Emblazoned on the Sailor’s Home website is quite a famous quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, “the purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience, to the utmost.” You’d be forgiven to think that, as one of Ireland’s newest distilleries, they are embarking on something distinctive.
At first, I liked the concept; it markets itself as a whiskey that one would always have on their shelf and replace at the end. The idea is to pay “tribute to the restless, the explorers and the adventurers. Embrace new, delicious whiskey possibilities. Tastes to return to, time and again.” The distillery is a tribute to the actual Sailor’s Home, a detached five-bay two-storey stucco enriched sailor’s house, built in 1856 and later used as a military barracks and a constabulary barracks (late’ Garda station). The idea was to offer welcome and sanctuary on the journey to seafarers and explorers coming through the port of Limerick, a stone’s throw from the Shannon Estuary and the Atlantic Ocean. Although the house was never used for its original purpose, the thought was there…
Although the whiskey is named after a building, the notion extends more towards seafaring and the significance of the West coast of Ireland and the Limerickman’s relationship with the sea. They say they have been inspired by the seafarer’s spirit – to explore one step further and ‘to craft outstanding whiskeys.” This relatively contemporary brand seems to wish to push the boundaries of Irish whiskey, which is slowly but surely becoming a crowded commodity now.
The man behind the whiskey is ‘legendary’ Dr Jack Ó’sé, who can only be described as a veteran after 40 years of commendable service. He has built up a very credible 40 years of distilling experience as an industry mentor and self-proclaimed whiskey lover. He has worked worldwide on his journey, gathering craft know-how, influences and ideas. He has distilled award-winning whiskeys, commissioned several distilleries and worked with the “best maturation experts, blenders and coopers in the world”. Drawing on influences from his 40-year journey through tradition into possibility, Jack challenged himself to “create new and innovative whiskey experiences for Sailor’s Home.”
Everything seems very promising: the challenge, the inspiration, the story and the virtuoso. All that is left now is the whiskey; can it push the boundaries? Can it become something you want to return to time and time again, and most importantly, is it worth parting with your money? Read on if you want to know more…
So, this is ‘Journey,’ the cheapest in a range of four nautically themed whiskies by Sailor’s Home. There is a note regarding it being a sourced whiskey on their website, but with absolutely no indication where from. It does state it is non-chill filtered but does not give an indication of colouring. It’s triple distilled and has been concluded by ageing Irish whiskey first in Virgin American oak, then recasking into American Bourbon barrels and bringing this together with Irish malt whiskey matured in American Bourbon and finished in Jamaican Rum casks, adding tropical fruits and rum notes. Given it’s called Irish whiskey, it’d be safe to say there’s some concoction of grain and malt whiskies from various distilleries within.
Price: £35, from Irishmalts, which also contains a nice crystal giftset.
Nose: there’s a beautiful vanilla spiced custard note which comes through perfectly, evidence of the bourbon influence. Furthermore, the effect extends to toasted wood and nuts with delicate burnt brown sugar—little rum influence other than that and a little flat coca cola.
Palate: more bourbon influences are evident with a toffee crisp smothered in caramel. There’s little tropical fruit, as advised, and possibly a little coconut with some pineapple cake. There’s undoubtedly a cakey taste to it, with some marzipan as well.
Finish: a bit light on the finish, with a little warmth in the form of nutmeg, then some sweet shop foam bananas, custard and vanilla.
I’m not sure I can wrap my head around this one, to be honest. I like the idea of the brand; I think basing a whiskey on a nautical theme is interesting, not uniquely different, but certainly a little unusual than the other brands out there. I think if the actual Sailor’s Home had been built and used as such, it would have made me feel more invested in the brand. However, the presentation is beautiful; I like the bottle, the logo and the clear thought that has gone into it, and the detail in the oversized bottle top. It stands out and has a clear appeal.
As for the whiskey, I’m not so sure. Having been hyped up reading all the website hyperbole, I feel pretty deflated for the whiskey. It’s not a bad whiskey, but there’s just not much there in depth or variety for me. The rum influence is relatively absent, whereas the bourbon influence was the only apparent maturation for me. Before the pitchforks come out, remember that the score is not bad; it’s ok. It’s certainly a bottle I would enjoy as my first whiskey of the night, but I wouldn’t be in a rush to replace or purchase it again. The price is reasonable for what you get, but I would not pay any more, or else I’d be in Green Spot or Redbreast territory, and that’s when competition is rife.