I had two post drafts waiting, but after I visited the Shelbourne bar yesterday I had to ditch them both (for now) and instead write about this nice release from the Blacks distillery in Kinsale. The Blacks Ops.

Being a resident in West Cork, I’m very happy to see the distillery development in this lovely area. Blacks is one of three (soon to be four if all goes well at Cape Clear) distilleries in West Cork.

Blacks started in 2013, by the couple Sam and Madeleine Black. It started as a brewery, and the distillery was added in 2015. However it seems they didn’t start distilling whiskey until 2018, so there will be a few years until we’ll see their own produce. For now, their whiskey is sourced. A 12-year-old single malt has been out there for some time, and some week ago I was informed about the Blacks Ops. It’s a blend of malt and grain whiskey, matured in sherry and bourbon casks, and finished in extra deep charred bourbon casks.

Blacks Ops Irish whiskey

My first impression of this whiskey was that this isn’t your typical Irish whiskey. It’s messy and has an attitude. While I also very much enjoy the typical softer Irish whiskey characters, I really welcome variety on the whiskey scene. I like to come across whiskeys that stand out – if they do it in a good way, of course!

The Blacks Ops is bottled at 43 % ABV. It’s very dark. Does the extra charring give some colour perhaps? According to Irish malts, where Blacks refer you to buy it, that’s the case here.


My first impression is liquorice. Then smoke, but not peat smoke. This is like smoke from a campfire, from burned wood. There’s also newly cut grass, floral herbs, thyme or similar. Something sweet and fruity, peach or apricot, but also something darker, like dried figs.


I get a rather oily and creamy impression on the palate which I usually don’t get from a whiskey at only 43%. The woodfire smoke is back and it’s quite powerful. There’s also something fresh and minty, but not from mint leaves, it’s more like eucalyptus? Rosemary perhaps? A hint of wood – obviously since there is that wood fire smoke. A nice sweetness underneath.

I really liked this whiskey! It’s wild and crazy with that smoke on top of sweet fruits and all kinds of things going on. Many whiskeys/whiskies these days are too mainstream, made too perfect, too elegant or “easy to drink”. It’s good to come across some more unruly whiskeys, that give your palate something to work with.

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