Review: Abelour A’bunadh

Batch: 29
Maker: Abelour, Abelour, Banffshire, Scotland (Pernod-Ricard)
Region: Highland- Speyside
Age: NAS
ABV: 59.9%

Appearance: Auburn. Matches the wax on the bottle neck. Artificial coloring or just the sherry cask? At any rate, not very much in the way of legs, although there is a thin “necklace” around the inside of my Glencairn.

Nose: rich, creamy sherry, caramel, marzipan, spice, flowers, with an undertone of burning car tire.

On the palate: Nice heavy mouthfeel, burn, evaporates after a second on the tongue, a bit of a chewy rubbery taste. With a healthy dollop of water, it is much more pleasant. The rubbery taste is still there, but it is slowly transforming itself into a sweet, floral note on top of the caramel, marzipan, sherry and toffee.

Finish: Burn, caramel, chocolate –covered toffee bars, long and hot. With water, it is shorter and thinner but still very, very nice.

Parting Words: Abelour is said to be one of the most heavily “sherried” single malts on the market. A’bunadh is supposedly a recreation of an old whisky discovered during a remodel of the distillery. The more I think about that story, the less I like it, but the more I think about this whisky, the more I do like it. It is very much a dessert Scotch, as should be obvious by the nose. I’m not sure if I’ll be buying it again soon, but it was fun getting to know this whisky. I’m sure I’ll explore more from Abelour in the future, but for now, I’ll just have pleasant memories of sharing it with friends. If you like sherried Scotches, this comes recommended. If not, it’s worth finding a friend with a bottle, for the experience if for no other reason.

Review: Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Maker: Cooley, County Louth, Ireland

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

Appearance: Light straw with thin legs

Nose: fresh, buttery peat, sweet malt. As it opened up, I swear I smelled Juicy-Fruit gum.

On the palate: Medium- bodied. A peaty bite greets the tongue upon the first. There is a light sweetness behind the peat, with a classic creamy Irish whiskey profile that makes this whiskey more refreshing than I expected.

Parting Words: I can’t figure out if this whiskey is a promising experiment, a clunky misfire, or simply a poor relation to something like Bowmore, Jura Superstition, or another lightly peated Scotch. Certainly its youth doesn’t help it much. If it had more smoke and even more peat, the lack of age would be less noticeable. Still it’s not bad by any means and certainly has something going that most Irish whiskeys don’t. Maybe Islay and Ireland are even closer than I thought!

Review: McSorley’s Irish Black Lager

Maker: McSorley’s, Utica, New York (or not. Lots of conflicting info online)

Style: Black Lager

ABV: 5.5%

Appearance: Dark coffee brown. Nice frothy but not hyper-active head.

Nose: Black coffee with brown sugar. Sweet, slightly bitter. Toasty.

On the palate: Medium bodied, nice roasty, toasty bitterness. A little sweetness. A well-composed lager.

Finish: light but with a fine bitterness that lingers in the cheeks. Very pleasant.

Parting words: I have no idea where this was made, but it’s a very decent black lager, goes down easy and the price is right. It’s worth picking up.

Review: Wexford Original Irish Style Crème [sic] Ale

Maker:  Greene King, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England

Style: Irish Cream Ale

ABV: 5%

Appearance: light auburn with a thick, sudsy head.

Nose: Fruity and sweet, with a bit of caramel.

On the palate: surprisingly thin body, but still exuberant even in the mouth. At first the fruitiness of the nose almost disappears, replaced by a slightly toasty malt flavor with a fair amount of pleasant bitterness. On subsequent sips the fruit comes back resulting in a much more balanced and satisfying beer.

Finish: The bitterness comes to the fore in the finish which lingers long in the cheeks and is barely tempered by a half-hearted return of the fruit in the nose.

Parting Words: I’m not sure what I expected from this beer, and I’m not sure I got it. It comes in a can with a  pressurized widget, so King has certainly taken every precaution to make sure Wexford makes  the trip across the pond in as good a condition as possible. It’s not unpleasant, but I was underwhelmed. The body was shockingly thin. I really expected much more from something called a cream ale. But overall, not a bad sip, especially after it settles down a bit in the glass. Not highly recommended, but it’s worth a try, especially if the price is right.

Review: Redbreast Pure Pot Still, 12 y/o

Maker: Irish Distillers, Cork, Ireland (Pernod-Ricard)

Age: 12 y/o


Appearance: Dark gold with a persistent “pearl necklace” in the Glencairn.

