Whiskey Review: Clonakilty Irish Whiskey Finished In Pelican Brewing Stout Barrels

, | July 12, 2022

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Clonakilty. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

Nine successive generations of Irish farmers have culminated in the creation of one plucky new Irish distillery. Founded just four years ago in 2018, Clonakilty in the south of Ireland has already won Best Irish New Make and Best Irish Blended at the World Whiskies Awards in 2020, the family who own Clonakilty are hard at work.

In business you need to find ways to distinguish yourself in a crowded room, especially when that room is whiskey. It isn’t uncommon for distilleries to reuse sherry, port, bourbon, rye or even beer barrels to add color, depth, and evenness to their whiskey. However, Clonakilty has gone about distinguishing itself with a program they refer to as American Brewery Collaborations. Clonakilty has taken to working with several American Breweries to create specific beer cask-finished whiskeys. Partners include companies like Revival Brewing in Rhode Island, New England Brewing in Connecticut, 26 degrees brewing in Florida, and Pelican Brewing in Oregon.

Pelican Brewing first joined forces with Clonakilty in 2020 with the Mother of All Storms (which The Whiskey Wash reviewed in 2020). With only 1,500 bottles released exclusively to Oregon, the whiskey was a quick hit among beer and whiskey enthusiasts alike. Now, Pelican and Clonakilty have joined forces once again to bring forth the Father of All Tsunamis Cask Finish.

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Pelican Brewing is based out of Pacific City, Oregon by the Pacific Ocean in the United States. Founded in 1996 this craft brewery has slowly carved a niche for themselves in the heavily beered state of Oregon. The Father of All Tsunamis is an Imperial Stout based off their Tsunami Export Stout, it is further aged in ex-rye whiskey barrels. As a limited release each year, it is only available between April and June. Once the beer is bottled, the stout casks cross the world to West Cork, Ireland by the Atlantic coast, and are re-used to age the Clonakilty Irish Whiskey.

Pelican brew master, Darron Welch, in a prepared statement said of the collaboration, “I just love how robust and rich the Clonakilty Father of All Tsunamis Stout Finish came out. The depth of flavor and rounded finish make for an incredibly satisfying dram.”

Breweries using whiskey casks is nothing novel. The craft beer scene is always toying with new and interesting ways to stand out. Beer, with its lower ABV, generally eagerly accommodates the whiskey flavors left behind in the cask. However, a growing trend in the whiskey industry is to reuse the beer casks to help finish or soften the edges of a whiskey. Look at Jameson Cask Mates for a big distillery experimenting with this concept. Many enthusiasts, myself included, are mixed on this new trend. Sean Scully, of Clonakilty, explained why they chose Father of All Tsunamis for their cask pairing. “Being such a ‘big’ beer, the phenomenal ex-stout casks that Pelican are gracious enough to provide us with, not only contribute beautiful traditional stout characteristics to the whiskey but also bring a delightful creamy mouthfeel to the forefront.”

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These brands worked well together in 2020, so we turn to the glass and see if they work well again in 2022.

Clonakilty Irish Whiskey Finished In Pelican Brewing Stout Barrels review

Clonakilty Father of All Tsunamis Stout Cask Finish Irish Whiskey (image via Clonakilty)

Tasting Notes: Clonakilty Father of All Tsunamis Stout Cask Finished Irish Whiskey

Vital Stats: Irish whiskey finished in Pelican Brewing Father of all Tsunamis Imperial stout barrels. The ABV is 52% or 104 proof, with an increased yield of 2,900 bottles. Available in Oregon, released on May 1, 2022, for $69.95.

Appearance: Pale yellow, like dried wheat.

Nose: Crisp bitter alcohol esters, which melt into banana bread, walnuts, and wildflowers.

Palate: The imperial stout is present immediately. There is chocolate, vanilla, walnuts, and the creamy nature of the malts. This is followed by wood grain and rye. Once the stout has cleared, the new make whiskey has baking spice, some alcohol esters that are bitter but not overpowering, some light vanilla as well. The stout smooths the edges of the Irish whiskey and makes the dram very approachable. The aftertaste has one last whisper of chocolate before cleanly departing.

3.5

Summary

Warm with a smooth taste, the whiskey benefits mightily from the stout and ex-rye cask in this case. I think Pelican and Clonakilty make a good team with this one. I believe using an Imperial Stout vs a fruitier beer paid dividends. Although this whiskey is good, I’m unable to separate it from the crowd of other good whiskey/beer combinations. The spunk of Irish whiskey certainly helps, but it still comes across too young. I am clearly drinking two different drinks working independently but achieving a similar goal, where they should be working in tandem. I think this collaboration, with a touch more time, could be something really remarkable in the near future.

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Charles Steele

Charles Steele is a Portland area attorney, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. His legal education affords him an analytical approach to understanding whiskey and other aged spirits. Traditionally a legal writer, freelancing for The Whiskey Wash will prove a unique opportunity to flex his writing skills. Although he...