Editor’s Note: These whiskeys were provided to us as review samples 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 links 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 single pot still 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 stepped into its production space in 2018 and opened a tasting room on St. Patrick’s day of the following year. Despite being in business for such a short time, they already produce an impressive range of bottles. General manager Maya Oren recently told the Whiskey Wash that “I have a hard time talking about just one of our whiskies as a ‘flagship’ because they are all so unique.” With four core whiskeys and a pair of gins, there’s a lot of ground to cover in just the introductory tour of Talnua’s offerings!
Tasting Notes: Talnua Virgin White Oak Cask
Vital Stats: Aged 3 years in virgin American white oak casks. 86 proof. Sells for $75
Appearance: Medium gold color, very clear with a medium-to-light body.
Nose: Grassy vanilla with a hint of toasty wood lingering in the background.
Palate: It takes a second before this dram shows its personality, but the barrel eventually makes a strong impression. Oak so strong that it’s almost resinous is accompanied by the warmth of cinnamon and a hint of sweet vanilla that fades Into a toasty finish of dried apricot and quality tobacco.
Final Thoughts: The mild opening is deceptive as this opens up and hits some classic pot still notes but also brings a unique twist. I quit smoking around three years ago and rarely miss it at this point, but the finish on this glass legitimately left me craving an American Spirit.
Tasting Notes: Talnua Bourbon Cask and Stave
Vital Stats: Aged 3 years in American ex-bourbon casks with charred virgin white oak staves. 86 proof. Sells for $75.
Appearance: Light color, light body with durable legs.
Nose: Vanilla bean and toast with honey.
Palate: Cereal grains and mild wood open, the wood turns toasty and builds into earthy spice.
Final Thoughts: My very favorite moments here came on the nose, which captures several classic notes of both pot still and bourbon and manages to intertwine them in a way that makes sense, with the oak supplying a common denominator or pivot point between the two.
Tasting Notes: Talnua Continuum Cask Whiskey
Vital Stats: Aged a minimum of 18 months in virgin white oak casks, then harvested and vatted into a larger, solera-inspired continuum cask. 86 proof. Sells for $50.
Appearance: Golden color, medium body.
Nose: Sweet malt barley and autumnal spices.
Palate: A big bowl of oatmeal with butter and cinnamon moves into light toasty vanilla. I occasionally seem to catch a hint of bright, almost tropical fruit on the finish.
Final Thoughts: Similarly to the White Oak Cask, I felt that this dram did not make a particularly strong first impression but really came alive after a few moments on the palate. The more I sipped this, the more I liked it, which seems a good omen for a continuum cask.
Tasting Notes: Talnua Heritage Selection Whiskey
Vital Stats: Talnua’s pot still whiskey blended with grain whiskey distilled in Ireland and aged a minimum of 18 months. 86 proof. Sells for $50.
Appearance: Light straw clear and light-bodied.
Nose: Herbal tea with honey.
Palate: The mellow, round sweetness of the maize comes out the gate, and transitions through spice into cocoa nibs and cereal grain.
Final Thoughts: This pour offers some nice flavors, but still feels “young” to me.
Summary: Count me a fan of what Talnua is up to! One really cool thing about Talnua’s core lineup is the range that it demonstrates within a single category. Despite the fact that each bottle is a Single Pot Still (except the Heritage Selection which is a closely adjacent Blend featuring Pot Still), all four of these offer something interesting and distinctly different from one another. Taken as a whole, the range strikes a deft balance between tradition and innovation. While my favorite of the bunch (the White Oak Cask) is arguably their most traditional expression,
I fondly recognize the curious and experimental spirit of American craft brewing at work in the creative finishes and process wrinkles that Talnua applies. The youth of the distillery is underscored on Talnua’s website which notes that their oldest whiskey is only four years old, but the promise seems obvious to me. Seeing as time is usually on whiskey’s side, I’ll be watching for further news from Talnua and, as a non-Coloradan, will hope that their distribution continues to widen!