Whisky Advocate

New Single Pot Still Irish Whiskeys Debut

May 6th, 2011

This is a guest blog post by Lew Bryson, Malt Advocate managing editor, who sent in this report directly from Ireland. Thanks Lew!

Midleton invited us to come taste some new single pot still Irish whiskeys they’re coming out with, and given how much we like Redbreast and Green Spot, well, I got right on the plane.

There were some 60 journalists, bloggers, and retailers on the trip, and we all trouped down to Midleton in the rain. After a tour of the distillery — during which master of whiskey chemistry Dave Quinn attempted to explain the entire path of their triple distillation process and lost us in a maze of low feints, low wines, high feints, and reintroduced low feints; suffice to say it’s a very complex and beautifully flexible process — we wound up in the master distiller’s cottage for a tasting of single pot still Irish whiskeys.

There are, Quinn said to begin, pot still whiskeys currently aging in their warehouses that are of such configurations of distillation and wood that they don’t currently have a destination; brand-wise. They don’t fit. Some may be new releases in the future; some may well not make the cut. But here are two new whiskeys that contain spirits like that: Powers John’s Lane and Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy. Fascinating to see extensions of these two brands.

We started by tasting Green Spot and Redbreast 12. Green Spot has a light, fresh character that echoed the raw barley we’d smelled mashing in the brewhouse. (Quinn noted that the Mitchells also had a Blue, Yellow, and Red Spot whiskey in the past, and that they were likely candidates for future releases.) Redbreast took that and upped the ante with a good dose of sherry wood, a much bigger cask contribution.

Then we moved up to the new whiskeys. The Powers was first, and it was clearly, distinctly different. First, it was 46% ABV. More importantly, it was fuller in the nose, with more wood, bitter chocolate, and old leather. The bigness continued in the mouth with a real punch, more of the cocoa and wood, and a wowing finish. This is a whiskey with real verve, “like strong candy,” my notes say. It is made up of 12 to 14 year old whiskeys, non-chill filtered and natural color, in “a sizeable percentage of second fill and refill casks.” Quinn said it was a best efforts attempt to re-create the older, earthier Powers style. It was impressive.

The Midleton was also impressive, in a more elegant way. The idea was to take the pot still component of Midleton Very Rare and refine it. It is a mix of three distillates: light pot still, moderate pot still, and one they call “Mod 4,” a heavier distillate. This is aged in almost all first fill bourbon wood, with a small amount of what Midleton calls “B-Naughts,” bourbon-type barrels that have never had spirit in them. There will only be about 2,500 bottles of this each year. It was light, sweet, and indeed quite elegant; creamy, a touch of mineral dryness, and a citric note of lime. Quite nice whiskey.

After a fascinating demonstration of hand-shaping staves by master cooper Ger Buckley, we were loaded up and ferried to Warehouse A-3, where the itinerary promised “Blas Spesialta.” Ah, Dave Broom said, the only Irish I know: “Special Tasting.” It was: we were sampled on three other single pot still whiskeys, right from the casks, which will probably be components of future releases. A great surprise!

The first was a mod pot distillate aged in a Madeira drum, distilled in 1994. It was light, fresh, with wood spice and sweet fruit in the nose. Tasting revealed a big melting sweetness, with some of that fresh green barley at the end. Very well-mannered for cask strength, quite fine and elegant.

Second was a light pot distillate aged in a “B-Naught,” distilled in 1992. There was an unsurprising pile of oak spice and vanilla in the nose, and the whiskey itself was bursting with the raw barley character and fruit you find in Redbreast, very light and floating over my palate to a fantastic finish. I finished this one.

Third was a mod pot 4 distilled in 1995, aged in a second fill sherry butt. This one was disappointing: a big nose of toffee, butterscotch, and dried fruit had a puffy note of sulfur in it that was also in the mouth; meaty, oily, and big. Hard to get past the sulfur.

Still, it was an excellent day, and as the sun finally came out when we left the warehouse, it was quite a capper. It’s great to see Midleton bringing back single pot still like this, expanding the range and definition of Irish whiskey.

27 Responses to “New Single Pot Still Irish Whiskeys Debut”

  1. JohnM says:

    Surprised to hear of sulphur in the sherry cask. They haven’t imported sulphured casks in 20+ years and every single cask is checked before filling.

    The port casks in Midleton are my favourite. Brilliant whiskey.

    • Lew Bryson says:

      Not sure it was actual sulfur; TheWhiskyBro may well be right, and they made a point that they did not accept sulfured barrels…but it sure seemed like sulfur. Should have asked, but it was pretty bustley.

      After the sun came out? God help me, I went straight to my room and banged out this blog post! THEN I went and had two pints of Murphy’s; the hotel didn’t offer Beamish.

      • John Hansell says:

        That’s Murphy’s country, for sure. Asking for a Beamish down there would almost be like asking for a Bushmills down there. (Well, not exactly, but I think you get my point.)

        • JohnM says:

          Of course it could have been sulphur – who knows how old the cask was… I’m just surprised they’d lead people to a sulphured cask. The sherry casks I’ve tasted down there can be a little overwhelming for me. Massive sherry wood influence.

          John, Beamish is a People’s Republic of Cork stout too, although they’re parochial within Cork.

  2. thomas mckenzie says:

    Damn Lew. Wish I could have went too. Any idea on availabilty of the powers john lane on this side of the pond?

    • Luke says:

      Thomas, we’re gagging for a release date on THIS side of the pond [Ireland].

