Willam Grant & Sons are no strangers to SA – the top-selling Glenfiddich range forms part of their stable, along with its sibling, The Balvenie and of course the Grant’s range of blended whiskies. But they have other brands in the family which may be less familiar, like Hendrick’s Gin and Tullamore D.E.W. (bought in 2010).
We’ve reviewed several of their offerings on this site, including the Glenfiddich Excellence 26 year old, 14yo Rich Oak and 15yo Distillery Edition, The Balvenie 50 year old, Grant’s 12 year old and Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix to mention a few.
We’ll be adding a few more to that list now, but unlike the Scotch listed above, we turn to the family’s Irish arm and taste the Tullamore DEW 12 Year Old Special Reserve, and the Tullamore DEW Phoenix Limited Edition.
Tullamore D.E.W. 12 year old Special Reserve
Age:12 years old
Strength: 43% alc./vol.
Type: A blend of malt whiskey, grain whiskey and some Pot Still whiskey
Nose: Not a very strong nose. Nuts mixed with red berries and a subtle citrus note. Some spice and pepper too.
Palate: Creamy mouth feel (thanks to the pot still whiskey in my opinion) and the flavours picked up on the nose are all present, but remain relatively light. Toffee, barley, citrus resolving into pineapple perhaps? Slightly nutty and grainy with a dash of cinnamon? Decent interplay between the sherry cask and bourbon cask used here.
Finish: Finish fades quickly, some warmth and nuttiness outlasts the fruity notes.
My Take On The Tullamore D.E.W. 12yo
A nice easy-drinker. In fact, a bit too easy drinking! Ideally suited for a summer dramming session.
Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix Limited Edition
On May 10th, 1785, the first recorded aviation disaster in history happened in the small town of Tullamore – a hot air balloon crashed and the devastating fire that resulted destroyed around 100 homes in the town. The town rebuilt itself, rising from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix and even went so far as to incorporate the phoenix into their coat of arms.
This release from Tullamore celebrates the history of the town (once again, you can see the brand’s focus on cultivating and sharing its heritage) and it’s resurgence. Perhaps an echo too as to what the brand itself is attempting to do?
Age:No age statement (NAS)
Strength: 55% alc./vol.
Nose: Hot and sweet, the burn from the higher ABV immediately noticeable. Peppery with some sherry notes.
Palate: Caramel goodness, apples and pears. Cinnamon dances on the tongue, some wood. Not as integrated as I would like, but not bad.
Finish: Relatively long finish, flavours more tempered and enjoyable as the heat from the alcohol dies away.
My Take On The Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix
Unfortunately, the 55% ABV tends to dominate in this whiskey, overpowering the flavours. Adding a splash of water does mellow the alcohol a fair amount and then the flavours come out and play a bit more. I applaud Tullamore for experimenting with a stronger ABV, but it just isn’t integrated enough. Here’s hoping their next foray delivers the goods.
I really, really wanted the Phoenix to be a delicious beast like my perennial favourite Irish, the Redbreast 12 Cask Strength, but it fell far short of that. Out of the two Tullamores reviewed here, I can see the 12yo finding a place in my cabinet as a daily drinker, but not the 55%ABV Phoenix.
When it comes to Irish whiskey, the market is dominated by Jameson and is likely to remain that way for a long time still. Tullamore D.E.W. is the underdog for now, but I don’t think it’s a position they mind being in too much at the moment. The focus on putting out a quality product, backed by their heritage (which they’re pushing hard – just have a look at the revised packaging) targets a slightly different market segment, one that “is a more discerning drinker”. Will it work? Time will tell…
The Irish whiskey market is growing fast around the world, and with the addition in the near future of the Tullamore D.E.W. 15 year old Trilogy to the line-up on offer here in South Africa, it looks as though William & Grant’s Irish offerings are here for the long haul.
Thanks go to the local supplier for the Tullamore D.E.W. samples. In no way did this affect the review of these whiskies which, as always, remains independent.