Barr un Uisce
Sometimes you’re in the mood to review whiskey, and sometimes you’re not. Well, tonight I am very much in the mood to review a whiskey. As a matter of fact, I’m in the mood to review a couple of whiskeys. And not just any whiskey mind you, but an example of the best whiskey the Good Lord ever saw fit to bestow upon his humble children… Irish Whiskey!
Disagree? That’s fine. We can all get along and still disagree on such things. We are not so much divided by our differing tastes as much as we are united by our common love of distillation, and better yet, maturation. We may also love a good beer now and again, but we damn sure prefer that you take that mash a little bit further down the pipe, run it through some glorious copper pots (preferably thrice), pop it in some charred Oak (preferably the less chaste kind that’s been around the block a time or two), and leave it alone for a few years or ten. That is what unites us. The grains, the fuels, the casks… surely those are important, but ultimately they are shadows, not substance. We are bound together by a love of Whiskey, or Whisky if you must. In any case, we are lovers of the Uisce Beatha! Or for our Scottish friends, Uisge Beatha! We are all blessed by the Water of Life.
Tonight, the Water of Life that calls to me is a couple of fine whiskeys imported from the Emerald Isle by Niche Imports (www.ourniche.com) called Barr an Uisce. Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce it, no one can. But if you insist on torturing the Gaelic as badly as me, it’s pronounced “bar on ishka.” Which, I am told, means “above the water.” A fitting name indeed, as we shall see.
Barr an Uisce Wicklow Rare – Blended 80/20. Small batch. 43%, NAS, NCF
Barr an Uisce 1803 - Single Malt. 46% 10 years minimum, NCF
I’ve had these in my home for at least two weeks. I also have a job. To my chagrin, my job doesn’t involve tasting whiskey. I also have a life, and while it is isn’t much of one, it does generally preclude me from coming home from said job and sitting around “nosing” whiskey on a Tuesday night. But guess what? Tonight my life opened a crack in its crust and allowed me to do just that. I finally got a chance to dig into this stuff.
To be fair, these bottles haven’t been sitting around my house unmolested the whole time. Not by a long shot. The day they showed up I ripped them from there bubble wrapped cocoon, sliced open the seals, and pored myself a sturdy taste of both, even though I was fully unprepared to “officially” taste it at the time. I just wanted to see what I had gotten into. You see, these were sent to me by Niche in exchange for an honest review. I pride myself on my honesty, and if a whiskey is not as good as others, I’m going to say just that. So, I wanted to know… was it any good? The answer that night was yes. And it was good on the several other nights I “unofficially” tasted it. Anyway, as I said, tonight the stars aligned just right and I was finally able to give this life-giving water the kind of focused attention it deserves.
We should probably get something out of the way right now, if you’re looking for professional nosing notes, palate notes, finish notes, etc. then I’m not your guy. That kind of review is necessary, and I have great respect for those with a nose, but it’s just not something I’m blessed with. I’m a simple guy with simple tastes and an even more simple vocabulary. I like what I like. And I like Barr an Uisce! But even I’m not that simple. I (usually) have perfectly solid reasoning behind my opinions.
Before I get to why both iterations of Barr an Uisce are “good,” allow me to explain what they are “good for.” They are good for the important nights. Nights that stand out from other nights as somehow special. For example, my wife travels a lot so when she’s home, even if just for one night, we try to make the most of our time together. For us that might mean having some take-out Italian food and hanging out in the kitchen for a few hours just talking, as we did tonight. Though she’s a whiskey drinker, tonight her choice was wine. No problem, I’ll go fetch a glass of whiskey while we chat. Enter Barr an Uisce. It’s perfect for that. Surely I’m not going to grab a jug of (fill in the blank) for this. Nor am I going to reach to the high shelf. I mean, come on! No one got married, or similarly, no one died. No one graduated. It’s not my birthday. I didn’t get a promotion/raise/atta-boy from the boss today. So no, I’m not reaching for anything with a signature on it, and I’m not touching any crimson-breasted birds today.
Barr an Uisce is for the good days. The plain ol’ good days. As in, “today was a good day” kind of days. The “better than average” days. The “I’m really enjoying our talk” kind of days. It’s the kind of whiskey to have around the house for days like today. It is certainly the kind of whiskey to share with friends who already love Irish Whiskey, as well as those who have yet to experience its pleasure. It’s a damn fine whiskey for damn fine days.
There’s something going on in these whiskeys that I can’t quite put my finger on. I wish I had a better whiskey palate and vocabulary because this spirit deserves a far better treatment than I am giving it. It’s just a real treat to drink. There’s an inexplicable sweetness to it. Maybe a bit more in the Single Malt 10, but it’s present in the Blend as well. I don’t mind a subtle sweetness. If I had to cheat on my relationship with Irish Whiskey, my affair would be with American Bourbon. Perhaps it’s the residue of corn that seeped into those Bourbon barrels this whiskey is matured in. I don’t know what it is, but I like it. There’s something very “clean” about both whiskeys. The nose is welcoming and warm, the palate is bright, appropriately spicy, and as I said, a bit sweet. The finish is solid, hanging around just long enough to leave you wanting more, not annoying long like that friend’s friend who won’t leave after the party.
I don’t know if it’s a secret, but these whiskeys are sourced from Cooley through West Cork Distillers. But here’s the thing you probably didn’t know, when the maturation is completed, and the whiskey is wrangled from its cask and tamed to 43% or 46%, that is when a certain magic happens. You see, the folks at Barr an Usice bring the cutting water all that way from founder’s family well in Redcross, County Wicklow! They use that water to cut the Barr an Usice to it’s final, highly drinkable strength. This effort, this attention to detail, respect for the past, and honor to the heritage seems to be blessed by the Spirt of the Spirts. Someone, somewhere smiles on this effort. In a sea of branded Cooley’s, this one stands out above the rest.
You cannot go wrong with either of the Barr an Uisce releases. I would love to see a cask strength version someday, but then again, where would the Redcross water go? It’s a tough call. In the meantime, grab a bottle of the Barr an Uisce Wicklow Blend and enjoy. If you’re feeling spendy, go for the Barr an Uisce 1803 Single Malt. You cannot go wrong with either choice.
VP - Irish Whiskey Society of America