Last Updated on June 9, 2021 by Fiona Maclean
Leading the Irish whiskey revival, Bernard and Rosemary Walsh have crafted a range of whiskeys to really write home about
It’s a truth not universally acknowledged that Irish whiskey used to be one of the most popular spirits around before it fell out of favour in the early 20th century. Since the 1990s though, the popularity of Irish whiskey has soared, due to the emergence of some exciting new whiskey brands from independent bottlers, like the award-winning Writers’ Tears from the pioneering Walsh Whiskey company.
Family-owned Walsh Whiskey first set out their stall with The Irishman range of critically acclaimed single malts. But Bernard and Rosemary Walsh were keen to try out something new – or rather try out something old but for 21st-century palates.
Thus was born the Writers’ Tears range.
While the 1800s and early 1900s was a golden age for Irish whiskey, perhaps it’s not a coincidence that it was also a golden age for Irish literature with greats like Wilde, Yeats, Joyce, Beckett and Shaw to name but a few. Whiskey was enjoyed by many of these writers of the day (sometimes enjoyed too much…) and it was said that when they cried, their tears were of whiskey…
But this wasn’t just any old spirit – one whiskey style was held in higher regard above all others. Known as the ‘’champagne of Irish whiskey’’ it was a master blend of single pot still and malt whiskeys.
For those not familiar with the term, while a malt whiskey is only produced from malted barley and is made all over the globe, single pot still whiskey is something exclusively Irish and is made with both malted and green (unmalted) barley. Irish distillers came up with this blend partly as a way to reduce their malt tax bill but also because unmalted barley adds its own special character to the drink.
Fast forward to 2009 and Writers’ Tears Copper Pot was launched – a special marriage of aged single pot still and single malt. Triple distilled like all good Irish whiskey, non-peated and matured in flame charred American Oak bourbon casks, this award-winning spirit (40% ABV) is one of whisky expert Ian Buxton’s “101 Whiskeys to try before you die”. The taste and sophistication created by combining pot still and malt delivers hints of bourbon barrel vanilla, with some gentle spicing.
Ever keen to innovate and experiment with the flavours from cask maturation, the Writers’ Tears Double Oak is another pot still and malt blend but aged in both American Oak bourbon barrels and French Oak cognac casks. Triple-distilled and non-chill filtered (the 46% ABV stops whiskey haze from forming), this allows for a more natural whiskey, one which retains the organic compounds which also influence the final flavour.
Every year Bernard Walsh selects a few of the finest pot stills and malts for the limited edition Writers’ Tears’ Cask Strength whiskey. This expression is matured in exceptional American Oak casks, again non-chill filtered. At 53% ABV (for the 2020 expression), this is a full-bodied, flavour-filled whiskey with some real oomph, limited to just 1,500 bottles. Both Writers Tears and The Irishman are aged in wooden casks which are hand checked before filling. Then the ageing process comes into its own – you really can’t rush these things – pot still and malt blends are left in the cask for at least five or six years, right up to 17 years for the oldest… to date, anyway.
With such creativity and innovation producing whiskey of true quality, it’s not surprising that Writer’s Tears has garnered the highest awards and been acclaimed internationally. In the UK Walsh Whiskey have appointed top spirit merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd as its exclusive distributor.
All the Writer’s Tears expressions are very drinkable with plenty to interest Irish whiskey fans, something to sip and savour (but remember to enjoy responsibly!) and certainly something to write home about!
For more Irish whiskey reviews, do check our tasting of the Hyde Whiskey range