*Sincere thanks to Common Ground PR and Luxco for the sample
When I first heard the name of this relatively new Irish Whiskey, I immediately thought of the Graham Greene book, The Quiet Man. Then, not quite as immediately, I thought, that doesn’t sound right. And indeed it is not. Turns out I was conflating Greene’s books The Quiet American and The Third Man. So much for that idea. There is a movie called The Quiet Man, though. Yep, in 1952, this humorous, mildly rollicking John Ford romance starring Maureen O’Hara, John Wayne, and the great Barry Fitzgerald hit the silver screen and even went on to win a couple of academy awards. The story is set in Ireland, and though you may find it hard to believe, occasionally features a pub.
Other than also being set in Ireland, The Quiet Man Traditional Irish Whiskey has nothing to do with the Quiet Man movie. It does have something to do with a pub, and not just because it’s whiskey. This new brand is brainchild of Ciaran Mulgrew, the head of Northern Ireland’s Niche Drinks Company. According to the official literature, Mr. Mulgrew’s father was a bartender, and being a bartender, heard all manner of gossip, tall talk, and slander. Hewing to an apparent barman’s code, Mulgrew the Elder never betrayed the customer’s expectation of discretion, always remaining “an fear ciuin”…the quiet man.
Niche Drinks has partnered with U.S. beverage company Luxco to bring the Quiet Man to the states. An interesting move for both companies as the brand seems to be a step up from their usual offerings in terms of marketing and cost. Of course, it’s relevant to note that both companies are in the process of opening their own distilleries, so this step up seems to be the first in a whole staircase of steps. This whiskey is sourced, of course, but not much info as to who was the source. Given that Cooley seems to be the provider of most sourced Irish Whiskeys, I guess that would be the safest bet. The Quiet Man Traditional Irish Whiskey is a blended whiskey with a reportedly higher malt percentage than others of that ilk. They have also finished/married the whiskey in first-fill bourbon barrels for a time before bottling. Niche Drinks and Luxco have apparently had a long partnership, and Luxco’s bourbon presence has provided the Quiet Man with quality barrels to work with. Though, if you’re going to finish a whiskey in something, a first-fill bourbon barrel is pretty far down the list of exciting casks to finish whiskey in. Still, Irish whiskey is a booming category, there’s certainly room for more expressions on the shelves.
The Nose: Soft, inviting, a little…quiet, even. There’s Orange blossom honey Granny Smith apples, juicy tangerines and a hint of butterscotch. I hate to be so esoteric, but there are notes of malted barley and grain soaking in a mash tun. There’s vanilla extract and vanilla bean, dusty sawn oak, and powdered mild cinnamon. Well in the background, there’s a slight, solvent-y whiff of corn oil and copper pennies.
The Palate: Very nice, lush mouthfeel with lots of sweetness; brown sugars, honey, vanilla syrup and more juicy orange citrus. There are sharper grain notes than on the nose along with baker’s chocolate and toasted almonds. The oak is more sharply tannic here, too, along with ginger, cinnamon and a touch of white pepper.
The Finish: Somewhat quick-ish and simple. More vanilla syrup and citrus sweetness, a touch of burnt sugar and oak, and a little bit of fine ground pepper.
Thoughts: I was pleasantly surprised by this one. My initial taste had me thinking it was not much more than the ubiquitous Jameson, but a closer look (tasted side-by-side) has shown it to be a much better whiskey than that. It’s very straightforward and, albeit subtlety, hits the right notes of sweetness, grain, and spice with good balance and complexity. Along with that relative complexity, the feel of the whiskey seems to bear out the claim of higher malt content. All that said, the name is apt, this isn’t the most exciting Irish whiskey out there, but it is decent whiskey. I’ve seen a wide range of prices on this, from $27 to $40. The low-end of that range seems an ok value, but the high-end, not so much. If you’re a fan of the usual Jameson/Bushmills/Paddy/Two Gingers/etc., then you’ll find this a very appealing step up.