The Craft Irish Whiskey Co made a name for itself back in December 2020 when a bottle of its very first release, The Devil’s Keep, sold for $60,000 at auction. To this day, that remains a record for an auction debut by a spirits brand.
Following that auspicious start, The Devil’s Keep won multiple awards including Best Irish Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards. A tall order to follow, which perhaps explains why it took three years for the second edition to emerge.
The Devil’s Keep 2023 was released last month, three years after the first, with the unenviable task of living up to its predecessor. To help it on its way, The Craft Irish Whiskey Co has followed a similar method by aging the whiskey in a plethora of different casks to encourage complexity and depth of flavor.
This whiskey, distilled in 2001, spent much of its life in ex-bourbon American oak casks – a standard for most Irish whiskey. But from there, it went on a rather complex journey starting with three-quarter filled Tawny port French oak casks, three different types of Pedro Ximénez (PX) sherry American oak casks, a heavily toasted virgin Hungarian oak cask and then a final stint back in a PX sherry American oak cask.
Five-cask maturation is verging on the extreme but each new cask is supposed to impart a different characteristic on the whiskey. Tawny port and PX casks are both known for injecting rich sweetness and are seldom used for long because both can overwhelm the liquid in short order.
In that sense, the flavor dial has been pushed to the max. The Devil’s Keep 2023 has a dark mahogany appearance and is intensely sweet on the nose. We are certainly in sherry bomb territory here, with notes of dark chocolate, caramelized sugar and raisins coming through strongly.
The sweetness continues on the palate. The mouthfeel is super smooth and creamy (port-like, you might say). There are notes of crème caramel, dark chocolate florentines and marzipan. But behind that sweetness, and extracted with a dash of water, is a little bit of spice and a whiff of smoke, said to be taken from those rare Hungarian virgin oak casks.
Intensely sherried whiskeys have their critics, but they also have their place in the luxury market. The whiskey is bursting with big and bold flavors. The subtle nuances sit in the background waiting to be discovered. The quintuple cask aging isn’t marketing talk – each cask has left a traceable signature on the whiskey.
Distilled in 2001, this is both young and expensive (circa $15,000 plus tax) compared to even the most collectible Scotch whisky. That’s not to say this whiskey isn’t worth it. Limited to just 333 decanters and presented in a nice case alongside glassware and whiskey stones among other trinkets, this is undoubtedly a collectible.
It also feels like it’s been fast-tracked to maturity. The mouthfeel is akin to something twice its age. With more years in a cask, whiskey can dry out and become acrid. This still has a youthful kick to it but still has those deep flavors you’d expect from something in the price bracket.