How we discovered the smooth yet peaty Connemara Irish whiskey
So we were at the airport, on our way to the Czech Republic for three days, and the Black Label we usually buy on such occasions to sustain us was only available in standard size bottles. That quantity seemed a little excessive even for us.
So we searched for alternatives in a smaller size, and the only thing we could take to an EU country was Connemara. I was sceptical – my experience with Irish whiskey so far had been a bit underwhelming (see Green Spot), especially for someone who likes Ardbeg Uigeadail, a whisky described by fellow blogger, All Things Whisky, as being:
“the fearsome dark storm of Islay. Its enormity is almost intimidating. Its might and majesty so beyond the scope we’re used to seeing in such a young and core range bottling…This is a sublimely heavy and brooding dram. A ‘noir’ whisky, if ever one was made..”
And blogger For Peat’s Sake adds in his pennyworth,
“Adding water to this is like putting Kate Upton in a restrictive bra so my experience is full strength….. what synthetic motor oil must taste like to a Corvette.”
So I was feeling a little despondent about the Connemara until the sales assistant asked, “do you like peaty whisky?”. “Certainly,” I replied, sensing a fellow smoke relisher, “do you? Do you recommend it?” She admitted she didn’t drink whisky, but assured me that this whiskey was, indeed, peaty.
So we tried it, and it was a delight.
It wasn’t in-your-face, fearsome-dark-storm stuff, and it did well with a reasonable splash of water added. I find I sometimes want smooth and calm. This was peaty but gentle, easy on the tongue, smoky but also with a bit of caramel and vanilla.
I wasn’t surprised to discover that Connemara has won the IWSC Silver Medal three years running.
It’s made with a double distillation in two small pot stills which gives a layered complexity. This whisky is made in the Kilbeggan distillery. And it does seem to be the only peaty, smoky whiskey made in Ireland (ironically the peat is imported in from Scotland).
The best place in the world, obviously, to try it, would be in front of a warming roaring fire in the bar at Ballynahinch Castle, after a hearty days’ ramble in the stunning countryside outside. I know – I spent a couple of idyllic days here with my son – but then I didn’t know about the added pleasure of the Connemara whiskey.