They say that good things come in pairs, and what’s more exciting than new a poitín as part of Irish whiskey’s revival and renaissance? It’s been eight months since I delved into some of the offerings from Baoilleach; therefore, with the news of a new poitín release of just 24 bottles, I think it’s time I headed back to Donegal and gave it a try.
After Baoilleach’s busy inauguration, they certainly haven’t rested on their poitín-soaked laurels. Towards the end of March, they took delivery of a new 1000 litre pot still capable of significantly increasing their production, a clear signal to other whiskey distillers that Michael sure means business. A couple of months later, the first New Make spirit to flow off the new stills was produced (and subsequently bottled for the Friends of Irish Whiskey Facebook group). The mash bill included 15% Donegal Raw Oat, 7% Irish Raw Rye, 30% Donegal Raw Barley and 48% Peated Irish Malt Barley, with the Malt being peated on site with a mixture of Peat from the distillery site and the family bog near Glenveagh. It was double distilled with the first wash distillation in a 1000L pot still and the second spirit distillation in a 310L pot still. The review of this one will come soon.
So, a clear strategic intent from this intrepid distillery. But in terms of the here and now, a quick glance at their website shop declares ‘sold out’ for many of their products. One product that has yet to sell out is their 4-grain pot still poitín; a relatively recent release named ‘the Father’ is a result of increased investment into the distillery via the ‘Acorn Series’ and increased ability to produce more efficiently via the new stills. As per the name, the poitín is a mash of malt barley, oat, raw barley and rye, with no indication of percentages of each. It’s bottled at a hefty 60.9%. I’ve come to expect nothing less from Baoilleach; still strength seems to be the ‘norm’ now.
Price: £40 directly from Baoilleach Distillery, which includes free delivery to NI and the UK.
Nose: A large whiff of lime and lemon zest, followed by an interesting creamy note; unusual to pick up from the nose, but it’s certainly there. The spice comes through subtly, too; aniseed, some fennel and spiced vanilla are all apparent. There is also that inherent earthiness, lots of freshly dug soil and wet moss. There’s some slight sweetness to it as well; black treacle and golden syrup give it a delightful nose.
Palate: The creamy texture is really coming through now. It’s a proper mouth coater; it does not drink like a 60.9% ABV; it’s very restrained. More spice again, predominantly cinnamon and clove this round, but still a lingering of aniseed. Lots of black peppercorns, which give it so much warmth, clearly a heavy influence from the rye. The sweetness continues also; dark bitter chocolate (>85%) infused with chilli gives this dram some profound depth and one hell of a spice kick.
Finish: the spice continues, but so does the creaminess. It takes on an almost an oaky note, but also cold, creamy coffee, coffee mate powder and coffee beans. Tingles on the palate with the spice throughout.
Credit to Michael; this is another excellent example of what you can achieve with a mash bill without the requirement for maturation. The mash bill of oats and rye is perfectly synchronised as the spice and creamy texture are balanced dreamily. Many other exciting notes conform to a typical poitín; earthy notes galore—lots of variety, depth and character.
I get the feeling that Michael is seriously enjoying himself in his distillery, looking over Donegal. His new still, coupled with a sense of inventiveness and ingenuity, will undoubtedly see him produce some very good liquid over the next few years. Much like Jonathon’s article stated last week that over the course of the next decade, we would see many distilleries releasing their own whiskey, but at least now we can say that we were there when Baoilleach produced their poitín, the first cut from their new still and finally when their first whiskey was made.