Teeling Irish Whisky (Small Batch)
Review: Teeling (Small Batch) Irish Whiskey (77.5/00)
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published March 17, 2015
In 1988 John Teeling bought the Cooley Distillery (formerly a potato schnapps distillery) from the Irish Government essentially as a purchase of a facility meant for the scrap heap. The distillery however, was never scrapped. Instead John Teeling and his Master Distiller, Noel Sweeny, turned their perceptions of the facility around, rolled up their sleeves, and ten years later started making some of the most unique Irish whiskey in the Country. (Not that it was easy, Dr. Teeling tried unsuccessfully to sell the distillery five years into the process to rid himself of the bad investment. But… innovation and desire played their part, and the remarkable turn around of the Cooley Distillery is now the stuff of legend.)
Four major four major brands (Kilbeggan, Connemara, Greenore, and Tyrconnell) were produced by Cooley all of which were all acquired by Beam Global (now BeamSuntory) in January 2012. Jack Teeling, who was the managing director of Cooley, decided at this point to go on his own again and created the Teeling Whiskey Company. At this time the flagship whiskey of the Teeling brand is their small batch Teeling Irish Whiskey.
The Teeling Whiskey Company website has this to say about Teeling (Small Batch) Irish Whisky:
“Our Flagship Irish whiskey and our attempt to create the most interesting Blended Irish whiskey. This small batch bottling consists of hand selected casks which are given further maturation in ex-rum barrels imparting extra character and smooth flavour unique to Irish whiskey. By bottling at 46% with no chill filtration completes an Irish whiskey of true character.”
In the Bottle 4.5/5
I snapped a picture of my bottle on the back deck and you can see the image to the left. The bottle has a bit of an ‘old world’ look to it with deep dark green (almost black) glass and a shape which reminds me more of old Port Wine bottles than of whiskey bottles. The label is classy and the cork topper is a nice touch. The label tells me the whiskey is non chill filtered, bottled in May of 2014, and finished in rum casks. All in all, everything about the bottle and the label is quite nice.
In the Glass 8/10
The Irish whiskey has a very pale appearance, similar to a Reposado Tequila. When I tilt and twirl my glass I see a light sheen of liquid coat the inside of the glass and its crest slowly forms droplets which give up slow moving slender legs. The initial aroma from the glass brings forward a light candied sweetness which reminds me of malt scotch, butterscotch and a few wisps of cotton candy. As the glass breathes I also notice some dry lemongrass, bits of sandalwood and few dusty dry wood spices in the breezes along with impressions of almond, dusty grain and a light wafting of vanilla which tags along for the ride.
I would describe the overall scents and smells in the breezes as pleasant and uncomplicated, although there are hints of a harsh alcohol astringency which warn me that I had better sip carefully as this 46 % abv. spirit may have a bit of kick to impart.
In the Mouth 46.5/60
When I took the first sip, I was not sure whether to be pleased or disappointed. I was expecting more of a flavour punch from a 92 proof bottling. However the whiskey maintained pretty much the same character that the breezes above my glass implied. The spirit is pleasantly sweet with a light grainy and grassy character. There is a firm impression of malted barley which is pleasing, but unfortunately the spirit also packs a bit of alcohol heat which caused me to sip very cautiously. In fact, after a few sips I decided to add an ice-cube to the glass. This allowed me to enjoy the whiskey more fully, and even brought forward a few unexpected milk chocolate flavours.
However, as I said, I was undecided as to whether I was pleased or not, the sweetened malty flavour of the whiskey was pleasant; but, the uncomfortable heat was not.. Perhaps a lower bottling strength would have helped with this overt harshness, although it might also be true that the light whisky flavours within the spirit may have all but vanished with a dilution of the alcohol content. I decided that my best course of action was to treat the Teeling Small Batch Whiskey as a mixing spirit, and in that vein I mixed an Emerald Crusta (see below for my recipe) as well as a Double Diamond Fizz. Each cocktail was pleasant, although it would be disingenuous to say the character of the whiskey shone through in any way.
In the Throat 11/15
Even when I make allowances for the higher than normal alcohol proof, I feel the spirit carries too much burn through the finish to score well in the exit. This is a light bodied spirit the heat of which increases with each swallow and ice (and even better soda) was required for my enjoyment.
The Afterburn 7.5/10
The Teeling Irish Whiskey comes across to me a youngish whiskey which lacks character but does have a lot of potential. A few more years in the barrel also might have done well temper that burn I felt in the exit. The Irish spirit has a pleasant taste (despite the burn) as the Rum Cask finish seems to bring with it a welcome sweetness. However I can’t shake the idea from my head that bottling this spirit at 46 % alcohol by volume was perhaps a mistake. Perhaps such a high a bottling proof should be reserved for whiskeys which have spent a little more time in the barrel to round out their edges.
My final score is 77.5/100 places this spirit firmly in the realm of the mixers.
2 oz Teeling Irish Whiskey
1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
3/8 oz Sugar Syrup
1/4 oz Orange Curacao
dash Angostura Bitters
Spiral Lime Peel
optional Q-Ginger (sub Ginger-ale or Ginger Beer)
Rim a cocktail glass with a wedge of Lime
Powder the rim of the glass with fine sugar
Place a Spiral lime Peel in the bottom of the glass
Place the first 5 ingredients in a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the sides of the shaker frost
Strain onto the spiral lime peel in the cocktail glass
If desired, complete with a splash of Q-Ginger
Add a lump of ice in the center of the lime spiral
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!
As always you may interpret the scores I provide 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 more 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)