Why look up when you can look down?
Some people just love negativity.
I hasten to add that I am fond of a bit of a black mood but in no way am I going to start becoming hypocritical for one second. Every silver lining has its cloud and so on and so on. However some sectors aren’t immune from using negative or incorrect statements to make themselves look better. As much as this pains me to say this, it has to stop.
I chose this topic because I’ve noticed a few things that made me sit up and think that something wasn’t quite right. If you are going to have a dismal outlook then it’s always better to have it based on fact or something quantifiable that you can show on why you’ve come to an assumption. It’s all very well making statements about whisky, but at least make it fair and be prepared on back it up.
I will say how this particular rant started by feeding back something that was passed onto me from one of my whisky brothers. This is person who I keep in contact to chew the fat, swap the odd sample and also just have a good old burst of negativity in private so I’m not so much a gurning git online. He had visited an Irish distillery where the person doing the tour had mentioned how Irish whisky had to be matured for 3 years yet Scotch only had to be matured for 2 years. This seems to be common amongst proponents of the Irish Whisky Industry where many mistruths are either intentionally or unintentionally propagated. The problem is that sometimes the falsehoods are believed by those who know no better and the erroneous statement keeps going.
Of course, unintentionally making an error is fine, and this can be corrected by education, but needs to be done ASAP. Even I’m not immune, haven fallen foul of misinformation myself with regards a couple of times, sometimes based on a certain year book or a flat capped vBlogger. Best make the correction and move on.
For some strange reason there is some sort of misconception I seem to be aware of, whether it’s anecdotal or something I have directly heard, I can’t remember but there is a tendency for some people supporting the Irish Whiskey industry to say things like “Scotch is peated and smokey, whereas Irish is smooth because we triple distill and they only double distill.” That is obviously a gross misrepresentation of the facts, as the majority of Scotch is not peaty and smokey and at least two distilleries triple distill and a few have utilised a partial triple distillation method.
Why say negative stuff like that? It’s a pretty poor show when you have to knock down another product just to make your own look better. My source revealed that Scotch gets mentioned at a few of the Irish distilleries he’s visited and not always in a positive light. Yet when I visit a Scottish distillery, I’ve yet to hear mention of Irish whiskey.
Yes, there is a difference between Irish and Scotch whisky due to the subtle difference in production. But for some, here is a newsflash – Irish whiskey has traditionally used peat in the past. Even the light and floral Speysiders did, as once upon a time the distilleries would have used the fuel available to them. I mean, how likely is it a nation that has nearly a fifth of its landmass covered by peat not use it as fuel? The Irish weren’t given the nickname ‘Bogtrotters’ because the lived on a land entirely of loamy soil.
The Irish distilled whisky before the Scots. That’s a fact. However the Scots were the ones who where arguably to become more successful in a commercial sense with it – for now at least. That doesn’t make Scotch any better than Irish Whiskey either.
Here’s a thought. Why not just get on producing your whiskey without worrying what other distilleries are doing and just concentrate on making the best whiskey you can? The Irish scene is certainly flourishing now with new craft distilleries coming on line, so if you are wanting to get into Irish whisky now is the time. And a few are making peated spirit.
I’ve been doing an occasional series on different world whiskies. Not once have I compared them to Scotch. It just wouldn’t be fair as everything about them is different from barley sources and water sources, climate and production practices. Just take your whisky as you find it. Let the liquid do the talking and ignore preconceptions. I’ve found the whisky from Scotland’s historical foe to be quite good so far. That doesn’t bother me; all that matters is that I am enjoying what is in my glass. And yet it seems yet another Battle Royale could be in the making. A recent article was published in the Telegraph. The article is paywalled but you’ll get the drift. English Whisky Rivals Scotch
Anyway. To conclude the battle of whether Irish is better than Scotch, I decided to pitch two common blends against each other, one from each country. As Scotland has more whisky distilleries I thought I’d give the Irish a more fighting chance by allowing it a partner.
In the Red Corner we have Famous Grouse, the most popular blended whisky in Scotland. In the Blue Corner we have Jamesons and his companion Tullamore Dew. Let battle commence!
Region – Scottish Blend Age – NAS Strength – 40% Colour – Amber 0.7 Cask Type – N/A Colouring – Not stated Chill Filtered – Not Stated Nose – Malt, Buttery, Caramel, Werthers Originals, a hint of grain, Orange peel Palate – Quite sweet. Light to medium mouthfeel. Burst of alcohol burn on first sip but quickly subsides to leave flavours of malt, sultana, butterscotch, hint of ginger nuts and a very slight smokiness. Finish – Medium and pleasant. Malt continues with a slight drying in the mouth. Digestive biscuits with a suggestion of grain whisky
Jamesons Blended Irish
Region -Irish Blend Age – NAS Strength – 40% Colour -Deep Gold (0.8) Cask Type -N/A Colouring – Not stated Chill Filtered – Not Stated Nose – Sweet Malt, almost like a frosted breakfast cereal. Stone fruit, Apricot, tinned peaches, chocolate raisins. Palate – quite mild and approachable. Slightly oily mouthfeel with the grain components being immediately available. Sweet biscuity taste, a little spice from ginger and nutmeg. No strong burn, the sweetness reminds me of a candy that I can’t quite remember the name of. Almond also in there. Finish – Not that long and complex. The sweet components hang on in there. Nutty, candied almonds rings a bell, possibly the candy I was thinking of in the palate. A bit of grain remains with apricot in the finish and a hint of mint.
Region – Irish Blend Age – NAS Strength – 40% Colour – Pale Gold (0.3) Cask Type – N/A Colouring – Not stated Chill Filtered – Not stated Nose – Buttery biscuits, custard cream, honey Palate – Harsh alcohol, grains, Malt, vanilla, pink peppercorn spice, blackcurrants, slight citrus Finish – hot finish with more tannic spice, burning alcohol, drying, hint of lemon in the end.
Did Ireland beat Scotland? No. Not at all. It was like comparing oranges to a combine harvester. However in the battle of the blends, the Tullamore was like the mate who can’t fight trying to help you in a square go. Why is it legendary? Well perhaps to cut it down to brass tacks, is it because this bottle was totally pish. In its defence it was an old bottle and slightly evaporated but it only just missed going down the sink. As I drunk it while in quarantine in Colombo I was just grateful for the booze.
The Grouse had more body, the Jamesons was lighter and smoother, and to my palate was boring and bland. But that’s just me. It wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great either. The competition it faced was Grouse. Hardly the best in the world either.
While technically Scotland should win on points as Jameson was founded by a Scot, the true result is a draw. Just go where your palate takes you as the best whisky of the time is the one you enjoy the most. Be it Bourbon, Scots, Japanese, English, Welsh, Irish or even Icelandic, it really doesn’t matter.
Negativity has its place. Just not here.
Yours In Spirits
All Photos – Authors Own