Nigel John Dermot Neill was born in Omagh in Northern Ireland in 1947. His father, a New Zealander whose family originated in Belfast, was stationed there with the Royal Irish Fusiliers, but the family moved to New Zealand in 1954. There, the young boy opted to change his name, deciding that Nigel was a tad ‘effete’ for the Kiwi playground. So he changed it to Sam.
I had always assumed Sam Neill was an Aussie. Then, after The Hunt For The Wilderpeople, I learned he was a Kiwi. Then, after samples of the new single pot still whiskey from Gelston’s arrived into my letterbox, I learned that Sam is a Nordie (he actually identifies as British, Irish and Kiwi). So many plot twists.
I’ll let the press release take it from here:
The new release is the result of collaboration between Gelston’s owner, Johnny Neill and Sam, who is based in New Zealand. It sees the cousins bringing together the two sides of the family, whilst also merging the brilliant flavours and aromas of the two hemispheres.
The liquid has been triple distilled and matured for 19 months in ex-bourbon casks, before spending a further 21 months maturing in Sam’s French oak casks, which had previously held his prestigious Central Otago Pinot Noir.
It is malty on the nose with hints of strawberry, nutmeg and tropical fruit. On the palate it is big, rich and sweet, with a hint of dryness, a note of blackcurrant and dash of spice – all with sweet, jammy notes on the finish.
Johnny Neill, owner of Samuel Gelston’s Irish Whisky, said; “The Neill family have been making quality spirits for generations. My Great, Great Grandfather Harry Neill set up the successful McCallum Neill & Co in Australia in 1851, and Percival, one of his younger brothers set up Messrs Neill & Co in Dunedin in 1882 – Percival was Sam Neill’s Great Grandfather.
“Sam and I have continued this legacy in our respective sides of the world – I’ve been focused on the creation of artisanal spirits using local ingredients, whereas he has dedicated nigh on 30 years winegrowing super premium pinot noir. For the first time in 150 years, we’re bringing together the expertise from both sides of the family – the result being an incredibly exciting sweet, honeyed and very inviting Single Pot Still Whiskey”.
Samuel Gelston’s Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey finished in Pinot Casks (40% ABV, 70cl) has an RRP of €44.99, is currently available in L. Mulligans, Celtic Whiskey Shop and all good whiskey shops.
So what’s it like? Bit hot on the nose, as you’d expect from a three-and-a-half whiskey, although not as caustic as some young spirits. I’m assuming it’s from Great Northern, who have shown you can make excellent young whiskey and lots of it. Not much going on on the nose, but the palate brings a blast of aniseed, cloves, roasted tomatoes, cough mixture, like a kind of ouzo without the cloying elements. A short finish, but a smooth and approachable whiskey bottled at 40%, and with a price that isn’t a national embarrassment. And if that hasn’t sold you, how about this blast of wanton flattery from Mr Neill:
Ah gwan outta that Sam.