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Hell-Cat Maggie Irish Whisky

Review: Hell-Cat Maggie Irish Whiskey   82/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted on June 09, 2017

Hell-Cat Maggie Irish Whiskey is produced and bottled by Ed Phillips and Sons located in Princeton, Minnesota. Examining the label, I determine that this Irish Whiskey is produced at the Cooley Distillery in Louth, Ireland. It is apparently distilled three times from a mash of un-malted and malted barley and aged for at least three years. The company’s website does not reveal a great deal more about the whisky. All I could find was this statement which spoke to the brand name:

Hell-Cat Maggie was a member of the notorious Dead Rabbits gang that roamed the Five Points area of Manhattan in the 1840s. A feared streetfighter, Maggie wore razor sharp brass talons on her fingers and filed her teeth into points. Hell-Cat Maggie is an exceptionally smooth whiskey that is distilled in Ireland using the traditional single copper pot still method.

At first, I thought that Hell-Cat Maggie was a fictional character invented for marketing purposes to lend a name and heritage to the whiskey. When I checked her out however, I found out that she (and the New York Irish criminal gang the Dead Rabbits) were actual historical figures. In fact, Maggie was one of the first notorious female criminals of the New York Gang era (mid 19th century). She and the Dead Rabbits were known to local media of the time as they were involved in a gangland turf war with the Bowery Boys.

Hell-Cat Maggie appears to have beeen a particularly violent criminal who, as indicated, may have filed her teeth and wore brass claws such that she could scratch and bite more effectively when fighting. The Dead Rabbits apparently earned their name as they used a dead rabbit on a pole as their mascot, and threw it at the ground in the area of a fight before it commenced. Maggie lived a short and violent life dying in 1845 at the age of 25.

In the Bottle 3.5/5

The Irish Whiskey is sold in a standard medium tall clear whiskey bottle. The name and the label catch one’s attention, which is the intent I am sure; but as indicated above, the choice of Hell-Cat Maggie as a brand name for this Irish whiskey seems to be only for shock value.

The association between a whiskey brand and a particularly violent criminal is a road which I believe should not be traveled. I guess you could say that I am not impressed with the brand message of this particular spirit. It also unfortunately reinforces a negative stereotype of nineteenth century Irish-American immigrants.

I am also not crazy about the pressed on metallic cap used to seal the bottle the whiskey either. It seems to cheapen the overall look of the bottle and label, although it is probably true that this inexpensive closure  helps the consumer save a buck when they make their purchase.

In the Glass 8.5/10

We have a bit of a dichotomy in the glass as the whisky displays the colour (almost copper) and the consistency of an older whisky, yet the aroma seems to indicate a much younger spirit. When I tilt and twirl my glass I see that medium-sized droplets have formed at the crest of a thickish film on the inside, Slender legs amble slowly back down into the whisky.

A light astringency rises from the glass which seems to be associated with both alcohol and fine oak spice. Nutty barley aromas are at the forefront of the breezes. They combine with fine wood spice, impressions of willow and poplar bark, and some lightly sweet butterscotch. Cigarette tobacco, almond and very light vanillans round out the aroma.

The light sharpness seems to indicate a relatively young whiskey; but there is complexity demonstrated as well. The firm nutty barley aroma indicates to me that at least some of the blend may be single malt barley, although there is an obvious robust milled grain quality in the breezes as well.

In the Mouth 49.5/60

I sampled the Hell-Cat Maggie for the first time on my back deck with my tunes playing and the late afternoon sun just providing a nice gentle warmth. It seems summer is coming at last. I wrote down my descriptors: almond, toasted hazelnut, graham wafers, ginger bread, punky butterscotch and oodles of nutty barley grain.

The whiskey is somewhat light bodied (speaking to youth); but it carries a bevy of toasty barley flavours. My thought as I was sipping was that I would love to taste the whiskey with just a couple more years of maturity. The complex flavours are all there, but it is just a little thin and just a little heated. Some ice really helps, but in truth the whisky is probably more suited to mixing than to sipping.

It was turning into a lazy evening, and so I mixed a simple deck drink of Whiskey and Ginger-ale (about a 1:2 ratio) and of course some ice. The Hell-Cat Maggie took to the ginger-ale and ice in a big way and for no other reason than this I can recommend that you buy a bottle. However, I thought that the Whiskey might be able to do more. So thinking of the origins of the Dead Rabbit Gang in Manhattan, New York, I mixed that city’s famous cocktail swapping out the rye for the Irish Whiskey. Although this was no longer a Manhattan (when mixed with Irish Whiskey the drink is properly called an Emerald); it was nevertheless very tasty (see recipe here).  I bumped my score up just a little to recognize that the spirit is more versatile than just as a whiskey and soda mixer.

In the Throat 12/15

The finish is light and somewhat sharp with the spirit bringing along those toasted barley flavours of graham wafer, hazelnut and almond. A light dollop of toffee sweetness helps things along. Not quite a sipper, but delicious nonetheless.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

It could be argued that Hell-Cat Maggie Irish Whiskey should probably have been aged just a little longer to smooth out some of the rough spots. However, it could also be argued that a whiskey named for a notorious female Irish American gang member should have a bit of a bite, especially when that person is said to have filed their teeth such that they would have a more aggressive bite.

I admit to some reservations regarding the association between the brand name and a real criminal; but I have to admit that the spirit inside the bottle and behind the label was a very pleasant surprise.

You may read some of my other Whiskey Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggesting Serving:

Irish Whiskey and Ginger-ale

2 oz Hell-Cat Maggie Irish Whiskey
2 or 3 large Ice-cubes
Splash of Ginger-ale
Citrus Slice for garnish (optional)

Add the Ice-cubes to a rocks glass
Pour the Whiskey over the ice
Add a splash of Lemon lime Soda
Garnish with a lime slice if desired
Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret the score as follows:

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:

70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)




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