Sláinte: The Irish Whiskey Blog
Sláinte: The Irish Whiskey Blog

Happy News Year!

Although fat-fingered typing is one of my specialties, that's not a typo in the headline. It's a comment on the amazing and encouraging growth in Irish whiskey in 2011, and in the whiskey/whisky world in general.


Congrats to Everyone in Kilbeggan, Riverstown, and Dublin!
Cooley as usual led the way with new releases at the begin
ning of (and throughout) 2011 and by re-shaping the market at the end of the year with its $95 million acquisition by Beam Global. It's a well-deserved accomplishment by the good folks at Cooley. Beam's worldwide reach promises to bring Cooley's great products and innovative spirit to a wider market, and rightfully so.

While it's natural to regret that are now no Irish-owned distilleries (at least in operation), Cooley's acquisition has a far more positive feel to it than the Pernod Ricard and Diageo acquistions of IDL and Bushmills in past years. Those came from troubled circumstances but have played out well, especially at IDL. But Cooley's "problem" of being a smaller player competing with multinational companies is one born of success, growth and greater opportunity. Cooley is not a case of a company in "poor old Ireland" that got gobbled up, but a new Irish model for the creation of value. And I don't just mean financial value but also that of innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and, of course, great, distinctly Irish products. Especially during a tough time in Ireland, it's definitely a reason to raise a glass to celebrate while contemplating new ventures and challenges.

IDL is the clear leader in terms of size. But it showed why its leadership comes from more than market presence when it re-introduced, re-branded and expanded its Single Pot Still (SPS), formerly Pure Pot Still, line of whiskeys in May and in October. Powers John's Lane Release 12-year-old and Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy whiskeys joined Red Breast and Green Spot in the SPS line and have wowed whiskey drinkers since.

The cask-strength version of the venerable and excellent Red Breast 12-year-old made its debut in the Fall to raves also. And just today Pernod announced it will make the cask-strength version available in the US next month. Look for it at about $65/bottle. And when you see it, get it. Don't think about it, just get it. At least one. The 40% ABV 12-year-old always wins converts and tastings. The 57.7% ABV cask strength version is simply wonderful stuff.

I'm often asked by drinkers and retailer alike when the fabulous Green Spot will land in America. No word on that yet, and I'm not sure if it will for some time as the volumes produced are relatively low. You'll still have to get yours in the US from Dublin or the random specialty retailer.

Bigger Still
Maybe that will change over time as IDL's expanded distillery capacity comes online. The planned €100 million ($130 million) expansion at Midleton has been accelerated based on market demand for IDL's products. That's good news for the Irish economy with 280 new jobs expected. It's also good news for whiskey drinkers looking for greater access to new and existing whiskeys.

Before and after aerial images of the Midleton Distillery Showing the new white cylindrical fermenting tanks near top left and the new stillhouse in the taller green building (think column stills) at top center. The 'after' image is a mockup, as is the artist's impression below showing a glassed-in stillhouse.

"Serious in the making, but not in the drinking..."
IDL has assembled a first-rate team that is producing first-rate whiskeys from the distillate, to the wood management program, to the aging and blending, to the product packaging and the marketing. Look for more extensions to the SPS line. And if you haven't tried regular old Jameson, Powers and the like, do so. They too are benefiting from the investment in quality people, process and product.

Meanwhile, to the north...
Diageo's Old Bushmills Distillery has been unusually quiet for an unusually long time as far as new whiskeys go. That may be a sign of changes and new whiskeys in the works. The current line-up includes some truly excellent blends and single malts (I describe the 21-year-old as "liquid sex." It's, um, very good.) With so much market growth as well as competitive pressure it seems likely that we'll see news coming out of Antrim before too much longer.

