Whisky Advocate

Whisky Advocate’s 19th Annual Whisky Award: Irish Whiskey of the Year

January 24th, 2013

Yellow Spot, 46%, €65

After the fireworks of 2011, when five Irish whiskeys were good enough to have won this title in any other year, 2012 was always going to be tamer. And so it proved to be, made the more so with category innovator Cooley becoming part of the Beam stable, and the subsequent departure of Jack Teeling and his maverick whiskey maker Alex Chasko. They are already up to mischief with their new operation, the Teeling Whiskey Company. Watch this space.Yellow Spot Whiskey

While Irish Distillers didn’t go for lots of new releases in 2012, its one contribution was dripping in quality. Yellow Spot was something of a shock, looking back to the 1950s to take pot still whiskey in a brand new direction. In doing so, they re-established their link with Dublin wine and spirit retailer Mitchell & Sons, who used to buy barrels of whiskey from the Midleton distillery, and used a color spot system to identify their age.

This, then, is an older sibling to the much-loved Green Spot, and is 12 years old. The shock part comes from the fact that, in addition to pot still whiskey matured in bourbon and sherry casks, some of the whiskey has been fully matured in casks previously used for Malaga wine. It makes a difference. This whiskey flip-flops dramatically. There are green apple, oily malt, nutmeg, and spice notes, as you’d expect from an aged pot still whiskey, but there’s vanilla and marzipan and some sweet fruit, too. This whiskey takes an affectionate glance at Speyside, then decides it is still Irish after all. Just a little sweeter than normal. Unique, and a game changer. —Dominic Roskrow

The Japanese Whisky of the Year will be announced tomorrow.

 

17 Responses to “Whisky Advocate’s 19th Annual Whisky Award: Irish Whiskey of the Year”

  1. Luke says:

    A terrific whiskey and a worthy winner!

    IDL’s decision to eschew wood finishes has set down a marker for quality, let’s hope the rest of the industry takes note

  2. Jim Clarke says:

    It’s a stunning whiskey, no doubt about it.

  3. Tim Read says:

    Again, obvious winner in this category. I’m not really a fan of Irish whisky and still found loads that I loved about this one. Tons of honey and sweetness with more developed flavor thanks to the age and casks. A slam dunk over Redbreast anything, IMO

    • Luke says:

      Including Redbreast 12 Cask-Strength?

      • Tim Read says:

        Luke –

        Unlike Dominic, I definitely have a preference for Yellow Spot over R12 Cask Strength. I can certainly appreciate the boldness of Redbreast; it’s got loads of flavor and tons of dimension to it. In rereading my notes from last year I’m not entirely sure why I thought it only merited a low B grade (it reads like a straight B to me). I think it could be as Dominic says, that the category is an acquired taste.

        Yellow Spot is just amazing, perfectly balanced, with some spice and richness to balance the honey. For me it’s far and away the best Irish I’ve had – and maybe because in part because it drinks similarly to a single malt in a way that even Green Spot doesn’t. To me, I could see it sitting very comfortably beside Cardhu or Old Pulteney.

        It may be a thing where if you’re more happy with Irish whiskey in general, you might find Redbreast (12, 15, or Cask Strength) to your liking. I’m not ashamed to admit I don’t entirely get the category myself yet. This might be a personal taste thing or it might be more akin to acclimating to high-rye whiskies after a lifetime of high-corn bourbons…

        That said, in the world of Irish whiskey, I don’t think you can go wrong with either. This single malt lover prefers Yellow Spot though.

        Well, at least until I try that Powers John’s Lane – we’ll see where that lands. :)

        • MrTH says:

          Funny, I don’t really “get” Irish whiskey myself, but love Redbreast 12CS–it strikes me as very Scotch-like. (I know that’s a bit of a back-handed compliment, but there you go.) I guess I’m going to have to find some Yellow Spot at some point.

        • Luke says:

          Tim, I suspect you’ll find Power’s John’s Lane 12 YO very much to your liking – more strident than Yellow Spot without the “Robust” profile of Redbreast.

          Have Fun!!!

  4. OudErnest says:

    Is it available in the U.S.? I know Green Spot isn’t.

  5. Peter T. says:

    I almost bought a bottle of this in London at BB&R’s. Instead I got the blue hanger 6th release. I guess I should’ve bought both now. The fellow there did say that yellow and green spot should be available in the United States in the near future. Any info on that? Here’s hoping.

  6. Jim Clarke says:

    Last I heard, Green and Yellow Spot would be heading transatlantic later this year.

  7. Dominic Roskrow says:

    I’ve been receiving a lot of texts and tweets over the last few hours and along with everything said above I reckon this might just be the most popular choice I’ve ever been involved with. The most interesting aspect for me are the comments with reference to Redbreast. I maintain that last year’s winner, Redbreast 12 year old cask strength, is the best Irish whiskey I’ve ever tasted and for me, it would have beaten Yellow Spot. But I think the comment about Redbreast here focuses on the crucial point. Pot still as we knew it before Yellow Spot was an acquired taste and not for everyone. Yellow Spot is sweeter and takes the category somewhere entirely new while not sacrificing any of the key characteristics of pot still whiskey. Hence Tim’s comment. I think this is great news and it’s a clear indication that Irish Distillers intends to set the pace as Irish whiskey looks to maintain its momentum and excite us in the future. Oh, and I spoke to two Irish independent producers today, and I can guarantee that 2013 is going to be a roller coaster ride in this category. Bring it on!

    • Luke says:

      Dominic, in my opinion Power’s John’s Lane just pips Redbreast 12 CS, but perhaps that’s just “Oul’ Dublin” partiality to Power’s on my part!

  8. Sean says:

    Anyone know if this is available duty free. My brother is heading to Ireland soon and if so…would love to try it.

    • Luke says:

      Sean, there should be decent stock of this in Dublin Airport. Keep your eyes peeled for it though, for some strange reason they tend not to display it prominently…

  9. Dominic Roskrow says:

    I think a lot of people would agree with the Powers John’s Lane choice, but did you see what we did there? We had a debate over three different pot still whiskeys! That means we’re getting more choice and variety from Ireland and that’s great for the category. Irish Distillers must have more to offer, too, because I just tasted a sample of a cask of pot still whiskey it gave to the Irish Whiskey Society and it is great. If it’s giving away that stuff, how great is the stuff it’s keeping hold of?

  10. Brian McNally says:

    Dublin airport duty free has had plenty of Yellow Spot, Redbreast 12, RB 12 cask strength, RB 15, and Powers John’s Lane, at least in my recent trips through. I have brought back bottles of each and lo, the cupboard is already again bare!

    I agree with the views expressed that this is a time of an abundance of riches for Irish whisky lovers. My next trip is in a week and I will be bringing back Yellow Spot and John’s Lane, as the RB bottlings are available in the US while those two are not.

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