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The Story of Connemara
Connemara is an Irish single malt whiskey named after the cultural region in County Galway which in turn takes its name from the Conmacne Mara, an early tribe that settled in the area. The region retains a strong association with traditional Irish culture today and makes up a large portion of the largest ‘Gaeltacht’ in the country (the name given to a region where Irish Gaelic remains the primary language).
The only whiskey brand in Ireland to be produced from peated barley, Connemara is double rather than triple distilled, a technique usually more associated with the distilleries of Scotland. With a core range of ‘Original’, ’12 year old’ and ‘Cask Strength’ the brand has met with considerable success since its launch in 1999.
Despite the name, there is no distillery in the Connemara region. Instead, the whiskey is produced at Cooley distillery in County Louth. When Irish Distillers Ltd bought Bushmills in 1973, it brought every distillery in the country under the same umbrella. Lamenting the lack of competition, and therefore innovation, John Teeling, with deep ancestral roots in the industry himself, decided that he would do something about it.
In 1987, Teeling purchased an industrial alcohol plant on the Cooley peninsula and converted it to produce whiskey. He set about buying the rights to long lost brands like Tyrconnell, Lockes and Kilbeggan and even went so far as to snap up the silent Lockes Distillery, the oldest of its kind in the country. With both plants operating under the Kilbeggan Distilling Company and Teeling’s reputation growing, it wasn’t long before the corporations came calling. In 2012, Beam Inc. paid an impressive $95 million for the business. John Teeling himself used the money to create the Great Northern Distillery in Dundalk, whilst his sons Jack and Stephen used stock from Cooley, acquired in the sale, to launch their own Teeling range.
Under new ownership, Cooley and the Connemara single malt have continued to thrive. The original expression comes as a no-age-statement, bottled at 40% and retails at the rather affordable price of just £35.
Smell: Honey, vanilla, straw, lemon, biscuit and flour. Wood smoke.
Taste: Honey & vanilla. Barley. Biscuit. Toffee. A little woody. Wispy peat smoke.
Thoughts: A very sensibly priced dram that offers something different from just about every other Irish Whiskey. It’s perhaps a little light bodied for my preference (it could be spectacular un-chill filtered at 46%) but it’s a pleasant dram anyway with a lovely little wisp of peat smoke that never overpowers the senses. As an introduction to the Connemara range it does its job well and would, I suspect, encourage more than a few to seek out the rest of the range.
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