And it just keeps coming
As far as specific whiskeys, there have been so many and so many good ones that it's been hard to keep up. I actually have some whiskeys introduced last year that I have yet to open. And those are just the Irish ones, let alone the new Scotch, Japanese and American whiskys I have. But a few jump immediately to mind:

Tyrconell 11-year-old Sherry Cask finish at cask strength. Bottled for the Celtic Whiskey Shop and introduced at the first Whisky Live Dublin event in May. Wow! You've got to get it from the CWS in Dublin. Worth the dollar and the bother. Luscious and mouthwatering. Shows in a remarkable way what another year in the wood can do as it is a wonderful world apart from the 10-year-old 40% bottling from 2010.

Connemara Turf Mor. Peat heads unite. This is smoke, fruit, floral, smoke and more smoke. Flavor galore.  For you phenol counters its right up there with Ardbeg, beyond Laphroig (also owned by Beam Global, btw). Yum.

The entire IDL SPS line. Picking which one to drink on any given day is a fabulous problem. And the thought of extensions to that line makes me smile. And get thirsty. Great things coming out of Midleton and more ahead.

The SPS lineup -- minus the Red Breast Cask Strength

There are many more I could mention. The point is to pay more attention to Irish whiskeys, both existing brands that you thought you knew and new ones that you don't yet (as they say, no strangers, just friends we haven't met yet). Whiskey is all about flavor, variety, complexity and personal preference.  So pick up a bottle and share it with good company.

It has been such a busy and eventful year. That's one reason why this blog has gone stale at times in the past year. When new, unopened bottles are sitting on my shelf for months awaiting attention you know there are other demands and distractions in play. I'll be putting more time into the blog so don't count it out. The Irish Whiskey Society of America has been another thing taking time, but productively so. Still, it's ironic that I have less time to write because I'm spending more time with the subject. Anyway, please hang in there.

More soon.

Sláinte, and a great new year to everyone.

And Counting...

I was nearly organizing my whiskey collection the other day ("nearly" means moving bottles from one place to another vs. what might generally be considered "organizing"). That's when I noticed the numbers of new Irish whiskeys introduced this year. I started counting the ones on hand and others that either haven't joined me or been introduced to the U.S.

Best Guess
My count is preliminary but I came up with 14 new Irish whiskeys introduced in 2011:

Greenore 18-year-old
Kilbeggan 18-year-old
Tyrconnnell 11-year-old bourbon cask
Tyrconnell 11-year-old sherry cask
Connemara Amontillado finish single cask
Red Breast 12-year-old cask strength
Writer's Tear's cask strength
Green Spot
Midleton Barry Crockett Reserve
Powers John's Lane Reserve 12-year-old
Titanic 5-year-old
Titanic 10-year-old
Knappogue Castle 16-year-old Twin Wood
Michael Collins 10-year-old single malt

I include the Titanic whiskeys as they were announced in Belfast in May (at the site where the iceberg-bound ocean liner was built) though I haven't yet seen them available.  I also include Green Spot, while not a new brand, as the re-issue is essentially a new whiskey within the Midleton Single Pot Still line. Similarly, I left the "regular" Red Breast 12-year-old off the list as it was a re-packaging of the existing whiskey.

So that's 14, and counting, not yet 10 months into the year.

I'm sure I have left others off the list. Who did I leave out?


The Powers That Be. And Was.

The introduction earlier this year of Powers John's Lane Reserve single pot still whiskey was the debut of a terrific whiskey. I'm tempted to say "new" whiskey -- and it is -- but it's also a nod to the way and the location where Powers whiskey was made before the blending of grain whiskey in the 1970s. The former Powers distillery on John's Lane (off Thomas St) in Dublin was the largest distillery in Dublin, quite a lot larger than the Old Jameson Distillery across the river on Bow St. in Smithfield. The 7-acre site was one of the most impressive sights in Dublin in its day.

