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Writers Tears Red Head Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Review: Writers Tears Red Head Single Malt Irish Whiskey   (88.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted June 16, 2017

Bernard and Rosemary Walsh began producing their own independent Irish Whiskey brands in 2007 with the introduction of The Irishman 70 (aka The Irishman Original Clan in the USA) and The Irishman – Single Malt. In 2009 they expanded the portfolio with the introduction Writers Tears, a boutique brand which was created to bring additional nuance to the Irish Whiskey Category. Although these brands are distilled and aged by a third-party distillery, Bernard and Rosemary recently opened the Walsh Whiskey Distillery and began to produce their own new-make spirit in 2016.

The subject of this review, Writers Tears Red Head Single Malt Irish Whisky, is a triple-distilled spirit matured in Spanish butts which were previously seasoned with Olorosso sherry. The Sherry butts impart both flavour and a coppery orange hue which has given rise to the name of the Whiskey, ‘Red Head’.

The spirit is bottled at 46 % alcohol by volume without chill filtering.

In the Bottle 4/5

As you can see from the picture to the left, the Writers Tears Red Head 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. An attractive display box 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.

If you remember my original review for the Writers Tears Pot Still Irish Whiskey, (see here) you know that I was quite troubled by the brand messaging which alluded to great Irish Poets who would turn to a bottle of whiskey for inspiration as a cure for writer’s block. I am happy to report that what I saw as misguided messaging both on the back label of the bottle and on the display box the whiskey arrives in, has been replaced by a more complete product description. I am much happier.

In the Glass 9/10

When poured into my glass, the Red Head has a deep orange hue. When I tilted my glencairn and gave it a slow twirl, I saw that the crest which formed at the top of the thickened sheen inside the glass was at first hesitant to release any legs. However after a few moment several medium large droplets formed and fell back into the whiskey as thick legs.

Fine oak spice and raisins greeted my nose when I inspected the breezes above the glass with a light cherry-like impression gathering steam. Bits of orange peel and orange marmalade began to rise as well. The fruity notes of the sherry barrel (raisins, cherries and hints of plum) seem nicely melded into the nutty barley notes (which reminded me of graham wafers and hazelnuts).

I gave the glass about ten minutes to breathe and the fine oak spices did not relent although I should note that there was also an accompanying sweetness of caramel and malt which promised to balance the dram. The different scents and smells melded together creating an impression of an oak and raisin syrup which was most delightful.

In the Mouth 53.5/60

The first sip was brought a jolt of both oak spice and alcohol heat to the palate. At 46 % alcohol the whiskey packs a punch. The taste descriptors provided to me by the distillery included “nutty Olorosso, spicy raisin and creamy oak“, but I found myself disagreeing with that assessment. The nutty component is there, but it is malted barley grain which lies at the core of this impression with flavours of almond, hazelnut and graham wafer all shining through. The Olorosso influence brings flavours of raisins and other dried fruit (peaches and dates). The oak (rather than being creamy) is full of fine heated wood spices, ginger and orange peel. But whether I agree with the producer with respect to the nuances of the taste descriptors is irrelevant, the main point is that the different components work together bringing a yummy heated menagerie of whiskey flavour across the palate.

I dropped an ice-cube into the dram which helped to ease the explosion of spice and heat and also brought welcome flavours of chocolate and coffee into focus. At this point I decided to stop writing such that I could more fully enjoy the whisky (for the moment at least).

In The Throat 13/15

The Red Head Single Malt Whiskey is triple distilled and as such is lighter than a typical Single Malt Whiskey. Sipped neat, I taste both orange peel and oak spice with little explosions of cinnamon and clove providing even more heat in the exit. With ice the heat is tempered and I taste a triumvirate of dry fruit, coffee and chocolate. Much better with ice!

The Afterburn 9/10

The folks at Walsh Whiskey are making quite a name for themselves with their fresh approach to the Irish Whiskey Category and the Writers Tears Red Head Single Malt Whiskey continues that theme. The nutty barley flavours so typical of Irish Whiskey are melded into the dry fruit flavours of the sherry butt such that neither aspect of flavour dominates. However, it must be stated that it is also true that neither aspect of flavour is diminished. The result is, that with a spot of ice to cool her fire, the Red Head is thoroughly pleasing.

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)

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