In the course of my daily drams, I don’t turn my attention in the direction of Irish whiskey all that often, but I have my ear the ground enough to see that the segment has been on the rise. Sure, coverage of Irish whiskey in the press tends to peak here in St. Patrick’s Day season—no mystery as to why that is—but more American whiskey drinkers seem to be discovering Irish whiskey as a year-round dram on a yearly basis. One gets the sense that a vast generation of drinkers is moving beyond the likes of Jameson and Bushmills as the definers of the style, and that means opportunity for the likes of the Teeling Distillery.
Teeling is a younger Irish distillery brand that I’ve written about a bit in the past. In 2015, they became the first company to open a distillery in Dublin—once a Mecca of whiskey production—since 1976, although the first Teeling products to hit the shelves were all sourced from the historic Cooley Distillery. That includes the Teeling Single Malt, Single Grain, and the flagship Small Batch, which I arguably enjoy the most of the core line despite the fact that it’s the least expensive. Warm, inviting and vivacious, Teeling Small Batch is the kind of thing I’d point someone toward when they want to discover more about Irish whiskey and have only ever sampled it in the form of shots of Jameson.
As for the actual Teeling distillery, though, the first product ever turned out of that Dublin-based facility was Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, and that’s what we’ll be sampling today. This is an interesting product, reflecting both obscure historical whiskey production methods and thoroughly modern aging methods. As the name would imply, it’s an all-malt whiskey produced in via pot still rather than column still, although oddly, it isn’t all malted barley. Rather, this spirit is part malted, and part unmalted barley, which is something I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted before. I would expect, however, the difference in character to be reminiscent of the differences between malted and unmalted rye, which are both heavily used in whiskey production.
This is where things get odder still, though, as Teeling then ages that Single Pot Still whiskey in a combination of three different oak treatments. 25% is matured in “American virgin oak,” by which I assume they mean freshly charred casks—a decidedly non-traditional method that is a bit of a taboo in some parts of the U.K. when it comes to whiskey production, but increasing in popularity. A full 50% of the remaining spirit is meanwhile aged in the expected used bourbon casks, while 25% is aged in sherry casks. The whole thing is bottled at 46% ABV (92 proof), with no chill filtration. We can deduce that what Teeling is going for here is to make a complex Irish whiskey that shows hints and aspects of several very different styles of production. It should likely go without saying, but the sum of these parts is a very unique Irish whiskey.
With all that said, let’s get to tasting.
On the nose, I get honeycomb and florals, with a buttery shortbread character that also feels toasty/”baked”—a characteristic I’ve picked up in the past in other younger, sherried malt whiskies. However, there’s also something deeper and funkier to the aromatic profile here; a little bit earthy, as well as a streak of plummy stone fruit.
On the palate, Teeling Single Pot Still is warm and spicy, all biscuits and dark honey and with plenty of spice being pulled from that new wood—I get gingerbread and allspice in particular. There are hints of stone fruit, but this strikes me as a whiskey more driven by sweetness, grainy biscuit (that unmalted barley?) and spice impressions than fruit, with a finish that tingles on the tongue and develops additional spice notes. Heat is moderate, about where it should be.
All in all, I found myself quite enjoying the way this whiskey doesn’t throw itself too zealously into one corner or another. The sherry in particular is definitely on the subtle side compared to some of the sherry bombs of this whiskey category, being used as an ethereal flourish atop a whiskey driven by honeyed tones and spice. It’s distinctly grainy, but not in an unpleasant way, and succeeds at offering a unique spin on traditional Irish whiskey.
Unfortunately, it may be a bit hard to come by, depending where you’re located. Teeling Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey carries an MSRP of $64.99, but also retails online from ReserveBar for $75.
Distillery: Teeling Distillery
City: Dublin, Ireland
Style: Irish malt whiskey
ABV: 46% (92 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $64.99 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.