Gelston’s Single Pot Still Pinot Noir Cask

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A Revival

As much as it’s lovely to see the revival in the fortunes of the Irish whiskey industry, it’s getting hard to differentiate between the new brands. Especially when so many seem to have a similar tale to tell: a long lost name from the glory years, revived to capitalise on the current boom. Still, if nothing else, it’s nice to have a light shone on some of the forgotten chapters of this industry’s long, long story.

Gelston’s is another long-defunct brand that’s recently been revived. It was originally established by Belfast wine and whiskey merchant, Samuel Gelston, in 1830.

When Gelston passed away in 1869, his business was taken over by Harry James Neill. Neill left Ireland for Australia in 1851, at the height of the Gold Rush. However, the wily businessman had no intention of prospecting for gold. Instead he set up a provisions business that sold crucial supplies to the miners and their families. He also encouraged his younger brothers to follow in his wake.

Neill sold his share in the company in1862 and returned home a very wealthy man. When he later acquired Gelston’s Whiskey, he used contacts made in Australia, not least the businesses set up by his own brothers, to help him export the product. Neill & Co, run by his brother Percival, was the largest spirits business in New Zealand at that time. Unsurprisingly, Gelston’s became a big seller down under.

Despite its success, the brand went the way of many Irish whiskies and faded into obscurity. However, it was revived in 2016 by Johnny Neill, great-great grandson of H. J. Neill. Johnny created Whitley Neill gin in 2005 and wanted to expand into other categories. When he uncovered the family’s history in whiskey, he began to develop an idea for a new / old brand of Irish Whiskey.

Gelston’s re-launched in 2016, using whiskey sourced from Cooley Distillery. Neill has since gone on to develop a range of single malt, single pot still and blended Irish Whiskey.


The Whiskey

*Full disclosure: This sample was included in an advent calendar that I was sent for free. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the whiskey and the value for money it represents.

To create this wine-finished single pot still whiskey, Johnny Neill partnered with a famous relative: actor-turned-winemaker Sam Neill. Pinot Noir casks from Sam’s vineyard in New Zealand were used to finish the spirit for up to 21 months. It’s bottled at 40% abv and retails for £26.49.

Smell: Quite a grainy nose. Lots of cereals. Malt and grist. Straw. Vanilla. Honey. Spicy new oak. Apple juice. Pear. Cherry Bakewell. Almond flakes.

Taste: Strawberry jam. Glace cherries. Raspberry. Baking spices.. cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg. New oak. Dry red wine finish.

Thoughts: There’s a surprising fullness to both the feel and flavour of this whiskey. Especially given its low bottling strength and affordability. A grainy nose turns into a fruity, winey palate with some pleasant oaky spice. At first that spice was quite intense but a wee bit of water smoothed off the rough edges and brought better balance to the dram.

Value for money: This is my first attempt at trying something from the Gelston’s range and I’m quite impressed. It comes in just over £25 and the whiskey has some interesting elements with a nice balance to it. Good bang for your buck.

You can buy Gelston’s at Master of Malt


*Please be aware that this is an affiliate link. As such I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make.

**Other retailers are available.


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12 thoughts on “Gelston’s Single Pot Still Pinot Noir Cask

  1. Just a note regarding sourcing of the original distillate.
    Gelsons – like many independent bottlers – can source their whiskey from a number of different sources.
    I attended a zoom tasting from the brand – during COVID – & sampled 6 offerings which came from 3 differing whiskey distilleries.
    None of this is written on the bottles & was verbally passed on freely by the Gelston representative.
    The actual bottle you review above was sourced from West Cork Distillers.
    Of course it’s not beyond impossibility an alternative source could be found to replicate the bottle. A new label wouldn’t be required as distillery of origin was never stated.
    A lot of independent bottlers source their whiskey on the open market & ‘parcels’ of stock might become available intermittently making it difficult to offer consistency unless some form of supply contract has been obtained.
    The independent bottlers also have access to maturation & bonding stores where they can further mature/blend/finish the original distillate to their requirements.
    As Ireland now has over 40 working distilleries Gelstons whiskey can come from any number of them & if it’s not stated on the bottle the original source might never be known.