Nose: Big bourbon barrel nose. Caramel, oak, cotton candy, brown sugar, a bit of creamy toffee

On the palate: Full-bodied. At first sip, I find myself checking the bottle to make sure I didn’t pick up a bourbon instead. On further sips, though, the malty, pot-still character comes through, especially as it fades into the finish. This Irish whiskey speaks with a heavy Kentucky accent, which may explain why it is every bourbon-lover’s favorite Irish.

Finish: sweet and creamy, more candy notes, with some oak poking through. Then a long low burn.

Parting words: This is one of the world’s greatest whiskeys. The best Irish available. Redbreast also comes in a 15 y/o version. Oh, and the 12 y/o was Malt Advocate Magazine’s Irish whiskey of the year. ‘Nuff said.

Review: Magner’s Original Irish Cider

Maker: Magner’s/Bulmer’s, Clonmel, Tipperary, Ireland (C&C Group)

ABV: 4.5%

Appearance: gold with an odd pinkish hue. Fizzy, but the head dissipates quickly.

Nose: Yeasty and dry, sourdough bread.

On the Palate: slightly sweet with a hint of sourness like Granny Smith apples or the cider apple equivalent.  A hint of some other sort of fruit is lurking in the background. Cherry or raspberry maybe?

Finish: Dry fading into an assertively yeasty taste.

Parting words: This cider is firmly in the British style. Sugar has been added and it is effective at tempering the yeast and sour
dryness. It’s more amicable than some of the bone-dry English ciders that seem to take their cues from Champagne than anything else. But in sweetening itself up it loses some of the subtlety that makes the bone dry British ciders interesting.  At any rate, a nice refreshing drink, but not worth seeking out.

Head to Head, The Eternal Struggle: Jameson vs. Powers

ABVs: 80%

Ages: NAS

Maker: Irish Distillers, Cork, Ireland (Pernod-Ricard)

1) Jameson

2) Powers


1) Straw with thin but persistent legs

2) Light Copper with thicker legs


1) Apple, sweet, slightly tart and malty, some floral notes as well.

2) Richer, good butterscotch candy, caramel apple

On the palate

1) Sweet, medium bodied, a bit of maltyness

2) Thick, heavy body (for an Irish blend anyway). A bit of heat, butterscotch, brown sugar, and do I detect a wee bit of bourbon barrel influence?


1) Light and sweet, some burn, butterscotch and a lingering sweetness

2) Burn, cotton candy (more bourbon barrel notes or are they grain whiskey notes?), maybe even some oak.

Parting Words

So what is the outcome of this classic battle? Both are classics, both are made at the same distillery and owned by the same company. Jameson is much more popular, at least in the U.S., while Powers claims to be the best-selling whiskey in Ireland. Jameson claims to be all pot-still and all barley (a combination of malted and unmalted) while Powers is a combination of grain whiskey and pot-still malt.

Jameson not without its charm. It has a light, crisp flavor that reminds me of Glenfiddich, but without the citrus notes. It is refreshing but it doesn’t have a lot of depth. Why anyone would feel the need to consume Jameson in shot form is one of life’s eternal mysteries and makes me
contemplate the composition of an essay tentatively entitled “The Wussification of American Drinking Culture”.

At any rate, Powers isn’t particularly earth-shattering either, but it has more going on than Jameson. It has richer, darker flavors than its sibling and one can actually tell that it has been aged in a barrel, particularly a bourbon barrel. The candy notes in the nose and finish, the fullness of its body and its relative complexity make Powers a more interesting choice when ordering from the bar. Not to mention the bottle is one of the best designed and most beautiful in all of whiskeydom. For an Irish at its price point, Powers is highly recommended.

Review: Siren Amber Ale

Maker: North Peak, Traverse City, Michigan

Style: Amber Ale

ABV: 5%

Color: Amber with a fairly decent head. Good body.

Nose: Sweet and a bit funky, maybe slightly skunky. Meh.

On the palate: Some fruity sweetness with a strong bitter note.

Finish: A strong, unpleasant bitter taste that won’t go away. Like old, low-grade Gorgonzola cheese.

Parting Words: Wow, what a disappointing beer. I found myself virtually chugging these just to get them out of my fridge to make room for better beer. It wasn’t any worse than any macro-brewed ale of the same style, but why pay micro prices for macro quality? If you see it and feel tempted, pass on it and pick up some of Bud’s American Ale. Or better yet, get a good Michigan Microbrew.