As someone who gets paid to select whiskey for a retail store, I am really earning my salary by having a taste for what will sell, rather than for some expertise knowledge about what is good. I am not a whiskey expert, but rather learn by getting the opportunity to taste frequently. Believe me, any of you would know as much if not more than I do about spirits if you were in my shoes. I like to think that the real trick behind my job is to know what people are looking for and then give it to them with a level of service that most people either aren't willing to provide or don't care enough to deliver. It is why I stay up answering emails until midnight, or write this blog in my free time. Why am I rambling on about this? Because what I am normally raving about whiskey-wise is rarely what I actually drink at home myself. In fact, I rarely drink whiskey outside of the store or tasting events. That's the real tragedy of this position - it can be overkill. After a long day I'm ready for a beer. However, there is one new whiskey that has really blown me away and I went to some effort to track down every available bottle for our store. The new release from Cooley has absolutely charmed my pants off (in this case literally because I just had some and now I am typing this in my underwear).
The point of that long intro you just read was to really stress the irony that is how rarely I actually drink whiskey on my own and to therefore drive home the point about how good this Cooley actually is. If you can get me to drink whiskey after a long day of drinking whiskey, then you have done something right in my book. Cooley, recent winner of the Malt Advocate's distillery of the year award, is one of only three active Irish distilleries, with Bushmill's and Midleton being the others. We all know there are more than three brands of Irish whiskey, however, so therefore these distilleries are making product for multiple brands. Redbreast and Paddy's, for example, are made by Midleton. Cooley is the only independent distillery however as the other two are both members of the Irish Distiller's Group. They make Connemara, Tyrconnell, Greenore, and now this new eight year old release brought in via Preiss Imports rather than Young's. When I tasted a sample that Preiss sent me two months ago, I was on the phone with them in a matter of seconds. However, this time it was for myself rather than to get an edge on a particular product. I knew K&L's fortunes weren't riding on an obscure Irish whiskey.
Two months later the whiskey is actually available and in our store, and currently in my house. This is why I love this Slieve Foy bottling: it has character, drinkability, and complexity, and just about anyone can love it. I've never taken a whiff of a whiskey that smelt more like wine - it has the stone fruit of Sauvignon Blanc and even that mineral component. You can detect that bit of sweet malt, but it's really white wine dominated. The first sip is all fruit - even more of what you can smell on the nose. The hints of sweetness start to pass over the tongue, but then it all passes in an instant and the richer side turns over - sweet grains and caramel. These are the flavors that linger with you on the finish as the whiskey slides down into your belly. It's surprising that a whiskey that begins with such fruity wine components can end so sweetly. Everytime I taste it I am more and more perplexed by this duality. Every time I drink it I want more and more.
Every day people come into the store and ask me what I like and I tell them. No one, however, ever asks me what I drink at home. If you were to come over to my house and drink with me this month, this is the whiskey I would be offering you. Slieve Foy 8 Year Old. I love it.