    1. I’m confused, are you addressing a specific point in my article or simply offering this information?
      I’m well aware that Irish whiskey can, and does, come from a wide variety of distilleries. There’s a sad lack of transparency in many cases.

      1. Your article – incorrectly -stated the whiskey came from Cooley.
        If the bottle doesn’t state source of origin – don’t guess
        Independent bottlers don’t have to state source of origin.
        I don’t see that as a ‘lack of transparency’.
        I can – & do – enjoy a whiskey without needing to know it’s origins.

      2. If you maybe read it again, I didn’t say this whiskey came from Cooley. I said the brand originally relaunched using stock sourced from Cooley. I made no comment on the origins of this particular expression.

      3. The brand relaunched using whiskey from a number of sources.
        Your article is misleading and my ‘information’ is provided by way of attempting to clarify that.

      4. The information included in my article came from an interview with Johnny Neill, in which he stated that he began by sourcing whiskey from Cooley.

      5. The same Johnny Neill who went through 6 different expressions from 3 different distilleries nearly 2 years ago now.
        Irish Whiskey is growing quickly.
        Cooley is no longer the main source of whiskey for independent bottlers & your article is diminished by not clearly representing that.

      6. What does 6 different expressions from 3 different distilleries, 2 years ago have to do with the first batch of stock he acquired in 2016?
        At no point did I say that Cooley is the main source for anything. I simply repeated the information Neill gave that he began by sourcing whiskey from Cooley. You seem to be desperately hunting for a point to argue with here.
        See I’m always happy to be corrected when I’ve got something wrong. When you write about whisk(e)y on a daily basis for a number of years you’re bound to get things wrong from time to time. But here you seem to have jumped on one particular point of my article, which isn’t actually all that incorrect anyway, and you’ve used it to try to show off how much you know about it. You even went so far as to present me with a lecture about independent bottlers in Ireland, automatically assuming that you knew more than me.
        As a result I’m struggling to find anything constructive either of us can take from this conversation 🤷🏻‍♂️

      7. I’m sorry to hear you take my contribution like that.
        I’m attempting to share a wider view of the current Irish Whiskey scene.
        When the only distillery mentioned in an article is not the one the bottle is sourced from – I do see that as an issue worth debating.
        If I wrote an article on Johnnie Walker and only mentioned Daft Mill wouldn’t you raise at least an eyebrow?
        I too write about & drink whiskey daily. I’m attempting to be open & share information.
        I fail to see what’s so threatening about that.

      8. Surely context matters no? The actual words that surround the named distillery must have some role to play?

        Cooley was only named in the section of the article that told the story of the brand – not the bottle – and its inclusion was based on the words of the man himself. I didn’t claim it was the only source or that it was the source for the bottle I was discussing. I only repeated Neill’s words that he started with that stock. Somehow you take that as my article being diminished by not representing that Cooley isn’t the main source for independent bottlers? That’s one helluva leap!

        There’s nothing threatening here about your comments but manners mean a lot. Had you commented only that you had heard some nice information about the source of this whiskey, your information would have been welcomed with open arms. That would truly have been an example of being open and sharing information.

        But I mean, come on, you chose to explain to me how independent bottlers work 😂 Like you were the gatekeeper to some hidden knowledge that I couldn’t possibly have known 😂

      9. I find it rather sad you choose to ridicule a fellow whiskey fan who’s trying to share information that may be of interest.
        Have a nice day!

      10. There’s no ill feeling on my part my friend. The sharing of information is always welcome but the method in which it is done is crucial to how well it is received.
        May your days be sunny and your drams magnificent.

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