J.J. Corry The Battalion whiskey (41% ABV)
Star rating: 4/5
Master of Malt (£59.95)
Chapel Gate Whiskey are a slightly different proposition in the current Irish whiskey boom, setting themselves up explicitly as whiskey bonders, rather than distillers-in-waiting.
Whiskey bonding is where you buy the unaged spirit from a distillery, and then take on the responsibility for aging, blending and bottling yourself.
Bonding would have been common practice across Ireland (and the UK) well into the twentieth century, as grocers and wine merchants sold their own bottlings.
With the emergence of brands self-bottling as a mark of quality, it is rare to see nowadays, and while you remove the variation in quality, you also lose the variation in flavour.
The vast majority of the flavour in whiskey comes from the interaction of wood and climate over time. Chapel Gate are staking a claim that they can differentiate themselves in a crowded market by choosing wisely, aging judiciously, blending assiduously and benefitting from the maritime climate around the coast of County Clare, where their rackhouse is situated.
Chapel Gate was founded and fronted by Louise McGuane, who returned to her parents’ farm to set up business after two decades working for the big drink conglomerates.
The J.J. Corry branding is named after a famous local entrepreneur from Irish whiskey’s golden age, whose shop was well-known for its spirits.
While the business is too new as yet to be selling spirits wholly aged under their auspices, The Battalion is a bottling that shows some that J.J. Corry is a brand with an eye for the new as much as it does for reviving the old.
With a commendable transparency (up to a point), it is a blend of a 60 per cent nine year old grain whiskey that has then been finished in mezcal and tequila casks for seven months, with 40 per cent of a thirteen year old malt whiskey finished in mezcal casks, also for seven months. Irish whiskey has a little more leeway on wood than Scotch, but still, this is a first.
To the eye, it’s very pale, and but for the legs after a whirl, could be mistaken for white wine. On the nose there’s a leafy, savoury note, along with apples, a soft smooth lemon zest air and a little untoasted nuttiness. It feels light, with a peppery edge.
On the palate, the apple remains, but with some pear coming in, the pepper also sticks about, and the leafy note resolves a bit more grassy.
Its sweetness is tempered by nuts and there is, very lightly, an agave element. The finish is long, with pepper and oak spice fading out to long, grass herbal tones and a touch of salinity.
Finishing whiskey in mezcal casks is new to us, and the results are both unexpected and fascinating. While possibly not for everyone, the funkier notes associated with the Mexican spirit have been tamed, whilst not losing their freshness, or overwhelming the fruit and spice of the underlying whiskey.
For a perfect serve, just enjoy neat in a tasting glass, ideally shared with some friends you want to surprise.
Master of Malt (£59.95)
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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 email@example.com.