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The Indulgence of Uncle Knucklehead: Montecristo Relentless and Teeling Irish Whiskey

Did you ever judge someone too quickly? I mean you jump into a taxi and the cabbie’s got an impenetrable accent and you automatically assume he can’t get you to Action Park, even though Action Park’s been closed for 20 years?

 

Or you sit down in a sushi restaurant in Salt Lake City and the sushi chef is some guy named Bruce from Boston and you have visions of the botulism ward at a Mormon hospital and all you can come up with is small talk on the last season of “Big Love”?

 

Or did you ever date someone you swiped on Tinder?

 

What I mean is, judgement is fear and fear is irrational. I took a look at the Montecristo Relentless and this Toro is about right for how I like to hold a cigar, it gives a bold spread in my hand and has a delicate roll between my finger and thumb, giving way with a firm pliability that says I finally mastered moisture control in my humidor.

 

 

The slight squeeze tells me it’s not a solid pack of filler and binder and the burn is going to be a medium commitment, a good 50 minutes before I make a nub decision, 8 more if I go all the way. But this was something called the Relentless and I figured I had a struggle on my hands: a big, rolling, sarcastic stick of Nicaraguan nitroglycerin, more appropriate after a food fight at Del Frisco’s than by the babbling waterfall in my backyard on the first warm night of spring.

 

Silly. Irrational.

 

It has something I’d call simple complexity. A charcuterie board has simple complexity, just strips of cured meats served on a plank of wood at a bar. But somewhere between the wild boar and the prosciutto, half way between the dab of French mustard and pickled cornichons is a mouthful of savory wonderment.

 

So it was with the Relentless, entering the mouth with a subtle friendliness, like “hey, I’m just going to set up on your stoop for a minute to catch my breath” then slips into the living room with a palette of Sherwin Williams colors and proceeds to redecorate in a post-Disney frenzy of eye candy. At the end, extravagant without ostentation, tastes and colors perfectly suited for each other, matching discipline with creativity. Joyous light notes balanced with subtle dark tones. Keep it coming, my new friend, maybe you should look at the dining room walls as well.

 

And so it brings me to the pairing and once again, irrational fear has to give way to the realities of a well crafted whiskey. To most people, Irish whiskey is Jamesons and that it ends there. I’m not here to slam it, but that well-known brand is just the first breaker in a giant wave of Irish fabulousness that has been riding the curl to our shores in recent years.

 

High on the surf right now are the good folks from Teeling Whiskey Company who have just opened the first distillery in Dublin in 125 years. Brothers Jack and Stephen have taken the legacy of their ancestor Walter who set up a craft distillery there in 1782 and brought it back home, an urban distillery with 3 copper pot stills.

 

Currently, their stock of whiskies are from the brilliant Cooley Distillery, founded by their father John in 1987. Cooley was a modern legend because it was the only independent Irish distillery at that time, and one of only 3 in a country that once had over 1000. Coeley is now owned by the mega-giant complex of Beam Suntory, and the Teeling’s have again pushed independence over conglomeration with their new facility

 

 

 

 

 

In my glass is the elegant, soft, simple complexity of the Teeling Irish Whiskey. Small batch, which means they built the profile from selected barrels in the warehouse, and bottled without chill-filtration or artificial coloring. While Irish whiskey, by tradition, is lighter and sweeter due to a third distillation (double distilled across the channel in Scotland), this one brings the noise with a second barreling in rum casks. The spicy fruit in its 500 thread softness lingers around the back of the mouth (no chill filtering enhances mouthfeel by leaving in the fats) waiting for a waft of the Relentless to snuggle up with under the covers.

 

The Teeling is restrained and shy on the nose, but this is a blend, a mix of lighter grain whiskies with richer malt whiskey. Its purpose is not to overwhelm you with its demand of “Here!” “Now!” like a single malt, but gently entice you into the glass to discover richer treasure underneath. With a drink, it’s at once silky and sumptuous with notes of cardamom and vanilla, a slight touch of the caramel sugars from the rum and bourbon casks. A medium finish, it gives room for a draw from the cigar to complete its double helix of flavor.

 

So that cabbie…he’d actually been to Action Park, took his kids there. Bruce’s Salt Lake Sushi? Moist, fresh, rich and botulism free. Teeling Irish and Montecristo Relentless? Live a life free from fear and judgement.

 

Tinder?

 

Well, we all have an urge to be irrational, right?