So it was fun to find some original photographs of the working distillery that were taken about 5 years before it closed and operations moved to Midleton in 1976. The pictures were taken for a Chicago Tribune article about Irish whiskey that ran in March 1971. Purchased from the Chicago Tribune archives, the pictures were the original prints with edit marks and cutlines (captions) pasted to the back of the photos. They give you glimpse into the recent past at the Powers Distillery. Here's a few:

The cutline says this is Technician Robert Blake checking on the 19,000-litre still.

The cutline says this is Paddy Keogh nosing the whiskeys

The site of the old distillery was subsequently occupied by the National College of Art and Design in 1980. Although most of the buildings including the stillhouse were razed, the Distiller's House on Thomas Street and the three huge pot stills were preserved outdoors. Although it is an active educational institution and not open to visitors per se, the stills may be seen on request if you ask at the college reception offices.

For more about the distillery including pictures of the former and present site check out the Powers John's Lane page on Heidi Donelen's Irish Whiskey Trail website. Also be sure to visit the Powers John's Lane Reserve Whiskey site and the Powers Gold Label site.



Apologies to all of you comment-ers out there in Internetland, but I had to turn off comment notification earlier this year due to a large amount of spam comments. The spam storm has passed (temporarily I'm sure), notifications are turned back on and your comments are up, live and definitely welcome. And, as it turns out, we're back up posting after a long hiatus.  Good to have you all back.


All Things Single Pot Still

IDL recently launched a new website devoted to its single pot still whiskeys. And like those whiskeys, it's worth spending some quality time with.

The SPS website landing page. The IDL's Master Blender Billy Leighton in the photo is a sumptuous and media-rich journey through the history, heritage and re-birth of traditional Irish pot still whiskey. The site includes photos, graphics and more than 40 minutes of HD videos hosted by whiskey author Peter Mulryan.

The videos especially are worth watching for behind-the-scenes looks at the New Midleton Distillery and interviews with the "Masters" at Midleton: Billy Leighton, Dave Quinn and Barry Crockett. It's about as close as you can come to your own VIP tour of the facility from your desktop. We got a clear sense of the excellent production values behind the site back in May, well before the site itself launched last month just by looking at all of the other collateral materials. It's extraordinarily well thought-out and executed.

As well it should be as it's presenting some truly excellent whiskeys. Those of us in America have to confine ourselves to the standard Red Breast 12- and Red Breast 15-year-old bottlings; the Green Spot, Power's John's Lane 12-year-old and Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy SPS entries are still tied up in the bureaucratic nomenclature limbo that was an impetus for the re-naming and re-branding of formerly "pure pot still" to "single pot still." No word yet on when that will be resolved but we're guessing Q1 next year.

We've already featured Green Spot and the wonderfully robust Power's John's Lane at an Irish Whiskey Society of America tasting this past spring and summer. We expect to be able to give you another advance taste of the other SPS whiskeys in the next few months so stay tuned. Meantime, you can whet your appetite -- and tease yourself a bit -- by learning all about each of the whiskeys at the SPS site.


Red Breast 12 Year-Old, Going Strong

At the May introduction of the its Single Pot Still (SPS) whiskey initiative, IDL stated that it would be extending the brands within the lineup -- Red Breast, Green Spot, Powers and Midleton -- and that Red Breast would be among the first.  That first promised introduction happened recently in Dublin with a cask-strength (57.7 % ABV) version of the quintessential Red Breast 12-year-old.

For an account of the launch event and some initial impressions of the cask-strength Red Breast check out David Havelin's account at Irish Whiskey Notes.

The standard Red Breast (40% ABV) is one of my favorite whiskeys in any category. It often tops the preferences when we include it at Irish Whiskey Society of America tastings. It's one of the best all-rounders and I use it as one of my standard Irish whiskey gifts.

The official tasting notes for the cask-strength bottling are:

A fruit explosion: figs, dates, ripe banana, sultanas, red apple and lime. Pot still spices combine with the sweet vanilla and pine from the casks.

Deep full dried fruit, a touch of citrus with aromatic oils and spices. Vanilla sweetness leads to toasted oak and barley.

