Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Review - Tullamore DEW XO Caribbean Rum Cask Finish

Introduction by Matt Chambers. Tasting notes & thoughts by Tobias Gorn.

The Irish whiskey brand of Tullamore DEW has launched a new expression of its popular blend - the Tullamore DEW XO Caribbean Rum Cask Finish. The new variant takes the regular Tullamore DEW blend, which is triple distilled and uses three styles of Irish whiskey (grain, malt and pot still), and gives it a finishing period in first-fill ex-demerara rum casks sourced from the Caribbean. The release is said to pay homage to the Irish immigrants that arrived in the Caribbean during the 17th century and helped the early development of rum distillation in the region.

The Tullamore distillery was built in 2013 by owners William Grant & Sons, who had purchased the brand in 2010, and is located in Clonminch near Tullamore in Co. Offaly. Previous to that the whiskey used had been distilled at both Bushmills and Midleton distilleries and then matured and blended. The four pot stills produced 3.6 million litres per year. In 2017 a single grain column still was added, which produces 8 million litres per year. Tullamore DEW is the second largest selling Irish whiskey brand in the world behind Jameson and sold just over 13 million bottles across its range in 2018.

"At our Tullamore distillery we are constantly experimenting with our whiskey making. This was one of many trials but immediately stood out as being something truly special. It's the perfect combination of Irish heart and Caribbean soul.”
John Quinn - Global Brand Ambassador for Tullamore DEW.

The Tullamore DEW XO Caribbean Rum Cask Finish is bottled at 43% ABV and is initially only available in the UK through selected online and high street retailers. A bottle will cost £26.

Tobias' tasting notes
A medium golden yellow, honey coloured dram with expressive and delicate aromas. We had a deconstructed sampling of the malt, grain and pot still elements, plus the rum itself and that worked brilliantly. The balanced grain whiskey element gives it a nice vanilla and fresh linen sweetness, and fine silky texture. If the crop permits usually Irish wheat is used to make this and minimise the carbon footprint. Wheat grain can be lighter and cleaner than some maize based spirits, but it is mainly up to the distillation and maturation at the end.

The malt delivers some rich, sweet fruit and a fantastic toffee apple and demerara mid-palate. It goes with the rum characteristics hand in hand. Finally, the pot still elements are showing some walnut, toasted almonds and nutmeg, and leads to a long spicy finish. The rum influence is subtle and it adds a lovely banoffee pie layer with a hint of some cinnamon and coconut. This is a light, complex and multi-layered whiskey with a long elegant finish with a guava and pineapple aftertaste.

Tobias' verdict? 
This new whiskey fits into William Grant's rum finish line up nicely. It is significantly different the production methods from its Scottish cousins - Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 years old and Glenfiddich 21 years old Rum Cask - but has a similarity with how the rum plays along seamlessly with the base whiskey. Maybe it is the influence and guidance of Brian Kinsman, the Master Blender across the William Grant portfolio, creating such a subtle and elegant dram.

The whiskey is great neat or can be enjoyed in a diversity of cocktails as seen at the launch event. It would also go along with toffee, caramel or banana-based puddings or a medium strength cigar. It is pronounced and lively on the nose and palate, but also gentle and soft without loss of aromas or flavours. The affordable price makes it accessible for all.

The Tullamore DEW XO Caribbean Rum Cask Finish is versatile, mixable and highly enjoyable. Why not try it in a daiquiri or a Guinness punch? Highly recommended and it well worthy of the IWSC Silver Medal it has won this year.


Tobias is a good friend and long time supporter of us at WFE. We could not attend the launch of this new Tullamore DEW but were delighted that Tobias agreed to share his notes with us.

He started his drinks industry career in 2003 and has the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and time as a head sommelier for Michelin star establishments on his CV. Over the last decade his main attention has been to fine wine, whisky, gin and Cuban cigars. He judges for many wine and spirits competitions and is a panel chair judge and ambassador for the IWSC. He is also an official clay pigeon shooting instructor, coach and referee as well as an award-winning drinks and cigar writer and consultant.

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