With a wealth of new American and Scotch whisk(e)ys continually joining the market, it is easy to overlook Ireland, which claims the Emerald Isle coined the category. Cigar aficionados looking for broader pairing opportunities will overlook it at their own peril. Happily, we have a yearly holiday coming up next week, reminding us to reexamine Irish whiskey for further smoky marriages.
Teeling is a brand that continually explores the advance guard of possibilities for new styles of Irish whiskeys. With its Single Grain example it has dipped into a format typically associated with Scotch. Grains are the column-stilled whiskeys melded with single-barrel distillates (made in a pot still) to make blended whiskey. Although they continue to be rare on their own, their presence in blends are what define the category (which is far-and-away the dominant type of Scotch whiskey). Recently grain whiskeys have gotten some overdue recognition (particularly with Haig Club and some Compass Box expressions).
Teeling is the collaboration of brothers Jack and Stephen Teeling, eighth-generation distillers formerly associated with Cooley Distillery, which sold to Jim Beam in 2012. Last year, they opened their own distillery on Dublin's Marleybone Street. They had already marketed several examples with whiskey, mainly sourced from Cooley.
The company sells a number of styles, including super-aged whiskey, single malt, small batch and poitin (unaged Irish whiskey). One of its forays has been with finishing Irish whiskey in casks previously used for other purposes. Its Single Grain spent some time in Californian red-wine barrels and its Small Batch has a rum-cask finish.
We thought we'd pair them with a cigar in honor of the impending St. Patrick's Day.
Erin go braugh!
Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey (92 proof, or 46 percent alcohol by volume; no age statement; $49.99 a 750-milliliter bottle)
APPEARANCE: Amber color, delicate and slow pin-dot legs.
NOSE: A complex mix of floral, fruity and spicy aromas, with a dose of honeysuckle.
PALATE: A big burst of the sweetness of angel-food-cake icing starts this out, but it immediately shows deeper flavor with butterscotch, toffee and golden-rum notes. An instance of tartness signals a transition to rich, ripe, red-berry flavors.
FINISH: The ending morphs from the remnant notes of the wine-cask into something that belies the sweetness on the palate with wood and spice notes.
Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey (92 proof, or 46 percent alcohol by volume; no age statement, but the label announces a six-month finish in rum casks; $39.99 a 750-milliliter bottle)
APPEARANCE: Similar legs as the grain and a jasmine color.
NOSE: Largely floral nose with vanilla, dried fruits (peach and pear) and a spicy pimento note.
PALATE: The rum-cask finish is well apparent with molasses and raisin notes. Vanilla comes through stronger on the palate than on the nose. The whiskey gains spice, with cinnamon, and lots of honey.
FINISH: A longish finish, with much of the palate flavors joined by savory notes.
E.P. Carrillo New Wave Reserva Belicoso d'Oro (5 3/4 inches by 52 ring gauge; $7.50 92 points; Cigar Aficionado April 2016).
The smoke of this tawny-colored torpedo is rich and luxurious, layering the palate with a chocolate and graham cracker quality and a sweet, honey finish.
With the Single Grain: We picked this cigar for its honey flavor and were delighted by its chocolate notes. They picked up another side to the Single Grain, which had gone unnoticed and made a sweet whiskey even more so, while giving it a little more substance. The whiskey filled in some savoriness in the Carrillo, making it more sugary and extending its finish.
With the Small Batch: Again, the whiskey conferred heartiness on the cigar, and the Small Batch gains the same elements in return, with caramel flavors associated with its rum finish. Spiciness on the Carrillo is highlighted as it smokes down. This is (only slightly) our preferred pairing of the two, even as we enjoyed the Single Grain more on its own.