Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Connemara Turf Mor shatters boundaries. A massive bull in the Irish china shop.

Connemara Turf Mor 58.2% abv 2010 OB

Connemara (now a division of Beam, but at the time independently Irish owned) makes peated twice distilled Irish whiskey with a ton of character and terroir.  Turf Mor as a limited (20,000 bottle - released in 2010 and already hard to find) run of cask strength highly peated extremely young Irish whiskey. As such it shatters a host of traditions: It is double distilled, not triple like virtually all other Irish whiskey. It is highly peated at "over 50ppm" according to their web site. It is bottled extremely young (3 years). It is bottled at cask strength. In these attributes it more closely resembles Port Charlotte PC5, Octomore, or Ardbeg Very Young (or Still Young).

How this mix came about was the subject of a post on Irish Whiskey Notes:

"To recap the story of Turf Mór, a few years ago Cooley had trouble sourcing its usual amount of 20ppm peated malt from Scotland (malt made in Ireland is not peated). To keep the stills going, they bought a higher 58ppm malt and mixed it with the unpeated variety to moderate the intensity."

"As an experiment, however, they distilled some of the highly-peated malt on its own and that is what has appeared today as Connemara Turf Mór."

Another confirming take on the facts comes from Gal's excellent review on Connosr:

"As it seems, Cooley had a rough time getting lightly peated malts from Scotland, so they chose to simply mix peated and none peated malts for their regular Connemaras. In addition they experimented with using only the higher 58 ppm barley and the outcome is this “small batch” highly peated expression (20,000 bottles to be released ). The whisky iteself is very young (3 years old), and will be bottled at Cask strength."

None of these attributes is typical of Irish whiskey, even of Connemara's excellent peated Irish whiskeys - and the result is a dram that is very different from anything else out there.  

For this tasting I obtained a sample from

Color: Pale gold.

Nose: Earthy peat, rubber, farmy loam, farm animals, touch of wine sweetness.  The sweetness hides red fruit. Hint of sherry?  The mix of farmy notes and sweetness combine to remind me of manure on a farm; earthy and sweet.  That might sound off-putting but it isn't.  There are also some herbal notes.  This is a big big complicated and rich nose.

Entry is hot and bright with the intense sweetness of new make: white cane and rice sugars. The opening also has earthy notes of yeast.  This took me for a loop and reminded me of Corsair Triple Smoke which also is extremely young and opened with a yeasty sweetness.  The midpalate hits with a big slam of earthy peat - as you would expect from a dram with 58ppm.  That note of farm animal manure sweetness comes at the end, integrated into organic protein congeners. There's a glaze of honey soy - raw malt. So, there's one entry sweet note of rice up front and another of manure organics at the end of the midpalate and in between is sandwiched a broad expansion of malt cereal and big earthy peat. That sweetness sandwich bewitched me again and again as each sip progressed across my palate.  Finish is long and chewy with peat reek dominating. Earth peat raw burns slowly to an earthy non-smoky fade. There is none of the tar and ash of Islay. There's no smoke at all really.  It's earth.  It's more like Ardmore's glow of peat, warming into a gentleness of a fade out. Tail end sweetness has vinous red fruit essences - sherry, and plum that elegantly twine within the big peat reek glow.

Big.  No, HUGE flavors. Austere yet exuberant. Octomore meets Corsair Triple Smoke meets Ardbeg Uigeadail meets Brora meets something totally new. What a bold, complicated, oddly compelling weird dram.  The extreme youth of Turf Mor is a mixed blessing.  The peat is at its biggest and boldest and the sweetness of new make is vivid and intense, but the rawness lends yeasty and soy notes that are odd.  The vinous notes in the tail end sweetness makes me think they used sherry cask.  I wonder if a bit more time in those sherry casks would have made this dram over the moon good.  Ultimately a quibble.  Turf Mor is thought provoking, intense, different, and almost really delicious.



  1. I'm a little saddened - I did not know that Connemara was not peated in Ireland with Irish peat. That's a bit of a let-down and a bit misleading by them, I think.

    1. Me too. It appears as if they source the peated malt from Scotland, so the malt too - not just the peat essence - is Scottish. This goes a long way towards addressing how Scotch-like and un-Irish-like Connemara whiskies are. That, and the double distillation. I wonder if someone at Cooley would confirm this?

    2. Send me a note if they ever do respond to the contrary! I would be curious.

  2. Honestly people,...quit the politics and just enjoy it for what it is. That being one of the most unique and fabulous drams one could ever have the pleasure and privilege to savour, if you were lucky and smart enough to purchase if it became available for you to do so. If not, your loss and too bad for you.

  3. It's "politics" to want your peated Irish whisky to come from peated Irish malt? That's just dumb. Merry Christmas, unknown.

    -Ol' Jas