Jim Murray has announced the winners in this year’s Whisky Bible, with a rye claiming top spot for the second year running and a Scotch whisky in the top three for the first time since 2014.
Following on from Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Canadian rye, it’s an American rye whiskey that’s been named World Whisky of the Year in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible this time around: Booker’s ‘Big Time Batch’, aged for 13 years, 1 month and 12 days. Laid down by the legendary Booker Noe himself in 2003, shortly before his death, his son continued to watch over the casks and they were finally released earlier this year. Booker’s first ever rye, it was already described by Beam as an “extremely rare, limited edition offering, made from a very limited number of barrels” and will now become an even more sought-after bottling.
It was 11am in Gatwick airport on Saturday 14th March. The plane taking a small drinks press contingent over to Ireland for Jameson’s extended #HelloDublin St. Patrick’s Day celebrations was due to leave in just over an hour from Heathrow. Had I made a terrible mistake?
In fact, I’d just arrived back from a holiday and had always known I couldn’t make that flight, just as I now knew all I’d be seeing of blighty was Gatwick airport itself. My flight to Cork was later, and until then I’d simply be pretending I was Tom Hanks in The Terminal. (Although there were no Catherine Zeta-Jones love interest developments to speak of.)
I like a bit of Irish whiskey me. That’s why I made a point of writing a big ol’ three-part blog post about it earlier in the year. So, bearing that in mind, when I received an invitation to attend the Irish Whiskey Academy at Midleton distillery over in County Cork I didn’t really need to think about it for too long. The Academy opened in February 2013 and along with a new still house and archive became a focus for the Irish Distillers’ Housewarming celebrations last year.
The Academy is a state of the art training facility whose courses have been attended by many of the leading whisk(e)y writers, journalists and bartenders. There’s a nice Dave Broom quote on their site that sums it up quite nicely: “I can honestly say that this is the finest training facility I have ever been in, and some of the finest training I have ever had”. That.
Blimey, it’s Friday already! A Valentine’s Day Friday, no less! Well, today we only have eyes for delicious Irish Whiskey as we move onto the third and final instalment of this bumper blog post.
Back at the start of Part 1, I mentioned Teeling Whiskey Company‘s recently confirmed plans to build a new distillery in Dublin, the first in 125 years. This post will cover this and many other projects that could see the number of distilleries in Ireland double, treble, or perhaps even quadruple!
First though, I’ll try to briefly run through some other news and developments, starting with the fact that in 2011 Beam Inc. bought Cooley, introducing another big player alongside the giants of Pernod Ricard and Diageo and leaving Ireland without an independent distillery once again (albeit briefly…).
Yesterday, I began my serialised guide to Irish Whiskey with a rundown of its turbulent history through some difficult times, becoming the most popular spirit in the world before nearly disappearing altogether in the 20th century! Fortunately, it has been on a road to recovery in the last few decades and is now thriving.
Despite this resurgence, which has made Irish Whisky the fastest growing drinks category in the world, Scotch whisky still comfortably sells 15 times more cases worldwide, and has about as many times more active distilleries too. With Scotch whisky’s dominance since the 1930s, there’s perhaps understandably still some confusion, even amongst whisk(e)y enthusiasts, surrounding the styles of Irish whiskey available.
Fret not, however! In this second instalment I’ll be looking at each style in turn, complete with a number of yummy examples of each!
UPDATE: You can now find Redbreast 21 Year Old on the site here!
Last night saw the launch of a brand new Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey expression to join a range that already contains the excellent Redbreast 12 Year Old, Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength and Redbreast 15 Year Old.
I know what you’re thinking: “What is the collective noun for robins?”. It’s a worm. A worm of robins. Yep.
The new expression? A 21 Year Old! We were more than a little excited. The Dave Broom quote on the Redbreast website sums it up nicely:
“If the ship was going down within sight of a desert island, my flailing left hand would make a grab for a bottle of Redbreast.”