The Cooper Commemorative Edition – Tasting & Review

I love nothing more than the history and tales that surround whiskey – from the grand tales of how Single Pot Still came to be, to the tales told by friends – and strangers alike – over a dram in the local. Any customer who has come across me on the shop floor has likely heard me emphatically proclaim “Whiskey is literally my favourite thing to talk about!” With that being said, when I was offered a chance to taste a collectable and quite highly sought-after whiskey, exclusive to ourselves in James J Fox, and then write about it (which is even better than talking about it, honestly), I positively jumped at the opportunity.

The Cooper Commemorative Edition truly embodies the stories and legacies which I adore. When John Nelly, the master Cooper, came to Kilbeggan in 1992, after 50 years' cooperage in his native Scotland, he set about offering apprenticeships and cask repair programmes. I would argue that John Nelly has made as indelible a mark on Irish whiskey, and that his legacy is woefully overlooked. Many people don’t even realise who this man was and just what he has brought to the world of whiskey, not least the Irish contingent.

John Neilly with his apprentices Darren Leonard (L) and Ian Leonard (R) in Nephin Cooperage
John Neilly with his apprentices Darren Leonard (L) and Ian Leonard (R) in Nephin Cooperage

The Cooper Commemorative Edition is a 12-year-old Single Malt Scotch with a 5 Octave finish. Each of the five octaves, Rum, Sauterne, Tawny Port, Bourbon and American Oak, was hand made by John Nelly, from wood he sourced from other, larger barrels – for the less cask-minded among us, an Octave barrel is approx. 50l, the more you know!

You’d think, given the 5 Octaves of this particular bottling, that I’d have been prepared for the many varied flavours at play, but, as is always the way with my tasting style, I was taken somewhat by surprise – as I sat to taste this caramel-coloured dram, I was struck by the complexities at each turn. On the nose, there is a gorgeous medley of warm boiled sweeties (think apple drops, pear drops, and even those hard fruit drops your gran had in a big jar on the sideboard). Underpinning the warmth of the initial scent, there is a good amount of the hard sugar crust you’d find atop a crème brûlée, decadent vanilla and warming spice. There’s a lot going on, just in the nose alone!

The Cooper Commemorative Edition Sunlight

On the palate, there is a wonderful warmth, flooding the tongue with deeply spiced oak – no doubt the re-charred American Oak cask. From that initial flavour hit, I got a glorious note of caramelised peach coupled with a dry, tingly spice and a smooth malt bringing us to a lingering finish with style and substance. In the final moments with The Cooper Commemorative Edition, I was delighted to note that the flavours linger quite a bit on my palate, making it a wonderful whiskey for a relaxing evening of reflection and thoughtful appreciation.

The Cooper Commemorative Edition is €250 (reduced to €200 at the time of publication) and available exclusively from James J Fox in-store and online.

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Customer Advisor in James J. Fox Dublin


August 17, 2021

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