W.D. O’Connell – Bill Phil

The best things often come to you by chance. That much can definitely be said about the first time I got to try this Bill Phil by W.D. O’Connell. On a business trip to Antwerp I found myself with some extra time so I decided to pay a visit to one of the larger whisky shops in the general area (the store was closer to Mechelen in fact). With (I believe) over 2000 bottles for sale I was taking my fair time just rummaging through the shelves when a man approached me and asked me if I liked Irish Whiskey.

He then recommended me the W.D. O’Connell and asked me if I was familiar with the brand. When I told him I didn’t know too much about it he pointed at the name on the label (W.D. O’Connell, not Bill Phil). And said: Well, that’s me, I’m Daithí, pleasure to meet you! After which he invited me to sample some of his bottles. Well… I wasn’t going to say no to that! This Bill Phil stood out to me as there might perhaps be a couple of Heavily Peated Irish Whiskeys, but it’s still not as common a sight as say on Islay (I know, not a fair comparison but you get the point).

What struck me about it most is that it’s just a truly excellent whisky. And with autumn right around the corner I knew I wanted more than one peated whisky in my Explorers Pack. But having two out of three Scotch whiskies peated would be a bit much, and peated American (though Westland could be an interesting option in the future for that) is not commonly peated. So Irish or World whisky. This whisky hits all the right spots for me though, so for this autumn the choice was very quickly made indeed. In fact, I already decided on this bottle back in April!

Tasting Notes: W.D. O’Connell – Bill Phil

ABV: 47,5% (95 proof)

Age: NAS

Distillery: Great Northern Distillery

Bottled by: W.D. O’Connell

Cask: First Fill Ex-Bourbon Casks

Category: Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Chill-Filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes


As soon as you pour this dram long whisps of peat smoke will find you. This is heavily peated without a doubt. But it’s no Islay peat, in fact it reminds me more of Highland peat if anything. It’s much more vegetal than it is medicinal. There’s charred driftwood, smoked applewood, moss and wet grass. Paired with fresh apples, vanilla, and shortbread cookies. An enticing combination for sure.


The first thing that hits me on the palate is a burst of white pepper. Followed by some savoury peaty notes, like peppered roast beef and smoked bacon. Vanilla and honey are very clearly present on the palate as well though, which gives a lovely sweet (but not overly so) side to the savoury side of this dram. This is a very well-balanced peaty dram.


The finish has a medium length and the first thing that comes to mind flavour wise is a barrel full of peppered apples. Sounds a bit weird I know, but bear with me here. There’s some clear oak on the finish and yet green apples (Granny Smith’s) are omnipresent as well. And that peppery note from the palate carries through as well. You’ll lose a bit of the sweeter elements in the finish. But as an evolution I don’t mind that at all in this dram. I wouldn’t have minded if it stuck around a bit longer though.


Peated whisky from Ireland, it’s something I’d love to see much more of. Traditionally it’s not as big of a thing there, but more and more people are releasing the stuff. Of course, Connemara has been doing it for years. But that’s lightly peated at best. But Irish Single Malt proves here that it stands up to heavy peat influence very well. Wether other heavily peated Irish Whiskey’s will be able to hold their own against this Bill Phil we will have to see though, as this is a dram that will be a challenge to surpass. It’s just perfectly balanced and well-made. Well done Diathí!



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