I came upon Inishowen Blended Irish Whiskey shopping for an appropriately Irish whiskey in the week before St. Patrick’s Day. My standard go-to brands, Jameson and Bushmills, just weren’t calling to me this time around and I wanted something Irish, yet different and affordable.
Distilled, matured & bottled at the Andrew A. Watt & Co. distillery in Derry in Northern Ireland – operating under the ownership of Cooley Distillery Company – Inishowen is Ireland’s only peated blended whiskey. Containing a blend of aged malt (30% of which is peated) and grain whiskeys, Inishowen is bottled at 40% A.B.V.
Inishowen derives its name from the Northern Inishowen peninsula, located in County Donegal in the northwest of Ireland. When the distillery was closed in 1925, the brand died as well. In 1988, the distillery was purchased by the Cooley Distillery Co. and the Inishowen blend was resurrected.
Nose: At first whiff, the nose is punchy and alcoholic showing sharp medicinal peat reek tinged with scorched plastic. With some air in the glass, the peat settles down and the rest of the dram breathes in like a sniff out of a cardboard box of Life cereal alongside a breakfast of fresh fruit salad made of apples, grapes and bananas. Behind the fragrant fruity esters, vanilla and caramel aromas bring more richness to the nose.
Palate: Fruity and medium bodied. Waxy, honeyed, sweetness precedes the wave of drying peat and rubbery smoke.
Finish: With the sweeter elements pushed aside, the peat continues to show amidst the lingering smoke. The whole effect verges on a mouth-feel and flavour akin to the aftertaste of a swig of ale left in the bottom of your mug; yet somehow the peat pushes past this element and continues to intrigue with its long and evolving fade out through shades of rubber, leather, vanilla and oak.
Overall: Inishowen met and exceeded my wish for an Irish whiskey that was different, pleasing and affordable for St.Patick’s Day merriment. While you may not convert a non-whiskey drinker with this blend on account of its peaty punch; you will have blend that you can really chew on over the course of a session. Let them enjoy their Jameson’s and Bushmills while you ruminate upon the long, generous finish. Fans of the wonderfully peated Irish Single Malt Conemarra will find Inishowen to be a suitable companion to their whisky collection and the price, at $34.95 in the LCBO, can’t be beat.