Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Limavady. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
I don’t think of Irish whiskey coming from Northern Ireland, but that is my own myopia. Bushmills is there, Copeland is there, and now Limavady Whiskey is there. Again.
The town of Limavady was settled sometime around 5 CE, not far from a quite beautiful coastline. The Ireland of this period through the early 1600’s was divided into a patchwork of kingdoms, each led by a family, and this area was controlled by the O’Cahan’s. Legend holds it was one of the O’Cahan’s hounds who leapt a raging River Roe to warn its clan of impending attack. This act of canine bravery gave the town its name, Leim an Mhadaidh in Irish: ‘leap of the dog.’
A distillery Limavady was first licensed in 1608. At peak production, output was 1.2 million liters per year. The local whiskey industry thrived until the 1910’s. At that point, international war, internal conflicts and the drying of the American market were too much, and the distillery shuttered like most across Ireland.
It was in Limavady that the folk music collector Jane Ross first transcribed ‘Londonderry Air.’ You may be more familiar with with the same tune underpinning the ballad ‘Danny Boy.’
Now Limavady bursts into our 21st century consciousness with a revival of its namesake whiskey. Helmed by owner and Master Distiller Daryl McNally and supercharged by the bottling and distribution genius of Whistle Pig, the brand is rolling out sourced product. McNally was locally born (right in his family’s pub, they say) and raised, and went on to distill at Bushmills and Dublin Liberties.
The Limavady distillery of yore made single malt, and this liquid is also, with 100% Irish barley. What sets this whiskey apart from the category is its single barrel bottling. The barrel treatment is reminiscent of Scotch, with the primary maturation all in first-fill bourbon casks for at least four years, followed by a double finish in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. Those casks come from the source favored by Redbreast.
McNally and company plan to bring distillation in-house once their output reaches 50,000 cases, or almost seven times what it was on the initial release.
Tasting Notes: Limavady Single Barrel Irish Single Malt Whiskey
Vital stats: Single malt made from 100% Irish malted barley, aged at least four years in a combination of bourbon and PX sherry casks. It clocks in at 46 proof. The bottle is unique, with a handblown-esque fine-bubbled glass and a distinctive bulb near the top. I thought the shape would have some lore attached, but I haven’t discovered it yet. Find a 700mL bottle for $49.99 in select markets in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the U.S.
Appearance: This whiskey is a clear, pale amber that coats the glass and slowly forms thick tears.
Nose: The aroma is cereal sweetness mingled with dust. White flowers bloom beneath, charged with a freshness of mint and salt air.
Palate: Lots and lots of fire on the palate, the nose did not let on. (My palate was blasted – I had to come back later and add a splash of water.) Dilution reveals barley sweetness and a flush of orange. Grain character comes through strongly on the finish.