Exceedingly long finish with a rich complexity of spices and fruit, slowly fading through sweet butterscotch to barley.


Availability in the U.S. is expected next February with pricing around $85.  We're keen to get hold of a bottle of the cask strength  and plan to do so within the next month or so.  We'll be back with some tasting notes and observations ASAP and will feature it at a coming IWSA tasting. Meantime if you procure one please share your impressions in the comments.

Puck of the Irish

I'm a lifelong Boston Bruins and hockey fan. So when my Irish Whiskey Society of America colleague Allan D. asked me the other day what whiskey I would pour to celebrate a Bruins Stanley Cup win, I thought it was an interesting question that deserved careful consideration (but NOT until Game 7 was done. It's playoff hockey and anything can happen.)

After watching the Bruins win the Cup for the first time in 39 years, I came up with an answer: I'm not going to pour a single whiskey. I'm going to pour two: some 36-year-old Knappogue Castle 1951 in appreciation of legacy, and of the time and effort it takes. Then some 3-year-old Kilbeggan Malt to toast something new, young and with great things ahead.


Pioneer-ing Irish Whiskey in America

At Irish Whiskey Society of America tastings we make -- and usually prove, I think -- the point that although we really like pretty much everything about the whiskey, it's not really about the whiskey in the end.  It's about the people, the conversations, the connections, the socializing, collectively also known as the craic.  Many times I've heard attendees say that they enjoyed expanding their knowledge of Irish whiskey, heritage and culture, but that they really liked sharing that experience with new and old friends.

We've also noticed that some good sports come along with whiskey-drinking attendees. These folks aren't really whiskey drinkers, or even drinkers beyond an occasional glass of something. They came for the social part or to be the designated driver. That makes them whiskey supporters, I suppose. They're important because they are there in support and really did come along for the craic, even if they never heard of the word.

We welcome those supporters. And in keeping with the "history and heritage" part of our mission, we've come up with a new type of lower-cost tasting fee. It's called the "Pioneer" tasting fee, after the Irish Total Abstinence Association of teetotalers.  No Pledge-Taking involved however.  (And yes, that's rife with contradiction, but there's your Irish heritage for you.)  It gives us a brief opportunity to talk about the Pioneer movement, Father Mathew, Father Cullen, etc., etc., for just another slice of historical context. 

There's your man: Fr. Mathew on St. Patrick Street in Cork, and Fr. Cullen

No disrepect intended to the Pioneers themselves, and it's all in good fun. The craic, so. Our "Pioneers" can enjoy being out with friends or partners, the food we provide at the tasting and everything else, just without the whiskey. And it's $20 vs. our regular $35 fee.

All for a good cause.

Single-Minded About Irish Whiskey

Irish Distillers Ltd's (IDL) launch last week of two new Single Pot Still (SPS) whiskeys signaled a number of important developments to whiskey drinkers and the spirits industry at large, not the least of which were impressive new whiskeys.

The event itself was well-planned and well-produced as IDL hosted about 100 writers, distributors and others at its Midleton Distillery. That's no mean feat as the day's activities were taking place at both a working museum and an industrial-scale distillery and warehouse complex. The evening's gala dinner took place in one of the museum's old spirits storehouses. Our guides and hosts were none other the three Jameson Masters -- Barry Crockett, David Quinn and Billy Leighton -- along with many of IDL's distillery and marketing managers and supporting staff. All hands on deck, if you will. From the printed materials to the behind-the-scenes logistics to the whiskeys themselves it was evident that a great deal of thought, planning and budget went into the event.

That's Nice. So What?
The point of recognizing all of that is not simply to compliment the IDL team (well-deserved in any case), but to put the launch of the SPS line and two new SPS offerings into a broader context. It's a context that looks beyond great new whiskeys we can enjoy (though that may be 9-12 months away for American whiskey drinkers). It highlights IDL's market-mover role, signals many more developments ahead and celebrates the ongoing and impressive renaissance of Irish whiskey as a spirits category. Down the road we might even look back and say that last week's SPS launch was the "coming out party" for Irish whiskey's restoration to it's former status as the world's premium spirit. Time will tell, of course. But there is much in play here just as there is at the other distilleries, notably Cooley's Riverstown and Kilbeggan facilities. These are exciting times.

