Editor’s Note: These whiskies were provided to us as review samples by Teeling. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
Teeling, the progressive Irish whiskey producer who burst onto the scene in 2012, has been building its success largely on the back of a range of barrel and grain focused expressions. The first distillery to open in Dublin in 125 years has a history of pushing the boundaries of Irish whiskey, with innovative releases focusing on nontraditional finishes and grain bills.
In addition to their forward looking cask finishing program, Teeling made waves in the Irish whiskey market by releasing an ultra-premium 30 year old, French wine cask finished expression. The purchase of a minority stake in Teeling by Bacardi in 2017 paved the way for more widespread distribution and gave them access to a huge catalogue of spirits to collaborate with on barrel finishes, hopefully setting the stage for more of the innovative expressions in Irish whiskey that we’ve come to expect.
With Teeling at the vanguard of the traditionally staid Irish whiskey category, I’m excited to taste the expressions they’ve come up with. Teeling Small Batch, a flagship product for Teeling, is finished for no less than 6 months in Central American rum casks. The Teeling Single Grain, one of the only single grain bottlings, is fully matured in California wine barrels. Finally, the Teeling Single Malt combines five different wine cask finishes, including port, sherry, white burgundy and cabernet sauvignon.
It should be noted all these releases are from sourced stocks – the distillery not too long ago began releasing their own in-house distilled Irish whiskey as well.
Tasting Notes: Teeling Small Batch
Vital Stats: Rum Cask Finish, NAS, 46% abv, $40
Appearance: Pale Straw
Nose: Raw Spirit, Lemon Peel, Burnt Sugar<
Palate: Light grain syrup leads into a cane sugar residual sweetness. Thin mouthfeel, with lemon curd, green apple and vanilla dominating the flavor profile.
Final Thoughts: An interesting expression of Irish whiskey, the rum barrel finish enhances the inherent sweetness in Irish whiskey and complements the vanilla elements. The heat added by the (presumably) former Bacardi barrels doesn’t really do the spirit any favors though, creating an oddly sharp and unrefined drinking experience.
I don’t often use “smooth” as a descriptor whiskey but a little softening around the edges would be appreciated here. This came across as simultaneously oversweet and hot. I could see this doing quite well in a mint or citrus forward cocktail, but I’d skip it as a sipper.
Tasting Notes: Teeling Single Grain
Vital Stats: Wine Cask Finish, 5 year aged, 46% abv, $45
Appearance: Dark Straw
Nose: Vanilla, Cherry Cordial, Lapsang Souchong
Palate: Dried cherries, cherry pit, cinnamon bark, tons of baking spices. There is a pleasant sweetness, minimal heat and a strong black tea and oak astringency with medium length, very dry finish.
Final Thoughts: A very well done example of a wine cask finish, the extra tannins blend well with the spice forward palate. The flavor profile is almost reminiscent of Angostura bitters, in an exceedingly drinkable way. This is a perfect holiday dram and would make a great riff on a Manhattan.
Tasting Notes: Teeling Single Malt Irish Whiskey
Vital Stats: NAS, 46% abv, $60
Appearance: Pale Straw
Nose: White Grapes, Vanilla, Toffee, Unripe Melon, Rich Toffee
Palate: Pleasantly prickly mouthfeel with slight tannic drying. Loads of marzipan, asian pear, Melon Hi-Chu, and white grape soda. Fresh and fruity.
Final Thoughts: A very pleasant, fruit forward drinker. The white grape characteristic is quite nice and it drinks like a pleasant summertime sipper. This would be especially nice in a highball or over ice. Not the most complex, but certainly a drier and more crisp expression than many of its kin. My favorite of the three.
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Connor is a professional chef in Portland, OR. He is currently one half of the chef/bartender duo behind the popular MIAN (@mianpdx on Instagram) pop-ups and is working towards opening a bar with his business partner. Previously he has run cocktail programs and done spirits education focusing on whiskey and...