*Thank you to the good folks at Gemini Spirits & Wine for the sample!
Tyrconnell, or Tír Chonaill if you’d like, was one of the last sovereign Gaelic States in Ireland, existing from mid 400 AD to 1607 and covering what is now County Donegal and parts of Sligo, Leitrim, Tyrone, Fermanagh, and Derry. The Last king was Rory O’Donnell, or Rudhraighe Ó Domhnaill if you’d like, who, along with always writing timely holiday cards, was not all that well-liked in Ireland after he submitted to the English throne and took their given title of Earl of Tyrconnell instead. Eventually, his position in Ireland became so dicey that he fled for the safety, warmer climes, and spicier cuisine of Spain and Rome with a bunch of other “royalty” in a rather fun sounding event called the “Flight of the Earls”.
A couple hundred years later, the Watt Distillery, who had been distilling since the mid 1700’s named their most popular whiskey “the Tyrconnell” after an inspirational race horse of theirs who, in 1876, won the prestigious National Produce Stakes race despite being a 100 to 1 longshot. At the time, The Watt Distillery was the largest in Ireland, able to produce millions of liters a year thanks to a Coffey still that was installed by Mr. Coffey himself. Indeed, Tyrconnell was one of the best-selling Irish whiskies in the US before prohibition, but this black eye on American culture damaged the brand and after struggling against a rising Scotch whisky market, it was forced to close 1925.
In 1988, a year after John Teeling opened the Cooley Distillery, he acquired the Tyrconnell brand and with a nod to the past, started producing this delightful malt. Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish Whiskey, made up of a wide range of matured-in-ex-bourbon-cask whiskies, is the flagship of the brand. A Port cask finished 10 year old, a Madeira cask finished 10 year old, and a Sherry cask finished 10 year old round out the line.
The Nose: Soft, floral, and fruity nose. Light molasses and creamy grain balance well with red delicious apples and tart lemon icing on lemon-vanilla cake. Just a touch spirit-y, not off-putting though, it comes across as a subtle hint of candied licorice beneath the stronger notes.
The Palate: Wonderful, honeyed, slightly syrupy entry with apples and crisp, toasted rye bread-like grain which brings a subtle spiciness while juicy citrus notes bring a nice mouthwatering acidity. Towards the end, there are faint cocoa nib hints that add a mild earthiness.
The Finish: Medium-ish, the spicy dies off pretty quickly, the cocoa, honey and citrus lingers a bit longer.
Thoughts: A very pleasant Irish, it’s subtly complex and delivers a really nicely structured and balanced mix of grain and fruit. Because it’s a single malt, I was expecting a bit more weight, there are definitely richer, bigger Irish whiskies out there. Still, this is a delicious, smooth, really drinkable malt and would be a great after-dinner dram for a warm summer evening. I see this around my neck of the woods for around $30, which makes it a pretty good value and definitely worth trying if you like Irish whiskies or unpeated Scotch.