The title of IDL's intro video at the beginning of the launch event

But let's not get too visionary and high-minded here, bejeez. Let's go get some whiskey!

Coming Soon To A Glass Near You
IDL actually launched the SPS line and nomenclature on April 7 in response to a U.S. government agency questioning use of the word "pure."  IDL probably was happy for the opportunity to fashion a new category launch from a bureaucratic muddle. There's also a benefit in using "Single Pot Still" to both play off and differentiate from the near-universal recognition of "single malt" as a whiskey category.

IDL's SPS logo. Some of the more literal/engineering-minded have wondered why it's called "single" pot still when three are shown. I say pour them a drink and both of you will tolerate the matter better.

The widely loved Red Breast 12-year-old and it's 15-year-old brand mate, plus the fabulous but limited-release Green Spot were the first official SPS entries. Even before the April 7 "SPS" introduction they were long recognized as the only "pure pot still" offerings. Each got packaging makeovers. Green Spot received a ground-up redesign. The whiskey itself changed with a relatively more pronounced green apple and fruit on nose and taste with the barley itself driving more of the flavor, and a pleasing and longer finish.

And even though bits of info had leaked out about them before the launch, the new Powers and Midleton SPS offerings were truly new and the ones we were dying to meet. And we did that day in a tasting hosted by Master Distiller Barry Crockett in the Master's Cottage -- Barry's former home.

The SPS Tasting Line Up

Powers John's Lane Reserve 12-Year-Old
This is a wonderful reincarnation of the Powers single pot still whiskey originally produced at the John's Lane distillery in Dublin. Operating from 1791 until it closed in 1976, the John's Lane Distillery was larger than today's Midleton operation. Powers had been a pure pot still whiskey before becoming a blend in recent decades. Powers is a cultural icon in Ireland as well as a popular whiskey so changes to it -- and a return to its older style -- take on greater significance. The new Powers SPS retains the characteristic Powers spice and wood notes as well as the trademark "Three Swallows" embossed on the bottle.

"We brought to life the original flavor aspect of Powers whiskey as distilled in John's Lane," said Barry. "I happened to work at Powers before it closed so there is some interest there that I can relate this to, the style that then existed." Barry worked at Powers in the mid-70s and seemed to take pleasure in recreating the original whiskey style.

He said Powers gets its earthy, slightly fruity flavor more from specific brewing and pot still styles that differ from Green Spot's barley-based flavor. It also has a touch -- under 10 percent -- of sherry cask whiskey compared to none for Green Spot and much more for Red Breast. Powers John's Lane is bottled at 46% ABV and is non-chill filtered to stay true both to the older techniques and market preferences.

A close-up of the label

Overall, this is a rounder, livelier and more expressive iteration of both the the current standard and 12-year-old Powers. I'm anxious to try it alongside its recent predecessors. It promises to be a hit. Pricing is 45-50 Euro, so probably $60-75 in the US. IDL and Pernod Ricard are ironing out distribution in America so it's not expected to be available here for another 9-12 months. Looks like you'll just have to get in touch with the fine folks at the Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dublin or pass through Duty Free in DUB or SNN before that to get your hands on a bottle.

Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy
Barry himself introduced his namesake whiskey, wryly noting the irony of the "Legacy" designation as he passed the bottle around the table: "Not that I wish to depart this life any time soon."

It's a fabulous SPS Midleton release, delicate, floral, a faint nose of pears with the vanilla/honey/toasted wood taste coming from aging in American bourbon barrels and a portion in "B-naughts" or new American oak barrels. It contains 10-22 year-old pot still whiskeys with a touch of 24-year-old whiskey.

The Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy packaging and label close-up

While 40,000 bottles of the current Midleton Very Rare vintage whiskeys are produced annually, only 7,000 bottles of Legacy will be issued at least for this first bottling. But it will continue and is the first in what Barry described as a coming line of "other expressions of pot still whiskey" under the Midleton label.

But Wait, There's More.
The two new whiskeys (three if you count Green Spot) and IDL's launch of the SPS category signals the extensions of existing brands such as Powers and Red Breast as well as entirely new pot still whiskey styles.

"You can see that in this line up we have quite distinct flavor aspects in terms of the Irish pot still range," Barry said. "Both the Powers John's Lane and the Midleton will be ongoing expressions, in other words they're not just once-off bottlings. They will appear again as time progresses. And the intent is over the next medium term, even short- to medium-term to long term, to bring newer versions and newer styles of pot still whiskeys on to the market."

Irish Single Pot Still whiskey "has a real role to play," he said. "Just in the same manner as the single malt concept got so much attention in world terms we believe that this range of Irish pot still whiskeys will also grab a lot of attention."

He said that the growing market recognition of Red Breast played a big educational role and has been a catalyst for the SPS expansion. "From my own experience in trips to the States I've seen that people have broadened their understanding of Irish whiskey and in particular are now moving to the appreciation of the pot still category."

History, Legacy, Opportunity
Irish distillers in past decades have been simultaneously inspired and burdened by history. But a corner has been turned in recent years as the category gained new legs and recovered from the lingering effects of near-extinction.  But it is clear that those days are, indeed, past.

The distillers today are reviving the best aspects of past whiskey-making styles and traditions and adapting them to current tastes. Because of its size and global reach, IDL is driving the market. For that reason alone the SPS category will capture a lot of recognition. IDL's 100 million Euro expansion in the next two years will double distilling and warehouse capacity and provide flexibility to create new and smaller batch whiskeys. As David Havelin reports in Irish Whiskey Notes that expansion is being accelerated. Barry Crockett said that the new stills are ordered and about to be built by Scottish coppersmiths using the same designs as the current stills.

Diageo's Bushmills Distillery has been quieter recently but you have to believe that they are at least in the planning stages of new developments.

And though it is much smaller than IDL or Bushmills, the Cooley Distillery continues to drive innovation and is releasing excellent whiskeys under its own and private labels. Its re-opening of the Kilbeggan Distillery was a watershed event and the three huge pot stills recovered from the Tullamore distillery and now housed in Kilbeggan offer much promise once in operation. Cooley is the only Irish-owned distillery, and its success has attracted the interest of Scotland's William Grant & Sons. William Grant last year bought the Tullamore Dew brand. An acquisition of all or part of Cooley would substantially boost William Grant's Irish operations far faster than reported plans to build a new distillery in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.

The Single Pot Still category launch is more than just the premiere of new whiskeys. It is in the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Irish whiskey.

Irish Reserve

Just as a fine whiskey exhibits a balance of all of it components, the art, science and business of whiskey-making is a balance of satisfying market demand for something new, respecting current brand loyalties and incorporating traditions of the past.

The Irish Whiskey Society in Dublin and Irish Distillers Ltd. (IDL) Thursday balanced all of these elements at the Society's April tasting. Held at The 1780 Bar the the old Jameson Distillery on Bow Street in Dublin, the tasting itself was of all of the Midleton and Old Jameson Distillery Reserves over time. There was also a 7th "Surprise Whiskey" -- one of the two new single pot still whiskeys to be introduced in Midleton next week.

