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The Proof: Discover new Irish whiskey at O’Connell’s Pub

 

The Proof: Discover new Irish whiskey at O’Connell’s Pub

28 Jan 2016

Every time I go to O’Connell’s Pub, it’s as though I’ve just stumbled across it for the first time. Situated off Drayton Street between Broughton and Congress, the location feels accidental, as if someone dropped a bar downtown and that’s where it landed.

Tonight, though, the decision to go to O’Connell’s is deliberate. I haven’t visited in a while, and I’m in the mood for the cozy space and laid-back atmosphere.

New Irish paraphernalia festoons the walls, pub signs and jerseys from sports with rules I don’t understand (a pint on me for the first person who can explain Irish football). Also new are several varieties of Irish whiskey.

Similar to what’s happened with the American bourbon boom, an increased demand for Irish whiskey has led to new brands and new offshoots from the old regulars. My namesake Powers Irish Whiskey, for example, now has three iterations after centuries with only one.

The first new whiskey I try at O’Connell’s is Donegal Estates (pronounced dun-e-GAUL). Though the bottle looks vintage, the contents are a new distillation from Star Industries. This product is so new that there isn’t much information available on it, but you can take my word that it’s worth trying.

The whiskey starts with a hint of dark chocolate or cocoa on the nose, which returns full force at the finish. In between, I’m surprised by how spicy it is, reminiscent of rye whiskey, with strong pepper and mint overtones.

While this whiskey does have an alcohol bite, it’s definitely smooth enough for sipping neat. Donegal Estates is a distinct and welcome addition to the Irish whiskey family.

Next up is a whiskey I’ve wanted to try for quite a while, and O’Connell’s is the first place I’ve ever seen it.

Yellow Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey is the more mature sibling of the award-winning Green Spot, which is one of my two favorite whiskies ever to come out of Ireland, alongside Powers John’s Lane.

Make that one of my three favorites, because now I have to add Yellow Spot to the list. It follows the trend of Green Spot with bold malt flavor, similar to Scotch, and a more complex palate than the old Irish standards.

Some of the rich flavor comes from Yellow Spot’s aging process, lasting 12 years and utilizing three different casks. First is a used American bourbon cask, and then the spirit is finished in used sherry and Malaga casks, which impart a fruity character.

The heart of Yellow Spot features nectar and honey, which will be familiar to fans of Irish whiskies such as Bushmills, but that’s where the similarities end. Yellow Spot is far richer and thicker in the mouth, almost like velvet. Its fruity overtones are anchored by the hearty malt and earthy wood notes underneath.

This is absolutely a whiskey to drink neat and savor over the course of an evening. Fortunately, the bartenders at O’Connell’s didn’t seem to mind that I was taking my time. I’ll be back soon, for sure.

Zach Powers is a writer and novelist. When he’s not busy imbibing, he helps run literary arts nonprofit Seersucker Live. Get to know him better online at www.zachpowers.com.

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