The final expression in the Hyde collection is the No. 3 Áras Cask, a single grain Irish whiskey. Keeping to Hyde’s “presidential” theme, Áras an Uachtaráin is the official residence of the President of Ireland. The whiskey is made from pure Irish grain including malted barley and corn. It is triple-distilled in a Coffey (column) still, as opposed to the traditional copper pot still used to distill the Hyde single malts, and then matured exclusively in American oak ex-bourbon casks from Jim Beam for a minimum of 6 years. Like the two single malts before it, the No. 3 Áras Cask is naturally colored, non chill-filtered and bottled at a respectable 46% ABV.
The whiskey is packaged with a beautiful green-labeled bottle, which lends itself quite nicely to the traditional Irish ethos. Each bottle is individually numbered with the month and year of bottling and stamped with a gold emblem embossed with the traditional Irish Harp and “1922”, Ireland’s first year of independence. As you can see in the photo above, there is another year printed on this bottle: 1916. This was the year of the Easter Rising, a historical rebellion against the British leading up to its independence. Is this whiskey the rebel of the lot? We know the other two are single malts. Perhaps Hyde is making a point to solidify itself as something unlike the popular Scotch single malts on the market? Whether it means anything else or not, I can appreciate the historical reference for the proud Irish people.
Before we get to the tasting, I thought it may be helpful to address the common confusion regarding Single Malt vs. Single Grain. In both cases, “Single” means that the whiskey in the bottle originates from a single distillery (as opposed to a blend of whiskey from multiple distilleries), “Malt” means the whiskey is made from 100% malted barley and “Grain” means that the the whiskey is made from a combination of malted barley AND additional unmalted grains such as corn, rye or wheat. So no, as confusing as it may be, Single Grain whiskey is not made from one type of grain, that would actually be a Single Malt.
Ok let’s get into it. In the glass, the spirit is pure gold in color, again nothing artificial about this one, and it seems to carry decent weight from the natural oils left in the whiskey, almost as if it were once lacquer that has been heavily diluted with ore-stained lake water. On the nose, straight away this is much different than either of the two single malts. A burst of stewed apples, sweet cream and vanilla. A wonderful aroma of candied oranges, some porridge and a bit of iodine is present as well. This is distinctly Irish, nothing less, and far different than the single malts we tried earlier. There is no finishing to this whiskey. It is clear, crisp and straightforward.
On the palate, wow! This one is alive. The tingle of pepper and baking spice is sustained by the spirit’s rich, oily texture. An inflection of charred oak, raw hay and caramelized sugar resembling Cracker Jack is present as well. As the raw, grassy notes subside, a lush sweet cream delivers tropical fruits such as mango, passion fruit and overly ripe banana. Ah there it is! It’s not as deep or complex as either single malt but it is smooth, very smooth. It has much of what we have come to associate an Irish whiskey to be without any of the regrettable burn that generally comes with it. It is fresh, vibrant and really quite nice. The finish is long and savory. Buttery winter porridge trailing away with a hint of clove and other baking spices. Oh and wow! The finish is still going. Ha! I was about to move on but this one seems determined to persevere through the end. Well done.
In conclusion, the whiskey is a good one. It’s not quite as exciting as either single malts but it by design, it was never intended to be. It is a great single grain Irish whiskey that in my opinion, blows away much of the blended grain whiskey on the market. At $40-$50, it’s costs a little bit more than the introductory Irish whiskies but in this case it means the different between something “Quite good” and something “Just OK”. There are others who are beginning to enter this “premium single grain Irish whiskey” category so it will be interesting to see how it evolves in the next 5-10 years. Until then, I will be enjoying this one neat, on the rocks, in a cocktail or even better, in a traditional Irish coffee. A wonderful multi-use whiskey.