Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | April 4, 2009

Review: Michael Collins Single Malt

Irish has long been my favorite type of whiskey. Jameson opened my eyes to it and over time, I’ve gone from being a basic consumer of blended Irish whiskeys to more recently beginning to venture into the single malt realm. Red Breast is my favorite Irish single malt but I’m always happy to explore the genre and see what else is out there.

I hadn’t known that Michael Collins made a single malt Irish whiskey. It’s distilled by Cooley, the last independent Irish whiskey distillery. I was familiar with their blend and while it isn’t one of my favorites, I’ll order it sometimes if I’m at a bar that only has the standard Jameson and Bushmills blended varieties. Apparently the single malt recently won a Double Gold Medal in the Single Malt Irish Whiskey category at the 2009 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

The nose from Michael Collins Single Malt is a strong mix of oak, peat, and leather. The strength of the oak nose isn’t surprising, given the whiskey is aged in oak barrels.  It doesn’t give the sweet bouquet that I’m used to with many Irish whiskeys. The peat really comes out when the whiskey hits the front of the tongue, though it doesn’t dominate after the first sip. Also present is a nice pepper spice, vanilla, and toffee. The Single Malt is very smooth with a light mouthfeel that isn’t oily or thick. There’s only the slightest lingering burn on the tongue.

What’s interesting to me is that Michael Collins Single Malt has a really complex taste while maintaining the smoothness I expect from a blended Irish whiskey. Each sip revealed slightly different proportions of peat, vanilla, oak, and pepper to me.

After writing this, I went back to the release announcing the Double Gold for the Single Malt and saw that this whiskey’s tasting was described as:

Aged for a minimum of eight to over twelve years, it has aromas of chocolate malt with light citrus and honeysuckle notes.  Well-rounded and complex with rich maltiness, it finishes long with a hint of chocolate and a wonderfully settled smoke that lingers on the palate.

I’m the first to admit that my palate isn’t the most advanced or tuned in to the various flavors and scents found in a spirit. But I really didn’t get either the chocolate malt or the citrus notes in the nose. I did, however, really enjoy how light the peaty-smoke flavor is that stays in the aftertaste. I’m not a fan of very peaty Irish whiskeys and I think the Michael Collins Single Malt reaches a level of peatiness that I find appealing for the depth and complexity it gives the spirit, while keeping it accessible to my tastes.

I’m not sure that the Michael Collins Single Malt is going to supplant Red Breast for my favorite Irish single malt, at least not in one tasting. But I’m looking forward to spending more time with this whiskey and definitely think it’s worth a try for someone who’s looking to move from blended Irish whiskeys onto single malts.

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