Closer Look: Teeling Single Malt, Single Grain & Small Batch
And then there was Teeling. It is one of the more established distilleries of the current wave of new whiskey producers in Ireland. In large part because it was founded by brothers Jack and Stephen Teeling, who have extensive industry experience. After all, their father John built Cooley Distillery in the late 1980s.
When Cooley was sold to Beam Suntory in 2011, the brothers negotiated the purchase of 16,000 casks of aged whiskey. These casks are the foundation upon which the Teeling brand is build. Even before Jack and Stephen opened their distillery in 2015 they had released a whole range of Teeling Whiskey. And up until today plenty of these casks find their way into current Teeling expressions.
I was invited to participate in an online tasting (and virtual distillery tour) by Niamh O’Connor, one of the Teeling brand ambassadors for the Benelux. So on a Thursday evening in July I logged into Zoom to join several other Dutchies (including the wonderful Noortje and the guys from whiskyconsultants.com). Our host was European brand ambassador Chris Hayes.
Chris turned out to be a perfect tour guide and he shared plenty of details about the whiskey we tasted. While a virtual tour isn’t a perfect substitute for the real deal, it will certainly do for as long as we deal with this pesky virus. Hopefully I can make my way over to Dublin once it is safe to do so again. Then I’ll be sure to visit and do a proper write-up. For now, you’ll have to make do with some tasting notes.
- Approx. 95% corn 5% malted barley
- Aged in red wine casks from Napa Valley
- Casks are filled at 66%
- Sourced from the Great Northern Distillery
- Maturation for up to 6 years
Nose: A hint of glue to start but nothing too bad. The nose is fairly narrow but plenty of fudge and caramel. Also a touch wood shavings, with finally just a tinge of fresh strawberries, marshmallows and Maraschino cherries.
Taste: Quite a few spices (cloves, nutmeg, pepper) and slightly drying with a hint of cough syrup, but also oranges and whiffs of mint.
Finish: A touch of hazelnut, some berries and nougat. Short to medium.
- Five different wine casks: white wine burgundy, cabernet sauvignon, madeira, port, oloroso sherry
- A small part distilled at Teeling, but mostly from Cooley
- Up to 28 years old, but there’s also 4 or 5 year old Teeling distillate in there
Nose: Hints of apple peel and pear skin, a tinge of lemon zest and galia melon, and also milk chocolate and a whiff of brown sugar.
Taste: Yep, this is fruity. Definitely some of that older Irish whiskey DNA in there. Nectarines and apricots, but also a pinch of honey and vanilla. The mouthfeel is pretty creamy. Good stuff.
Finish: Fruity sweetness. Medium in length.
- 75% grain whiskey and 25% malt whiskey
- 55 to 75 casks per batch
- Finished in Central American rum casks
Nose: A definite step up from the single grain. It’s fruity, bright, light and with a hint of sauternes. Apple juice, pineapple, apricots and raisins. Really good.
Taste: Creamy and fairly fruity (pineapple and apricots again), but certainly also that cough syrup-y note the single grain also displayed. Plenty spicy too with touches of ginger, but mostly balanced out by sweeter caramel notes and brown sugar.
Finish: Lingering spices and a soft sweetness.
It’s a bit of a cliché but the Single Malt easily won out. I’m not sure what they’ve done since that 2014 batch (which apparently included a fair bit of 1991 oloroso matured whisky), but this is really good and nice value for money too.
I liked the Small Batch much more than the last time I tried it (do you notice a trend?), although the palate couldn’t quite keep up with the nose. Same for the Single Grain, actually, which lacked a little complexity in my book. Now if only I could get my hand on one of the Teeling Pot Still batches. Since I’ve often praised the virtues of Irish pot still whiskey, it’s a bloody disgrace I’ve never tried it. This will be rectified. Sooner rather than later.
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.