Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Talnua Distillery. 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.
Arvada, Colorado, distillery Talnua has staked out an interesting niche for itself. As general manager Maya Oren said in a recent interview with Whiskey Wash, Talnua Distillery is “the first distillery outside of Ireland that is fully dedicated to making pot still whiskey.” It should be clarified that in this case, “pot still whiskey” means more than just whiskey made from a pot rather than a column still. It refers to a specific category intimately associated with both the history and the resurgence of Irish whiskey-making.
The category is defined as much by the inclusion of both malted and unmalted barley in the mash as it is by the use of the namesake implement. While the use of pot stills is on the rise in the United States (particularly among craft distillers who have less interest in the higher production volumes of the column design), pot still whiskey made in the Irish style is a rarity. A distillery fully dedicated to the style is unheard of until now.
While Talnua takes inspiration and stylistic cues from Irish tradition (going so far as to respect the requirements of the Technical File that governs the production of Irish Whiskey in Ireland), they are perfectly clear that they are making American whiskey. Co-Founders Meagan and Patrick Miller first became enamored with pot still whiskey while honeymooning in Ireland, but studied the trade stateside. The influence of Patrick’s time at Colorado single-malt distillery Stranahan’s is discernible in Talnua’s use of local ingredients to imbue a classic European style with American regional terroir.
Talnua celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with the yearly release of their Olde Saint’s Keep series, limited bottlings of creatively-finished single pot still whiskey. The name references a legend in which Gaelic monks reserved stocks of their finest aqua vitae to be served to the most celebrated guests. The 2022 release of Olde Saint’s Keep is a combination of single pot still whiskeys aged in ex-bourbon and Port casks. Once blended, the whiskey was added to casks that formerly aged Pineau de Charantes, a fortified wine popular in the west of France made from the combination of grape juice or must with Cognac eau de vie. Pineau is uncommon beyond the départements of western France where it is produced, and this is the first I’ve heard of it being used as a finish for whiskey!
Tasting Notes: Talnua Olde Saint’s Keep
Vital Stats: No age statement provided, save that it spent 10 months in Pineau de Charantes casks. Bottled at 100 proof. Priced at $100.
Appearance: Clear amber.
Nose: Blackberry pie a la mode, marmalade.
Palate: Something like a pinot noir with a dash of pepper – there is that unmistakable flavor of fruits that are somehow simultaneously juicy and dried with a long, leathery finish augmented by a slow-fading spicy tingle.