Irish Distillers Ltd has reinforced its commitment to rejuvenating the Single Pot Still whiskey style with the release of ten exclusive Single Pot Still single cask whiskeys under the celebrated Midleton brand.
The new expressions highlight the complexity, elegance and balance associated with the Midleton range and have been released exclusively to key accounts in Ireland, France, Germany and the UK.
The new releases follow the launch of Irish Distillers Ltd’s first Single Pot Still single cask customer exclusive at the Celtic Whisky Shop, in November 2010, which saw the retailer sell out of its limited bottle. This success has led Irish Distillers Ltd to extend the initiative to six retailers across Europe and now also includes James Fox Cigar and Whiskey Store, Dublin Airport, La Maison du Whisky, Irisch Lifestyle and The Whisky Exchange. Each retailer is offering their customers between one and three expressions bearing the name of the retailer, the cask number and the Midleton brand name.
Each bottling has been matured in ex-bourbon casks, true to the Midleton style, which have been charred and seasoned with bourbon. The individual casks, which were laid down between 1991 and 1999, have yielded, on average, 185 bottles – making the range highly collectable. Each expression is presented in a premium bottle, following the same design cues as Midleton Very Rare, the most exclusive whiskey produced at The Midleton Distillery.
Casks #7102 and #53735 are exclusive to La Maison du Whisky in Paris and illustrate the individuality of the Midleton Single Pot Still single cask releases. Bonded in 1999, cask #53735 has a light Single Pot Still style with a nose of delicate spice, perfumed rose petal with a touch of garden mint, while cask #7102, bonded two years earlier, is an example of the heavier Single Pot Still style with a balanced nose of spices, herbs and wood. Each of the ten expressions enjoys a long finish, which is typical of the Midleton range.
Barry Crockett, Master Distiller at Midleton Distillery, says: “The Midleton brand name is synonymous with excellence in craftsmanship and the extension of the Single Pot Still single cask releases has allowed us to further showcase the quality of the Single Pot Still style to whiskey connoisseurs, who eagerly anticipate opportunities to taste Midleton whiskeys. The response to the release of cask #71578 in 2010 was phenomenal, so I anticipate a similar reaction this year and look forward to discussing each cask with Single Pot Still whiskey advocates.”
The Irish whiskey category has experienced a near 8% compound annual growth rate between 2005-2010 and its annual 4.9m case sales is expected to reach 7.9m cases by 2016*. Category growth has been boosted with a resurgence in the popularity of the Single Pot Still Irish whiskey style, led by Irish Distillers Ltd. In 2012, work began on a €200 million expansion of Midleton Distillery, significantly increasing its production capability and capacity.
Jameson is a brand that you see everywhere. Most pubs, bars and restaurants stock the brand, or at least one of the expressions, and is more than usually the first name to be mentioned when talking about Irish whiskey. But it wasn’t all plain sailing.
Irish whiskey covered 80% of the world export market back until the 1900’s when an unfortunate twist of events occurred. The institution of the Irish Free State in the early 20th century caused a fatal trade war with Great Britain, closing down the Irish Distillers’ main market, and then the US Prohibition declaration in 1920 served a nail in the coffin. With no way to export their local trade, the majority of the Irish distilleries closed or merged together, leaving only three distilleries running compared to the abundance of Scottish venues. The New Middleton distillery houses Jameson, a brand that has been alive since 1780 and has fought its way through the Irish hardship and bad luck.
Created by Scotsman John Jameson and with is backing of the family motto ‘Sine Metu’ meaning ‘Without Fear’ (awarded for their bravery in battling pirates on the high seas back in the 1500s), he moved to Dublin in 1879, set up his Bow Street Distillery to make his mark on the whiskey world and created what he thought was the smoothest whiskey around due to using a triple-distilled method instead of the usual double-distilled adopted by the Scots, as well as using a traditional copper pot still.
The introduction of column stills by the Scottish blenders in the mid-19th-century enabled increased production that the Irish, who still using the copper pot stills, could not compete with. There was a legal enquiry in 1908 to deal with the trade definition of whiskey, which the Scottish producers won and blends became recognised in law as whiskey. The Irish in general, and Jameson in particular, continued with the traditional pot still production process for many years and to this day much of Jameson remains Pure Pot.
The production has now moved to the Midleton distillery and as of 1988 is owned by Pernod Ricard. The Bow Street site is currently a museum and visitors centre. Jameson is made following the original 1780 recipe that uses a mixture of malted and unmalted or “green” Irish barley, all sourced from within a fifty mile radius around the distillery in Cork. The barley is dried in a closed kiln fired by natural gas to preserve its flavour. It is then distilled three times in copper pot stills and matured in ex bourbon and sherry casks for at least seven years.
