The Forward Drive, Fridges and Teeling.
A wise man once said to me that a fact is neither true nor false, by virtue of being a fact, it very simply is. That same man, my stepfather, could be said to hold his opinions in the same regard. I have never met anyone so single minded in the belief that his own thoughts are so inscrutably correct, nor anyone whom so frequently is proven to be right, on subjects ranging from the correct shots to be played in cricket, through to matters of the heart and life itself.
I was watching a program recently where a character was recalling a story where his life was put in danger – a fridge fell from the top of a van on a motorway, and he swerved just in time to save his life. The character he was talking to, in an aside to camera, stated that whilst his companion’s belief in God had been affirmed by their ability to react, he was of the opinion that had he been driving, the fridge would have swerved to avoid him. I used to believe that my stepfather’s confidence in his own opinions came from a similar place of self belief, until he explained to me once that throughout his life, he had made every mistake it was possible to make and his lifelong wish was that his boys could see the mistakes he made, so they might never have to repeat the same ones. It was the realisation that brought me to hold his opinions in a significantly higher regard.
However, I have recently learnt that with some small areas of his views, he is still learning, still experimenting. Whilst his view may be fixed that the only worthwhile shot to be played in cricket is the forward drive (on special occasions, the cover drive may suffice) and that the reverse sweep or the pull shot are tricks left for show ponies; designed only for getting caught stupidly off bad balls, he recently relented on something I never thought I’d see. My stepdad, Henderson, is from Barbados and held true that no other nation could ever make a rum worth drinking. Mount Gay, and at a push, Cockspur, were the only rums capable of warming the soul in the right way, so much so that every trip to Barbados that I’ve every taken has resulted in our very limits of importing capability being tested with bottles of the glorious Amber nectar… Until, that is, I bought his a bottle of 14 Year Old, Berry Brothers and Rudd Fijian Rum. His eyes opened wide, as he realised perhaps, just perhaps, other nations may be able to produce a decent rum, if one is selective about the rum one tries… I also scored a hit with the delectable Diplomatico Reserva Rum from Venezuela.
As the distillery only opened in June 2015, no one has had the opportunity to try their “Dublin Whiskey” yet, but following a very impressive tour, of the beautiful distillery by the knowledgeable and witty Caít, I got the chance to some of their current line up:
Teeling Small Batch, 46%: Blended Irish whiskey, with an incredibly high malt content – finished in Rum Casks, lends itself well to cocktails:
Colour – Very light Straw
Nose – the brown “liquorice all sort” sandwich, with elects of toffee and buttercotch
Palate – Very light, new make/poitin type flavours, very clean.
Finish – Apples, heavy vanilla, slight savoury note to a clotted creamy, smooth edge.
Sherry Cask, 23 Years Old, 53.1%
Colour – Drip Coffee
Nose – classic sherry bomb, without the savoury, tannic edge that sometimes builds,
Palate – Stewed Apples
Finish – Back to the liquorice Allsorts from the Small Batch, black pepper, slight aniseed notes, spices to the finish.
White Burgundy Cask, 11 Years Old, 58.1%
Colour – Pale Straw
Nose – Black tea, dry straw, grappa
Palate – Tannic and drying, vegetal note
Finish – Surprising fruity sweetness, ends with sugar syrup and white grapes
Overall, the Small Batch was a fantastic example of a very reasonably priced, competent Irish whiskey, perfectly suited to both sipping and mixing, definitely a lighter, early evening sip though. The 23 year old Sherry Cask was an incredible sherry bomb, a massive depth of flavour from the sherry, though it wasn’t the roundest and fullest flavour profile from the spirit itself; fascinating from a flavour point of view. The white burgundy cask was the most unusual of them all, utterly different nose to palate to finish – as a example of how this can happen it is definitely one worth having in the collection, just to demonstrate how amazingly versatile and varied an Irish Whiskey can really be!
My issue with this realisation is not a sudden loss of faith in my Stepfather, if anything, it helped me to see how much trust I should put in his opinions and his advice – I have far greater faith in any individual that is seen to adjust his system of belief based on evidence presented to him, rather than deny evidence that flies in the face of their belief. My issue was that I realised I do the same thing to a certain extent, particularly when it comes to whisky; frequently I am asked for my opinion on American, Japanese, Irish or other world whiskies and because of my grounding in Scotch Single Malts, that is always my point of comparison. Everything starts from the point of, “it may not be scotch, but they seem to be trying very hard, and doing well, considering they’re not from Caledonia”, in a manner which achieves both condescension and patronism in the same sentence. I need to change this view and realise that the rest of the world really is doing some amazing things with whisky in all it’s various forms, without them being compared to Scotch.
This education started recently in Ireland, in Dublin to be more precise, at the recently built Teeling Distillery. Now, Teeling could be said to have applied something of a “the fridge should swerve to avoid me” approach to their new venture in Dublin. They are the first distillery in 125 years to be built in the city, and the first to distill in Dublin for nearly 50 years, a city once home to 37 distilleries, capturing 60% of the global whiskey/whisky market – the last few distilleries in Dublin moved to Cork, forming the massive Jameson Distillery. One has to think there might have been a reason for this Dublin departure and Teeling certainly haven’t made life easy for themselves – all their raw matierials have to be shipped into the city centre for processing and as space is at such a premium (along with the inherent risk of storing millions of litres of massively flammable, volatile liquid in the city centre) all warehousing and aging is done near the company’s old base in Kilbeggan, meaning more effort in terms of shipping liquid back there. But they have done it to be the first true Dublin Whiskey in a very long time.