By Richard Thomas
Before the World Whiskey Boom, Slane Castle was one of several independent and sourced whiskey brands, in this case associated with the namesake estate that hosts one of Europe’s best known annual music festivals. However, after Beam Global (now Beam Suntory) bought Cooley Distillery in 2011, the sourcing for these independently bottled brands dried up. As a rule, Cooley’s new ownership was more interested in using the distillery’s whiskey stocks to build their own brands, and put their former customers on notice.
Slane was one of the brands that responded with plans to build their own distillery, and altogether those plans added momentum to the Irish distillery building boom. Slane’s own scheme gained little headway until the brand was bought by Brown-Forman in 2015. Construction began shortly thereafter, and the new distillery went operational last summer.
Slane Whiskey had gone into something of an informal hiatus during the years between Beam buying Cooley and last summer. There was no formal announcement and it never completely disappeared from Irish shelves, but things had certainly gone quiet regarding actual bottles of Slane Whiskey, and that in the midst of the Irish Whiskey Boom. Brown-Forman, with deeper pockets and more reach, introduced a new iteration of Slane Whiskey roughly concurrent with the distillery opening last summer.
Of course, the new Slane is all sourced, since in-house production won’t be available for use, even in theory, until the minimum three year aging has been achieved. The new Slane is a blended whiskey, made from Irish malt and grain whiskeys, aged in ex-bourbon barrels (including Tennessee Whiskey barrels, presumably Jack Daniel’s given the ownership), new oak casks and Olosoro Sherry casks. It was bottled at a fairly standard 40% ABV.
The new Slane has the look of light gold, ala a rich white wine, in the glass. It’s surprisingly viscous, leaving a clear, thick coat on the glass that dropped only a single, tiny, slow-moving tear for me.
The nose was grainy and woody in the main, with a good-sized dollop of vanilla making a firm statement for the new oak and ex-bourbon barrels. Notes of apples, toffee and grassiness round out the picture.
On the palate, that morphs into a vanilla, clove-accented spicy kind of sweetness. The toffee becomes butterscotch. But it’s the grain and oak that stand out most. I found the finish light, starting off the butterscotch and fading fast.
Slane Whiskey runs about $30 in the US and £22 in the UK.