Thursday, March 31, 2011

New releases > Inish Turk Beg 'Maiden Voyage'

Inish Turk Beg Maiden Voyage is a new premium Irish single malt whiskey. It is named after the private island of Inish Turk Beg (which translates as ‘the small island of the wild boar’ from Gaelic), which lies off the west Irish coast of County Mayo. It is one of the largest islands of over 300 in the beautiful Clew Bay, which is regarded as one of Ireland’s greatest natural phenomena. The bay is rumoured to have historically been a thriving area for the illicit distilling of whiskey and poitín (pronounced pot-cheen), due to its remote location. Poitín is a traditional Irish spirit that is made from grain or potatoes and is notoriously one of the strongest and most potent produced anywhere in the world, often coming in at 80-95% ABV!

This single malt whiskey is a limited release of just 2,888 bottles. These bottles are one litre in size and the innovative design has been inspired by the mooring buoys used on local fishing boats. Each bottle is hand blown and is made using sand from the island. It is named Maiden Voyage as this is the first batch to be released. The whiskey is made at Cooley distillery in County Louth, which is Ireland’s only independent whiskey distillery. It has been matured for 10 years on the island, part of which has been in old poitín casks. The alcoholic strength has then been reduced to 44% ABV for bottling by adding rain water collected on Inish Turk Beg. The recommended retail price is around £130.

Our tasting notes
The colour of Inish Turk Beg is a bright golden yellow and the nose is fresh and vibrant with some lovely light, delicate aromas. There are notes of honey and vanilla, which are backed up by aromas of underlying (almost subdued) cereal grains, almonds and hints of ginger spice and oak (think of wood shavings). Cutting through this is a distinct note of tangy citrus, especially lemon, which contributes much of the freshness. On the palate, the lightness continues as does that citrus tang, although this feels a bit juicier than on the nose. There has been some quality American oak casks used to mature this whiskey and this shows through with plenty of fresh flavours, such as vanilla, honey, grated coconut and pinches of wood spice (imagine cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger). With time, some malty cereal notes come through and this makes the whiskey feel creamier in your mouth than it was initially. The finish is a little drier than expected with an interesting pleasant grassiness appearing (think of dried grasses) and the wood spices and oak notes coming to the fore. Again, this is complimented with a lovely juicy lemony zing.

What's the verdict?
The Maiden Voyage is a lovely and very easy drinking whiskey that exhibits sympathetic maturation in good quality casks. The character of the whiskey is expressive but easily approachable, which would make it a great choice for a beginner to Irish whiskey while still holding the attention and interest of the 'connoisseur'. The price tag may stop some, especially as many Irish whiskies are usually much cheaper. However, you are naturally paying for the exclusivity, rarity, packaging and high quality of the product. After all, limited edition and aged Irish single malts are few and far between - therefore, this has to be tried as a result.

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