Whisky Advocate

Review: Powers 12 year old blended Irish whiskey

March 25th, 2010

Powers, 12 year old, 40%, $35
After being around for about a decade, it’s nice to see this whiskey finally being sold in the U.S. Soft, sweet and silky smooth, with creamy vanilla, caramel, toasted marshmallow, and honey-kissed tropical fruit (mango, pineapple, coconut). I get most of the barley on the front of the palate, with the grain whiskey components more on the finish. Something seems slightly missing for me to elevate this whiskey to classic status (some more pot still character, perhaps?), but it’s still a wonderful blended Irish whiskey. And it’s so drinkable. Gather a bunch of friends and throw away the cork!

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 91

34 Responses to “Review: Powers 12 year old blended Irish whiskey”

  1. The Leveller says:

    A general question – is Irish Whiskey generally only bottled at 40%? Apart from a cask strength Connemara (I think) I can’t think of any other Irish whiskies making a USP of a higher proof – as opposed to Scotch where 43-46% seems to be the purist’s sweet spot and Bourbon which goes higher still… I can’t help thinking that having such a consolidated Irish whiskey sector hinders some of this kind of innovation.

    Having said that, I really enjoyed a bottle of this several years ago and am inspired to dig out the other one I got from my cellar!

    • Mike Igoe says:

      Good question, been wondering about this myself, beginning to hate to see 40% on bottles, because it tastes unpleasantly watery and homogenised – you do notice the missing 3%, especially if you dabble with cask strength whiskey. This particular Powers gets away with it, and is outstanding, but I feel Jameson suffers for it. Both of these whiskeys come from the same distillery, and they would seem to have the lion’s share of (certainly the domestic) Irish whiskey market – maybe it’s a Pernod-Ricard thing? If I was trying to show off Irish whiskey to somebody, I’d give ’em this, or better yet a Connemara.

  2. Red_Arremer says:

    John, how would you say it stacks up against Jameson Gold or 12?

    • John Hansell says:

      I love the Gold. I think it has more character with some new oak aging thrown into the mix. I will have to do a side-by-side though, since I haven’t tasted the Gold since they took it off the U.S. market several years back.

  3. JC Skinner says:

    Sssh, John! We’ve been trying to keep this gem to ourselves in Ireland all this time!
    On the 40% thing, a lot of Irish is bottled at 40, but I’d be more concerned about chill-filtering or caramel additions than proof when it comes to Irish whiskey. There’s no hard and fast rule, other than bottling at 40 gets you more bottles, I imagine. Certainly, I’ve seen whiskeys from all three Irish distillers at over 40, even ones that weren’t cask strength.
    I’d say this is a very different beast from the Jameson Gold, which bears on the one hand the impact of fresh oak and on the other is made from generally much older whiskeys than Powers.
    It does bear a strong family resemblance to its 12 yo older brother though. I think the 12 year old edges it personally.

    • Luke says:

      Mmmm… I often wonder what this blend would be like at 46% NCF.

      We’ll have to bend Barry Crockett’s ear on this…

      • John Hansell says:

        Maybe that’s what’s missing for me to consider it a classic? At first I thought maybe it could use more pot still character (although there’s a good bit in there already), but I would also like to see this whiskey at a higher ABV and not chill-filtered. That would probably rock!

        • Red_Arremer says:

          Haha John– obviously! Tell me, do you ever sip a 40% CF whisky and not carefully rate it below an imaginary version of it at 46% and nonchillfiltered?

          I’m basically fine with your practice of nonblind reviews. I trust your palate and plus the MA tasting panel is basically a one man machine so what can you do. The only thing I wonder about with your nonblind reviews is the case of strength and chillfiltering.

          Isn’t it possible that you might look at some of these whiskies a little differently if you didn’t know their strength and filtering status?

          • John Hansell says:

            A good question, but whether I am tasting this blind or not isn’t the issue here with this whiskey. I taste this whiskey and its taste alone is what has me wishing it were at a higher strength and NCF. Like I said in my review, something seems missing for me to rate it higher.

          • Red_Arremer says:

            One other related question. Irish whisky is very barely bottled above 40% so– Do you feel more inhibited about giving an Irish whisky Like P12 a lower rating for low strength and chillfiltering than you would for a scotch or a bourbon?

          • John Hansell says:

            My feeling is the same for all categories.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      Wait JC– which 12 yo edges out the other? The Powers?

      • JC Skinner says:

        @Red: Yes, sorry, that’s what I meant. The two Powers whiskeys are very similar, but I think the older version nicks it for me. The Jameson Gold, while pretty idiosyncratic, is still generally identifiably a Jameson for all that.
        @John and Luke: I think the fact that Powers is a potstill blend does mean it could benefit from NCF and a higher ABV. But not necessarily much higher.
        Writers’ Tears is bottled at 40, but stands up a bit better than Powers because the potstill is blended there with single malt rather than grain. Having said that, it doesn’t have Powers’ drinkability or balance, though.

