Teeling Whiskey: The World’s Best Single Malt, That’s Official
by Ken Gargett
“England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” this is famous quote is from, depending on which source you believe, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, or Sir Winston Churchill.
Personally, I like to think it was Shaw as one of my most prized possessions, if one might forgive this early personal digression, which sits in a frame on the bedroom wall, is a lengthy letter Shaw wrote to my grandfather in May 1921 in response to a manuscript my grandfather had sent him.
Shaw didn’t particularly like the manuscript, though what it was about and how my grandfather actually got it to Shaw from Australia have been lost in the mists of time – my grandfather was an architect, so what he was doing writing manuscripts is something no one in the family can tell me.
No matter. It strikes me as the ideal quote, with some adaption, for Scotland and Ireland when it comes to their favorite drink: whisky.
Or whiskey if you are Irish – they can’t even agree on how to spell the stuff, let alone which country makes the better version. I’m glad we have both.
Another thing that the two nations share is their recent ignominious exits from the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan (something also shared with Australia, sadly). No doubt both countries saw plenty of the good stuff downed to mitigate their sorrows.
Teeling Whiskey is one of the great Irish distillers, and I’m sure that many lovers of Scotch would acknowledge how good their products can be even if they might not say so publicly.
Teeling’s history dates back to 1782 when Walter Teeling set up a distillery in Dublin on Marrowbone Lane.
Fast forward 230 years when Walter’s descendants, Jack and Stephen Teeling, established their own distillery, the Teeling Whiskey Company, in 2012. Also in Dublin, of course, the proverbial stone’s throw from the original (also just down the road from the Guinness factory, if you really want a big day).
This was the first new distillery in Dublin in more than 125 years. What is especially exciting is that the new distillery was designed to allow Teeling to devote 25 percent of production to experimentation and new, innovative whiskeys.
This is done through the use of various mash bills, fermentation, distilling techniques, and avoiding the use of chill filtering; the whiskeys are brought back from cask strength to their traditional 46 percent.
A pot still distillery, it produces half a million liters of the nectar every year.
They must be doing something right as the 2016 World Whiskies Awards saw them take out the “World’s Best Irish Single Malt” and “World’s Best Single Malt” in 2019.
We look at three of the wonderful whiskeys today.
Three Teeling whiskeys
Part of Teeling’s innovation program has been working with Irish craft brewer Galway Bay, the result being the Teeling Whiskey Stout Cask Collaboration (AUD$70-80). With only 12,000 bottles, there are lovely notes of chocolate, cocoa, coffee beans, cherries, and seaweed — lots of malty notes.
This was the first release in the Small Batch Collaborations series. The barrels were originally Teeling’s, then used by Galway Bay for the Imperial Stout 200 Fathoms, and finally returned to Teeling for this whiskey. Delicious stuff, but it is merely the entrée for some real stunners.
Their 17-Year-Old Single Malt Jim Barry Shiraz Barrel Collaboration (AUD$200) might be difficult to find, especially outside Australia, as only 2,000 bottles were made.
Tom and Sam Barry (sons of Pete Barry, who was the son of Jim Barry) are making some sensational wines in the Clare Valley in South Australia and have joined with Teeling for this project.
The barrels used to finish this whiskey previously held the Jim Barry Armagh Shiraz 2016.
Armagh is one of Australia’s great shirazes (I can remember that before Pete Barry took the eminently sensible decision to use the vineyard for shiraz, the grapes were made into a delicious vintage port called the Sentimental Bloke – a nod to a famous old Aussie poem. It was sold for around $5 a bottle back then, but as a straight Shiraz it was soon fetching 20 times that and now twice that again).
The result is a wonderful whiskey. Black cherries, blueberries, a hint of aniseed, and a seductive creamy texture. Definitely one not to miss if you are keen on seeing what the Teeling innovation can do.
Finally, the jewel in the crown, the Teeling 24-Year-Old Single Malt (AUD$600), the whiskey that won the world’s best single malt gong. And deservedly so. I’m not sure that any notes I might provide can improve on what winning that award says but for me, it is truly stellar.
A lovely limpid gold, this whiskey is complex, subtle, finely balanced, and offering great length. Flavors of bran, oatmeal, cereal, nuts, spices, and a touch of gentle smoke. It offers a seductive, creamy texture. Glorious.
This whiskey spent 21 years in ex-bourbon casks and a further three in old Sauternes casks.
A whiskey even the Scots would surely crawl over broken glass for a dram.
One sour note: the Teeling family has warned of forthcoming shortages of the very best Irish whiskeys, much like those being experienced with Japanese whiskeys, as demand overtakes production.
These whiskeys need time, there is no way around that, so don’t miss the chance to stock your cupboard while you can.
For more information, please visit www.teelingwhiskey.com.