Teeling Whiskey Review – written by Annie Bowles from an interview by David Pearce. (Part one of this feature on Teeling Whisky can be found here)
I love alcohol, not just for the buzz, but primarily the variety and abundance of flavours in all sectors, be it whiskey, beer, or wine. There is a new taste waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. Am I analytical? I certainly used to be, but these days it has as much to do with how a drink makes me feel, if it makes me smile, if I want to go back for more, or move on to the next, that is just as important.
For me, Teeling is the dream distillery, it is not afraid to innovate, be bold, challenge our palates, and release a multitude of expressions. Using three Pot Stills, made by the historic Italian firm Frili (established in 1912), who are renowned historically for making stills for Grappa production. By design, they are modelled after the traditional Dublin stills that would have dominated the city distilleries of the past. The sizes are 15,000L, 10,000L and 9,000L. If you are wondering, the different sizes is due to reducing the amount of liquid each time they run the still. They start with 30,000L of wash at about 8% ABV. This is run through the first still twice to create enough liquid to fill the second still, with the maximum amount of water left behind (known as Pot Ale) each time. At the end of the run through the three stills approximately 2,500 LPA’s (liquid pure alcohol) from 30,000 litres of 8% wash is left.
The stills are named after Jack Teeling’s daughters, Alyson, Natalie and Rebecca, and the spirit is double or triple distilled. It is interesting to note that the stills are non-operational for 2 weeks a year whilst they are serviced and cleaned.
Prior to the stills being used, of course, is the milling of the grain. Teeling use a variable wet mill. This mill is a lot safer to use as it soaks the grain in water before milling enabling visitors to experience all of the sounds and visuals of our production process (if running at the time or course). It also has the added benefit of being highly flexible on the type of grain that it can process, meaning they can create many different varieties of spirit.
Once milled, the grain goes into one of two Oregon Pine fermenters (15,000L in size) or a larger 30,000L stainless steel fermenter. The water is drawn from their own well from the Dublin aquifer and is treated on site at the distillery. Using both types allows Teeling to combine both modern techniques with traditional methods. The wooden fermenters generate their own bacteria & yeast culture, which imparts unique flavours to the batch early on in the production process. However, the wooden fermenters are not as efficient as the closed stainless steel. The best way to think of it is the wooden fermenters maximise flavour while the stainless steel allows them to get up to the 8% abv required. The wooden fermenters take approximately one day, whilst in the steel it is two to three days.
Once distilled, the spirit is aged in ex-bourbon casks to make small batches of individual whiskey. As you would expect, not all is bottled immediately with some receiving further maturation and finishing in rum casks. Rum can be as diverse as whiskey, with a multitude of countries producing it, so there is no shortage of casks to offer a plethora of choices. This all contributes to the excitement of Teeling.
The majority of whisky in the range is bottled at 46%. This is not a decision made by accountants (cask strength whisky is watered down to the desired strength usually), but through tasting panels. The panels were given Teeling in a range from 38% (not legally whiskey) upwards. It was found that the sweet spot was 46% so that is what they have stuck with. I love this choice – putting consumer preferences first.
The Teeling Whiskey Review
With the Small Batch Rum Cask priced at only 35 euro, it is a big hitter for the money with an explosion of flavour. Grain and malt whiskeys are aged separately in a 3:1 proportion respectively, before finishing in ex-rum casks for up to 12 months. This gives a beautiful aroma of dried dark fruits.
The Single Grain 13 is also worth searching out. It has 95% corn and 5% barley in the mash bill, with the corn coming from France – although it can be grown in Ireland, it is not of the industrial grade needed. It is a step up from the perfectly acceptable standard Single Grain but more flavourfully complex with morello cherries, vanilla and coffee showing through with good length. It has been aged in barrels from California which previously held Cabernet Sauvignon. For me, the barrels are an inspired choice as they counter and balance the sweetness of the corn.
The Single Malt shows waxy citrus fruits, aged in a mixture of white wine, bourbon, madeira and port casks with some 20-year sherry cask added to the blend. Its average age is twelve to thirteen years. With the variety of casks used, blending would have been a highly skilled job, and one that has been accomplished well.
What you have to try, of course, is the Pot Still, which I immediately felt would be the one in the range best suited to accompanying food. It is triple distilled, with a mash bill of 50% malted and 50% unmalted barley. It is then aged in American virgin oak, bourbon and sherry casks, giving it a unique style and flavour.
Blackpitts is Teeling’s peated single malt. The name derives from an area just behind the distillery, historically home to a number of barley malting houses. This whisky has undergone three distillations, which breaks down the salt/iodine, and clearly differentiates it from those made in Islay. Inoculation takes place with with white wine yeasts and aging in bourbon and Sauterne casks. This really is a barbecue in a glass, with the smoke slowly building and adding complexity to the whiskey. The peat is bought in from Scotland at 55ppm (parts per million) but after distillation, it is 15ppm.
If you are in Dublin and visit the distillery you may get lucky, as John Teeling (the founders’ father) comes into the distillery quite a lot. He will regularly start the tour giving a whole breakdown on the history of the family, along with a great background of the entire Irish Whiskey industry & History. This usually delays the rest of the tours for the day, but it’s certainly worth it for what he brings to the experience.
You may view the Teeling website here
Part one of this Teeling Whiskey Review can be found here