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The Return of Whiskey
An area in Central Dublin to the southwest of the inner city, the Liberties is an historic working class neighbourhood, one time home to market traders, local family businesses and the Guinness Brewery as well as an array of whiskey distilleries. Like so many towns and cities however, the area has seen its fair share of poverty and depravity, particularly when vast sections of industry closed down and removed employment prospects for the local population.
Today the area is undergoing something of a rejuvenation however, with new breweries and distilleries opening on a regular basis. When Teeling opened their distillery in 2014, it was the first in the city for more than 100 years but new developments followed from the likes of the Dublin Whiskey Company, Galway Bay Brewery, 5 Lamps Brewery and the Pearse Lyons Distillery. The latest addition to the area is the Dublin Liberties Distillery which went into production back in February of last year.
A partnership between Quintessential Brands founders Warren Scott and Enzo Visone with master distiller of 20 years experience Darryl McNally, the distillery occupies a 400 year old former mill and tannery on Mill Street and will exclusively produce a triple distilled malt whiskey.
While their new spirit matures, Dublin Liberties have a range of products already available, presumably produced at another of Ireland’s distilleries. In 2019 I was sent four samples of their whiskey in order to take part in a tweet tasting hosted by Steve Rush of the Whisky Wire. Since I found the drams to be both interesting and enjoyable (though somewhat questionably priced), I thought it would be worthwhile sharing my thoughts on the blog.
So named because of the carved Oak statue that once crowned the archway leading to the Liberties. It has long since disappeared, how and why, no-one knows.
Bottled at 46%, Oak Devil is a blend of Malt and Grain Whiskies aged for three years in ex-bourbon casks. Retails around £35.
Smell: Caramel and honey. Vanilla. Burnt toast. Cereal and oatcakes. Fruity top notes – cherry and raspberry.
Taste: Honey again. Caramel. Berries / forest fruits. Buttery bourbon. Flour and grain husks.
Thoughts: A whiskey of good character at an affordable price. It makes for a decent introduction to the range and falls comfortably within the reach of the everyday whisk(e)y drinker. Does the simple things well. You get the grain character with a touch of oak and some fruity top notes and it’s all delivered with some depth thanks to that higher bottling strength. Good value.
Named after a street next to Christ Church Cathedral, an area that bustled with the high-born and pious by day, yet transformed into a den of iniquity by night, full of raucous taverns and unsavoury behaviour.
Aged for 10 years. First in bourbon barrels then finished in Oloroso sherry casks before bottling at 46% and retailing for £50.
Smell: Nutty… with subtle sherry influence. Orange zest. Vanilla cream and cinnamon. A touch of oak and a little dash of pepper.
Taste: Lots of flavour going on here. Caramel, fudge and raisin. Dark chocolate. Pepper, cinnamon and other oaky spices. Almond marzipan and chocolate orange.
Thoughts: This one also seems quite sensibly priced and this time we get a decent 10-year age statement into the bargain. Once again, the decision to bottle at 46%, without chill-filtering makes for a more satisfying experience and gives the dram some texture. The sherry influence works well, without dominating. The result is a dram with some pleasing complexity that manages to find the sweet spot between flavour and affordability.
Named after an unmarked lane between Bow Street and St James Street in Dublin. Many Men, Women and even Children were said to have lost their lives there dating back to the 1600s.
The whiskey is a 13 year old, matured first in bourbon before being given an unusual finish in Hungarian Tokaj wine casks. Bottled at 46% and retails at £112.
Smell: Lots of chocolate and cocoa. Coffee. Dunnage warehouses. Vanilla. Apple, pineapple and grapes with a healthy backbone of oak.
Taste: Silky caramel & toffee. Chocolate orange. Ginger and cinnamon. Pineapple and white grapes – a definite wine influence. Butterscotch before a pleasant dry finish.
Thoughts: There’s a helluva jump in price between the 10 year old Copper Alley and the 13 year old Murder Lane that I’m struggling to justify. Certainly, it’s a pleasantly unique dram thanks to its finish in those interesting wine casks but the price is a real sticking point.
A delicious whiskey with some complex wine notes that really add to the experience but the price must surely put the average whiskey drinker off and understandably so.
Named after the legendary drinking dens which were said to fill the crypts under Christ Church Cathedral. Each crypt had a keeper who had to be paid to gain access.
Keeper’s Coin is aged for 16 years in first-fill bourbon barrels before finishing in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. Bottled at 46% and retailing at a rather eye watering price of £235
Smell: Rum & raisin. Ginger. Buttered fruit loaf. Vanilla. Salted caramel and fudge. The Pedro Ximenez influence is there but relatively subtle.
Taste: There’s the PX! Treacle. Prunes. Maple syrup. Buttered rum. Toffee and vanilla. Orange. Pleasantly warming oaky spice at the finish. Wonderfully well balanced.
Thoughts: Admittedly, this is an excellent whiskey but I’m struggling to see why a 16-year-old should cost £235.
The PX influence works wonders without ever swamping the natural character of the whiskey and the end result is extremely rewarding, for my palate, at least.
I find that pricing a real problem, though. Somehow the issue seems even worse when it comes from a distillery happy to trade on its place in a renowned working class, poverty-stricken area like the Liberties. Great dram but I wouldn’t pay the money.
*You can buy the whiskies reviewed in this article from Master of Malt.
Buy Oak Devil here
Buy Copper Alley here
Buy Murder Lane here
Buy Keeper’s Coin here
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For more on Dublin Liberties Distillery and their whiskey, visit here.