Bringing the almost-forgotten smoky style of Irish whiskey back into the consciousness and repertoire of discerning premium spirits drinkers is the collection of Silkie whiskeys. Each whiskey in the collection is blended to an exacting standard by Sliabh Liag Distillers and takes drinkers on a journey through the rich, surprising rewards of whiskies with a varying degree of smoky character.
Sliabh Liag Distillers founder, James Doherty’s childhood holidays in Donegal nurtured a love for the folk tales of the Sliabh Liag peninsula and more importantly a dream for the future possibilities of reclaiming Donegal’s distilling heritage; this is the driving passion behind James and Moira Doherty’s return to Donegal to establish Sliabh Liag Distillers. The Silkie whiskey range is named after the mermaids who would come ashore, shedding their sea-like coat to become beautiful dark-haired maidens and steal the hearts of local fishermen, and is the first product launched by the business.
James explains how the inspiration for the collection of Silkie whiskeys comes from his memories of those early years in Donegal. “In the mornings, I would head down to the kitchen, where beside the stove, grandad’s pipe would be sitting from the night before. Grandad was a wonderful man, tall, strong, hardworking, and generous, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Eleven-year-old me would tug on his pipe and I can viscerally remember the sweet tobacco, smoky and ashy aroma. It seemed to compliment the smell of the stove, the peat and my gran‘s baking. Although it’s a morning moment, the whiskey is the taste of the night before.”
Once he has this taste in his mind’s eye, the sense of place for James is richer than the lighter Irish whiskey style prevalent today. His aim is to create a style that harks back to a richer era in Irish whiskey, pre-prohibition and for which Donegal’s distillers were famed.
James continues, “I look for balance in the structure of that taste in the whiskeys available to me. One building block of Dark Silkie is intense sweetness – Grain Whiskey virgin oak provides a rounded sweetness, caramel toffee; it feels rich, luxurious, generous, and safe, and captures the innocence of that version of me. It also brings a degree of tannin to the whiskey. Another is smoky, ashy; triple distilled peated malt provides the pipe aromas, an earthy smoky note that we can get to play off the sweetness of the grain. To balance the intense sweet grain I choose the aromatic freshness of a double distilled single malt in sherry, more estery and zesty to cut into the sweetness in the final blend, all of which creates a maritime herbal quality that is almost salty“.
Truman & Orange, the premium drinks company that seeks to bring greater choice to the South African spirits landscape, recently added Silkie whiskeys to their growing whiskey portfolio. “We sell brands that taste great and have amazing stories,” explains Rowan Leibbrandt from Truman & Orange. “Moonlight mermaids, powerful family ties and an intense love of the heritage of the wild Donegal coast will certainly fuel some late-night whiskey drinking and storytelling evenings, I know South African drinkers will enjoy exploring this unique brand as much as I have.”
Category Winner at the World Whiskies Awards 2021, The Legendary Silkie Irish Whiskey is the perfect sipping whiskey, enjoy as it is, over ice or in your favourite whiskey cocktail. The colour is straw gold with hints of amber and it evokes brisk green apples opening to a more honeyed butteryness, combined with a taste of orange zest, digestive biscuits, and stem ginger, all with the signature softness and gentle hints of peat as the rich, sweet taste provides a sublimely gentle finish.
The Silkie Rua: Silkie topped with Fever Tree ginger ale and a few dashes of bitters over ice and garnished with orange wheel
An ode to the Donegal whiskeys of days gone by, The Legendary Dark Silkie Irish Whiskey is for those who like whiskey with a little more character. Dark Silkie is a smoky blend of double distilled single malts and triple distilled peated single malts with soft grain whiskey, created to savour in the later watches of the night. On the nose, the Legendary Dark Silkie has fresh apple, pipe tobacco and the comforting dry smoke of a peat fire. To taste, the whiskey is super soft with a salted-caramel sweetness, dark chocolate and liquorice, oak, leather, and a dry spicy smoke. The finish is warming with smoky malt, peanut butter and melts away.
The rich chocolatey character is superb in a Dark Espresso Surprise, Dark Silkie’s take o nan espresso martini
Available online at www.cutlerdrinks.co.za and all major leading bottle store retailers