By Richard Thomas
Irish whiskey is the narrowest of the traditional whiskey regions, and one of the narrowest in general. Until recently, almost all whiskey production in Ireland was limited to just three distilleries: New Midleton (Jameson, etc.); Cooley; Old Bushmills. Once upon a time, all of Ireland’s many whiskey brands were either owned by or sourced from these three, but that has begun to change with the opening of a new batch of Irish distilleries and whiskey-makers. The story behind Teeling Whiskey is a case in point.
Few names are more firmly embedded in Irish whiskey than Teeling. Walter Teeling got into the Dublin whiskey business by starting a distillery in 1782, and the Cooley Distillery itself was founding by John Teeling in 1987, when he converted an old potato alcohol plant into a whiskey distillery. Jim Beam bought Cooley in January 2012, a move that shut the door on many an independent Irish whiskey label, since Cooley no longer intends to source whiskey for them. Beam’s muscling into the Irish whiskey picture has spurred many of the micro-distillery plans in Ireland, and it also prompted Jack Teeling, the former managing director of Cooley, to start his own brand, the Teeling Whiskey Company.
The standard bearer, Teeling Irish Whiskey, is a blend of sourced whiskey for the time being. Jack Teeling has ambitious plans to start the first distillery to operate in Dublin in 40 years, but Teeling distilling its own spirits is something for the future.
Teeling is a sourced, blended Irish whiskey, married and finished in ex-rum casks, non-chill filtered, and bottled at 46% abv. The rum casks are a particularly unusual note, as bourbon and sherry barrels are much more common in the Irish whiskey business, and most Irish whiskeys of this type are bottled at 40%. Teeling is also a small batch, one of a small handful in Irish whiskey.
The look of Teeling grabbed me right from the start. The dark green glass of the bottle is very close to black, and smacks of an old Port bottle. I usually disdain green and brown glass as a cheap device meant to hide a whiskey’s lack of color, but Teeling’s Port-like bottle and Edwardian-style label are just plain classy.
Besides, Teeling isn’t hiding its color. In the glass, the whiskey has that straw yellow color that bespeaks of Irish whiskey character. The nose is something like an apple pie with rum thrown in for seasoning: sweet, fruity, lightly spicy. A tinge of piney wood imparts a crisp, bracing aspect to the scent.
The flavor is syrupy and mellow, and hints at dark, spiced rum. This is sweet whiskey, but a little woodiness and pepper in the taste keeps it from becoming too sweet. The finish flows out of the peppery note and into a nice, warm glow.
The recommended retail price for Teeling Irish Whiskey is around €35 ($46).