West Cork Single Cask Rye Finish Whiskey Review [In Depth]

West Cork Single Malt Single Cask Rye Finish Irish Whiskey

west cork single malt single cask rye finish irish whiskey review

West Cork Single Malt Single Cask Rye Finish Irish Whiskey

Distillery: West Cork

Type & Region: Irish Whiskey, Ireland

Alcohol: 56.5%

Composition: 100% malted barley

Aged: 6-7 years, partially ex-bourbon, partially ex-rye

Color: 1.4/2.0 on the color scale (tawny)

Price: $38 (purchased in Japan)

From the bottle label:

“West Cork Single Malt is hand crafted using the finest hand selected inredients and is fully atured in first fill bourbon barrels then patiently rested in toasted rye casks for another 3 years to deliver a special and very rare Irish Whiskey. It’s outstanding quality promises a unique drinking experience which should be savoured by all who are lucky enough to savour this Irish Whiskey.”

west cork single cask rye finish whiskey overview

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding West Cork Single Malt Single Cask Rye Cask Finish Irish Whiskey, so I’ll start with what I do know. At its heart, this Irish Whiskey is a single malt (100% malted barley) Irish Whiskey (likely distilled and aged by West Cork) that’s finished in a single rye cask. Simple enough, but there’s so much more to it.

Thankfully, the label provides plenty of information. West Cork Rye Cask Finish was first aged for ~3 years in first-fill bourbon casks (I’m assuming not a single cask) and then moved to a single toasted rye cask (cask 215) and aged for 3 more years. Since it was distilled in 2013 and bottled 2020, it’s 6-7 years old. Did I mention that this was $38! That’s a ludicrous price for a cask strength Irish whiskey, let alone a finished one.

Other than that, there’s really not much else on the internet about this, and even the West Cork website doesn’t mention it. From the little I can find on the internet, I’m guessing that this single cask has something to do with West Cork’s Cask Club and Cordon Vert (bottom of the label on the bottle mentions them as the “partner”).

I found that Cordon Vert is the importer for AEON and Yamaya, both huge liquor retailers in Japan. This makes a lot of sense because I found this West Cork at a Yamaya in Tokyo. Based on West Cork’s website, Cordon Vert may have joined the cask club and bought a 200 liter first-fill bourbon cask of single malt whiskey and then let it age for at least 3 years. After that, they chose to finish it in another type of barrel instead of bottling it immediately. The website doesn’t mention finishes, but they clearly offer it.

At the end of the day, smelling and drinking the whiskey reveals the most information, so let’s do that in this West Cork Single Malt Single Cask Rye Cask Finish Irish Whiskey review. Jeez that’s a long name.

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As an FYI, I bought and use these Glencairn glasses for my reviews and comparisons (because they’re the best): Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass, Set of 6, Clear, 6 Pack. Full transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

west cork single malt single cask rye finish irish whiskey front label
west cork single malt single cask rye finish irish whiskey back side label
west cork single malt single cask rye finish irish whiskey front label
west cork single malt single cask rye finish irish whiskey back side label

west cork single cask rye finish whiskey smell

This West Cork Single Cask Rye Finish starts off with dark sorghum syrup, dense vanilla, licorice, fennel, quite a lot of green grape, toasted oak, pumpernickel bread, fresh spring greens, prune, floral citrus, and brighter cherry. These notes read more like a rye whiskey, not so much a “normal” Irish whiskey such as Redbreast 12 Year Cask Strength

For a lack of a better world, this rye lives on a different planet with very dark sweetness and supporting earthiness, herbalness, and toastiness. I’m guessing that the toasted rye cask imparts more of that dark and oaky character. This is one of the more interesting yet strange smelling whiskeys I’ve smelled.

With swirling, I’m starting to get acclimated to the scents and enjoy them more. The best way I can describe West Cork Rye Cask Finish is that it has a grape brandy vibe that’s darker honey, darker green grapes (maybe muscat), licorice, fennel, green apple, toasted oak, clove, pumpernickel, rosemary, prune, and orange. 

I mention grape brandy because this smells a lot like Copper and Kings Capitol Strength Grape Brandy, which was finished for 3 years in a Willett Rye cask. Honestly, I’d think this was grape brandy if I were doing this blind. The rye finish is just everywhere and kind of takes over everything, but at the same time helps create this really bold and rich nose that smells far older than its 6-7 years. 

