Sincere thanks to SE and Nova Marketing for the sample.
When one hears of an old brand being “revived,” it’s usually accompanied by a sharp wince and weary sigh of “haven’t we heard enough of this kind of thing?” All too often, a brand’s ancient history is inflated, conflated and romanticized, its current revivers claiming ties to the past that are in actuality far looser than they’d like you to believe. Suffice it to say, it gets old. With Irish whiskey’s recent explosion, it seems like there are a lot of new brands out there, and along with all these new brands, there’s a lot of marketing and dubious backstories to wade through as well.
So, I have to admit, when I first head of Egan’s 10 Year Old Irish Single Malt Whiskey, my initial thought was that someone had purchased an old obscure brand and were just slapping a label on some sourced booze. Even I, someone who relishes mocking bad marketing, was feeling a little exhausted at the thought of picking on this one. You can imagine my surprise and mild delight when I found out that Egan’s has a very solid, workman-like, documented history, and to top it all off, the revivers of the brand are actually Egans themselves. Instead of being skeptical, and exhausted I now find myself unexhausted and almost eager to learn more.
Patrick Egan founded P. & H. Egan in 1852, in Tullamore which is pretty much smack dab in the middle of Ireland, and grew quite successful brewing ales and stouts. By 1896, Patrick’s sons, Henry and Patrick Jr., joined the business and began expanding it into one of the largest companies in the Midlands. By the early 1900’s P. & H. Egan was apparently selling pretty much everything you could think of, importing and exporting, providing warehouse services and even dabbling in the hotel trade. A review of sorts from around that time details a mammoth operation including “ironmongery and furniture,” groceries, a saw mill, a grist mill, a smoke house, tea and tobacco stores, and the centerpiece of it all, the brewing and bottling division. Along with its own brewed brands, P. & H. Egan served as bottlers for Guinness and Bass, and a wide variety of spirits and liqueurs. After WWII, they began bottling whiskey from both Jameson and Paddy and even dipped a toe into the soft drink trade. By the end of the 60’s, the company began to spilt up, its brands began to disappear, and the P. & H. Egan name faded a bit from memory. That brings us to the present, or at least to within a few years of the present. In 2013, a group of fifth and sixth generation Egan’s revived the family company name and hoisted themselves right back into the whiskey business.
Just as they were in the late 1800’s, today’s incarnation of P. & H. Egan are basically independent bottlers – they are not distilling their own malt. While there are quite a few Irish single malt brands hitting the shelves lately, there are only a couple of distilleries in Ireland capable of supplying this quantity of whiskey to independent bottlers. This makes it fairly easy to wager a guess as to where this particular whiskey came from. Cooley is thought to be responsible for much of the sourced single malt on the shelves today, so that would be the leading candidate here. Certainly Egan’s flavor profile hews somewhat close to that distillery’s Tyrconnell expression. These days, with the Irish whiskey category booming, the tricky part is figuring out what, if anything, makes these relatively similar sourced whiskeys unique and worth the price. Presumably, even within the narrow range of the stock to choose from, a brand like Egan’s tries to create their own flavor profile. In this case, they’ve also chosen to bottle their whiskey non-chill filtered at a refreshingly hefty 47% ABV. Outside of that, there’s no additional cask finishing or wood trickery to set it apart further.
The Nose: A bright and rich nose of complex sweetness. This is expressive in a lot of fruity ways; tart Pink Lady apples, juicy grapes, overripe cantaloupe, pineapple core. There’s a lot going on there. There’s also floral honey, vanilla syrup, and subtle hints of juicy fruit gum and Sweetarts. Along with all that, there are notes of toasted grain, ginger snaps, and sugared donuts as well as light oak notes, hot, almost candied cinnamon, and a touch of black licorice candy.
The Palate: On the palate, this moves away from the fruit towards the grain, wood, and spice. There’s still a nice mix of tropical fruit, melon, and green grapes, but there’s also more malt syrup, roasted grain, vanilla bean, and baker’s chocolate. The oak is polished, and nicely grippy with good dose of baking spices, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, a little clove, and a little anise.
The Finish: Medium long with honeyed, malty sweetness, more baking spices, and lingering oaky tannins.
Thoughts: Quite nice. This has a very light-hearted, after dinner, dessert whiskey appeal to it. While the nose is sweet, it’s not overly so, and has a complexity that keeps things interesting. The palate is more straightforward, but the slightly higher ABV gives it some heft and a very pleasant, creamy mouthfeel. There are some slightly rough edges, but this manages to seem bright and crisp, and slightly older than its years and rich all at the same time. At around $50-$60, I’m on the fence value-wise. It’s more expensive than, say, Tyrconnell, but it strikes me as a bit richer and a little more interesting. Ultimately, a good whiskey with a good story behind it. Recommended.