Maybe real Irish people can set me straight on this, and if so, I'm all ears. However, from my limited knowledge of Irish history, it seems like The Wild Geese Irish Soldiers and Heroes (whew) is built on a pretty underwhelming tale.

We start with the Jacobites. In 1688, William of Orange kicked then-king James II off the throne during the Glorious Revolution. Problem was, for a lot of Scots and Irishmen, James II was their guy, and so they remained loyal and fought to put him back on the throne. The Wild Geese takes its name from a battalion of super-great, Jacobite Irish ass-kickers lead by one Patrick Sarsfield. 

But here's the thing: the Jacobites lost. As part of the Treaty of Limmerick (I'm sure a lot of the men were surprised to find out that the treaty was no joke), the English government basically said, "Look: you dudes have been really good at killing us. We'll give you a free pass to France if you just leave and not attack us any more." And so they left. No Wild Bunch or 300-style "till the last man falls!" suicide mission in the face of overwhelming odds. They just left. And my students tell me history isn't exciting! 

In keeping with the Cooley distillery lineup, Wild Geese Rare is pretty good, though not amazing.

There's some more stuff in there about the English government (as per their usual) reneging on their promises to actually treat the Irish / Scots in a particular way, but the short version is that although the oppressed Irish thought, "One day, our heroes will come back home like Geese and set things right!" the reality was that, nope, that didn't happen. They left, and they left for good. 

So: the whiskey! I'll give you a little background here beyond the history lesson: The Wild Geese is a brand that comes from the Kilbeggan Distilling Company / Cooley, who also do 2 Gingers, Connemara, and Tyrconnell. From what I've had of the company's product lineup, things have tended to be pretty good, if not amazing. Keeping in line with that ethic, The Wild Geese Rare is mostly fine, and I think I like it a little better than it deserves to be liked.  

One of the core elements of the spirit is banana. As one of the few people on earth who likes banana-flavored taffy and hard candy, I'm utterly comfortable here. However, banana drives some people up the wall and tends to be one of the primary esters that results from young whiskey. I mention this because the power of association can be huge for some people, and some banana-heavy whiskeys might trigger a bad memory of something cheaper. To me, the taste is big on banana cream pie with a good, buttery crust. If you're going to go banana, make it a good one. There's also lot of custard, and just a little bit of bran and salty peanut brittle, which is similarly pleasant.

Unfortunately, the development and finish is where things get angular. While there's some lingering peanut and caramel corn, there's also a fair of ethanol shock and sourness. That along with the banana flavors makes me further suspect the Wild Geese is a bit on the young side. 

I should note that on the bottle, the Geese Rare says, "Smoother because we distil (sic) it longer." Now, I'm used to hearing length used in the context of age, or smoothness being defined as a function of the number of times it was distilled, but saying that it took a long time to distill something is a new one on me. Maybe Cooley just has a bad copywriter? In any case, I default back to my thoughts on scotch: if you want us to know how old something is, tell us by slapping a number on the side of the bottle and putting your money where your mouth is.

All in all, I like banana and can accept the faults that accompany youth, but at the $45 price point this doesn't have quite the degree of clarity or refinement I'm looking for. To me, it's quite similar to Bushmills, but the Geese Rare is a hard proposition for being maybe 40% better at more than double the price. Definitely buy it on sale, though.

Nose: Varnish at first, though it opens up to a lot of madelines, jasmine, and a bit of Douglas fir.
Taste: Banana cream pie with flaky crust. A supporting cast of custard and almonds.
Finish: Rough, sadly. A little bit vodka-like in its astringency and intensity, which puts the kibosh on the banana party.
Misc: 43% ABV. Neat, chunky bottle. Apparently takes a hell of a long time to distill. Based on a real let-down of a historical event.
Price: $45-ish
Overall Rating

It's just okay.