Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey
The Teeling family has a long history of Irish whiskey making, having founded the well-known Cooley distillery. Around the time of Cooley’s eventual acquisition into Beam-Suntory, Jack Teeling (son of Cooley founder John Teeling), struck out on his own – and under his family name.
While setting up a new distillery in Ireland, Teeling Whiskey got busy buying sourced Irish whiskies for relabeling under their own label. The first of the whiskies released – Small Batch – is a malt/grain whisky blend with a relatively high proportion of malt (I’ve seen a 35:65 malt:grain mix reported online). A high proportion of first-fill bourbon casks has also been reported.
Unusually, Small Batch has spent a number of months being finished in rum casks. While it is common for new operations to source outside whisky initially, rum cask finishing is certainly not exactly a typical approach.
Let’s see how it compares to some other Irish whiskies in my Meta-Critic Database (in alphabetical order)
Bushmills Original Blended: 7.74 ± 0.46 on 12 reviews ($$)
Bushmills Black Bush: 8.38 ± 0.44 on 18 reviews ($$)
Jameson: 7.82 ± 0.58 on 17 reviews ($$)
Jameson Select Reserve (Black Barrel): 8.34 ± 0.42 on 14 reviews ($$)
Kilbeggan Irish Reserve Malt Whiskey: 7.97 ± 0.54 on 6 reviews ($$)
Powers (Gold Label): 8.04 ± 0.64 on 9 reviews ($$)
Teeling Whiskey Small Batch (Rum Cask Finish): 8.30 ± 0.38 on 16 reviews ($$)
Teeling Single Grain (Wine Cask Finish): 8.56 ± 0.38 on 8 reviews ($$$)
That is certainly a very respectable score for the price class. Below are my nosing and tasting notes for this whisky. Note that my sample come from a batch that was bottled on 02/2015.
Nose: Sweet. Very sweet. Sugar cane sweet. Lightly floral, with orange blossoms. Light-bodied fruits, like green grapes, pears, plums, apricots, and green apples. Main impression is diluted sweetened apple juice. No solvent notes. A touch malty, with very light aromas overall (like most entry-level Irish whiskies). But could easily be mistaken for a light golden rum, given that sweetness.
Palate: That sweetness is still present – a pure, refined white-sugar sweetness (with none of the complexity of honey, brown sugar, or even corn syrup). Not getting a lot of the fruits, except for the citrus (more tart lemon now). Some caramel. Light dusting of baking spices, including cinnamon and nutmeg. Definite grassiness coming through. Relatively light body and mouthfeel, but with a lot of alcohol burn (likely due to the higher 46% ABV).
Finish: Medium length, but not much going on here. A slight bitterness creeps in, but its subtle. Mainly just sweetened apple juice on the way out, with a touch of the spices. Pretty mild.
The nose is misleading on this one, with its pure white sugar sweetness. Once you actually take a sip, this seems more like a decent light Irish whiskey – but with some significant alcohol kick.
I strongly recommend adding a splash of water to the Small Batch, to help tame the burn. It really improves the mouthfeel, and also slightly enhances the floral elements (although not the fruit). The slight bitterness of the finish also seems to disappear. I think the overall Meta-Critic score is pretty much right on the money here.
Like the AnCnoc 12yo, this would make a good summer sipping whisky – or a great base for cocktails. It should appeal to the typical Jameson’s drinker looking to add some uncomplicated extra sweetness. Of course, you could also go for Jameson Black Barrel (known as Select Reserve now) or Bushmills Black Bush for similar quality scores.
One of the most positive reviews I’ve seen of Teeling Small Batch is of Dominic Roskrow of Whisky Advocate. Josh the WhiskeyJug and Ruben of WhiskyNotes both give it a fairly typical ranking from among the Meta-Critic panel. Nathan the Scotchnoob is probably the least impressed.