Tullamore 20 years old

There’s virtually no information in the title of this post. No ABV, no bottler, no specific vintage or year of bottling. None of that information is available on the label of the bottle.

What I do know is that this stuff is ridiculously old. Bottled some 70 years ago according to Whiskybase, and distilled 20 years before that, it’s almost a shame to drink it before it’s at least a hundred years ago it was created. But then again, I’m not going to sit on this for a decade and have the sample go bad on me.

To the whisky peeps who know me personally, it will come as no surprise this sample comes from MvZ.

Actual age

There is some discussion on how old this actually is. On the label it doesn’t say ‘DEW’ after Tullamore, and the brand has consistently done so since 1932. This would mean that this was bottled in or before 1932, and that would mean it is distilled in 1912, at the latest.

Immediately this makes my initial point of it just being shy of a century old moot, since now it was distilled ONE HUNDRED AND TEN YEARS AGO (Intentional online shouting).

Distilled before the first world war. Before the Spanish Flue. The year Titanic sank or before that. Older than so many things. Older even than the country it comes from. The Republic of Ireland was proclaimed at least four years after this was distilled.

The distillery it comes from closed down in 1954, so even for Irish standards this is an early closure. The brand never really went away, and has been made at John Powers since the 1960. This happened mostly because the whisky used in the ‘Irish Mist’ liqueur was running out.

The history of the distillery makes the expectation of this whisky being distilled a lot earlier than the 1930s (which is on Whiskybase) likely, because the place was closed between 1925 and 1938. This closure happened because of the rise of blended scotch whisky, prohibition (and therefore having no legal customers) and the Anglo-Irish Trade War.

Tasting notes

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
There’s a lot of OBE (Old Bottle Effect) which always makes a whisky smell like rusty iron. Luckily it is far from all-encompassing. Hints of sweet barley and some vanilla. Other baking spices like clove and cinnamon. It’s very ‘Irish’ in that old pot still style, with green malt as well as malted barley. Quite a lot of gentle fruits too, very different to how fruity whisky tastes nowadays.

Sip:
The palate is rather light, with a little bit of a grainy dryness. Again, much like Irish whisky, with malted and unmalted barley. It does take a minute of ‘swimming’ before it starts to reveal its full potential, initially it seems a bit flat. However, if you give it that minute it becomes a glorious combination of barley, wood, baking spices and fruit. There’s a whiff of OBE still, but that only adds a layer of ‘interestingness’. Dry grape seeds, tropical fruits without being typically sweet.

Swallow:
The finish is rather similar to the palate. Not overly long, but in style it veers a bit more towards Single Malt than I’d expect. So, less ‘fresh barley’ like.

Honestly, I was a bit skeptical when I poured this sample. Whisky of this age is more often than not completely destroyed by being in a bottle for too long, and not being properly stored. Now I’ve seen images of the bottle itself I could have guessed it to be in rather good condition since not a lot has evaporated.

This is stunning stuff. If it was a Marvel comic, it would have been called ‘unobtainium’, but I’m very thankful for having been able to try this.

The age shows nicely in the whisky and has given it time to coax out the fruity flavors that combine so well with the spirit. I also love that it is very unlike modern whisky in any category. There’s far less cask influence than there would be now, and therefore the barley and greenmalt get a bit of a spotlight. Gorgeous, gorgeous stuff.

91/100

About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
This entry was posted in Tullamore DEW and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Tullamore 20 years old

  1. Whiskey Nut says:

    I managed a taster of a ‘Pure Unblended Pot Still Whiskey’ as written on the label.
    Distilled at Daly’s Tullamore in 1949 & bottled 1959 at 70 proof.
    Found it very drinkable & surprisingly sweet.
    Didn’t detect any OBE!

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