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Writers Tears Pot Still Irish Whiskey

Review: Writers Tears Pot Still Irish Whiskey    83.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted October 07, 2012

Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey is traditionally made from a mash comprised of both malted and unmalted barley which is distilled in a pot still. This style of whiskey was apparently produced as a reaction to British taxes on malted whiskey which were introduced in 1802. To reduce the taxable amount on their whisky, Irish distillers began to add more unmalted barley into the distillation. The result was what we have come to know as Irish Pure Pot Still Whisky.

Writers Tears Pot Still Irish Whisky contains both Single Malt Whiskey and the aforementioned Pure Pot Still Whiskey in its construction. As is the tradition in Ireland, the whiskey is triple distilled and matured in American Oak (bourbon) barrels. I was sent a bottle of the Writers Tears to review here on my website and asked to coordinate the publication of the review to coincide roughly with the reintroduction of the whiskey to the Ontario market (on October 14) after an absence of about one year from the store shelves.

In the Bottle    2.5/5

As you can see from the picture to the left, the Writers Tears arrives in a standard bar-room style whiskey bottle. These bottles are very popular especially for bartenders as they are easy to grab from the bar shelf and easy to pour into the bar glass. Although it is not shown in the picture, my bottle of Writers Tears arrived in an attractive green display box which adds to the ambiance of the presentation. The only obvious flaw is the metallic screw cap which closes the bottle. I dislike those metallic caps as they are quite flimsy, and will sometimes lose their thread before the bottle is finished.

You might be wondering why the low score for presentation for what looks like a dandy whisky bottle. The low score stems from my discomfort with the brand messaging on the front and back of the bottle. The front of the bottle contains what appears to be part of a poem of sorts,

“I traded my tomorrows to remain in yesterday whiskey tears are falling now, each one cries another day …” 

This is remarkably similar to the lyrics of the Dierks Bentley country song called “Whiskey Tears”

I traded my tomorrows to remain in yesterday
Whiskey tears are falling here and each one cries her name

(In fact similar lyrics are found in many country and western songs; although I have been informed by the brand owner that the lyrics are actually inspired by an old Gaelic folk song.)

The back label of the bottle goes on to tell us that,

“Ireland has been blessed with great poets, and playwrights down through the centuries. However, most, if not all of our great writers suffered from writer’s block. Many sought comfort and inspiration from “The water of Life”… Whiskey. It was said that when an Irish writer cried, he cried tears of Whiskey.

Writers Tears is a salute to these great writers with a style of whiskey that was popular in Joyce’s Dublin…”

I am troubled by these statements on the front and back labels which seem to imply that like Ireland’s great poets and writers, we should perhaps turn to a bottle of whiskey for inspiration when life places obstacles in our path. This doesn’t fit my idea of socially responsible brand messaging.

In the Glass   9/10

Putting aside my feelings about the flawed messaging on the bottle, what is inside the bottle is remarkable. As always, I began my examination with the whiskey in the glass. The colour of the whiskey is a bright golden amber which to me seems to hint at a vibrant character within the glass.

The initial aroma from the glass has a bit of a bourbon flair complemented by honeyed butterscotch, punky Halloween toffee, oak spices, and obvious taints of vanilla and almond. There is a bit of citrus orange peel in the air and an underlying herbal element which to me has a resemblance to freshly cut lowland hay, willow thickets, and those lush ferns that grow near wetlands. As well there is a flamboyance to the Whiskey as all of these scents and smells seem to play with each other joyfully in the breezes above the glass.

In the Mouth  54/60

The whiskey enters the mouth with soft punky pot-still caramel flavours which are enlivened by oak spice and fruity citrus peel. We have a solid path of vanilla weaving its way through the oak and caramel, and some very nice honey accents. Almond and marmalade flavours weigh in for good measure, and underneath everything else is a lovely maltiness which seems to anchor the whisky and tie everything together.