    • Alex says:

      So for the experts out there, how does this compare to the Redbreast 12yr? Thanks!

      • JC Skinner says:

        Different beasts, Alex.
        Redbreast is a pure potstill, with a significant sherried influence. Powers is younger, blended, and doesn’t have the sherry.
        It probably compares more closely to the other pure potstill whiskey, the hard-to-find Green Spot, which is equally young and also bourbon-finished.

        • Luke says:

          JC, if I recall correctly there’s a small amount of sherried Pot Still in the vatting of both Powers and Green Spot.

          • JC Skinner says:

            If there is, Luke, I can’t taste it!
            Especially not in the Green Spot, anyway. There’s a spicy hint in Powers I usually put down to the potstill. Could be some sherry influence, perhaps. I don’t know.
            And IDL are so cagey about exactly what goes in the bottles, that you could never be sure.

      • John Hansell says:

        I agree with JC on this.

        • JC Skinner says:

          I was lucky enough to speak with Barry Crockett at the Irish Whiskey Society potstill tasting this week.
          He confirmed that there are ‘trace’ amounts of sherried pps in Green Spot and ‘more’ in Powers.
          He also explained that Midleton make a series of different pps spirits, each of which is dedicated to a different end.
          So the pps used for Redbreast isn’t the same as the one used for Green Spot for example.

  4. Good choice of review. Definitely one of the best Irish values out there.

  5. JC Skinner says:

    Meant to add: I tried an old Powers from the Seventies earlier this year side by side with the current bottling. It seemed to be somehow more fiery, but it was still 40 ABV. I don’t know if that was due to it being bottled younger in those days, or a difference in the blending, though. I prefer the current bottling.

    • Luke says:

      Mmm… that digs up an old chestnut, when did Powers become a blend?

      Wasn’t Powers solely Pure Pot Still up to 1966?

      A Seventies Blend might have been attempting to emulate the PPS.

      Where’s IrishWhiskeyChaser when you need him?!

  6. brian bradley (brian47126) says:

    Well, I have never tried this one; however, for that price point combined with that score, I will be now.

  7. Steffen Bräuner says:

    Looks like something I need to try

    It’s not easy to find blends thats not watered down. Duncan Taylors Black Bull series (12yo, 30yo, 40yo) isn’t as far as I know, with the 2 first being adjusted to 50% and the 40yo just above 40 at 40.2% but I am pretty sure thats with no water.


  8. Jeff Frane says:

    John, do you have any idea about distribution in the States? I have wanted to try this since I saw it in a British catalog.

  9. Gary says:

    I have to admit I am kind of a sucker for Irish whiskey. I am definitely going to buy this. Damn my whiskey spending is already out of control this year. But, it’s whiskey…right? It’s ok…isn’t it? Oh I hope so. 🙁

  10. Gary says:

    I just picked up a bottle of the Powers and will be giving this a try shortly.

  11. Joe M says:

    Special ordered a bottle last week and picked it up Friday. Shared a few drams with a good friend that night. Must agreed with your assessment. Fantastically drinkable – a wonderful beefing up of all the good things in regular Powers.

  12. Bob says:

    To all the bloggers participating in this discussion – yesterday I purchased a bottle of the Powers 12 year old Irish Whisky in NYC at The Park Avenue Liquor Shop – 292 Madison Avenue (212) 685-2442. I live in NJ and have not been able to find the 12 year old anywhere in the state. I tried the whisky as soon as I got home and initially, I was a little disappointed. I thought the whisky was a little more subtle in flavor than I expected. I read a lot of reviews online, and by authors Murray and Maclean. A lot of folks praised the whisky, but Murray and John seem to agree on the lack of pot still character. However, I am currently sipping on a little Powers now and for some reason, I am getting many more nuances of flavor than at first tasting – almost as if I am drinking a totally different whisky! Has anyone ever had an experience like this? I know how wine improves with breathing, but can a whisky? I am picking up a little mint (?), a sweet vanilla quality, and almost a little cookie dough on the nose. On the palate, the whisky is very soft and I think well balanced. At the end, caramel, vanilla, and what I believe some pot still character in the finish. I really like the powers 12 year old now, but am a bit perplexed about the changes I’m getting from one day to the next. Would anyone like to take a stab at what I presented here? Bob

  13. Your observation is right. Most whiskies do benefit from being open a bit. They open up and release more flavours. This can differ from bottle to bottle and distillery to distillery


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