Writers Tears Icewine Cask Finish
A special collaboration with the Inniskillin Winery in Niagara, Ontario, Canada’s original estate winery, yields a unique expression of the Writers’ Tears Single Pot Still & Single Malt vatting, bottled at 46% ABV.
A “Champagne” Irish Whiskey Blend with an Icewine Cask Finish. Limited release edition of 3,500 super-premium bottles destined for Canada, US, Ireland. See Video.
Walsh Whiskey, producers of Writers’ Tears and The Irishman super-premium whiskeys, have just unveiled a first for Irish whiskey with the creation of an Icewine finished whiskey. Writers’ Tears – Icewine Cask Finish has been produced in collaboration with Inniskillin Winery in Niagara, Ontario, Canada’s original estate winery and a leading producer of Icewine.
Icewine is a sweet dessert or after dinner wine made from grapes harvested in the depths of winter and picked quickly while still frozen on the vine. The growing, harvesting and processing of Icewine grapes is both challenging and uncertain. Production is normally associated with Northern hemisphere countries such as Canada and Germany where temperature are very low in winter. The Icewine grapes and vines must be healthy and disease free to ensure that they survive in perfect condition on the vine long after harvesting of normal vines has ended.
The Icewine grapes are picked while deep frozen and are kept frozen during pressing for juice extraction making the pressing hall a very cold place to work in. As the water in the grape freezes, but not the sugar, the extracted juice is very sweet and highly concentrated. Because of the very high sugar content, special yeasts are required to convert the high sugar content to alcohol and the fermentation process takes many months; much longer than the few weeks of fermentation required for normal wines.
By law in Canada, Icewine grapes may only be harvested when the temperature has dropped below 8 degrees Celsius. They must be picked very quickly in hours rather than days, before they thaw and this requires the availability of a large workforce at short notice to secure the harvest which takes place around Christmas or even into the New Year when temperatures dip and hold steady for a few days and nights between minus 8 and 12 degrees. If the temperature drops much below, 15 degrees the harvest may be lost as the grapes may be frozen too hard to press. It’s a close run thing each year. The high overheads, lost harvests and weather uncertainty make Icewine a challenging and risky product to create. It’s a relatively expensive wine, often sold by the half or quarter bottle to make it more affordable.
Canada is the world’s leading Icewine producer and the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario with it’s own peculiar micro climate is where most of Canada’s Icewine comes from.
The limited-edition Writers Tears Icewine release is a unique triple-distilled vatting of Single Pot Still & Single Malt whiskeys, has been finished for an additional 12 months in Icewine hogsheads, before being bottled at 46% ABV.
This 23rd expression from Walsh Whiskey founders, Bernard & Rosemary Walsh, is the latest innovation in their quest to produce the perfect drop of whiskey. This time their journey took them to Canada’s prime wine region, when Bernard & Rosemary visited the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario, in January 2020. There they worked with Inniskillin Winery and its then Head Winemaker, Bruce Nicholson (now retired), touring the vineyard and sampling fermenting wines before selecting 12 hogshead casks originally coopered by the Tonnellerie Berthomieu (Cooperage) (estd. 1906) in France.
The dozen selected hogsheads were disgorged of Inniskillin Icewine in March 2020 and shipped to Ireland where they were filled with Writers’ Tears – Copper Pot (at high strength) in May that year. As you will know from my previous articles, Writers Tears and Walsh Whiskey are famous for their still unique so called “champagne blend” of single malt and single pot still Irish Whiskeys.
Checked at monthly intervals, the first Irish whiskey ever finished in Icewine casks was bottled 12 months later, in May 2021, at 46% ABV.
Commenting on the first ever Icewine cask finish of an Irish whiskey, Walsh Whiskey Managing Director, Bernard Walsh, said:
“I first tasted Icewine in 2011, so plans for this expression have been fermenting in my head for some time. With our core Writers’ Tears – Copper Pot expression we have a unique combination of predominantly spicy Single Pot Still married with Single Malt Irish whiskey. This core expression gets a whole new dynamic complimented beautifully by the intense natural sweetness imparted by Inniskillin’s show-stopping Icewine.”
“When taking us around the vineyard, Inniskillin’s then Head Winemaker Bruce Nicholson (now retired) explained how they only harvest well-matured, thick-skinned Vidal grapes when the weather presents a window of opportunity between -8 and -14 degrees Celsius. Bruce’s ideal ‘sweet spot’ being -10 to -11 degrees. Based on what we have produced, Inniskillin Icewine certainly contains that intense sweetness that can carry through in the wood to our whiskey.”
According to the press release I was sent,
The whiskey’s nose delivers peach & apricot over a unique Pot Still spice. In the mouth it offers floral and nutty oak, with a fruity finish.
Walsh Whiskey were kind enough to send me a tasting sample last week. Some of you may have seen my initial tasting reaction on @WhiskeyBlogger on Instagram. The finish is just stunning. One of the most wonderfully intense noses of any whiskey I have sampled in recent years. Can you use robust and floral in the same nosing note? You can now. The taste is is both powerful and refined. A perfect balance between warm pot still whiskey spice and powerful waves of rich malt and honey. Even at 46% ABV, it’s lovely to sip neat. Just a slight tingle of alcohol burn at the back of the tongue on the finish which is actually quite pleasant in a fizzy-sherbet kind of way. A very few drops of water smooths out the tingle to make an easy-sipping long, after-dinner dram.
Walsh Whiskey have excelled with this expression. It is so easy when dealing with very sweet wines and sherries to over-cook a sweet wine whiskey finish. Here, the result is more than the sum of the parts. Powerful, but nuanced and packed with aroma and flavour. Definitely a future classic and a must buy at Christmas for anyone looking out for a unique gift for the Whiskey aficionado in their life.
3,500 bottles of Writers’ Tears – Icewine Cask Finish are being released to Canada, the USA and Ireland, retailing for CAN$99.95/US$84.99/€70. The whiskey is in market in Canada and Ireland and will be on shelves in the USA in early November. In Ireland Writers’ Tears – Icewine Cask Finish is available exclusively from the Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dublin.
Writers’ Tear Icewine Cask Finish – Official Tasting Notes from Walsh Whiskey
Nose – Peach & apricot over a unique Pot Still spice.
Taste – Floral blossom & nutty oak.
Finish – A fruit compote of mango & lychee.
Writers’ Tears Icewine Cask Finish gets a solid 4 Pooka badge. This is one full level higher than I would normally categorise a whiskey of this age and price point, but the sheer power and exquisite balance of this whiskey mark it as a future classic.