By Richard Thomas
The classic zinger about Connemara is “So you like this Irish whiskey that is peated, a single malt, and double distilled? So what you are really saying is you like scotch?”
As the axiom goes, also a classic, “It’s funny because it’s true.” It’s the peated part in particular that makes it so. Double distillation isn’t as abnormal for Irish whiskey as some people like to think, and single malts are widespread. But peating the malt? That is highly unusual, and Connemara is rightly billed as the only Irish whiskey with a smoky flavor.
The peaty Irish in the squat, green bottle carries a 40% abv and no age statement (NAS). Leaving aside the smokiness, however, it is very much an Irish malt in every step of its character.
The coloring is rich, solid gold, while the nose combines heather and meadow wildflower scents with a honeyed sweetness, tinged with a dash of cinnamon, with a current of smoke running straight through it. Imagine sitting in an open field in early May, picnic basket out and the honey jar open, and over on the other side of the field someone else is having a campfire.
The flavor is very much in that mild, smooth, and silky vein so common to Hibernian whiskeys. It’s malty and honeyed, but with a full note of peat. The finish is just as mild, and very low key on the warmth.
The odd little niche that Connemara fills in so nicely is that of a smoky whiskey that is low key and easy drinking enough to put on ice and enjoy in the summer months. There aren’t many whiskeys of which this can be said, so if that is what you want, go get a bottle of this before things get hot this year.
In the UK, Connemara goes for a fairly reasonable £34, and in Ireland its the same number, different currency (€34). Over in the United States, expect to pay about $40.