The first time I encountered this whisky was when I was working for Trade in Spirits, representing both Blacks and Dingle at a whiskyfestival in The Netherlands. The Blacks Tropical IPA had just arrived, and it was an instant hit. When I poured myself a dram I immediately understood why. The most beautiful thing about this whisky is that it does things completely its own way, and it brings with it a flavour profile that stands out in a crowd!
Blacks Distillery was founded by the Blacks family, after successfully starting a brewery a few years prior. With their beers they have won prestigious awards, such as the World Beer Awards, by doing things completely their own way. With whisky they wanted to incorporate that same concept and thus they don’t finish their special release whiskies in sherry or bourbon casks, but in casks that previously held their own specialty beers! They don’t recreate the same beer repeatedly, but instead bring out a new unique style every single time. Which means we also get a new beer cask finish for each special release whisky.
Tasting Notes: Blacks – Tropical IPA
ABV: 43% (86 Proof)
Age: 8 years old
Cask: Blacks Tropical IPA Cask
Category: Single Grain Irish Whiskey
Natural Colour: Yes
*Blacks’ brand new distillery is currently under construction; for the moment they source their whisky from another distillery within the country but finish and bottle their whiskies themselves. Sourcing is common practice for Irish Whiskey.
Pineapple, passion fruit and mango are very dominant on the nose. The beer note I often get from IPA finishes is barely noticeable here, but those tropical notes just blow me away. They come paired with a very sweet (almost syrupy) note, that vaguely reminds me of a pineapple rum I once tried. If I were to taste this in a blind tasting, I might very well mistake it for a rum. The sweet notes are very pleasant, but their dominance does mean that this isn’t the most complex dram ever.
The tropical notes from the nose carry beautifully into the palate. Beautifully because the sweetness gets toned down a little bit, which opens up the dram for a lot more complexity. Pineapple, mango and passion fruit are still the first things you notice, but on the palate you also get that beer note I was talking about. What came as more of a surprise to me is the herbal qualities of this dram. There’s some fennel and star anise and I’m even getting a little juniper. I’ve heard people say this dram reminds them of a gin and given that juniper note I understand why!
The finish of this dram is very short. I think it’s a combination of being a grain spirit, the IPA finish, and its low abv, but this is not a dram that lingers for a long time. Initially it’s very pleasant though, as the flavours form the palate softly start to wear off. There’s even e new note appearing in the form of a very light and delicate floral honey. But by the time you really start to appreciate it, it’s unfortunately gone again.
This really is a perfect summer dram. The tropical flavours of this whisky are intense, but other than that it remains very mild-mannered. Even in the middle of a heatwave I’d gladly accept a glass of this. It is also a dram that completely takes you by surprise and I’ll happily wager you’ve never tasted anything like it. The quality of the whisky is good, yet what takes centre stage here is the fact that the people at Blacks dared to think outside of the box and in doing so created something truly unique. And that’s something that I personally truly appreciate. There might be better whiskies out there, but I’ve come across few as interesting as this!