Every whisky drinker has his or her favourite category or variety of whisk(e)y. Once upon time, many were firmly camped in one category and rarely ventured outside it. You might have been a Scotch person who never touched Bourbon. Or a fan of the Irish stuff who found the malts of Scotland a bit too robust. However, with the explosion of whisky bars around the country and diverse ranges of spirits more readily and affordably available to try by the dram, people can now explore categories of whisk(e)y outside their comfort zone without too much grief. It’s one of the reasons that people are expanding their horizons and – whilst we all still have our favourite – at least we’re embracing other categories.
For obvious reasons, it’s about this time every year that people suddenly decide to check out Irish whiskey. St Patrick’s Day means different things to different people, but – if nothing else – for whisky drinkers, it’s a good excuse to insert an ‘e’ into the word and try a drop of the pure.
Irish Whiskey is one of the fastest growing drinks categories in the world, and whilst the likes of Jameson or Bushmills are happily satisfying the mass market, smaller labels like Hyde are bringing more specialist and exotic bottlings to those who prefer to get fancy.
The Hyde story is a good one, and Whisky & Wisdom has explored this previously here. Jump across to the link if you need a refresher. The Scotch Malt Whisky Society recently hosted a number of tasting events in Australia on St Patrick’s Day, and to mark the date, attendees were served some different releases from Hyde as the welcome dram on arrival. These were the two Aras Cask No.3 and No. 5 single grain whiskey releases.
Single grain bottlings continue to gain traction as people realise the old descriptors of grain being “neutral flavoured” weren’t exactly accurate. So how do these releases stack up:
Hyde No. 3 “The Aras Cask” Single Grain, Bourbon Matured, 46% ABV
(Tasted and reviewed here is the second batch bottling, a limited edition with just 5,000 bottles. The 6yo age statement that accompanied the first release is not declared on the second release.)
Nose: Sweet and nutty. Hints of acetone. It’s soft and understated, giving appealing wafts of green fruits on cereal.
Palate: Sweet caramel with a pleasant woodiness. Again, it’s soft and light, but particularly grassy, with lots of cereal and fragrant rice.
Finish: Still sweet. A little thin, possibly short and shallow, but appealing nonetheless.
Comments: A great aperitif whisky. Not challenging or complex, yet complete and entertaining.
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Hyde No. 5 “The Aras Cask” Single Grain, Burgundy Cask Finish, 46% ABV
Nose: Sweet and syrupy. Caramel Crunch flavoured popcorn. Rhubarb pie. Raspberry bubblegum.
Palate: Clean and fresh. Pinewood – in fact, there’s some very interesting oak influences. It’s a youthful flavour profile, and more corn comes to the fore. It’s also a little bitter and drying – certainly less sweet than the No. 3, with the drying spiciness of the burgundy cask playing its role.
Finish: Drying, with perhaps a wisp of smoke.
Comments: Wonderful to nose – the aromas are complex and appealing. It’s light in body; typically grainy – perhaps even typically Irish? – with the cask finish obviously imparting some interest around the edges.
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At the risk of generalising, Irish whiskey is towards the lighter end of the spectrum, and grain is obviously at the lighter end of that spectrum. Both releases here are aperitif in style, but have sweetness and complexity. It’s a subjective thing, and others may have a different reaction but, to my palate, the No. 3 was the preferable of the two. The nose of No. 5 was more interesting and appealing, but we ultimately buy whisk(e)y to drink it, not smell it, and the palate on the No. 3 was the more balanced and rounded of the two. Both releases here are non-chillfiltered and bottled at the higher strength of 46% ABV. Fans of Irish whiskey should definitely check these out.
The Hyde releases are available through specialist retailers and distributed in Australia by Wonderland Drinks.