Egan’s Fortitude whiskey (46% ABV)
Star rating: 3.5/5
Egans are a storied name in Irish whiskey, albeit one that lapsed from the public eye for a generation or two.
Patrick James and Henry James Egan, were merchants of good standing in Tullamore from the 1850s and they were at their height, amongst other things, the owners of a brewery with a strong reputation, and sold a variety of spirits under their own name.
As you might have noticed, things tend go a bit quiet on the whiskey front as the twentieth gets stuck in, so it’s a testament to the family spirit that they came together in the early twenty-first century to reform P&H Egan’s Limited.
At this point, they seem happy as bottlers of other people’s spirits, and there’s been no mention of a brewery either, though we can but wait.
Their current range is well judged, with a light Vintage Grain that translates well between delicate sipper and flexible mixer, a 10 Year Old Single Malt that is a well-balanced long-finisher. And then there’s the Fortitude.
A single malt whiskey with no age statement, Fortitude has been aged exclusively in Pedro Ximenéz barrels.
Normally, whiskies as bought are a blend of spirits aged in different barrels, and one reason (apart from the cost of sherry casks) is that you want to balance the characteristics they impart.
So, to take Irish single malt, a whiskey that is traditionally comparatively light, if complex, and then give it at least three years in sherry casks, which are known for imparting powerful flavours, is a bold statement in itself.
The whiskey has a full gold colour to it and a swirl of the glass present legs that almost refuse to form, a hint of how full this whiskey is.
The nose is immense. It goes big on the sherry notes which is not a surprise, with wood, leather tobacco, dark dried fruit and a savoury note, like roasted bone marrow – the spice you’d expect from an Irish whiskey is still there, but it has a lot to compete with. Vanilla is notably restricted, but there is a hint of almond.
On the palate, it continues as a big, hefty beast. There’s a lot going on, with wood, fruity tannins, more leather and savoury notes over a smooth, incredibly oily consistency with a redolence of dark chocolate.
Again, the more traditional Irish characteristics take a while to emerge, but are still there. It finishes long, with the honey sweetness asserting itself against a smokey note, the leather and wood.
Adding some water dials the intensity down a bit and, while it doesn’t diminish the heft from the sherry aging, it allows the apple, light honey and spice of the whiskey more time to shine, should that be your preference.
It would be hard to pretend this was anything other than a bit of a beast, and as such it won’t be to everyone’s taste. The old sherry notes are very powerful, and you half expect a touch of peat smoke to balance it.
That said, if you want a big, brooding whiskey that can really make itself felt, avoiding the peat route and finding other ways to get there is a pleasing change.
For a perfect serve, this speaks of a comfortable chair in front of a warm fire on a cold day, in a reassuringly thick tumbler, with perhaps a single ice cube to give you a few different aspects to consider as you sip it slowly.
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This review was last updated in March 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.