On the 20th of May I was one of the lucky people who were selected to participate to another Tweet Tasting. Hinch Distillery was the centre of the attention for that evening. Hinch is a very young distillery (so young that their own liquid doesn’t flow off the stills yet) from Northern Ireland, south of Belfast, in the town of Ballynahinch. The distillery obviously takes its name from the city’s name, which translates in Irish as “town of the island”. The distillery is in fact still on construction (a project of a mere £15 million!) and they plan to start distilling in 3 months’ time.
So, in order to have cash flow while waiting for their spirit to 1, flow, and 2, be old and mature enough to be called whisky, they do what many new Irish (and Scottish) distilleries do: they bought casks elsewhere. They sourced malt and grain whiskies from another distilleries : Great Northern Distillery, aka GND, or Cooley for the older stock (before it was sold to Beam Suntory) and blended and finished them, playing around with different casks for the finish.
The Tweet Tasting
As part of this Tweet Tasting, we received a miniature of each of three whiskies from their Time Collection range as well as two secret miniatures we were not to open before told too and a beautiful Túath glass. The first three whiskeys were the 5yo Double-Wood, the 10yo Sherry finish and their Peated Single Malt NAS. We’ll see later down below about the other two!
Hinch 5 Year Old Double Wood
The Hinch 5yo Double Wood is an Irish blended whiskey comprised of 25% of 5yo Single Malt and 75% of 5yo Grain Whiskey. They were matured for 4 years in first-fill ex-Bourbon casks then finished for a year in Virgin American Oak casks. The first batch was released in June 2019 with an outturn of 3000 bottles. It is bottled at 43% with its natural colour but is chill-filtered. You can buy it from MoM for £40.95, TWE for a pound less, or Fairlay Wines also on offer, for £30.95.
At first, the nose starts with strong lemon curd notes, almost lemon meringue pie, with some vanilla. The nose is subtle, with faint green apple, toffee and a slight touch of solvent in the background. After some time the solvent leaves place to white wine, a more patience gives you pastry butter notes.
The arrival is silky, on citrus and pepper. Grapefruit and green apple strengthen the citrus notes, and these are joined by cracked coffee beans. Sandalwood and wood varnish provide woody flavours in a second phase without masking the initial notes. The mouthfeel is good for a 43% abv dram, it has enough texture.
The finish leaves you with citrus and pepper notes with a gentle warmth on the tongue for a good moment.
This is a good start, and the notes you get on the nose are present on the palate. This is quite citrusy and does not leave much space for other flavours, but it’s an easy-drinking dram nonetheless.
Hinch Distillery 10yo Sherry Cask Finish
The Hinch 10yo Sherry Cask Finish is also an Irish blended whiskey, but this time the breakdown is 15% of 17yo Single Malt (sourced from Cooley distillery) and 85% of 10yo Grain Whiskey, all matured in American oak barrels before being finished for at least 12 months in Oloroso Sherry casks. This first batch has an outturn of 3000 bottles. The 10yo Sherry Cask Finish is like it’s little brother bottled at 43% with its natural colour but is chill-filtered. You can buy it from on offer right now at MoM for £43.95 instead of £49.95, TWE for its RRP (£49.95), or Fairlay Wines for £39.95 where it seems to be also on offer.
Deep Copper, honestly not at all like the photo on the left but more like the 5yo.
Strong sherry notes at first with dried fruits (figs, sultanas), a good pour of nail varnish remover and vanilla. Wood shavings, ginger and walnuts. Quite obviously completely different from the 5yo on the nose, it felt way more mature and the sherry finish strengthens that feeling.
The arrival here is sweet with a slight touch of bitterness, then a pinch of pepper. Citrus and brown sugar notes appear through icing sugar, while ginger, nutmeg and sandalwood bring a delicate touch of spices. The sherry finish is less present than the nose let appear, though you can find a pinch of cinnamon, some figs and dark chocolate. The high percentage of grain take the upper hand on the palate but it is still balanced enough.
Warm and a bit spicy, the finish leaves you mostly with wood, a few orchard fruits and a bit of ginger.
While the high percentage of grain provides mostly notes of solvent and vanilla as expected, the older malt, while in the minority by far, does not throw the towel and succeeds to let orchard fruits and spices shine too. The sherry finish completes this with cinnamon, figs and chocolate (though mostly on the nose), for a very good dram at a fair price, especially on offer.
Hinch Distillery Peated Single Malt
Last dram disclosed from the start, we have here a Peated single malt just shy of being 4 years old. The triple distilled heavily peated malt (55 ppm) sourced from GND (Great Northern Distillery) has been 100% matured in ex-bourbon casks. As the two previous drams, it’s bottled at 43%, natural-coloured and chill-filtered.
Peat! Not a maritime one but an earthy continental peat. Smoke from a freshly extinguished bonfire, then citrus notes (lemon, orange peel, grapefruit) and green apples. It makes me think of a heavily peated Campbeltown single malt from a young distillery that I really like (Glengyle). Barbecued pineapple too. Yum.
The palate makes us continue our journey, as we leave Campbeltown for Islay: we’re now in Caol Ila territory. Nice smoke notes, citrus again, good silky mouthfeel. Ginger, lemonade and a spoon of honey.
Warm, with smoke and citrus fading away slowly leaving bittersweet remnants on the tongue and the palate.
While very young, it is delicious and the age doesn’t show too much. I honestly would have thought it was a bit older, but I’m still far from being an expert, so you would in your right mind to expect mistakes in my guesses! Anyway, this lovely peated combined with the citrus makes you think of quite famous distilleries, and this one was my favourite of the first three drams.
Then after the Tweet Tastings with these three drams, we left Twitter for Periscope and joined Aaron Flaherty, the head distiller of Hinch Distillery, and Jamie Cotter aka @Whiskey_JAC, Brand Manager. You can watch the replay just below:
Then, we opened the secret package and discovered samples for two unreleased expressions they wanted to get our opinion on, and that may not be released any time soon or maybe ever. We tasted them blind, as they told us what they were only after we tasted them.
The first one, called Innovations #2 (yes we started with the #2 then finished with the #1), was pale gold in the glass. The nose was spirity, with solvent, fresh paint, spicy oak, citrus, toffee and vanilla, and a touch of peat. The palate was spicy and bitter, with ginger, grapefruit and coffee. It was in fact a 3yo blend of malt (25%) and grain (75%) that they finished in Whitewater Brewery “Kreme de la Kremlin” Imperial Russian Stout casks for just shy of 6 months. This was a nice dram.
The second one, called Innovations #1 (as I said we tasted them in disorder) had like a pale rosé wine colour. The nose was more grainy and shy at first, but after some time in the glass, red fruits and cola appeared. The palate was sweet and bitter, dark chocolate, espresso, icing sugar and red berries. Most of us thought it was around 4-6yo but we were quite wrong, as it was made from 90% 10yo grain and 10% 17yo malt, finished in Amarone wine casks. For those who don’t know Amarone, it is a red raisin wine from Venetia.
This Tweet Tastings with a triple twist (secret drams tasted blind on periscope) was once again a great moment. All drams were really good, and we went from better to better. The 5yo Double Wood was a bit too monodimensional with its strong citrus notes, the 10yo Sherry Cask Finish was richer thanks to its higher age and its finish, and the young Peated Single Malt was like a journey between Campbeltown and Islay. Furthermore, the two secret drams, the Imperial Russian Stout Finish and especially the Amarone finish were really delicious and I would love them to be released one day, especially the Amarone one. Another great evening tasting whiskey.