This is mastery of American oak! Polished wood, cinnamon cereals, dry spices of pepper, allspice, and paprika, and a riot of mostly overripe fruit: custard apple, mango, brown banana, baked apricot dessert, and fresh fig. Caramel, date slices, treacle, and cracker bread flavors are bathed in feisty pot still spices and fleeting green apple, before a lush, rich sweetness of banoffee pie, vanilla, and cinnamon descends. The finish is seemingly eternal.
Season 2 of Dair Ghaelach sees the action switch to six Irish oaks felled in a County Kilkenny bluebell forest. The balance of spice, toasted oak, and sweetness on the nose from tree one is singularly good, though clementine and grapefruit peel also clamor for attention. The acidity of the citrus collides with crunchy pot still spices, and grapefruit evolves into the most delicious ripe mango flavor. Simply heavenly.
Midleton Very Rare 30th Anniversary Pearl Edition, 53.1%
Irish Blended Whiskey | $6354
A marriage of a single cask of grain from 1981 with a cask of pot still from 1984 to celebrate 30 years of Midleton Very Rare, the job undertaken masterfully by Barry Crockett and Brian Nation. The expressive nose is redolent of polished antique violin, warm gingerbread, the herbal tinges pricked by spices. Delicate honey, rich vanilla, toasty oak, and tendrils of cinnamon segue into a dry, spicy conclusion. La Peregrina of Irish whiskey. Ain’t she a beauty? (117 bottles) €6,000
Midleton 175th Anniversary Bottling, 26 year old, 40%
Irish | $600.00
Deep amber color with shade of ruby. Sweet aromas of ripe fruit, oak, caramelized sugar, rum, and creamy vanilla. Full in body for an Irish whiskey, with a silky, creamy texture. Voluptuous flavors of burnt sugar, rum, honeyed fruit, creamy vanilla, and spice cake.
Style: Irish pure pot still whiskey.Price: approximately $600. Extremely limited availability-around 400 bottles for the United States.
Here's a whiskey the blends the old with the new. The whiskey was distilled at the old Midleton distillery, which has been dismantled. After spending most of its life in sherry and bourbon casks, it was then finished off in port pipes. It maintains its Irish-ness, its pot still character is both satisfying and reassuring, and the port pipe aging introduces flavors that make the whiskey very intriguing. An outstanding product!
Make way. The nose is dense, oily, and mesmeric. There’s vanilla, sure, but it’s the intense aroma of vanilla pods split and scraped at knifepoint. Woven around it, there’s crème caramel and heavier cinnamon flaring at the margins, softening with dilution, but remaining sweet. The first Midleton to carry master distiller Brian Nation’s name is purposeful and assured, lacking some of the sappiness of the 2013 release. This is less about succession, more an emphatic statement of intent.
This year’s edition contains some of the oldest whiskey they’ve ever put into Very Rare. A pronounced spicy nose, with sweet barley, dried apple, crisp grains, sweet baklava, and squishy cubes of rose-scented Turkish delight. In the mouth, it’s incredibly smooth and glossy; quite honeyed, subtle soft fruits, raspberry, apple, mixed peel, butterscotch, baked orange, and a hearty spice core. A creamy finish, where the spices outlast the fruit.
This year’s liquid missive from head distiller Brian Nation has a nose of caramel, macaroons, and beeswax with green, grassy notes. The first sip evokes barley sugar, which grows into a citrus glow, nourished by some green oak and a little white pepper. It has lovely poise this year, effortlessly lighter on the tongue than the 2015 or 2014 creations. The conclusion is slightly nutty with soothing oak.
Like the man himself, this is altogether more considered and elegant, mixing whiskeys up to 25 years old for a complex and less bruising experience than the Powers. Instead, lemon and lime zest, kumquat, and blood orange entwine themselves around vanilla, nutmeg, and soft, drying tannins. No big knockout punches, but it goes the distance and wins unanimously and easily on points. €160 (Currently not available in the U.S.)
From this first-fill bourbon cask emerge light, delicate, aromatic fruits: think white peach, poached pear, and lychee with creamed coconut, nutmeg-spiced latte, Simnel cake, Chinese five-spice, and richer apple notes. A seemingly chaste dram that begins with honey, egg-washed brioche, stewed pears, and slender pink rhubarb before innocence is lost as sweet bursts of fruit explode, while dark vanilla, clove, rum and raisin, chocolate, and rye divert the action. Dried apple with Christmas spices marks the finish. (186 bottles, The Whisky Exchange only) £245
Virgin Irish oak-finished Midleton single pot still whiskeys aged from 15 to 22 years take pot still into exciting new territory. The native pot still spiciness is enveloped by chocolate-covered honeycomb, toasty oak, spotty bananas, and a barista’s coffee scoop, though a dash of water picks out lemongrass and rubbed mint. A silky smooth mouthfeel of succulent fruits is shaken down with cocoa powder. Black currant squares up as heavy pot incarnate. Clove-spiked stewed apple weighs into a lengthy finish.
Named for the distillery of the same name, and where many other well-know Irish blends are produced (including Jameson, Powers, Paddy, and Tullamore Dew). This is the distillery’s ultra-premium blend offering. The whiskey is somewhat shy and bashful in personality (when compared to its pure pot still siblings like Redbreast and the quite rare Jameson 15 year old) and really takes some patience to appreciate its subtle beauty. Sweet notes of honeyed malt and vanilla up front, with a hint of marshmallow and summer fruits. The palate eventually dries out nicely and deepens, evolving into a medley of subtle spice. Very drinkable.
Master distiller Brian Nation is really getting into his stride now. This vintage has creamed coconut, Jersey milk, vanilla desserts, crystallized jellies, fresh orange peel, and dry spices. To drink it is to celebrate American oak; creamy, golden, polished, with peach, honey, sherbet, sugars, butter frosting, sponge cupcakes, almond biscuits, and Quaker oatmeal squares. Spices are reactivated at the swallow. You have a whole year to enjoy this until the next one arrives. Really, there’s no excuse.