So how does Jameson fair? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on my experiences so far –
Jameson Original – 40%
Matured for at least seven years. Soft hints of vanilla on the nose with a light, smooth aroma boding well for the long offering on the palate. Smoother offering of grain and honey with a slight dryness near the end.
Jameson Select Reserve – 43%
Produced using a small batch of grain collected once a week per year from a field that is never touched thereafter. Around 10 years matured. Slightly sharp nose at the beginning but softens out with a wisp of smoke. Sweet offering on the palate with very smooth texture of toffee and lingering smoke.
Jameson Gold Reserve – 40%
Matured in original fresh oak barrels, then ex bourbon barrels and finished in ex sherry casks. Rich malt on the nose with almond aromas dancing nicely. Very smooth when it hits the palate with flavours of honey and oak mixing well. A long finish of malt.
Jameson 18yr – 40%
Bold with lots of flavours of honey, cherry, caramel and dark fruits mixing well on the nose. They carry onto the palate and change slowly as you breath in. A lengthy finish which is incredibly smooth.
Jameson 2007 Rarest Vintage Reserve – 46%
Blended with some of the oldest and rarest whiskeys from Jameson’s maturing stock – one of which was a pot-still whiskey matured in a port pipe.
Light on the nose with a slight spice and hints of vanilla and butter. The palate lingers with fudge and buttery notes creating a long, slightly dry finish.
Very smooth on the nose with a rich malt aroma dominating, but notes of sweetness following. The palate experiences a slight spice that warmly tingles. Honey, chocolate and red fruit blend over the longevity.
Green Spot – 40%
A nose of damp raisin and hints of marzipan, with an ending of dry wood. A rich sharpness on the palate with a full bodied flavour of thick green fruit that produced a fresh, long finish.
The Whiskey Makers Series:
Jameson The Distiller’s Safe – 40%
The Distiller’s Safe celebrates the role of Jameson’s Head Distiller, Brian Nation, and is a true showcase of the original copper pot still distillate.
Barley notes on the nose, with sweetened green pepper and a floral edge.Lively on the palate, with cinnamon and nuts coming through. Heated, long finish with plenty of vibrant spice.
Jameson The Cooper’s Croze – 40%
Matured in virgin American oak barrels, seasoned bourbon barrels and Iberian sherry casks, and named after Jameson’s Head Cooper, Ger Buckley and his prized possession – a croze – passed down through his family. A tool used to make the groove where the head of the cask is positioned!
Subtle notes of ripe red fruits, with hints of the deep sherry coming through slowly. Light on the palate, with some vanilla and hazelnut present. A bolder finish.
Jameson The Blender’s Dog– 40%
The Blender’s Dog celebrates the role of Jameson Head Blender, Billy Leighton; a tribute to the fine art of blending.
Light, fresh fruit pulp, bringing pineapple and kiwi to the nose. Dry spices dominate the palate, releasing a rich butterscotch and charred cherry oak to the finish.
A good blend of soft caramel and toffee aromas on the nose, with both carrying on to the palate. The caramel becomes a little salted, with pepper flavours mixing with spice to create a lingering finish.
Jameson Crested– 40%
Launched globally in March 2016, is a triple-distilled Irish Whiskey that celebrates the first drops of whiskey to be bottled, sealed and labelled at the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin, marking the moment in time (1963) when Jameson took full control of the whiskey making process, from grain to glass. Jameson Crested brings together rich pot still Irish Whiskey and grain whiskey, matured in a high proportion of sherry casks, as well as bourbon barrels.
Sherry notes are visible on the nose, with it carrying on smoothly to the palate. Dry oak is present, with hints of spice, cocoa nib and red fruit.
Jameson Signature Reserve – 40%
Jameson Signature is a triple-distilled Irish Whiskey that bears the signature of John Jameson, a mark of quality that has appeared since the early days of the Bow Street Distillery, when all casks were signed off by John Jameson.
Subtle honey notes on the nose, with hints of leather, nuts and dried raisin. Heather dominates the palate to begin, but moves over to a honey coating, with plenty of dried red fruits and currants on the long finish.
The Deconstructed Series:
The Deconstructed Series is a range of super-premium Irish Whiskeys that explores the key flavour notes of the original Jameson Irish Whiskey.