Society member Ken Mawhinney also presented the new, special limited-edition hardcover reprinting of a 1941 essay by Maurice Walsh, a former excise officer in Scotland and Ireland with a deep appreciation of whisk(e)y. Maurice Walsh also authored romantic short stories, including the one that the classic move The Quiet Man (starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara) was based upon. Ken produced the volume to honor Irish whiskey's past and inform the present. The 1941 essay, which appeared in the literary journal The Bell, is among very few writings about any whiskey, let alone Irish, prior to 1970. As such it provides a glimpse into past thinking, attitudes and practices. Maurice Walsh also was the grandfather of the legendary Barry Walsh, the retired Master Blender at Jameson/IDL who wrote the Afterword to the book and spoke at the presentation.

Barry Walsh, Ken Mawhinney and Ken's wife and daughter with Maurice Walsh's re-published essay

The Prodigal Jameson 5 Star Returns
IWS President Leo Phelan presented a bottle of the amazing Jameson 5 Star (read the two-part history about it here and here) to our IDL host David Byrne for inclusion into the permanent exhibit at the Old Jameson Distillery. Avid and knowledgeable collectors of Irish whiskey, Leo and his brother Adrian found the case of Jameson 5 Star in an online auction several years ago, then traced it's fascinating history. This bottle of whiskey has now completed a 110-year, 10,000-mile journey back to the place it was made.

IWS President Leo presents the Jameson 5 Star to IDL's David Byrne

IDL's hosting of the tasting too was notable as the product of several years effort by the Society building both its own organization and connections to the distilleries. Finally, the Irish Whiskey Society of America was represented by me and my three brothers who are first-time visitors to Ireland.

IDL Distiller Liam Donegan presents the evening's Reserve whiskeys

IDL Distiller Liam Donegan presented the evening's 7 whiskeys with background on the components and thought that went into the blending of each. He also noted that while he had helped create some of them during his 11+ years at IDL, Barry Walsh was the mind, nose and palate behind many of the others. The line-up represented all of the Distillery Reserves created over the years for sale at the Old Midleton Distillery and the Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin. Each used whiskeys a minimum of 12 years old:

Jameson Heritage Centre Distillery Reserve, 1992-2000
Luxuriously sherried, robust and rich with a lasting taste. My favorite of the Reserves.

Midleton Distillery 2000 Reserve
Lighter and Oaky than the Heritage Centre bottling. More restrained.

Jameson Experience Midleton Distillery Reserve, 2007+

Sherry makes more of an impression though not as pronounced as the first.

Old Jameson Distillery, Distillery Reserve, 1999-2007
Very different than the others, based on a different distillate. Odd nose described around the table as lightly sulphury, oaky. Dry on the mouth then fruity and "big pear" taste with one vote at the table for banana. Long finish. This one grew on me.

Old Jameson Distillery Distillery Reserve, 2007+

Fruity, berry, black cherry. Long finish.

Distiller's Selection 2005
One-off creation for La Maison du Whisky. All first- or second-fill American bourbon casks and 13-14 years old.  Higher grain whiskey content. Spice and vanilla.

Sampling each was like a sensory roadmap to the intricacies and complexity of creating whiskeys each its own  character. Even slight (and fully intentional) variations in mash bills (the mix of grains used), distilling procedures, cask selection (down to the type, age and number of uses of each) and the blending produces profound changes in nose, taste and finish. And as Liam noted it is a balance of art, science and market rationale that drives their creation.

Liam handed off to David Byrne who discussed the recent change in nomenclature from "Pure Pot Still" to "Single Pot Still" (a result of the US Office of Tariff Affairs and Trade Agreements questioning and demanding justification for the word "pure"). Single Pot Still now means a pot still whiskey from a single distillery, just as "single malt" means a malt whiskey from one distillery.

IDL on May 5 will launch its new and expanded Single Pot Still Line of whiskeys with re-packaged Red Breast and Green Spot bottlings (but still the very same whiskeys we know and love). IDL also will launch new Single Pot Still (SPS) offerings, one of which was the 'Surprise Whiskey" offered at the tasting. What we know or sure is that it is a new 46% ABV SPS with just a touch of sherry flavor with some fruit. We'll let the mystery linger for another week.


The new Red Breast and Green Spot packaging