The Blackwater Distillery’s return to independent bottling after a relatively lackluster attempt with the Retronaut 17 year Old release, (lackluster only in that the market had been flooded with similarly aged and priced independent Single Malt’s all from the same source) a decent whiskey but expensive and at a price-point where it was never really going to compete. Although they’ve released the last of the stocks through their website this week, click here to view.
Velvet Cap in their own words is a ‘more consumer friendly proposition’, a re-imagination of a former Whiskey Merchant’s Brand which would be ‘an everyday whiskey reflecting the kind of casks a bonder would have had in their warehouses during the first part of the 20th century’.
Without going into too much detail, or at least detail which is readily available through the musings of Peter Mulryan’s blog on The Blackwater Distillery website. The creator’s of Velvet Cap are attempting to differentiate themselves from all of the other Independently Bottled Irish Whiskey Brands by being as transparent as possible and pointing out that in many ways they are exactly the same, with limited options for innovation aside from maturation until their own spirit matures.
Velvet Cap was a brand first introduced by Thomas Power & Son of Dungarvan, Waterford, generally comprising of whiskeys purchased from either Jameson, Bow Street or Daly’s of Tullamore. Mulryan’s new Velvet Cap Whiskey states ‘Established 1880’, when Thomas Power & Son were founded, and ‘Reclaimed 2020’ when Blackwater Distillery have re-introduced the Brand, this is a small example of how they are adamant to cut through the BS of Independent bottling.
As this is a Whiskey review I’m not going to dive any deeper than that, but I do suggest you have a read of the 3 part Velvet Cap blog on their website, and I’ll hope to do a deep dive on the distillery in the future.
Velvet Cap Blended Irish Whiskey 40%abv 700ml €40.00
A blended Irish Whiskey made up of 50% malt and 50% grain component whiskeys, these have been matured in a selection of ex-bourbon, stouted-rye, and ex-port casks. Bottled at 40%abv for the Irish market, the composition of the whiskey has been credited to Blackwater’s Head Distiller, John Wilcox. The component whiskeys were vatted together prior to finishing in the stouted-rye and port casks for approx. 6 months.
- Nose: Initially quite robust, for 40%abv there’s more spirit present than I would have expected, there’s mint leaf notes and a not unpleasant soapiness. As I give it some time notes of pineapple, lemon zest and a touch of sweet shortbread come through. There’s prickly spice ever-present but it’s hard to put a finger on a particular note.
- Palate: The Grain component dominates with distinct sweet spirit, however as the whiskey covers the palate it does burst of green notes, apples & pear drops, orange blossom, and herbaceous cardamom & turpentine. Although, it becomes almost overpoweringly dry with a crushed brazil nut texture which tones down all the other elements quite quickly.
- Finish/Conclusion: The dryness sticks and is surrounded by something which is akin to Pringles Original flavour, without the unhealthy dose of MSG that keeps you coming back for more.
Overall not a bad whiskey at all, the burst of fruits on the palate suggested that this was going to be excellent but it didn’t quite follow through. The balance isn’t quite where it should be, there’s definitely layers of flavour, but the dryness & spice overwhelms the palate at times.
Given the mint on the nose and the cardamom on the palate I feel the Rye casks have made a slight impact but I wouldn’t have guessed stout was in the equation at all, and I struggled to find anything that you’d expect from a port cask. I’ve an inclination that this whiskey would go well with a citrus forward I.P.A of some kind which could pull those fruitier notes through. For €40 I’d give it another go, but think the beer alongside it is a must, it’s a sessionable drop.
Overall they have done an amazing job at rejuvenating an old bonder’s brand, staying true to being exactly what it was before, a bonder’s bottling. I’m a massive fan of the concept of using traditionally viable casks which leaves the door open for many different Velvet Cap expressions focusing any the various wine, beer, and spirits casks that were readily available a century ago.
Outside of Independent bottling the Blackwater Distillery’s Gin brands have been relatively successful with Boyles Gin, an Aldi Exclusive, performing exceptionally well and Blackwater No.5 being one of the best London Dy style gins on the Irish market.
However, it is the works of their whiskey stills which have garnered the interest of the Irish whiskey enthusiast community, with Mulryan’s passion for Pot Still and testing the qualities of as many mash bills as possible. This distillery is certainly one to watch.
In the interests of transparency I received the samples of this whiskey directly from The Blackwater Distillery, there has been no monetary exchange(I’m not that influential) and the flavour profile of the whiskeys have been assessed subjectively, as with all my reviews.