Sunday, March 10, 2013

Exam-o-Dram - Concannon Irish Whiskey

As a fan of all things whisk(e)y, I'm always stoked about trying a new expression.  Irish whiskey has recently been seeing a resurgence in popularity.  It wasn't too long ago there were only 4 distilleries operational in Ireland but in recent years that's changed along with some boutique bottlers and blenders.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was contacted by a PR firm in New York representing Concannon and asked if I would review the whiskey.  I accepted the offer to and they sent me a couple of sample bottles.  I only mention this so it's clear there are no expectations that my review be anything but my own and that's the way this review will be represented.

Concannon is a joint venture between Cooley distillery and Livermore Valley-based Concannon Vineyard and John Concannon is the Brand Ambassador and brain child behind this expression.

Concannon Irish is a blend from Cooley aged for about 4 years and then goes through a second fill in Concannon petit Sirah wine casks for about 4 months.  I'm intrigued.....let's see what it taste like.

The color is a very pale-straw like color.  As I swirl the whiskey, the viscosity is limited not really clinging to the glass.  The nose is light and fruity with a definite presence of wine, almost to the dominant.  The grain aroma is there but the wine influence masks the grain to some extent.

The entry is immediately sweet and then some grain and youth pops up at mid palate and continues toward the finish.  The wine notes are present but not as dominant as the nose.  The wine finish amps up the sweetness of the whiskey a bit and at mid palate oak takes a front seat along with bits of vanilla and essence of spun sugar.  There's an off note on the medium finish that I can't put my finger on that's maybe a combination of oak and tannin. After a few minutes I can taste mild grape on the palate which is a little odd. 

This is an interesting expression but not one I would say is great.  It's an easy drinker, approachable and unassuming. The wine presence may put some people off but I think it's an interesting experiment.  For me, I would prefer less of the wine influence and a little more age on the distillate as it needs more body and maturity.

I like the fact that Concannon is thinking outside the box and not just releasing another blended expression and for about $25 or less a bottle, it's a small investment to give it a try if this interest you.


  1. Nice work on the full disclosure and a balanced review. I keep wanting to like Irish Whisky (for genetic reasons) but have yet to meet the right one. The Readbreast was close... In any case, thanks for saving me from this one. (I'm beginning to think that only scotch really benefits from wine finishes, as I've not met the American whiskey that is improved by port either)

    Look forward to hearing about your trip,


    1. Ryan - I like Irish quite a bit as I find it to be a nice counter to bourbon/rye. In fact, I would put bourbon and rye on one end of the drinking spectrum, scotch in the middle and irish/canadian on the other end. It's never about one being better than the other, just different. I found the Concannon to be different and I'm sure there will be a segment of whiskey drinkers that like the lighter/sweeter expression Concannon provides. As for Irish, you mentioned Redbreast and as I'm sure you know, they have three expressions, 12 year, 12 year cask and 15 year. The cask version is quite stunning. Additionally, if you have the opportunity, try Yellow Spot and Slieve Foy. Both of these are also quite good.