Lately here on Miss Whisky, I’ve been ignoring single malt Scotch a wee bit. That’s not because we’ve fallen out at all. Far from it; we’re still on a fantastic journey together. But I am also trying to make way for other interesting drams to get some air time.
One theme of late has been blends (here, here and here), and remembering just how fantastic a well-made blend can be.
And the other night, I moved myself outside of blends and Scottish single malt to take my tastebuds on a journey to that beautiful land to the west: Ireland.
Last year around this time, I really discovered Irish whiskey for the first time at an epic evening at The Whisky Exchange with Midleton master distiller Barry Crockett. I had only had a few tipples of Irish whiskey before that (a standard Jameson here, a Connemara there, a dash of RedBreast to top things off). These had mostly been imbibed on a trip Ireland, during which I fell so head over heels in love with its landscapes, culture and people, that it ended up on my list of top countries I’ve visited.
By the end of last year, I’d tried quite a few more at festivals and events, and even rated the Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy as one of my top drams of 2012.
And so, when Twitter Tasting champion Steve Rush asked if I’d like to partake in an evening of Irish drammage, I could hardly say no.
I’ve written about tweet tastings before on Miss Whisky but if you’re unfamiliar with them, you can read about them further in this post on a Berry Bros & Rudd tasting and this other post on an Old Ballantruan tasting.
On the night in question, I was joined by a swathe of other whisky loving folks across the UK and abroad, including @Edinburghwhisky, @whiskydiscovery, @TheWhiskyBoys & @whiskytube among many others.
The drams for the evening were ones I had tried before but, as always, it is great to give them a sample again. In order, they were the RedBreast 12, Green Spot, Powers John’s Lane and Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy. All are made by Irish Distillers (owned by Pernod Ricard) and come out of the Midleton Distillery in Cork, in south east Ireland. They are a part of the company’s re-launch in 2011 of single pot still whiskeys and have seriously helped to raise the profile of Irish whiskey over the last (nearly) two years.
We started with the fantastic triple distilled RedBreast 12: one for any whiskey lover’s cupboard. On the nose, I got a mix of wafting caramel wafers, strawberry foams, golden raisins, toasted almonds, vanilla and fresh grass, while the palate was full of melting butter, hazelnut cake, booze soaked raisins, a hint of dark chocolate and lemon sugar. @TheWhiskyBoys got “Toffee wafers, slowly roasted logs, raspberry coulis and a light caramel latte” on the nose, while @fr1day said: “sherry notes add lovely depth to the marzipan, toffee, raisins and citrus peel chasing around my mouth.”It was agreed – across the board – that this was a fantastic dram and at £39 a bottle, well worth keeping around.
Next up was the Green Spot, made from 7-12 single pot still whiskies, of which one quarter have been matured in sherry casks. This was a classy whiskey filled with green apple skins, Maynards Fuzzy Peaches, unripe bananas, Greek yoghurt and fudge on the nose, and peach, caramel, apple, loads of banana foam candies and grapefruit pith on the palate. @Dramstats picked up “Hob nobs, buttery crumble, herbal note, a touch of menthol and double cream” on the nose, while on the palate @ifotou said it was “very sweet, definite banana tropical notes, maybe even some pineapple juice in there, goes a little tarte after a while too.” It was agreed that at around £35 a bottle and 40% ABV this is a bit of a session whiskey – one to really impress friends with and enjoy at length!
The third whiskey was a solid favourite for many people on the night – not my first choice but definitely a winner for the crowd. The Powers John’s Lane comes in at 46% and is made from a combination of sherry and bourbon casks aged from between 12-14 years. On the nose, I picked up cowboy saddles, lemon peel, espresso, newspaper print, toasted hazelnuts and this cinnamon spread I ate as a kid in Canada. It was a beautiful nose – really complex and intriguing – but the palate had a slight bitterness on the night for me that I didn’t love. Still, in the mouth it provided notes of ginger spice, Shredded Wheat and oranges. It had a “winning nose” for @TheWhiskyBoys, who commented it was filled with “a big box of Thorntons truffles, a very small espresso, wet newspaper print, damp firewood” while @whiskytube said: “This is so thick it’s sticking my teeth together! Thick orange chocolate with liquid coffee liquor in the middle!” I think I will have to retry this one as it was definitely a winner for so many others that night.
Finally, we came to one of my favourite drams of last year: the Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy. This is also 46% and is made from a mix of bourbon cask matured whiskey and new American oak barrels. It is a stunning dram with notes, for me, on the nose of lime, coconut, melon, black pepper and lychees. On the palate it is all about mango and pineapple, with a depth that comes from notes of sea water & caramel. @Fr1day commented it was “So elegant! Beautiful interplay [between] oak and vanilla. Pears drizzled with cream” while @rodbodtoo said the nose had hints of “orange oil, fruit leather, praline, leather.” It was, we all agreed, an absolutely fabulous (though, very pricy) dram and we raised a glass to the soon to be retired master distiller it’s named after.
And so another Twitter tasting concluded. There was positive feedback all around for these whiskeys and I would happily recommend any of them to friends and family. If you’ve not had some great single pot still whiskey before, I suggest you get to a local bar to try some now. Or, better yet, check out this rather fabulous competition that is running with The Whisky Exchange, which I found out about recently!
Thanks to Steve Rush and Midleton Distillery for organising the tasting and providing samples.