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I have just come back from Whitehorse, Yukon after four days attending a small film festival there. I had an absolutely majestic time (I even went dog sledding!), surrounded by snow, forest, mountains and crisp clean air. But what made this trip truly special is that Siobhan was there too (in fact, she got me invited)! As she is want to do, she brought a flask with her (well, two), containing this whiskey. I had given her this bottle as a Christmas present, knowing it would mean something to her - as her son's name is Phoenix - so her bringing it for us to share together was truly thoughtful. So I thank my love for this sample that I brought back with me.
Phoenix is a new expression from Tullamore Dew. The name comes from a fire that destroyed one-third of the town of Tullamore in 1785 (caused by a hot air balloon accident). The town was rebuilt, and to commemorate the rebirth a phoenix was added to the town crest. A few years later the Tullamore distillery was founded on the site of the crash.
I don't have the label in front of me, but I can tell you it is non-chill-filtered and bottled at a hefty 55% ABV. It is a blend containing a high percentage of pure pot still whiskey finished in old oloroso sherry casks (malt and grain whiskies making up the balance).
The colour is a medium gold. It's a beautiful nose, with rum raisin, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon, all wrapped in raspberries, blackberries and dark chocolate. Rich honey and Christmas cake. Pot pourri. Water brings out almonds, macadamia and marzipan. A very nice mix of sweet and spice, though a little too tannic.
On the palate, it's an Irish whiskey with oomph! Luscious nutty pot still notes come out, with a smooth, fruity sherry influence. Powerful oak notes are beautifully balanced with the fruit, heat and spice. Water tames the alcohol, while spicing it up and allowing all the other notes to shine through.
The finish is mouth drying, with more berries, malt and honey coming forward. Although the official tasting notes describe this as "medium bodied", I find it quite bold for an Irish. This could be my favourite Tullamore Dew expression (having tried the standard, the 10yo and the 12yo). In fact, I'm doing a side-by-side comparison with the 10yo - the Phoenix is like a higher strength, more sherried cousin of that one (which is no slouch in its own right). I suspect a malt lover would enjoy this more than they might other Irish whiskeys. This is a very limited bottling so it may be hard to find, but if you do I highly recommend it.