Powers Whiskey Tasting at the Merchant.
And on a school night too. Last Wednesday I got to experience the first ‘Whiskey by the Fireside’ event at The Merchant Hotel in Belfast, held by the guys from Whiskey Club. The evening focused on the Powers family of whiskeys and was hosted by Northern Ireland Ambassador Joe Magowan.
After a quick introduction, we kicked off with a demonstration of the classic whiskey cocktail, the Old Fashioned. Soon enough, we were being expertly guided in making our own:
- Powers Irish Whiskey Gold Label, 50ml
- Sugar syrup, 10-15ml
- Angustura Bitters, 2 dashes
- Ice, lots
- Orange peel, one
As we added the finishing touches to our own concoctions, Joe took the group on a brief journey through the history and production of Irish Whiskey – with a focus on Pot Still Irish Whiskey.
We covered everything from grain to glass; ingredients, distillation and maturation – including samples of Pot Still, ex-Bourbon and sherry cask spirits, showing the important influence wood has on the spirit (lots of interesting props to get our hands on, a nice touch).
After covering production - and lots of questions from the well-intrigued group - we moved on to tasting the range of Irish Whiskeys. We began with Powers Gold Label – a rich and spicy blended Irish whiskey, and true classic amongst the whiskeys of Ireland.
After Powers Gold Label we progressed to Powers Three Swallow Release – a classic example of the single Pot Still style whiskey which made the Powers brand famous around the world.
Our final whiskey of the evening was the highly acclaimed Powers John’s Lane Release – a rich, earthy and spicy single Pot Still whiskey aged for no less than 12 years.
At each stage, Joe was keen to hear our own feedback, asking preferences between the serves and also what particular flavours and smells we were getting from each. It's at this point you find how well your taste buds/sense of smell compares against others. As usual, mine took a while to get going, having to hear the suggestions of others before muttering in agreement "ahhh, yeah, uh-huh". Strangely, it wasn't until I went back again and tasted/smelt the Gold Label and Three Swallows that I could properly tell the difference.
To me, Gold Label tastes of a mixture of caramel and vanilla. Three Swallows tastes a bit more fruitier, citrus-like. Some people had shouted out banana bread - which when you look for it, you do actually get from it. Last, John's Lane would be a bit more peppery and spicy. Even writing this I'm still debating which one was my favourite.
The night finished off with something a bit special from Powers' Midleton distillery - something that money couldn't buy, which really got a few people's ears pricked.
We sampled a 7 year old pot still from a first fill ex-Bourbon barrel, bottled at cask strength. It was pretty incredible and a perfect insight into the spirit that makes Powers Irish Whiskey.
And to top things off, we were sent on our merry way with a superb Powers branded glass and Gold Label miniature. Nice one.
Big thanks to Sarah & Joe for the invite.