By Richard Thomas
Teeling Whiskey Company is a new player, so new that it’s whiskey is sourced rather than made by the company itself. That isn’t necessarily a knock for Teeling, since the man at the helm is former Cooley honcho Jack Teeling. Even so, nothing highlights Teeling’s novelty and lack of a distillery to call it’s own like the title of it’s standard premium and aged product: the Teeling Vintage Reserve 21 Year Old Single Malt. Old enough to drink in its own right, the whiskey dates back to the government of Irish Taoiseach Charles Haughey. The Cooley Distillery itself is only a little older.
Once again, that Teeling picked it instead of made it shouldn’t be viewed as a knock against Teeling. The essence of being a small whiskey-maker is in ferreting out the best whiskey out there and making good use of it, and in the Teeling Vintage Reserve 21 Year Old Single Malt, it shows.
The Teeling 21 Year Old Single Malt is finished in Sauterne wine barrels, and bottled at 46% abv. In my mind, the whiskey embodies the classic characteristics of the Irish style, but takes it all up a notch in terms of character.
The color, a hefty, full-bodied gold, is suggestive that enhanced character. The nose is too: malty with mellow wood and toffee, plus a touch of sea spray. The flavor is a 2nd Act with most of the same characters, but turns them upside down and adds some new faces. It’s still woody and malty, but the toffee drops farther back, and instead of a crisp saltiness the whiskey comes on late with a dash of white pepper. The finish is long, mellow, and warmly joyful, with a light, peppery afterglow and a toffee aftertaste. Even though that pepper note is tight and spicy, it doesn’t turn the whiskey away from being a mellow, pleasant companion.
Although not in what one would call widespread distribution, there is some price variability between vendors for the Teeling 21 Year Old. Ostensibly, it should be priced at approximately £150 a bottle (about $230), but I’ve seen it listed with online retailers for £118.