Jameson Bold – 40%
Influenced by pot still whiskey. Rich, creamy notes on the nose with soft fruits. Sweet on the palate, with notes of baked apple pie and soft spices on the long, bold finish.
Jameson Lively– 40%
Influenced by grain whiskey. Floral citrus notes on the nose, followed by light, thin flavours of dry citrus, chilli and black pepper on the palate. Intense spiced finish.
Jameson Round – 40%
Influenced by the wood contribution. Soft red fruit on the nose, with hints of fudge coming though. An oily butter note on the palate, with vanilla and cherry spices to finish.
The Palace Hotel in Manchester was the host of the biggest whisky festival outside of London, so big in fact that there had to be two sessions and two floors. The Whisky Lounge were the proud organisers for the 4th year in a row and had on offer the crème de la crème of the whisky world from both Scotland and Ireland, and even threw in Japan, England and America for good measure. Part of the Manchester Food & Drink Festival, there would be a host of seminars and masterclasses on offer including The Magnificent Seven, hosted by Colin Dunn of Diageo, which took you through an in-depth look into their varied portfolio. Joe Clark of The Whisky Lounge also offered his advice for novices of whisky festivals and helped pave the way of how to get the most out of the drams on offer. To cap the morning session off, Ryan Williams of Buffalo Trace was to be on hand to guide enthusiasts through the award-winning distillery and their delights. This year I myself didn’t participate in any of the workshops on offer, but took full advantage of scanning the list for new additions, rare offerings and old favourites – including a rum from the guys at Berry Bros and Rudd.
Below, in order I sampled, I give to you my tasting notes on the mornings offerings –
The Classic at cask strength. Floral and very clean on the nose with a sweet maltness and a creamy flavour on the palate. Lingering finish. Smoother with drops of water with a slight power kick at the end.
Suntory Yamazaki 12yr – 43%
Light on the nose with aromas of honey, vanilla and peach. Becomes a little sweeter on the palate with spice lingering and a long finish.
On the nose, a very light offering of vanilla and butterscotch creates a smooth, soft and slightly sweet aroma. A sweeter taste of honey and vanilla with some intense fruits on the palate creates a rather creamier bourbon to almost class it as a dessert wine.
The nose enjoys delicate citrus notes with a slight mix of corn. As it hits the tongue, it gives a short, sharp hit but mellows quickly into a more distinctive citrus taste with a hint of barley coming through.
Strong and intense banana and toffee aroma with hints of leather and a rich sweet follow-through on the nose. Smooth with a slight smokiness and ginger and lime extracts on the palate with a long warm after-taste with subtle spice hints.
Ripe, fresh fruit on the nose with an aroma of pepper at the end. Rather dry on the palate with spice, rich fruit flavours creating a long finish.
As you can see, a rather diverse collection was available, as well as varieties that are already gracing the site including Ardbeg, Connemara and anCnoc. With a total of four hours per session, there’s more than enough to keep you busy, and the guys and girls behind the brands are more than willing to tell you everything you need to know.
I know for a fact I’ll be attending next years festival as it’s the perfect chance to try some whiskies that you may never be able to afford in a bar or restaurant, plus a great opportunity to sample some you may never thought you would like.
Theres many an Irish liqueur out on the shelves these days, Baileys probably springs to most minds, but theirs a relatively new brand shaking the branches, and is coming at a new angle than the traditional ‘cream liqueurs’. Drombeg is a natural, hand-crafted liqueur that is infused from Irish oak and sweet distillate using Irish spring water. Created by West Cork Distillers, themselves only founded back in 2008, it is one of only two non-sweetened savoury brown spirit liqueurs on the global market. With the lack of a ‘Baileys cream colour’, it can easily be mistaken for whiskey which is something Drombeg have been taking full advantage of by promoting the brand to customers who are attracted by Irish whiskey brands, but are looking for a lower alcohol alternative.
The name itself is taken from Ireland’s oldest stone circle that dates back to as early as 150BC. Drombeg carries on the tribute to the ancient monument by distilling and maturing the spirit close by.
So how does this mystical oak wood matured premium spirit fair? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Drombeg – 22%
Light and mild on the nose, with slight oak and caramel notes blending well. On the palate, instant smoothness with a creamy texture is noticeable with caramel dominating with a little smoky wood following. Very long-lasting effect with hints of sweetness to finish.
This is a little different to what you may expect an Irish liqueur to be, but it’s a great start-up to becoming an Irish whiskey fan as well as a good substitute from the usual ‘cream liqueurs’.
Especially if you try the simple mix of Drombeg with a splash of ginger ale and a twist of lime. Sláinte!