An affordable single malt Irish whiskey, the Sexton thrives in cocktails.
Single malt whiskies have always enjoyed a certain cachet. Something about that term – single malt – seems to confer an element of prestige on a whiskey. Consumers can usually expect a higher price tag, too.
In the case of Irish single malts, there’s also a sense of novelty. The best-known Irish whiskies are blends, and while single malt whiskies are not unheard of in Ireland, it’s a style more commonly associated with scotch.
The makers of the Sexton are aiming to capitalize on that sense of novelty with an affordable single malt whiskey. Made in County Antrim on the North Coast of Ireland, Sexton single malt Irish whiskey is triple-distilled in copper pot stills and aged four years in sherry casks. The Sexton folks say very little about the whiskey’s origin, but by all accounts, it’s made by Bushmills.
The Sexton arrived in the United States in late 2017 with a price point around $30, making it an affordable alternative to the more expensive single malts made by Ireland’s Scottish neighbors.
The bottle alone is something of a conversation piece. The black, hexagonal vessel is attractive and intriguing, with a skull logo that adds a sense of mystery. On the downside, I could probably serve a round of shots with the amount of whiskey I’ve spilled while pouring from such an unusually shaped bottle. Once in the glass, the Sexton has a coppery, dark golden hue.
On the Nose
On the nose, the Sexton has everything you want in a quality Irish whiskey. Complex and promising, its rich aroma practically leaps out of the tasting glass with notes of allspice, heather, almond, dried fruits, and butterscotch.
On the Palate
If only those wonderful aromas would stick around for the entire tasting experience. On the palate, things get off to an encouraging start: the Sexton is unusually dry, and pleasant flavors of honey, cranberry, dried fruits, and a little warm vanilla are present.
But all that good stuff comes to a screeching halt with the finish. Hot, harsh, and acidic, the limitations of the whiskey’s young age become apparent as it skids down the throat. A few drops of water serve to soften the edges, but an ice cube has a dulling effect, robbing the whiskey of its best flavors. And for a whiskey that rests in sherry casks, the sherry flavor is barely noticeable.
The Sexton might be a mixed bag on its own, but it redeems itself in cocktails.
In an Irish Derby, sweet vermouth, orange liqueur, and lime juice complement the Sexton’s dryness, while Angostura bitters bring those nice allspice notes to the fore. It’s a juicy drink with some backbone, and well suited to a humid summer day.
- 1½ ounces Sexton Irish whiskey
- ½ ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
- ½ ounce orange liqueur (I used my own house blend)
- ½ ounce lime juice
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Lime twist
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe or Nick and Nora glass. Garnish with the lime twist.
The Sexton also acquits itself well in an Irish Maid. Another summer sipper, the cucumber has a cooling effect, and elderflower liqueur adds a soft herbal sweetness.
- 2 ounces Sexton Irish whiskey
- ½ ounce St. Germain
- ¾ ounce lemon juice
- ¾ ounce simple syrup
- Two chunks or thick slices of cucumber for muddling
- One cucumber slice for garnish
Muddle cucumber chunks in a shaker. Add whiskey, St. Germain, lemon, and syrup, and shake with ice. Double-strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with cucumber slice.
The Sexton will never be my favorite sipping whiskey, single malt or no. I think it needs a few more years in a barrel to smooth out its sharper edges.
But the whiskey works quite well in cocktails. Its bold flavors stand up to all manner of mixers, and its dryness serves to balance sweeter ingredients. The right combination of sweet and bitter components can unlock the whiskey’s potential and ensure that a Sexton cocktail is as unique as that striking black bottle.
Note: I received a complimentary bottle of Sexton Single Malt Irish whiskey with the understanding that I would use it in a product review. No one from or associated with the Sexton brand influenced this content.
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