      We tasted the Power’s at a private tasting in the Old Jameson Distillery last week – fantastic stuff (46% NCF) and it’s slated to go on sale for €45.00-€50.00 per bottle. This would make it THE Irish whiskey bargain.

      Along with the SPS Midleton Legacy (46% NCF c.€160.00), and the promise of more Green Spot, or more correctly Yellow Spot (12YO) and Red Spot (15YO) the outlook has never been better.

      All in all, a fantastic development for Irish Whiskey – and of course for Irish Whiskey drinkers!

      Excuse me while I tell my Bank Manager the bad news…

    • Luke says:

      P.S. Powers was a 7 Year Old Single Pot Still until the early 1970’s when the current Gold Label blend was introduced. There was also a proprietary (and now legendary) Powers “White Label” SPS bottled by pub owners who also bonded the Whiskey on their premises.

      My point is that Powers is simply reverting to its old style.

      As I’ve said above, great times for Irish Whiskey!

    • CK says:

      So, has anyone actually addressed this? Is there a time frame that these can be expected in America? For all of the Renaissance of Irish whiskey, I tend to enjoy things that I can taste.

  3. Red_Arremer says:

    Really do hope we get that Powers John’s Lane over here.

  4. Luke says:

    David Havelin’s ever-excellent Irish Whiskey Notes has HQ Pictures here:

  5. John Hansell says:

    I am VERY excited for these releases. Midleton has always had such great potential. It’s nice to see them bringing it to fruition.

  6. ps says:

    I hope Powers 12yr remains available in the US! It’s become a real favorite.

  7. ps says:

    I hope Powers 12yr remains available in the US! It’s become a real favorite of mine.

  8. Scribe says:

    Great post, a good read, and very helpful to keeping my “shopping list” current! Thanks for the report!

  9. GAry says:

    I am a big Irish Whiskey fan. Hope to see some of these in the States eventually.

  10. I’m very excited about these new soon to be releases, and look forward to sampling many 🙂 Great to see Irish whiskey coming strong with even more “good” product!! Keep em coming! Options are always beneficial to the consumer.

  11. Nathan says:

    I think it’s great that Irish whiskey, and specifically pot still, is coming (back) into its own with releases and experimentation like this. Redbreast is such an excellent product, and I think it’s high time it had some brethren on the shelves internationally. Now… where can we get some samples? 😀

  12. I had the privilege of attending the event yesterday.

    The Powers Johns Lane Distillery 12yo 46% ncf is the first single pot still to bear the name Powers since 1963 and has been eagerly awaited by Irish Whiskey fans. Big & robust.

    The Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy 46% ncf is a new departure and is an all bourbon cask single pot still in the style of the Midleton Very Rare (except without the grain). Elegant!

    The current Powers 12yo will remain, which is good news.

    Midleton have made a commitment to bring out a couple /few releases every year going forward.

    They confirmed a new edition of Redbreast later this year. Fingers crossed for an 18yo.

    Finally on the ‘sulphured’ cask, it was 16yo cask strength heavy pot still 2nd fill sherry cask, i think what Lew is describing is a the full on impact of the sherry cask, I could get the note he described but I thought it was more reminiscent of the full on style some sherry heads enjoy.

  13. DenisL says:

    It is great to see Irish whiskey coming into it’s own and garnering more attention. Nice post Lew, but you didn’t say what you did once the sun came out and you left the warehouse? A creamy pint of Beamish would be how i would have capped the day!

  14. JC Skinner says:

    The appearance of two new potstill whiskeys after so long is proof that God indeed does listen to our prayers sometimes.

  15. ray says:

    Redbreast 18? That sounds interesting!

  16. Serge says:

    Hi Lew, was great to meet you there. Truly excellent report, only one tiny mistake: I think the very engaging and knowledgeable cooper was Ger Buckley, not Butler.

    • Lew Bryson says:

      Nice to meet you as well, Serge; a good event. You’re right on the cooper; John, could you fix that? I was typing way too fast on that, surprised I didn’t make more mistakes, but I wanted to get it done before we were bussed back to the distillery.

  17. I was lucky enough to be in Midleton on the day also. I enjoyed Lew’s report and agree with most of it. I was with TheWhiskeyBro and a couple others when we tried to dissect the Mod Pot 4 Sherry Cask. Definitely a big burly whiskey but we were not overly confident that it was sulphur that was there. Now maybe we are listening too closely to IDL and their insistence that they don’t use sulphured casks and we could not deny that there was a big something on the end of it but I was not totally convinced it was actually sulphur either. Is this possibly the Mod Pot 4 style of big meaty flavours? Or are these meaty flavours an indication of sulphur, I really don’t know so won’t argue it too strongly but would love to be able to dissect it further in a more controlled environment. However this is certainly not a whiskey to be bottled on it’s own and will not either according to IDL These type whiskeys are used sparingly and more so as building blocks rather than leading flavour profiles. The Madeira was certainly a candidate to be bottled straight but IDL actually have never used it to date and have no plans to but maybe after the reaction they got they might get a few ideas. Lastly the B0 or virgin Oak. This was initially a wonderfully elegant and sweet vanilla dominated whiskey as Lew pointed out but for me the finish was not the best as I felt there was way too much wood there. This is the whiskey that they use to give the Jameson Gold such a lovely light lift. And that just goes to show how tastes really differ. By the way well done on such a quick write-up sometimes it’s good to do it when fresh in the mind as I only got mine fully together today …

  18. […] Hansell of Malt Advocate writes this week also about the Midleton presentation of their new single pot still whiskeys. He does a tasting of the Gordon and MacPhail Private […]

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