Small Pot, Big Flavours; the Baoilleach raison d’être

I’ve previously discussed the advantageous ‘Friends of Irish Whiskey’ Facebook group and the release of special single casks throughout the year. Luckily, Ian Garrett of the Friends of Irish Whiskey Facebook page convinced Baoilleach’s Michael O’Boyle to bottle three spirits, or ‘Mountain Dew’ as they are named, exclusively for the passionate Facebook group. Additionally, with the new still installation, Ian also adroitly took ownership of its ‘First Cut’, again bottled exclusively for the group.

From our interview with Michael, it is clear that he is positively infatuated with all things distillation, and with his new still, the world is his oyster. I can just imagine him painstakingly obsessing over a fermentation, getting the yeast just right and ensuring the cuts bring out the best in his liquid, epitomising the Baoilleach mantra of ‘Small pot, big flavours’. It must be said that, with the variety in cask finishes, there is likely to be an abundance of flavours, depth and, knowing Baoilleach, distinctive smokiness!

I feel like the ‘mountain dew’ series is the endeavour which really puts Baoilleach out there. Michael admitted that getting the online shop on his website was massive for him. I can’t help but feel that branching out and embracing social media to showcase his ability was a master stroke.

Donegal Mountain Dew Potstill Port Cask

A limited release of 48 bottles. It is a mash bill of 70% malted barley and 30% raw barley. It has been aged in a 50L Virgin Oak cask which previously held port, and then in a 30L ex-peated poitín cask. It has been double distilled and bottled at still strength with no added colouring.

ABV: 61.1%

Price: £40- no longer available

Nose: A lovely fruity freshness greets the nose. It’s predominantly stoned fruits; fleshy pears and maraschino cherries. The aniseed remains a constant throughout, although there’s an excellent balance of zestiness too, with lemon zest and limes evident also.

Palate: A hefty blast of spice develops on the palate. A lot of cinnamon and pepper spice, with a little black liquorice too. Stale cigar smoke lingers throughout and cuts through excellently.

Finish: A little gingery warmth throughout, more heat and a little aniseed spice.

Donegal Mountain Dew Potstill Sherry Cask

A limited release of 48 bottles. It is a mash bill of 70% malted barley and 30% raw barley. It has been aged in a 50L Virgin Oak cask which previously held sherry, and then in a 30L ex-peated poitín cask. It has been double distilled and bottled at still strength with no added colouring.

ABV: 60.2%

Price: £40- no longer available

Nose: A lot of beautiful sweetness coming through, more so aniseed and some black liquorice, some marzipan too. There’s a subtle fruity note too, orange peel and immediate indication of spice already

Palate: A little fruit initially, more orange peel, some lemon zest and a little grapefruit. But the key note here is the impressive spice that takes the fore, lots of cinnamon, clove and black pepper. There’s more nutmeg and a little ginger too. It’s spicy Christmas pudding-like and luxurious. More aniseed.

Finish: Prickly heat, a little more ginger, cinnamon sugar and coffee beans

Donegal Mountain Dew Single Malt Marsala Cask

A limited release of 62 bottles. It has been aged in a 50L Virgin Oak cask which previously held Marsala, and then subsequently held in 10L and 15L casks. It has been double distilled and bottled at still strength with no added colouring.

ABV: 59.3%

Price: £40- no longer available

Nose: Initially, lots of German rye bread, and quite sourdough-like. There’s a definite damp earthiness or dry bark-like note. Coincidently there’s fruit to it too, grapefruit with orange peel, cream soda and aniseed. There’s a gentle stale smoke too, like old cigar ash.

Palate: Spice comes to the forefront nearly instantly. A whack of cinnamon sugar and cloves coats the tongue, with a hint of chilli. The spice is just laced with a lovely sweet smoke which transforms the palate altogether. Some candied ginger too

Finish: The finish is a bit of shake smoke, clementine oranges and coffee beans

The First Cut- Baoilleach New Make

The first cut is a new make, traditional pot still. The mash bill is 48% peated malt, 30% raw barley, 15% oats, and 7% rye. It has been double distilled and bottled at still strength.

ABV: 59.3%

Price: £40- no longer available

Nose: The initial hint is herbal with a slight spice to it. It’s mild mint, and the aniseed powers through and becomes dominant. Both notes are undercut with a faint but prevalent smoky wisp. The rye is evident too, a German rye loaf and almost a sourdough starter and recognisable.

Palate: This one certainly lives up to the mantra of ‘big flavours’. Firstly, the smoke draws you in, and then the blast of spice is intense and dramatic. Lots of cinnamon and clove spice and strong peppermint, but then it subtly ends with black pepper and rocket leaf.

Finish: Stale smoke, espresso, and some light ginger conclude this dram with an almighty finish. The spice dies slowly, but the heat remains defiant.

Summary

So, Michael talked about the constant pursuit of hitting the ‘sweet spot’. It’s not sure how these spirits would have developed further in wood, but given the initial notes, depth and range of flavours, it’s safe to say that these are in that sweet spot ballpark. In the three mountain dew releases, it’s pretty apparent they are young spirits, but as we have seen with the likes of Belgrove and Killowen, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

When you drink these spirits, it’s clear to see that due care and attentiveness have been given to them. For me, the Marsala Cask is the standout, closely followed by the Port. This isn’t to necessarily say I didn’t like the sherry; quite the opposite, I did. I think I have an unconscious bias towards relatively different cask finishes, and these certainly appealed to me. The ‘first cut’ is impressive; for a ‘DNA’ for future releases, Baoilleach wouldn’t go far wrong using this as their base.

Watching Baoilleach’s journey has been fascinating. Seeing how the Poitín range has developed and now seeing the ‘Mountain Dew’ take shape demonstrates Michael’s versatility and open-mindedness. I can only imagine the quality of the whiskey currently ageing as part of his acorn series; cask owners there must be grinning.

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