I’m going to make a few assumptions if you are reading this right now. One, you’re a classy individual that likes to be in the know about what’s happening in Metro Detroit. Two, you appreciate the culinary aspects of alcohol and treat it with the respect it deserves. With these two points addressed, you and I will be fast friends.
St. Patrick’s Day is a tricky holiday for drinkers. The stereotype is to find the most-raucous Irish-like bar (preferably something with an O’ and Mc’ attached to it) and proceed to get plastered. You wake up at five AM, don any green apparel you own and throw caution to the wind. This is not what I consider an ideal day of drinking. Alcohol should not be treated lightly. My perspective is that during no holiday should you abuse the drink for the greater good of you and those around you.
You should instead treat alcohol as the incredibly diverse, flavorful and culturally rich product that it is. I’ve selected three Irish Whiskeys ranging from a local craft to an allocated rarity to a mass reach product. Each appeals to varying palettes and helps inspire a respect that these spirits deserve on this joyous green imbued occasion.
Motor City Gas – Barley Legal, Irish Style Whiskey 2018 release. Aged in Cider Barrels. Proof: 90.
I’ve been following Rich Lockwood since the day he opened his distillery. We both have advertising backgrounds – the connection was pretty instantaneous. What he wanted to do was to make high quality spirits with a focus on whiskey. This is not an easy task, many whiskeys are aged for years. Rich has a knack for selecting which barrels are ready for public consumption and which need more time. 2018 saw the release of his cleverly named Irish-Style Whiskey, Barley Legal. Be forewarned, it’s a potent product clocking in at 45% ABV. Insider tip: this is your first hint that the distiller is proud of the product. A spirit at the minimum of 40% ABV provides a lower alcohol level that allows some flaws to be overlooked while also stretching the product for maximum profit. Rich knows he has a tasty juice, with more punch comes more flavor.
I got my hands on a sneak peek bottle prior to the 3/17/18 release. From the initial pour the full barley aroma blew me away. The flavor is full of spice, barrel char and subtle vegetal notes. It drinks surprisingly smooth for a 45% ABV product and for that I tip my hat to the team at Motor City Gas. The product comes in pints and fifths and is exclusively available at the distillery in Royal Oak, MI.
Tullamore D.E.W. XO Irish Whiskey, Caribbean Rum Cask Finish. Proof: 43%
Metro Detroit has made a meteoric rise to the national bartending stage over the last 6 years. This is largely due to the incredibly skilled bartenders around the city. Every so often one of these skilled people answer a greater calling to dedicate themselves to one line or company of products. Adil Yamin is one of these individuals who finds himself with a well-respected collection of spirits by William Grant & Sons. With plenty of tasty product, we chose to focus on Tullamore D.E.W.. Even as a mass producer of whiskeys, they take some smart creative chances to separate themselves from others.
This year they released their rum cask finished product and Michigan received a limited number of cases. I’ve been the lucky winner, twice, once tasting it with Adil and then scoring a bottle at Holiday Market. If you see this spirit, grab it. At $29.99, it’s a steal for the value. A number of bars also got lucky getting it such as Butter Run Saloon on 27626 Harper Ave, St. Clair Shores and Sugar House on 2130 Michigan Ave, Detroit.
Rum is having a moment now. Taking those emptied barrels and aging Irish Whiskey in them is brilliant. This product’s ABV clocks in at 43%. Thank you Tullamore D.E.W. for trusting your product. The nose is subtle with floral notes and just a hint of brown sugar. The taste packs a deep punch doubling down on the brown sugar but amping it up with baking spices, oak and barley. The finish lingers on your tongue as you continue to experience the oak and spice characteristics. Make sure you take your time with this one, it’s a beauty.
Jameson Irish Whiskey Caskmates: IPA Edition. Proof: 40%
As a college student of the early 2000s, a bar with Jameson meant you were at someplace pretty classy. Hard for the younger Millennials to imagine, but there wasn’t the bounty of Irish Whiskeys that exist today. You were lucky to find Jameson or Bushmills on a barback. A shout out to them for helping expand the American palette and giving us such daring shots as the Pickleback.
The IPA edition of their caskmates series was released in late 2017 and is now experiencing its first St. Patrick’s Day. A delicious expansion of the line, it adds some depth to a mild product. Aged in IPA barrels, you immediately smell the chaistaric hop flavor. Just like the beer style, this passes as your glass opens up. The taste is incredibly smooth but lacks some of the depth of the other two products. If you like an easy sipper, you will find this very palatable with a hint of candy, flowers and some barrel woods. It holds up well on its own neat, but also fun in a cocktail.
I hope you take some of my recommendations to heart and use this holiday to grow-up from your inexperienced green beer self to an educated consumer that seeks out new flavors and knowns when they have had too much. Drink well my friends and hopefully we will meet to share a delicious cocktail together. Cheers – Nick