Even at that age, the heat isn’t too bad. The cask finish overall helps create this dance between very bright yet dark, Irish Whiskey and rye, and I can’t stop smelling it.
west cork single malt single cask rye finish irish whiskey back label compressed

west cork single cask rye finish whiskey taste and aftertaste

West Cork Single Cask Rye Finish leads with dark caramel, green and dark grapes, licorice, and fennel then vanilla, prune, rosemary, roasted oak, cinnamon, and Asian pear. I can’t help but be reminded of grape brandy and bourbon with the dark, herbal, grapey, and roasty flavors. It’s all so unique for Irish Whiskey, so I’m in uncharted territory here. The alcohol bites a little, but it’s normal for 56.5%.

“Chewing” gives me dark and slightly earthy sweetness. It’s dark honey, caramel, toasted vanilla, licorice, fennel, rosemary, pumpernickel, dried dark berries, green grapes, pear, prunes, roasted oak, cinnamon, floral orange, and just a hint of something slightly grainy, maybe barley or pumpernickel. 

I know I’ve written this over and over already, but jeez this single cask rye finish is so dark, herbal, grapey, and earthy, which is completely out of the ordinary for Irish Whiskey. The flavors are also all over the place, constantly jumping between fruit, herbal, roasty, and earthy flavors, but it’s never overpowering or unenjoyable. 

The finish is herbal, sweet, and slightly toasty with licorice, fennel, dark sorghum syrup, roasted oak, green grape, rosemary, and thyme. That gentle herbalness and sweetness really linger for a while. “Chewing” leaves a similar herbal, earthy, sweet, and oaky end that’s dark honey, licorice, fennel, rosemary, green grape, roasted oak, and green apple, but a little more lingering alcohol tingle as well.
I’m just enjoying the wild ride and wherever it takes me. If you like rye whiskey, then you’ll love this too.

Whiskey is also for sharing, so I use Vivaplex, 12, Amber, 2 oz Glass Bottles, with Lids for smaller samples and Vivaplex, 12, Amber, 4 oz Glass Bottles, with Lids for larger ones. Full transparency – This is an Amazon affiliate link so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else. Regardless, I actually use these myself.

Place on the Whiskey Shelf

Top Shelf

West Cork Single Cask Rye Finish Irish Whiskey is captivating, rich, and intense, but keeps me wondering “whoa…what the heck did I just drink?” with every sniff and sip. I have some experience with Irish Whiskey (Redbreast 12 Year Cask Strength is a personal favorite and I visited distilleries in Ireland), but this is absolutely bonkers with how rye-y it is. It’s not remotely subtle, but it just keeps a firm grip on me.

Sometimes it’s bright and herbal, other times dark and earthy, and then fruity at other times. The amount of rye influence makes sense because it spent half of its life in a first-fill bourbon cask and then the other half in a toasted rye cask.

The rye finish should have a greater impact on the end whiskey, as compared to say a 15 year old Scotch finished for 6 months in sherry. Still, this level of influence is unique, strange, and really fun. At the same time, the same lack of nuance limits its ceiling a bit, although “Top Shelf” is already an excellent rating.

If anything, personality-wise this has more in common with Copper and Kings Capitol Strength Single Barrel Grape Brandy (finished in a Willet rye cask for 3 years) than Irish Whiskey. Wait a minute…was this West Cork Single Cask Irish Whiskey also finished for 3 years in a toasted Willett rye cask!? That would awesome if it was.

The scents and flavors are so similar to that brandy that it’s possible. It would be cool if that were the case, but regardless this Irish Whiskey is outlandish, wild, and awesome.

West Cork Single Cask Rye Finish Irish Whiskey is so wildly wacky and distinct that any Irish Whiskey and/or rye whiskey lover would be well-served to try it at least once, although it’s probably very polarizing for those who are not used to rye. You know what though, buy the whole bottle while you’re at it because it’s only around $38 anyways. 

The problem is that I don’t know where these single casks are distributed and what other finishes are offered. Yamaya in Tokyo has them, but I haven’t seen them anywhere else, so I guess drop by one if you happen to be around.

Still, I’m happy to have stumbled into this and tasted to the crazy side of whiskey.
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Shattered glass really sucks, so if you’re on the move, this Glencairn-like stainless steel snifter glass should survive your travels. Full transparency, this is an Amazon affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

BrüMate NOS’R, Double-Wall Stainless Steel Whiskey Nosing Glass – 7oz (Matte Black)

Alex author

Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

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