What do you get when you combine the oldest, longest-operating, American winery founded by an Irishman and the newest Irish distillery? Concannon Irish Whiskey made in Ireland by acclaimed Cooley Distillery for Concannon Vineyard.
To fathom this unlikely pairing of wine and whiskey, remember that Concannon Vineyard in Livermore Valley,California is owned by The Wine Group, one of the largest American wine companies. In 2011 The Wine Group launched Cupcake Vodka with similar branding to Cupcake Wines. Picture Cupcake Devil’s Food Vodka shelved next to Cupcake Red Velvet wine.
But Concannon Irish Whiskey is no fluffy cocktail mixer. Aged four years at Cooley Distillery, the whiskey is finished for four months in Concannon Petite Sirah barrels—a first for the industry. The whiskey is bottled in California in the same glass as Concannon Conservancy and Reserve wines.
Cooley uses traditional copper stills and two rather than three distillation to retain a tad more of the malted barley and corn essence. Layer on the fruit-flavored molecules from the Petite Sirah barrel and the result is a soft whiskey with hints of caramel, fruit and a light finish of vanilla.
At $24.99 it compares favorably to higher cost bottles, but the most important thing to remember about Concannon Irish Whiskey is that it pairs beautifully in Irish coffee.