Killarney-based Liberator Whiskey is quickly becoming my favourite new whiskey blender. The basic range was reviewed here very favourably two years ago and the literal heirs to Daniel O’Connell have not rested on their laurels during the pandemic.
Wayward Irish Spirits, which buys whiskey from six distilleries and then blends the Liberator whiskey range, has recently brought out a limited-edition whiskey called Port ‘n’ Peat (€35 for a half-bottle) that is truly spectacular. It resembles a Scotch, but is far less peaty than most Scotches and has a delicious dry finish, with notes of coffee and grass. At present, Wayward is considering whether to make this blend a core part of its range. They would be mad not to.
Liberator is an interesting part of the emerging Irish whiskey ecosystem. Their specialism is commissioning whiskies from other distilleries before maturing the drink in a bonded warehouse in casks that come from French winemakers and Portuguese port houses. The Port ‘n’ Peat whiskey, for example, was matured in bourbon casks and then transferred to tawny port and ruby port casks. None of the whiskey is artificially coloured and it is strained rather than filtered — a process that adds a little bit of time to the production process. In time, the Liberator brand plans to start distilling in Killarney but for now, it is improving other distillers’ whiskies in a manner that resembles how whiskey was often produced in the pre-industrial era when Daniel O’Connell’s smuggler uncle, Maurice ‘Hunting Cap’ O’Connell, made his money back in the 18th century.
Liberator plans two more whiskies next year, including a single malt that has been matured in tawny port casks and a signature whiskey, the Lakeview Single Estate Whiskey, which will be matured in ex Bordeaux red-wine casks. It’s due to be released in March. I recently tasted both whiskies and enjoyed them very much, especially the malt whiskey with a tawny port finish, which had warm, figgy taste.
Common sense suggests that there are too many distilleries in Ireland. A new whiskey is being released at least once a month and there is only so much room for new bottles in our pubs and off-licences. On the strength of these offerings, Liberator will be a survivor.