The World of Single Malt Whisk(e)y
Journey Back to Hell
(You’ll have a Devil of a Time!)
While this column is typically geared towards Scottish Single Malt (Scotland, after all, pioneered and catapulted the Single Malt category into the world and largely made it what it is today), they are not the only ones to produce this illustrious style. This month, we’re heading down to Ireland, specifically to Dublin Liberties Distillery and their prestigious new range, Liberties Irish Whiskey.
Located in what was formerly known in the 18th and 19th centuries as The Golden Triangle, an area renowned for its brewing, distilling, and hedonistic happenings, Dublin Liberties Distillery is the newest whiskey operation to open its doors; and their award winning range of luxury single malts has finally reached American shores. This new range brings together 400 years of Dublin history and distilling excellence, and DLD is committed to producing “only the finest and most special Irish whiskey in the world”. In this instance, that manifests itself in this range of 3 single malts and 1 blended whiskey.
The distillery launched February 2019 in the neighborhood once known as The Liberties (also nicknamed the “Four Corners of Hell”), an area within The Golden Triangle that was particularly noted for its dangerous, debased, and riotous way of life. But it was industrious, too. Weaving mills, printing presses, forges, and tanneries - it was where the working classes made their home, and also served as the core for creatives, thinkers, brewers, and distillers. It was a place where there were no rules and all were welcome. A colourful, and often dangerous, area, to be sure.
With names such as Oak Devil, Murder Lane, and Keeper’s Coin, these whiskeys are bound to capture one’s attention. Dublin has a rich history, full of magic, murder, mystery, and mayhem, not to mention intrepid spirit and creativity. This range brings to life the legendary stories of this area’s vivid past. In order to get to Hell, one had to walk under a stone archway that was watched over by a carved oak devil. Oak Devil is the name of the youngest expression, a 5yr old blend of malt and grain whiskey, and is the gateway tipple of The Liberties Irish Whiskeys.
Copper Alley (you’ll note its name missing with the above mentioned) was once the oldest street in Dublin, but has since been lost to the ages. The street, as so many were back in the days of yore, was named after a prominent happening - namely, the first copper coin was minted there in the 17th century.
Can anyone guess whence the 13yr old Murder Lane Single Malt takes its name? In the 1600s, there was an unmarked alleyway linking Bow Street and James Street where an unfortunate number of men, women, and children met with a grisly end...
16yr old Keeper’s Coin harkens back to 1600s Christchurch Cathedral where crypts were utilized as illicit drinking dens, and each cellar keeper had their own specific stamped coin and casks of booze. How do we posit this? During excavations, a bag full of silver coins and bottles filled with liquor were found!
The man behind this distinguished new range is Irish Whiskey legend, Darryl McNally. After 17yrs as Distilling Operations Manager at Bushmills, McNally became Master Distiller in 2007 and currently oversees brands such as The Dubliner, Dead Rabbit Whiskey, and of course, the above expounded upon Dublin Liberties. His role encompasses grain selection through to distillation and blending. In 2010 he won (with the world’s highest marks) the Worshipful Company of Distillers Award.
A few interesting things of note below, DLD utilizes double and triple distillation, as well as a unique Tokaji cask influence (Tokaji is a dessert wine from Tokaj, Hungary).
DISTILLATION: Blend of malt and grain whiskeys with age statement. Non-Chilled Filtered
AGEING: Aged for 5 Years in American Oak casks
NOSE: 78/100 Honey, pear, caramel, warm malt, light vanilla cream, cinnamon, ripe corn - alcohol needs a few minutes to taper off.
TASTE: 79/100 Med body, silky and richly warming with flavours of honeycomb, baked apple, pepper, and allspice.
FINISH: 76/100 Long finish full of grain notes, the alcohol is rather prickly.
Conclusion: A good blend with pleasant aromas but not overly complex on the palate. The alcohol sticks out a bit roughly when consumed neat.
DISTILLATION: Double distilled single malt Irish whiskey resulting in a heavier, oilier flavor profile
AGEING: Aged for 10 Years in 30-Year-Old Olorosso Sherry butts.
NOSE: 79/100 Honey, baked pear and apple crumble, warm spiced cider, brown sugar and baking spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, banana pudding, chocolate, slightly floral.
TASTE: 79/100 Medium body with well integrated alcohol that lends a gentle heat. Flavours of milk chocolate, caramel, and rich grain notes, along with red fruits, such as plum and cranberry.
FINISH: 78/100 A long finish with nice mocha and a slight nuttiness, as of lightly toasted cashews.
Conclusion: A very nice pour with delicate depth going on. The play between the sweet fruit and spice notes and the mocha and grain flavours is delicious indeed.
DISTILLATION: Triple distilled – 100% single malt whiskey
AGEING:13 Years in American oak finished in Hungarian oak casks for six months which were previously seasoned by Tokaj, a Hungarian dessert wine
OTHER DETAILS: Each batch has a limited number of bottles and the batches vary due to additional time spent in Tokaj casks.
NOSE: 79/100 Soft and intriguing with sweet fruits, powdered sugar, a gentle floral perfume note, and a slight bitter almond nuttiness well integrated with supple oak.
TASTE: 79/100 Medium+ bodied and vigorously spicy, reminiscent of baked oranges and chili peppers. There’s good, balanced wood notes, a hint of white peach, as well as an almost savoury component peeking through.
FINISH: 78/100 A long finish and that powdered sugar makes another appearance on the tail end.
Conclusion: Definitely a spicy and vibrant whiskey, not as sweet as I imagined it would be based on it being finished in Tokaji casks. Everything was well balanced, and overall this is a whiskey which makes one sit up and pay attention.
DISTILLATION: Triple distilled - 100% single malt whiskey
AGEING: Aged 16 Years in American Oak Casks and finished in hogshead Pedro Ximenéz sherry casks, handpicked by Darryl
OTHER DETAILS: Each batch has a limited number of bottles and the batches will vary due to additional time spent in PX casks. One of few Irish whiskies with a 16YO age statement.
NOSE: 85/100 Brimming with tropical fruit notes, ripe banana, vanilla, a slight fudgey quality, coffee, caramel, and molasses soaked fruitcake.
TASTE: 85/100 Viscous and smooth as an oil slick, a full bodied whiskey with rich baking spices (cloves, allspice), lightly roasted almonds, caramel, grilled peach, mocha, and a touch of chili heat.
FINISH: 86/100 Long and warming, the spices and heat mingle with the light fruitiness and linger pleasantly.
Conclusion: A definite standout in the Irish Single Malt realm. There’s so much goodness going on in this whiskey it makes it almost chewy - one really wants to dig in and savour it. Rich, complex, wonderfully balanced, this whiskey was worth the 16 year wait!
Liberties Irish Whiskies can be purchased at select and high-end liquor retailers in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Colorado, Washington, Michigan, and Minnesota.
*While samples were provided by Dublin Liberties Distillery, tasting notes are an honest assessment by the author.