The Water Of Life’s Reflections: What We Drank In 2022

As 2022 ends and we step forward to meet whatever 2023 might throw at us, we also mark the Water of Life’s first full year of operation. This has been a year which has seen us post an article, on average, every six days, receive over 150,000 views, and have 130,000 visitors to the homepage from over 150 different countries. Yes, from Cape Verde to Colombia and from Kyrgyzstan to Kuwait, the WoL has surpassed even our own expectations. We’ve been lucky enough to try some incredible drams and chat with some great whiskymakers. On the other hand, we have had to review some absolutely awful whiskies, hopefully, so you won’t have to—something which we stated in our initial piece, ‘The Beginning,’ in September 2021.

As we look into the new year, the WoL team have taken a moment to reflect on our last year of writing about whisky and to consider what 2023 might offer.

Dave C

I mostly drank: poitín in its various guises!

Biggest discovery: global whisky offerings.

Number of Glencairn glasses broken: zero, but my wife broke my Killowen Copita…a severe offence!

Biggest disappointment: not getting to as many distilleries or festivals as I would have wished.

I’m most looking forward to: more Irish whiskey brands releasing their own spirit

It has been a massive year for the Water of Life and its popularity and following. Part of that has been an enormous contingent of fans from India and the United States of America. With this, I bravely broadened my whiskey/bourbon horizons and tried spirits from each country. Whilst the Amrut I reviewed here wasn’t particularly incredible, I really enjoyed trying it and engaging with our followers from India as a result. Additionally, visiting America and the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Tennessee inspired me to try more and not be side-tracked by my old firm favourites!

Next year will be huge. How on earth do some of the biggest brands in Ireland, like Dunvilles, follow up on their huge single-cask releases? How do Two Stacks continue their impressive year with the likes of the Polaris 1.2? And how do Killowen and Baoilleach continue ‘The Year of Poitín’? I’ll tell you how, by releasing their own spirits, Killowen has already started it, Echlinville will no doubt begin soon, and Baoilleach is approaching that stage. It’s exciting times indeed. Oh, and always, please, can we have more big partnerships? Belgrove distillery has been a firm favourite of mine, either on its own or collaborating with others.

Jonny R

I mostly drank: Irish whiskey. I estimate that I’ve tried over 200 whiskeys or poitíns over the course of the year through tastings, distillery tours, festivals, whiskey bars, and bottles I have bought. I finished a lot of Dingle, Bushmills, and Liberator bottles.

Biggest discovery: that whiskey flavour comes from A LOT of factors affecting anything from the grain to your glass (touched on in this review of Gold Spot). This year, I enjoyed sampling new makes, young spirit, and young whiskey to see what the earlier stages of production can do to whiskey.

Number of Glencairn glasses broken: I can’t remember any but I don’t think it’s zero. So I’ll go with 1 as best guess!

Biggest disappointment: How prices have gone up both at retail and secondary market. It’s hard to know the right or wrong answer. Some producers who price their bottlings too high mainly do so for margin and cash flow but then you see their bottles still sitting on the shelves. On the flip side, brands (big or small) that have a following and historically see their bottles fly off the shelves quicker (or crash websites) may not be as pressured to up their margins as they know they can get cash back from volume. This is great but then the lower barrier to entry and better cost-to-value ratio attracts opportunists whose only aim is to make money off it. Then if you zoom out, maybe this is good for the growth of the industry? A new customer is a new customer whichever way you look at it and if a person’s way into being a whiskey drinker is through flipping, then so be it.

I’m most looking forward to: Fionnán O’Connor’s research and the impending change in the Irish Single Pot Still GI. It might not happen in 2023 but a move in the right direction will be welcome. My top 5 new Irish Whiskey releases for 2022 happen to be all Irish Single Pot Stills and I can’t wait for this category to grow further.

As I’m writing this on quiet morning on the last day of the year over a mug of hot coffee, with the wife still in bed, and the dog unusually calm, I’m filled with great satisfaction and gratitude for how the year has gone for me. We saw the full re-opening of Ireland earlier in the year allowing pubs, bars, distilleries, and other businesses to welcome people back. Hopefully you were also lucky enough to sneak away for some “revenge travel” during the summer. Most importantly, I’m happy that those closest to me are safe and healthy both in mind and body. If you’re reading this, I hope yours are too.

2023 brings a lot of excitement. On the whiskey front, I hope to meet the WoL team in person. They are always welcome in Dublin. I also wish for more Irish Whiskey brands to be discovered by people all over the world. Coming from someone not from Ireland, I can tell you that they’re making some great stuff here and it’s not just Jameson. I wish you all the best for the new year and I hope this year you find more time to slow down, relax, and have a dram of whiskey!

Mike H

I mostly drank: Raasay R-02. It’s my wife’s favourite, so she insists on restocking it whenever we’re running low, which is certainly not something I will ever complain about.

Biggest discovery: Poitín! I’ll admit I’d not touched a drop of the stuff until January 2022. What a discovery though!

Number of Glencairn glasses broken: 2

Biggest disappointment: Glenfiddich 15. It’d been a couple of years since I had a bottle and I remembered it being much better.

I’m most looking forward to: Cooper King releasing their first whisky: a mixture of Tasmanian style and impeccable environmental credentials.

2022 saw me really branch out from my comfort zone of Scottish single malt. I’ve tried more Irish whiskey than ever before and fallen in love with poitín. My target of uploading an article every two weeks has just about been achieved, although my backlog of unreviewed bottles and samples continues to grow. It turns out that an unexpected (and extremely pleasant) side effect of starting a whisky blog is everyone you know gifting you drams at every opportunity.

I hope that in 2023, we’re able to expand the WoL team even further. We already have a new member in Ciaran, who we hope will follow up his excellent review of the Heaven’s Door Double Barrel soon. However, we remain a small team, and can’t produce even a fraction of the articles on the industry that we would like to. With an increasing international following, we would love to be able to address important factors from further afield, such as how Tasmania continues to produce such excellent drams, or where whisky fans around the world might find a reliable source of uncommon whiskies (which we’ve recently learned is a real issue for our readers from India). As such, we would welcome anyone who wants to join the team.

We at WoL wish you all a happy and healthy 2023. May it bring you many interesting and exciting drams!

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