It was the Irish who put the “e” in whiskey. And you can really taste the difference. Irish whiskey is distinct from other whiskies around the world, offering a flavorful profile all its own. But while the rest of the industry has relocated to nearby Cork, Teeling is proudly distilling in Ireland’s traditional home of whiskey-making. Earlier this year, the company opened the first new distillery in Dublin in more than 125 years.
Last week, Master Distiller Alex Chasko showcased some of his finest labels during a rare visit to Southern California. The Tasting Kitchen on Venice’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard played host to a six-flight sampling. Their creative bar staff developed four unique cocktails highlighting a spirit which most bartenders would consider difficult to feature.
The Trial by Fire was the most whiskey-forward of the concoctions and added an updated take on the classic Tipperary, with a distinctively Irish palate in a smooth-drinking rocks cocktail comprised by Teeling, sweet vermouth, green Chartreuse, cacao, and chai.
The Story Horse, meanwhile, blended small-batch Teeling with apple cider, ginger, cardamom, lemon juice and orgeat, garnished with a sprig of rosemary. The spiced beverage was like liquid autumn on ice.
The Tasting Kitchen also provided food pairings to complement the flight, which was broken into two tastings, between courses. Those courses included beets with creme fraiche and a tarragon cider vinaigrette, succulent squab in a mustard jus with charred cabbage, and whiskey-brined pork belly with roasted apples and beer-braised endive. And that was just the first course.
Rigatoni with wild mushroom and sage, creste de gallo pasta in a savory boar-and-persimmon ragu composed the second course.
For thirds, an opulent version of surf ‘n’ turf: tender bitters-braised beef cheeks with a parsnip creme fraiche puree and choucroute de la mer — a trifecta of seafood served with braised sauerkraut.
And as if that weren’t decadent enough, for dessert, tasters were treated to profiteroles with caramel gelato, bourbon caramel, and smoked salt. Also, torta della Nonna — an Italian pastry-and-lemon custard dish with Ricotta, chestnut honey and pear. I put on several hundred calories just writing that.
The star of the evening’s show, of course, was the whiskey. I’ll narrow it down to my top three — in reverse order, you know, to make it fun. Let’s begin with…
Single-Pot Still. The mash of this whiskey is half malted and half unmalted barley, which is then triple-distilled and matured in virgin Oak, bourbon and sherry casks. It’s bottled at 46% abv and can be had for about $65 if you can find it.
Single-Cask. The intense notes of chestnut in this robust 13-year-old, bourbon-barrel-matured single malt is finished in chestnut casks for 24 months. It’s bottled at 51% alcohol by volume and retails for about $100.
24-Year-Old Single Malt. Matured in old bourbon barrels, then married and finished in Sauterne wine casks, this gem of a spirit blends some of the oldest Irish whiskey vintages in the world. It showed why it received the top honor at the World Whiskies Awards as the World’s Best Single Malt, 2019. It’s bottled at 46% abv and, if you’re lucky enough to locate a bottle, can be yours for the suggested retail price of $499.99.
That’s a lot of green even for the Irish, but as long as it’s not earmarked for your landlord or your bookie, it’s money well spent.