I like the flavour of this whiskey a lot. In particular I feel that the combination of the oak spices and the sweet honey accents enable this Pot Still Irish Whiskey to be very approachable. As such, it should appeal to a great variety of persons whether they are familiar with Irish pot still whiskey or not.

In the Throat   13.5/15

The finish is heated by wood spices (ginger and citrus peel) which are accompanied by a mild bitterness which is akin to the finish of a good Canadian rye whisky. The combination warms the palate and dries the throat. And the combination is very appealing.

The Afterburn  4.5/10

When I first sampled the Writer’s Tears, it was at a whisky festival in Edmonton, almost two years ago. I really liked the flavour, and I was happy when I discovered that a sample bottle was to come my way for review. When my sample bottle arrived, my feelings about the quality of this whisky were confirmed. Writers Tears is a really great whisky, with an approachable pot-still flavour which I think both novice whisky drinkers and experienced connoisseurs will appreciate.

As you might have guessed, this review was very difficult to write, due to the dichotomy of a great whisky coupled with brand messaging that I personally was uncomfortable with. In the end I decided that I could not ignore the unsettled feeling I have with respect to the statements on the front and back labels. My “Afterburn” score of 4.5 hopefully does justice to those mixed feelings.

My Overall score of 83.5 reflects a great whisky which has been tainted somewhat by what I feel is misguided marketing.

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


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)


8 Responses to “Writers Tears Pot Still Irish Whiskey”

  1. N Myers said

    brendan behan might punch you in the nose if he read your review…it’s about the drink not the ‘socially responsible’ critic…isn’t it?

    • Hi Noel

      Brendan Behan might well punch me in the nose, then again he might actually agree with me. Unfortunately we will never know, as Behan was one of those Irish playwrights and poets who turned to the bottle all to often and died early as a result. In fact, Behan was well known for his drinking problem, (as noted by his famous drunken interview on BBC television). His overindulgence is said to have caused his diabetes, which combined with his drinking resulted in his death at the ripe old age of 41, on 20 March 1964.

      Like the life of James Joyce, the life of Brendan Behan only serves to illustrate why I am so uncomfortable with the marketing tact of the Writer’s Tears Whiskey.

  2. Joseph Mallozzi said

    I’m confused. You’ve interpreted the line: “Many sought comfort and inspiration from “The water of Life”… Whiskey.” as implying “we should perhaps turn to a bottle of whiskey for inspiration when life places obstacles in our path.”

    How so? The aforementioned quote reads more like a statement of fact – that numerous Irish writers DID turn to whiskey for some comfort and inspiration, not “they drank themselves silly and were hugely successful so you should all follow suit”. The fact is many Irish writers – like many social drinkers today – did drink whiskey for comfort and inspiration. That doesn’t mean they were drunkards who turned to the bottle as a way of escaping life’s problems.

  3. David said

    Thanks for clarifying that you would normally rate it an 88. I was going to skip over this whiskey. I can’t help but feeling that any personal misgivings of a political or personal nature shouldn’t affect the score. The contents of the bottle are what really matter.

    • I disagree that it is only the contents that matter. For myself, corporate responsibility matters, and brand messaging matters. I do not think these factors should not be swept under the rug just because we like what is inside the bottle. For myself personally, the misguided messaging is enough to stop me from buying a bottle of this whisky, but I understand, that my personal line in the sand is not necessarily the line in the sand that someone else would draw. We all have our own viewpoints based upon our own personal experience. The difficulty in writing this review was to strike the right balance between two opposing factors (what was inside versus what was outside the bottle). I wanted to make it clear that the contents were in fact great, but that the corporate messaging wasn’t.

      (My sense is that I have not succeeded very well in conveying my feelings in this review, but at least I tried which is better than ignoring a thorny issue because you are not sure how to handle it.)

  4. rawkabillyrebel said

    I really enjoyed this one it would rate it a little higher, an 88 out of 100. A ton of flavor and very smooth.

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