Tullamore D.E.W is another one of those distilleries that has bounced around from one owner to another, meaning production methods haven’t remained entirely consistent over the years. Like many, they were forced to start gobbling up whiskey from neighboring distilleries to keep the whiskey flowing, but have recently ramped up their in-house spirit production.
From what I understand (thanks, Wikipedia!) they’re currently producing their own pot still and malt whiskey, but are still reliant on Midleton for grain. The plan is to ultimately produce all three spirits on site, meaning Tullamore D.E.W (including their 3-spirit blends) will once again be an entirely distinct whiskey for the first time since 1954.
Here I’m starting with their basic blend – the “Original”, which (like the rest of their range) takes great pains to emphasize their “power of three” philosophy – triple distilled, triple spirit types and triple cask maturation (Irish refill, ex-bourbon and ex-sherry).
While admittedly this still doesn’t tell us much about the contents of the bottle, it’s nice to see even this minor level of transparency in a hugely popular global brand. And while red flags do spring up regarding the supposed benefits of triple distillation, it’s comforting to know that even their most entry level blend gets a little sherry loving.
The million-dollar question is how Tullamore D.E.W stacks up against the arguably sexier Jameson – its global sales rival – and the other basic blends from Ballantines, Bushmills and Powers.
One whiff and you’re off to Dublin! This is a truly recognizable dram, bursting with that fresh grassy caramel goodness. Unlike a bunch of other competing blends, you’re not bowled over with massive amounts of bourbon – this is a real Irish blend. You get a schnaaf or two of that “ripe” pot-still quality, and layers of sweet and fruity smells – apricots, some limes – that blends together expertly.
Like Jameson my overriding impression is “floral”. However, despite being bottled at the same strength, Tullamore D.E.W Original just seems richer, more intense and tougher to handle. This is awesome, because it would suggest it’s a little more flexible when mixing, icing and diluting.
It’s quite strong on fruity flavors – red apples, bananas, a little zesty pineapple in there. Malty throughout. A light candy floss. And a something vaguely sweet and bready, like mince pies or cake. Yessir.
Okay, not quite as flexible as I was hoping for. This is no Olympic swimmer, but treats ice fairly well as long as you don’t dawdle. You get an abundant mossy freshness, at the cost of that intense rich fruit of drinking it neat.
Tully D is a real winner. This has rapidly become my “go to” Irish dram when I’m not up to the challenge of Green Spot or don’t have the budget for Yellow Spot. Of the entry level blends it represents great quality with exceptional value – here in South Africa, it’s cheaper than Jameson. Oh yeah. Hit it.