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