A blended Irish Whiskey with mezcal and Tequila cask influence is our timely New Arrival of the Week…

In a week where The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) announced that it has broadened the list of allowable cask types to mature Scotch whisky in, it felt only right for us to feature a whiskey that has an unusual ageing process. But it’s not from Scotland. . .

While the door is now open for Scotch to welcome more experimental expressions, Ireland has already got something of a history of making whiskey with interesting cask finishes. From Method and Madness’ Virgin Hungarian Oak Finish, West Cork’s Bog Oak Charred Cask Finish and Tullamore D.E.W.’s Cider Cask Finish, there’s plenty of options for those who want to try something outside the box. Not to mention Lambay Single Malt (Cognac), Green Spot Château Léoville Barton (the first ever single pot still Irish whiskey finished in Bordeaux casks), Kinahan’s The Kasc Project (hybrid casks from Portuguese, American, French and Hungarian oak, as well as chestnut) and Glendalough 13 Year Old Irish Whiskey – Mizunara Oak Finish (it’s in the title, c’mon people). Some interesting casks there, but there hasn’t been much in the way of Tequila and/or mezcal casks. Until now.

Our New Arrival of the Week, J.J. Corry The Battalion, features both. From Chapel Gate whiskey bonders, the expression is made up of 60% 9-year-old grain and 40% 13-year-old malt whiskey, which were initially aged in ex-bourbon casks. The grain then continued its maturation in a combination of Tequila and mezcal casks for seven months, while the malt spent seven months in just mezcal casks. “We decanted grain into Mezcal & Tequila casks and malt into mezcal casks to mature for seven months,” Chapel Gate Founder Louise McGuane said. “We then vatted a grain Tequila/mezcal blend we felt best expressed the agave notes we wanted to pull out of those casks. This was then blended with 40% of the 2006 malt mezcal influenced whiskey.”

J.J. Corry

J.J. Corry founder Louise McGuane

The Battalion was called as such to mark the sacrifices made by the Battalion San Patricos, (Saint Patrick’s Battalion) a group of Irish men who fought for Mexico in the Mexican/American War of 1846-1848. “We named it in honour of the men of Saint Patricos Battalion because independence has always mattered around here”, McGuane explained. But Chapel Gate itself has an interesting story.

It has been sourcing and blending Irish whiskey since 2015, making it the first new whiskey bonder in Ireland for over 50 years. Hence why the brand describes itself as “Ireland’s first modern whiskey bonder.” The company named its whiskey J.J. Corry after a local whiskey bonder from the 1800s. Chapel Gate doesn’t always plan to be solely a bonder, but like many of Ireland’s recently-founded distilleries, it is waiting for its own distillate to mature. So, in the meantime, it’s taken advantage of a purpose-built bonded rackhouse on the McGuane family farm in Cooraclare, County Clare, Ireland to experiment with ageing and blending ideas, as well as lay the foundations to build a future house style.

McGuane explained that the ambition for Chapel Gate is to “respect tradition but embrace change.” As modern whiskey bonders, J.J. Corry’s idea of change is not surprisingly expressed through its use of the many casks it has at its disposal, much like Corry himself would have done with the rum, Bordeaux & sherry casks that were available to him. The inspiration to go as far afield as Mexico came from McGuane’s respect for the work of artisanal Tequila and mezcal producers. “The best mezcal & Tequilas are, at their heart, produced in rural locations by families, with whom we share a significant affinity with given our approach to whiskey making on our family farm on the west coast of Ireland”, she explained.

What does it taste like then? McGuane felt that in The Battalion (which was bottled at 41% ABV), she had created “a really unique whiskey with green herbal notes and the slightest touch of agave.” There’s also a pleasant salinity and the bittersweet qualities of dried herbs, which could well have been influenced by the cask. The maturation doesn’t dilute the distillate’s profile, however. Tropical fruit, creamy nuttiness and a bite of citrus zest add depth to this whiskey’s character, which ultimately makes for an intriguing dram. Only 700 bottles have been produced.

So, while you wait for a deluge of experimental cask finishes from Scotland, you could do a lot worse than to enjoy a dram of J.J. Corry The Battalion.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Fresh leafy notes, apple skin, lemon curd and a slight oily nutty note.

Palate: Tangy pineapple and a hint of ripe pear, walnut and green grassy notes with a touch of vegetal agave.

Finish: Oak spice and a sprinkle of sea salt, with a small pinch of dried herbs.