For many years, the Irish whiskey business was dominated by just a couple major players. Through consolidations, sales, and reorganizations, the names of the owners changed, but the status quo remained essentially the same. (Today those two owners are Beam-Suntory and Diageo.)
The only significant competition to those two was from the Cooley Distillery, founded in 1987 by John Teeling. Cooley produced a variety of whiskeys that were sold under various brand names — two of the better-known ones being Kilbeggan and Tyrconnell — in addition to doing contract bottling for other companies.
Eventually, the state of the spirits industry being what it is, the Teeling family sold Cooley to Beam. But that didn’t mean they were out of the whiskey business for good. Because now they have returned to the market with their own eponymous label.
Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey is the company’s entry-level product, a blended Irish whiskey like Bushmills or Jameson. It is reportedly composed of 35% malt whiskey and 65% grain whiskey, and aged somewhere between four and seven years. Interestingly, the blend is then finished for an additional four-to-six months in Flor de Caña rum casks.
The color of light straw, this whiskey has aromas of caramel/toffee, vanilla, and coconut. A light whiff of alcohol, but not too much. It is light-bodied and slightly thin in the mouth, dry, and with a touch of astringent oak on the finish.
You can definitely taste the presence of the malt whiskey, with the flavor of cereal grain, plus the vanilla and coconut returning. I didn’t detect any contribution from the rum, none of the spice or “rumminess” you’d expect from the finishing.
I was surprised to see that this clocks in at 92 proof (46% abv), as it doesn’t have that much heat. I also liked the way the malt and grain whiskeys are in balance. Both are testimony to the quality of the blending.
Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey costs a little more than some of its competitors, but it’s money worth spending. This is a fine whiskey.