Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix

Maker: Tullamore, Tullamore, Offalay, Ireland (Wm Grant & Sons)2016-03-18-21.07.50.jpg.jpeg

Distiller: New Midleton, Midleton, Cork, Ireland (Pernod-Ricard)

Style: Blended Irish whiskey

ABV: 55%

Michigan state minimum: $56

Appearance: Bright caramel with thin crooked legs.

Nose: Velvet, alcohol, oak, lavender, grape soda, serrano chiles. Water brings out a lot more oak.

Palate: Sweet and mild at first, then warms up. Alcohol, sherry, plum, golden raisins, oak. With water, shows butterscotch, mostly.

Finish: Alcohol, old sherry, almond paste. Not too different with water. Just milder.

Parting words: Phoenix is named in memory of what the label claims was the world’s first aerospace disaster in 1785. It seems like an odd thing to name a whiskey for, but I’m guessing that it’s also supposed to symbolize the brand’s rebirth with its purchase by Wm. Grant & Sons (owners of Grant’s blended Scotch, Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Hendrick’s Gin among others) and the opening of a new distillery in the village of Tullamore. The original distillery there closed in 1954. The Phoenix itself appears on the crest for the village and symbolizes the rebuilding of the town after the tragedy.

Recently I’ve posted a couple twitter rants or snarky photos involving Tullamore Dew, err, D.E.W. I’ve done this in the past and the usual thrust of the rants is how boring Tullamore is. It’s probably the mildest major Irish brand on the market and that’s saying something. It makes Jameson taste like Four Roses Single Barrel. One of the reasons Tullamore is so dull is that all their expressions (except this) are bottled at 40%. When your product is already mild compared to its competitors, bottling it at the lowest ABV allowed by law doesn’t do it any favors.

Phoenix is bottled at a stout 55% and finished in Oloroso sherry casks. The old sherry comes through in a pleasant way, never getting rubbery as in some sherried Irish and Scotch whiskeys. Fruit, oak, spice, this whiskey has it all and is one of my top five Irish currently. The price is not bonkers either. This is how good Tullamore can be when Grant gives it some damn guts. Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix is highly recommended.

Gibson’s Finest

Maker: Hiram Walker, Windsor, Ontario, Canada (Wm. Grant & Sons.)Gibsons Finest

Age: 12 y/o

Style: Canadian blended whisky

ABV: 40%

Michigan State Minimum: $28

Appearance: Medium gold.

Nose: Spicy and dry. Fresh lumber, chipotle, hay, cardamom.

On the palate: Medium-full bodied and spicy. Butterscotch, red pepper, curry powder.

Finish: Big and buttery with a touch of oak and butterscotch candy. Fades quickly, unfortunately.

Parting words: Gibson’s is an old Schenley brand that has traveled a lot in its long history. For now, it is made at the Walkerville plant in Windsor and belongs to Grant & Sons, Scottish distillers best known for their blended whisky Grant’s and as the owner of the Glenfiddich and Balvenie distilleries. In Canada, an NAS and an 18 y/o version are also available.

At any rate, in its current incarnation, Gibson’s 12 y/o has long been a popular duty-free brand and it’s easy to taste why. Unlike many of its Canadian siblings, it packs a lot of flavor into 40% ABV. It’s bold but not brash, and offers a healthy dose of oak, always a pleasant surprise in a Canadian blend. It’s now available in Michigan at a very reasonable price. Gibson’s Finest is recommended.

Hendrick’s Gin

Maker: Wm. Grant & Sons, Bellshill, Scotland, UKHendricks-bottle-290107

Distilled: Girvan, Scotland, UK

ABV: 44%

Appearance: Like water, but with long, slow, sticky legs.

Nose: Juniper, alcohol, lemon peel, green cardamom, cumin, cucumber, cedar.

On the palate: Full-bodied and dry. Hot curry and a cucumber salad.

Finish: Dry and rich. Coniferous, with tangerine, lime leaves, and a background vegetal note.

Mixed: Does OK with tonic and in a Tom Collins, but some of the finer points are lost and the tonic clashes with it a bit. Shines in a very dry martini, complementing the herbal flavors in the vermouth beautifully.

Parting words: Hendrick’s is a very well regarded gin, and I can see why. It’s very ggod, but it is not something I would reach for if I wanted a quick, relaxing G & T; it’s a martini (or neat) gin and does best in that application. The bottle is also good looking, with the design of an antique medicine bottle. Hendrick’s is fairly priced for what it is at $36 (state minimum) here in Michigan. It is recommended.