Tyrconnell is a single malt Irish whiskey that is currently made by the award winning Cooley distillery in County Louth, approximately half way between Dublin and Belfast. The name is taken from the Irish Gaelic 'tír Chonaill' which translates as 'land of Conaill' (the 'Conaill' in question was an ancient ruler of the north western part of Ireland) and the whiskey is named after a racehorse of the same name. This horse famously won a race in Ireland in 1876, despite being a 100-1 shot and is depicted on the packaging.
The Tyrconnell range consists of four whiskies - this single malt, plus three other 10 year olds finished in Madeira, Port and sherry casks. They are all single malts made from 100% malted barley in copper pot stills - this makes them rare for Irish whiskies which are normally blended. This regular single malt has recently picked up numerous prestigious prizes including a Gold Medal at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in 2010 and Best Irish Single Malt at the World Whisky Awards in 2008.
Tyrconnell whiskey was originally made by Andrew A. Watt & Co at their distillery in Abbey Street in the city of Derry. The Watt's distillery was founded in 1762 and was one of the largest in Ireland during the mid 1800s. The Tyrconnell brand was later created to celebrate the famous victory of that 100-1 horse, which at the time was one of the first 100-1 horses to win a race. Tyrconnell was one of the biggest selling Irish whiskies in the USA before the Prohibition movement took hold in 1920. The Watt's distillery was badly affected by Prohibition and the drastic drop in sales. It struggled on, before finally closing in 1925. The whiskey then had to wait 70 years to be revived by its current makers at Cooley.
The Cooley distillery was founded in 1987 by John Teeling and his idea was to resurrect some of Ireland's oldest whiskey recipes and traditions that had become extinct during more difficult times. He converted an old vodka distillery and Cooley has since won over 100 awards worldwide, including the title of European Distillery of the Year at the prestigious International Wine & Spirits Competition awards in 2010. Their range includes Connemara (the only peaty Irish whiskey), Greenore, Kilbeggan, Locke's, Michael Collins and Millar's. This regular Tyrconnell has no age stated on the label, has an alcohol level of 40% ABV and should cost around £25 a bottle.
Our tasting notes
The colour is a light golden yellow and the nose has a lovely clean freshness and vibrancy to it. There is a tempting combination of aromas that make you want to take a sip. First comes some vanilla and tangy citrus notes (think of lemon zest), then others start to appear - plenty of distinct cereals (this becomes particularly sweet and malty with time in the glass), honey and some fresh crisp green fruits (imagine pear and apple). The nose is straightforward in a very positive way. On the palate, this whiskey is soft and clean with a lovely initial buttery feel in the mouth. Some tangy citrus notes then appear which add freshness (think of lemon zest, with possibly some orange also). Other detectable characteristics include plenty of malty cereals and vanilla, some honey, fresh green fruit (the apple especially and some white grapes) and a hint of cinnamon. The palate is a very good recreation of the nose. The finish is surprisingly long for a whiskey of this lightness and freshness. The tangy citrus is again prominent and leaves a pleasant crispness on the tongue. The cereal notes get maltier and maltier as the other notes begin to die away.
What's the verdict?
Tyrconnell is a lovely whiskey - it is not the most complex but is refreshingly straightforward and is clearly well made and matured. This makes it very pleasant and enjoyably easy to drink. It is a good example of a single malt whiskey in the lighter, almost aperitif-like style and as a result would be good for a whisky beginner. It also gives very good value for money when you consider the quality of the dram on offer. Delicious.