Throughout the lock-down period in Ireland when I had only been temporarily laid-off rather than fully terminated as I am now, I began working on an Irish Whiskey education project. (‘terminated’ sounds so sinister doesn’t it, reminds me of Arnold Schwarzenegger, although unlike him it doesn’t look like ‘I’ll be back’ anytime soon, to work that is.) For this project I had been attempting to give as accurate a synopsis of the styles of Irish Whiskey on the market today.
Most of my readers will be familiar with Malt, Grain and Pot Still whiskeys, but when taking a deeper dive into what’s available today, these categories develop sub-categories, the sub-categories have sub-categories and so-on. It was one of the new emerging categories, Blended Malt Whiskey, which led to me graciously accepting a sample of the Pearse Lyons ‘Marriage of Malt’ from Alltech’s Spirits Maestro, Conor Ryan, with nothing due in return only satisfying my curiosities, as I had asked how they chose to put the product together and the source of the components. ( Conor is also a shining light of the Irish pub trade with his bar, The Folkhouse in Kinsale, how he manages both roles and a young family I will never know.)
So what is a Blended Malt Whiskey? Well if a Single Malt is 100% Malt whiskey coming from 1 single distillery, then a Blended Malt/Vatted Malt is made up of 100% Malt whiskey from 2 or more distilleries ‘married’ together before bottling. So in short, if I take Single Malt from 1 distillery and blend it with Single Malt from another distillery I have a Blended Malt.
Although there are currently only 2 Blended Malts available on the Irish Whiskey market, this is a category which is sure to become a vital part of the Independent Bottling industry in Ireland and I find it truly surprising that there have not been many more blended malt releases before this. However, it could be that, in previous years, when purchasing mature stock from distilleries, that the distilleries may have stated in their Non-disclosure Agreement (the big distilleries love NDA’s) that their product cannot be blended with malt whiskeys from any other distillery. Although I feel like that seems highly unlikely.
The opportunities for exploration when using component whiskeys from separate distilleries are in abundance. Using the more robust notes of a Double-distilled malt, along with the refined fruity character of Triple-distilled malt, and maybe adding a touch of peated malt or crystal malt, you could create endless textures, amplify fruits or spices, and create well rounded, balanced whiskeys. This is a style not to be knocked.
Pearse Lyons Marriage of Malt 2019 Edition 44%abv 700ml €79.00
The Pearse Lyons Distillery in the Liberties of Dublin was the first distillery to release a Blended Malt Whiskey. Their Global Spirit’s Ambassador, Conor Ryan, has been quoted saying “The Pearse Lyons’ Distillery sees blended malts as a large part of the future of Irish Whiskey and while we are one of the first brands to explore this historically unexplored category, we know that we won’t be the last.”
The blend itself consists of the following three malt whiskeys:
65% – 6 Year Old Pearse Lyons Distilled Malt, initially matured in ex-bourbon casks and finished in PX casks.
27% – Double-distilled Malt Whiskey from Co. Louth which was fully matured in ex-bourbon casks for 13 years. Although transferred into Pearse Lyons owned Town Branch bourbon casks in 2014.
8% – Double-distilled 15 Year Old Malt matured in bourbon cask until it was re-casked in 2014 into Town Branch Bourbon casks, and then finished in a PX hogshead for 9 months.
888 bottles have been produced to signify their distillery in Dublin 8, the fact there has been a church on the site for over 800 years and because 8 is an infinity symbol turned 90 degrees, infinity being a symbol for marriage.
- Nose: Straight away it’s got a huge burst of aromas, full of ripe citrus, vanilla, pencil shavings and oak spices. With further nosing the spice notes become distinct with clove and nutmeg giving way to a fruitful caramelized pear surge.
- Palate: Immediately more tropical, an abundance of stone fruits, ripe peaches and apricots. The shaved wood from the nose turns more to toasted oak, there’s grilled pineapple, roasted pine nuts and a hint of baked figs.
- Finish/Conclusion: Not quite as long as I’d hoped but it is incredibly moreish, it becomes richer in the back palate at the finish like warm toffee or butterscotch.
For me, this whiskey delivers ten-fold at it’s price point, the blending team, whoever they are, showed distinct understanding of flavour development. It might not be what you’d expect from the use of PX casks but they found a line of tropical sweet fruits and spices and ran with it. It’s got depth, layers of flavour and it makes you want a second glass. I can honestly say, this is the first Pearse Lyons Whiskey I would highly recommend, nothing really all that wrong with previous releases, but this is on a different level.