Ireland vs. Scotland: a tasting event I went to pitted single pot still Irish whiskey against single malt scotch, and the two styles were quite distinctive.
Going head to head
I don’t mean that title literally…I know that both countries are beautiful and their people are friendly and welcoming. I’d really love to visit there someday (note, if anyone wants to sponsor me to go to, you know, make sure I’m right, I wouldn’t say no…). No, the title refers to a tasting I recently went to hosted by the North Shore Whisky Club (I wrote about their last event in (Mostly) Single). This event pitted single pot still Irish whiskey against single malt scotch, and the two styles were quite distinctive. The evening was presented by Alex Thibault, Brand Ambassador for Whiskeys of Midleton/Irish Distillers Ltd/Pernod Ricard. Alex gave us a lot of interesting tidibts to think about as we were imbibing, and a good time was had by all.
I first tasted and reviewed Irish whiskey in Can I buy a vowel? (coincidentally, I tasted then some of the whiskies below, and it’s good to know that my current review isn’t too far off from then…go me!). In that post, I discussed how Irish whiskey is distilled differently than scotch, so I won’t go into that topic here (good, we can read it ourselves, thanks). One interesting factoid that I wanted to note is that while scotch is made with just malted barley (that is, barley that has been partially germinated, then heated to stop the germination process), Irish whiskey uses either all or some unmalted barley. This difference results in more grain or hay flavors in the expression. I really noticed this difference during the tasting, as reflected in my notes.
Let’s go to the review, shall we? (we thought you’d never ask…)
Ireland vs. Scotland…Single Pot Still/Malt Whisk(e)y tasting event
Hosted by the North Shore Whiskey Club, presented by Alex Thibault, August 19, 2017
40% ABV, Single Pot Still Whiskey (Ireland)
- Nose: green apple, honey, white chocolate
- Taste: enters softly, grains, green apple, white chocolate, lightly floral, lemon rind, light body
- Finish: spice rises, pepper last on the back of the tongue
- Comments: a soft, light sip, not harsh, easy and approachable
40% ABV, Single Malt (Orkney, Scotland)
- Nose: oranges, clover honey, hay, salt
- Taste: soft & light body, hay & floral orange blossoms
- Finish: taste doesn’t linger, some evergreen notes
- Comments: very light and bright, another easy drink
46% ABV, Single Pot Still Whiskey (Ireland)
- Nose: heavier aroma, more caramel, vanilla, slight cooked fruit
- Taste: creamier & oilier than Green Spot, pears, toffee
- Finish: butter lasts after the pepper fades
- Comments: more body & has interesting character
46% ABV, Single Pot Still Whiskey (Ireland)
Lustau Olorose Sherry Cask
- Nose: cooked fruit, hay underneath, burnt sugar
- Taste: sneaks in with the cooked fruit, brown sugar candy, light body but more texture
- Finish: exits sweetly, brown sugar, slight menthol at the end
- Comments: sherry really adds character, still light in body, Very nice!
60.7% ABV, Single Malt (Speyside, Scotland)
Oloroso Sherry, Cask Strength
- Nose: sherry hit with deep ripe fruit, caramel, floral
- Taste: bigger & bolder, chocolate oily, caramel
- Finish: cinnamon & cloves last, heats the throat
- Comments: definitely cask strength, excellent! w/ water: hoppiness, floral bitterness, sweet dark chocolate, heavy cream
Redbreast Cask Strength 12yr
57.2%, Single Pot Still Whiskey (Ireland)
- Nose: green apple, light gran
- Taste: medium body, honey & vanilla, toffee
- Finish: toffee, cayenne, cloves, nutmeg
- Comments: cask strength adds some bite; w/ water: grass notes, green apple, hops, more bitter
61.5% ABV, Peated Single Malt (Speyside, Scotland)
- Nose: campfire smoke, white chocolate, pears
- Taste: butter & clotted cream, sweet marshmallows
- Finish: cream filled doughnuts, some ash on the tongue
- Comments: aged in Laphroaig casks, even at cask strength it’s not harsh, very drinkable…so good!! My favorite of the night; w/ water: green grass with some sweet cream
For me, the Glenlivet and Aberlour scotches won the day over the Irish whiskey generally, but the Lustau rounded out my top three. I really liked the Laphroaig-infused peatiness of the Nadurra that went along with the sweetness of that Speyside spirit…it had the most character of the lineup. And you can’t beat the bold, sweet strength of the Aberlour…there’s a lot going on in that glass. I do like Irish whiskey as it’s lighter in flavor and body, but I really enjoy a dram I can sink my teeth into (so to speak), and scotch generally provides that in spades (so much for not mixing metaphors). Have you had a tasting where Ireland and Scotland go head-to-head? What did you think? Leave your comments below, and remember, here…everyone wins!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!