We were waiting for storm Ciara to arrive, but the weather was still calm on Saturday morning so we took the coastal road to Kinsale where we would meet Carlos at Blacks Brewery & Distillery.
Just outside of town, there’s this old steel building that used to be a boatyard. Inside, there are some very good things in the making.
Blacks brewery is owned by Sam and Maudeline Black, and the story about the company started one Valentine’s day when Maudeline gave Sam a beer making kit. Making beer developed into a passion, and the brewery was eventually founded in 2013. There is a wide range of Blacks beers on the market, from fresh lagers to a variety of ales and stouts. Their range includes some very interesting products – chocolate & vanilla stout, fruit-infused ales, an IPA brewed with spruce tips, and lots more. The creative ideas are flowing here, and I love that! Sadly I can’t drink these beers myself since I’m coeliac – their gluten-free lager is very nice but I hope there will also be some gluten-free ales, IPAs and/or stouts from Blacks in the future.
As well as beer, they have a lovely gin and even a rum, both distilled on-site in Kinsale as far as I’ve understood. Two whiskeys have been released so far under the Blacks distillery brand, a 12-year-old single malt and the Blacks Ops – both made from sourced whiskey.
The question about transparency, or the lack thereof, in the Irish whiskey industry is always up to debate (and for good reason), and you may object to the distillery name on Blacks whiskey labels since they are not distilling whiskey yet. In this case, I personally don’t mind because at least, they are building a distillery and this company also states clearly on the website and also on the label of the bottle of 12-year-old single malt, that the whiskey is sourced.
And here’s some good news – Blacks will very soon have a whiskey distillery.
The long-awaited stills arrived from Italy in late January; two pot stills that will be used for all whiskey, including grain whiskey. Thus Blacks are going against the Irish tradition as they are not going to triple distil their whiskey. This is not unique though – the big player Cooley’s distillery and also Pearse Lyons distillery both work with double distillation.
Single pot still as well as grain and malt spirit will eventually come out of these stills. The first batches of future whiskey are going to be made exclusively for the Founders club casks. Then the distillation for the public market will begin – in five years or so we can expect to see on-site distilled Blacks whiskey on the market. They plan to use a variety of cask types, such as (not too surprisingly) different types of beer casks.
If all goes according to the plans, whiskey making will start during the spring.
The Founders Club is your opportunity to invest in a cask of your choice, filled with the spirit type that you choose. After maturation, you can choose to sell it back to the distillery or to bottle it to yourself. This cask offering is a good opportunity to get your own unique single cask whiskey, and it will also help fund the distillery while it gets started.
Blacks whiskey and spiced rum
I wrote about the Blacks Ops whiskey in the autumn of 2019. It’s the second whiskey release from Blacks. I tasted it at Shelbourne bar in Cork and then I wanted to buy a bottle of it, which wasn’t so easy. When we looked for it in various shops, we found the 12-year-old instead and decided to buy a bottle. I didn’t know much about it but was, of course, curious about it and I always want to support local companies if I can.
Sam Black searched high and low for a good cask of whiskey that would suit for maturing the rum, and eventually purchased this one. Great choice!
The Blacks spiced rum is said to be the first rum made in Ireland, and I don’t doubt that at all since rum isn’t really the typical drink people produce in Ireland. The decision to make a rum yet again speaks about Blacks creativity and eagerness to try new things.
So what about this 12-year-old whiskey? It’s a single malt from Cooley distillery, matured in an ex-bourbon cask. It’s a lovely drop, full of vanilla, honey, fruit and spice.
Vanilla, light wood, red grapefruit. White pepper.
There’s a very nice entrance with vanilla, honey and spice; white pepper, ginger or both. There’s red grapefruit again, possibly orchard fruit and/or honeydew melon. The mouthfeel is on the drier side but it has a nice softness. Sweet finish with some vanilla and subtle spice.
It’s very tasty indeed and if some of the future Blacks whiskey will be anywhere near this, I’ll be happy. The creativity I’ve seen at Blacks and their goal to produce quality products with lots of flavour, bode very well for their future products, and I’m very much looking forward to what will be released from this Kinsale distillery.