Last night The Dead Rabbit, in association with Midleton Distillery, hosted the Irish Whiskey Academy. It was a wonderfully educational event which was much more than just a simple tasting. They took us through the history of Irish whiskey and walked us through the whiskey making process from barley all the way to maturation. While not as well known as scotch whisky, Irish whiskey is the fastest growing category in the whisky market. It still has a ways to go in order to catch-up but Midleton Distillery has a plan to grow demand for the spirit over the next 10 years. See this post for detailed history on Midleton Distillery.
The spirit distilled at Midleton starts with the terroir. As you know Irish single pot still whiskey is made of only three ingredients – barley, water and yeast. Those of you who are into locally sourced ingredients will appreciate what they’re doing at Midleton. The water is sourced from Dungorny River which runs right through the distillery. It’s said that the water has the correct mineral balance for whiskey making. They source barley from Munster province (which is the province in which Midelton resides). One of the things that distinguishes single pot still whiskey is that they use both unmalted and malted barley. Single malt whisky is made of malted barley only. The unmalted barley has a higher starch content which contributes to a rich and creamy mouth feel. At Midleton their mixture is approximately 40% malted barley and 60% unmalted barley.
Midleton distills their whiskey three times and the result is a new make spirit that is about 84% ABV. Of course after aging and blending the whiskey is eventually bottled between 40-46% ABV. They age their whiskey in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry barrels. Billy Leighton, the Master Blender, keeps track of over 1.2 million barrels of inventory. He tastes and ultimately blends the spirit that we’re able to purchase. Midleton plans to release two new whiskies per year for the next 10 years.
We were able to try five expressions: Green Spot, Redbreast 12, Powers John’s Lane Release, Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy and a bonus new make distillate. I’ve reviewed Green Spot and Redbreast so I won’t rehash those. Below are some quick tasting notes for the other three.
Powers John’s Lane Release
Nose: vanilla, white grapes, caramel, honey, leather, hints of beef jerky
Mouth: full bodied, honey, vanilla
Finish: green apples, spices, oaky
Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy
Nose: vanilla, butterscotch, orange citrus
Mouth: oranges, very soft mouth feel, cereal, powdered sugar
Finish: soft and mellow, fades out nicely
New make distillate
Nose: nutty, stone fruits (peaches), cocoa
Mouth: starchy rich mouth feel, spicy, hot!, tropical fruits (mango, pineapple, peaches), brown sugar
Finish: stone fruits, spicy
I absolutely loved the new make distillate because of it’s tropical fruit character and powerful mouth feel. It’s also absolutely unique in that you would never see something like this on a shelf or in a bar. Hopefully Midleton releases some cask strength whiskey in the US market. Keep your eyes out for the incoming Irish whiskey invasion.
Also lastly, if you’re interested in Irish whiskey in any form (neat, in a cocktail, etc.) I’d suggest you check out The Dead Rabbit. They’re passionate about Irish whiskey and they make some of the mighty tasty cocktails. Make sure you try their Irish Coffee – it’s divine.