expressing a certain degree of creativeness with an ingredient that was traditionally (and still is!) hidden away with old blend recipes; a crying shame given the quality of some of those spirits.
The Two Stacks lads have been busy at their new HQ recently. They’ve since taken over a warehouse outside Newry and have considerably expanded their business. Their Dram in a Can (which I reviewed here) has been cleared for UK launch and has since become popular, judging by the ubiquitous social media posts showing everyone’s taste and desire to carry a can of whiskey with them.
Two Stacks also seem to be the company of choice now for bottlings. Their cherry brandy cask was bottled exclusively for the Netherlands, their Smoke & Mirrors ‘Honey Bourbon’ exclusively for Irish-Whiskey.de. Now we have this expression, bottled solely for the exclusive club; Stories & Sips, brainchild of Barry Chandler. It’s no wonder that Two Stacks have gone from strength to strength, and their ability to pick out a quality liquid and manage it through subsequent maturations is as conscientious as you would expect. Robert Gustafsson, aka @ADropOfTheIrish who I will be reviewing this liquid with, stated, “I’ve never had a bad Two Stacks yet,” which is a testament to their meticulous and renowned approach.
The whiskey, as stated, is a Single Grain whiskey which has been aged for 12 years. It’s the same award-winning distillate used in the Two Stacks’ ‘Time Well Spent’ release. It’s barrel-aged for 12 years in a first-fill bourbon cask whilst at Cooley and then moved to GND and then Killowen, where it was finished for six months in California-style Madeira casks. As with everything Two Stacks, transparency is crucial, with the Cooley origin of the spirit proudly adorned on the bottle. It’s non-chill filtered and bottled at cask strength of 63.11%. It’s a single cask release; only 318 bottles were produced. It’s priced at a respectable £59.50 on Irishmalts if you are a Stories & Sips club member.
Irish whiskey doyen, Fionnan O’Connor, opines that this is in the top 5 grain whiskies he has ever tasted; therefore, it’s a must-taste.
Nose: Ripened peaches, lovely sweetness to it, some honey and caramel, hobnob biscuits, there’s a very distinct ripened plum note as well. Quite citric too, love hearts and lemon zest coming through additionally. Water added gives way to crisp red apples and fruit pastilles.
Palate: Distinctive grain whiskey now, light to medium spice, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Plenty of pink peppercorns. Initial creamy texture to it, very mouth-coating, like smooth chilli chocolate. The added water splendidly creates softer, more distinct notes of black liquorice and aniseed. There’s also some flat coke, light fennel and roasted coffee beans.
Finish: Peppermint and more cinnamon to finish, with a warmth continuously growing throughout. Sweet and spicy.
First off. I have mainly tried this with a good deal of water and let it sit for a reasonable time before sipping.
Nose: The craic starts with a honey sweetness and almost a whiff of a lemon meringue pie. I also found some cooked plums in the mix, and of course, I can pick that it’s a grain whiskey from nosing it.
Palate: Again, an apparent grain whiskey. A viscous drop, hefty with spices, reminds me of what we had around Christmas as a kid. Cloves, cardamom and pepper stand out for me, making it a spicy yet sweet whiskey. Some roasted nuts appeared for me, perhaps from the Madeira wine cask.
Finish: Medium to long and still spicy and sweet. Again, a childhood flavour appeared, and it’s the cola bottle candy popping up as the drop fades away. At the very end, I could taste some strong, sweet cider. Not the carbonated, of course.
Score: 7/10 and not an inch over
Water was an absolute must for me for this liquid, the ABV is pretty powerful, and I found it completely dominated the palate and didn’t allow other notes to come to the fore. What I did manage to pick out without water was the sweet notes, but I found that water accentuated the fruit notes influenced by the Madeira cask. The palate again was enriched by a few drops of water, and delightful sweetshop notes came through eventually. I still got a lot of spice throughout, regardless of the water added, but thankfully the depth of the whiskey remained even after a few drops.
I like this whiskey, but I felt it was a little unbalanced. There is still great depth and range of notes throughout, however. Every other thing about the bottle did impress me; the pricing, the bottle itself and primarily the endeavour by Barry to make it work; I can’t imagine the amount of work it takes to bring out a single cask and ship the majority of it to the US.