Seeing Spots in Dublin

I arrived in Ireland earlier this week to take part in "Whiskey Week" activities that culminate with the second annual Whisky Live Dublin show on Saturday. The whiskey -- and the news -- is already flowing.

In line with both current rumours and past public statements about the expected frequency of new Single Pot Still (SPS) bottlings, Irish Distillers Ltd. (IDL) and Mitchell & Son last night introduced -- re-introduced actually -- Yellow Spot. We had a chance to sample the newest addition to the SPS line and the sibling to the legendary Green Spot whiskey at a tasting at WJ Kavanagh's gastropub in northside Dublin.

IDL's Seamus Lowry presents the newest Single Pot Still Whiskey, Yellow Spot

Yellow Spot has three components each matured a full 12+ years in bourbon barrels, Spanish sherry butts and Spanish Malaga wine casks. (As David Havelin notes in his first-to-the-web Liquid Irish blog posting last night, IDL does not issue finished whiskeys, and this may be the first-ever use of Malagan casks at Midleton.) It is non-chill filtered and is bottled at 46% ABV.

That compares to
Green Spot as a 40% ABV, no-age-statement mix of 7- to 10-year-old whiskeys aged in bourbon barrels and sherry butts (about a 3:1 combination). They are very much siblings in the sense that they are alike but distinctly different. A few of us tried them side by side and noted the clear differences between Green Spot's crisp barley-grain "flintiness" and the contribution of the Malagan cask to Yellow Spot's complexity and delightfully nimble finish. You will want to spend time with this dram.

For many years, Green Spot was the sole survivor of an entire line of "Spot" whiskeys issued by Mitchell & Son. There also were Yellow Spot, Blue Spot and Red Spot, with the names corresponding to a daub of paint applied to the casks to indicate the ages of the whiskeys inside. All but Green Spot disappeared by the 1960s as the Irish whiskey industry was doing all it could simply to survive.

Yellow Spot begins the re-birth of that broader line and honors the paint-spot heritage with it's labeling. Interestingly, it seems entirely appropriate that Malagan wine casks were used in its creation. World demand for Malaga and other sweet wines had dropped steadily in the 20th century until its production was nearly stopped entirely. But just as with Irish whiskey and SPS whiskeys in particular, there is a resurgence of interest in fine dessert wines. 

Yellow Spot's spot in the Single Pot Still Whiskey Range

Here are the official tasting notes:
Nose: The initial freshly mown hay aroma is given substantial depth by the typical Pot Still spices. Red bell peppers, freshly ground nutmeg, a tincture of clove oil and a splash of green tea, balanced with the sweet soft nose of honey and peaches contributed by the Malaga wine casks seasoned in Andalucia. An exquisite sensory experience.

Taste: The mouth coating sensation to be expected from this Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey is apparent from the first sip. Honey sweetness with Pot Still spices, slowly gives way to a spectrum of flavours, from the depth of freshly ground coffee, up through creamy milk chocolate to crème brûlée, picking up some red apples and toasted oak along the way.

Finish: Sophisticated and complex, the sweetness of the initial sip remains throughout, with a beautifully succulent mix of red grape and dry barley grains at the exit.
The pot still spice is very much there, along with a distinct yet subtle fruitiness that to me was evocative not just of red apple but red apple peel with both sweetness and a tannin-like dryness. The toasted oak was folded in there also. I'm looking forward to exploring it more soon.

I'm attending the week's activities both as a member of the Irish Whiskey Society here and the president and founder of the Irish Whiskey Society of America. A few members of the American chapter are here in Dublin also, some of whom I'm meeting for the first time.  More on that later.

Even though it's a very limited release I hope to offer Yellow Spot at a special members' tasting in America very soon. That will be a treat as there are no stated plans to offer any of the "Spots" in the U.S. market. It is priced at about $80 per bottle for those of you planning to snag some from Ireland.

Finally, a special thanks to Michael Foggarty, the proprietor of both Kavanagh's on Upper Dorset Street and it's acclaimed sibling, L. Mulligan on Stonybatter. Not only is the food outstanding, but Michael's tremendous selection of craft beers and whisk(e)ys is extraordinary. Michael too also was instrumental in the founding and early success of the Irish Whiskey Society. If you are in Dublin, both of his establishments are not only recommended but a must, really.

As John Jameson was, Michael is a Scotsman


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