Let me start by saying, “Mr. Scully, I apologize.” I promise I’ll explain. Like all whisky critics, I sometimes receive samples from distilleries for assessment, as I recently did from Clonakilty Irish Whiskey. There was no required “quid pro quo,” just the expectation of an honest review. I pride myself on being fair, both with criticism and praise. I’m always mindful that my writing is subjective, reflecting my personal tasting skills and opinions. It also requires that I sometimes make assumptions. On rare occasions, I make a mistake, and when I do, I take full responsibility- This is one of those times.
I want to be clear that Clonakilty “Single Batch” Double Oak Irish Whiskey is quite good- an elegant and sexy dram worthy of a look. I promise I’ll get to the review shortly, but I must address their use of “Single Batch.” After receiving the sample, I did my due diligence researching the term but couldn’t find a definition. I reached out to the distillery, but their initial response was perplexing. I interpreted that “Single Batch” was a marketing term- puffery, if you will. I assumed they were attempting to capitalize on the similarity to Single Malt and Single Pot, which carry precise legal and traditional meanings and connotations. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
After notifying Clonakilty’s marketing team of my concerns, I received a message from founder Michael Scully. After his gracious clarification (I’m not sure I would have been that nice!), I can report that “Single Batch” means precisely that- they produce this whiskey from a single production run, selecting the blend and maturation cask based on the unique flavors and attributes of the distillation run. Produced from a single production batch, each bottle is labeled with its unique batch number and total edition size.
According to Mr. Scully, “For each batch of whiskey, Oisin, our Head Distiller, will pick a number of different casks and blend them together to reach the flavour profile that he desires. The malt and grain percentages in each batch (are) not fixed, and this can also vary depending on the intensity of flavours and the opinion of our Head Distiller. As a consequence, the taste profile of each batch is subjective, so it will always vary to (s)ome extent. We see this as a positive as it allows the consumer to embark on a voyage of discovery with each individual batch/bottle. Because no two batches are exactly the same, we feel it’s important for the consumer to be able to identify each batch by number. We do get feedback from consumers that they prefer one batch over another, and we like it that way. Our typical batch will contain 10- 20 casks. It can be as low as two casks, but in no case will it be more than 25 casks in a single batch.”
The bottle I sampled is labeled Batch 019, one of just 6700 bottles (which may be one of their largest editions to date). In other words, it’s a “limited edition” bottling, which is certainly a much different meaning than my initial interpretation! So, Mr. Scully and company- I stand corrected, and I’ve never been more glad to be wrong!
Now, on to the review! Keep in mind that since each batch can produce a different whiskey, your tasting experience may vary- This review is solely for Batch 019! As previously noted, this is a quality whiskey. The packaging exudes class and elegance, from the box to the bottle shape and even the label, and stands head and shoulders above other production blends (you know, J and B, and I don’t mean the Scotch). It’s so attractive that I intend to add the empty bottle to my (extensive) “decanter” collection!
The whiskey pours a gorgeous pale straw-gold and opens with intense aromas of vanilla pudding, heather, cooked pears, and barrel spice. Hand-warming and swirling release hints of allspice, ginger, pie crust, butter, and cut hay. Allowing it to sit for ten minutes or so increased the impact of the hay and butter and released notes of almond cookies, Madagascar vanilla extract, and cooking spices. Extremely complex.
The mouthfeel is syrupy, without being oily, and quite sweet to open. At 43/6% ABV, it’s quite subdued- easily sippable without dilution. The vanilla explodes in the swallow, along with candied ginger, fried bananas, and tea biscuits. The finish is relatively short, but there’s a lingering drying with afternotes of tropical fruits, black pepper, figs, and then more vanilla. The start is significantly sweeter than the finish, suggesting it would be well suited as an aperitif or between courses as a palate cleanser. Of course, it’s a great stand-alone dram, too!
Clonakilty Double Oak Single Batch Irish Whiskey’s complexity upends the notion that blended whiskeys are either “lower-shelf” or relegated to making cocktails. It’s appropriately positioned for inclusion with single malt and single pot Irish whiskeys while maintaining approachability. I’m grateful for the opportunity to try this whiskey, and I can recommend it to anyone seeking a quality dram!