Showing posts with label Redbreast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Redbreast. Show all posts

Monday, October 24, 2016

Munster Wine & Dine in Midleton. Outstanding Trip To Sage and Irish Distillers

Munster Wine & Dine in Midleton. Outstanding Trip To Sage and Irish Distillers
The big one!
 Last week’s Munster Wine & Dine mid-week trip to Midleton was packed with highlights, both at Irish Distillers and later at Sage Restaurant.

There was a generous welcome from the team at the Distillery. For me, the tutored tasting by Brian Ledwidge was the outstanding part, as we got to sample three of the very best produced here.

Cooper's corner. Tools & staves
We started with the Redbreast 12, a single pot still whiskey. The single by the way refers to a single distillery, not a single pot. Pick up your glass - no need to swish it around as you would with wine - just give it a gentle turn and that will allow the aromas rise. The Redbreast has been matured in Oloroso casks and so it is quite aromatic, reminiscent of a Christmas cake being taken out of the oven, according to Brian.

In the mouth, there is a significant “creaminess (from the unmalted barley), fruit (from the cask), and spice (from the pot still), a nice balance of all three”. Brian also told us about the latest Redbreast which has been raised in Lustau casks.

The cottage
 Power’s were one of the three companies that merged to form Irish Distillers in the mid 60s and their line was represented here by John’s Lane Release. John’s Lane (in Dublin) was where the original would have been produced. 

It is nicely spiced from the still. Raised in US (mainly) and Spanish casks, Brian pointed out the vanilla on the nose, also a light apricot.Twelve years (at least) of maturation is rewarded with outstanding flavour and complexity, vanilla, chocolate, caramel, spices, all there together in a long long finish.

Peter: "the next guy that contradicts the guide......"
 And then we were on to an outstanding premium whiskey, the Midleton Very Rare, made from whiskey that has been matured in US casks only. The casks (no more then 250) to be used are hand-picked by Master Distiller Brian Nation and are between 12 and 22 years old. The resulting blend is nicely balanced with “50 to 60 per cent of the flavour coming from the wood”. Unlike the previous two, this is a blended whiskey.

Micro
This truly magnificent and much celebrated whiskey is amazingly smooth (after that long maturation), light of fruit, with hints of sweetness and spice, an absolutely outstanding mouthful.

There was an earlier tasting also, this coming as we toured the massive warehouse complex, with Daniel as our guide. You have to know your way around here - they build a new one every two months! And these are huge; each warehouse holds 16,800 casks. And the overall “population” is no less than 1.4 million casks. All needed, with more than five million cases of Jameson alone being sold annually.

The old millwheel still turning
New!
 Hard to take in those kind of numbers. The going got a whole lot easier though when Daniel invited Beverly, a MWD member, to open a bourbon cask. She extracted the bung like a veteran and we all enjoyed the whiskey that had been inside since 1991. Still time for another sample, this from a 2001 Sherry cask (much bigger) and probably destined for a Redbreast bottle, another lovely sip.

On arrival at Midleton, we were welcomed by Kevin O'Gorman, Master of Maturation (one of the four 'Midleton Masters', and responsible for all of the whiskey once it goes into barrel) and Carol Quinn, Archivist at Midleton Distillery. Kevin told us how Midleton have been making whiskey here since 1825. He’s excited by much that is going on now in Irish whiskey. “So many new things going on. I love the innovation.”


The Jameson Perfect Serve
 We would see some of that right here on our first walkabout, through the old distillery, the history explained in a lively manner by our guide Peter Corr (also a member of the Munster Wine & Dine, so there was some gentle slagging going on).


The old buildings, which have seen duty as a flour mill and as a military barracks, were vacated for the “new” distillery in 1975. They are full of history and memorabilia, enough to explain the production process to newbies!

And its not all old. Irish Distillers now have their very own micro-distillery here, three sparkling new copper stills all ready for action. And no doubt, the firm’s distillers - there are eight of them - will be taking full advantage of the possibility of making new and exciting spirits, something that couldn't happen in the huge new distillery with its massive stills always busy.

Three of the best
 After Peter’s tour, which also included the cooperage, we made our first visit to the Whiskey Academy where we met Brian, David McCabe and Maura Coffey and had our first drink of the afternoon, a very welcome Jameson Sour Old fashioned. The bitters by the way are a new product: Jameson Sloe Berry Bitters (foraged in the west of Ireland).

And it was the Academy that also saw our last drink of the informative tour, the Jameson Perfect Serve. Brian told us that Jameson was well known for “its mixability and is also very popular when mixed with Ginger Ale”.

Add caption
His recipe, more or less, is to use a tumbler with loads of ice. Add a standard measure of Jameson, lime ( “a nice big piece squeezed in”), and top it all up with chilled Ginger Ale. Cheers

Roast beets
 After that, it was time to take the short walk out the lane and up the main street and then another warm welcome from chef/owner Kevin Aherne and his team at Sage. We had ordered a meal based on his famous #12 Mile Menu and it was absolutely top notch.

After an lovely amuse bouche and a sampling of his tasty potato bread, we had a choice of starters:
Salt Baked beets, candied outs, apples;
Smoked scallop, wild hedgehog mushroom, sea beet;
Beef filet carpaccio, black onion aioli, purple potato, celeriac.
I enjoyed my scallop dish, soft and delicious in a lovely "broth". And I also managed a sample of the beets, a lovely mix of textures and flavours.

Cod
The fish course had two options:
Butter poached cod, barley, broccoli, smoked cheese;
John Dory, gnocchi, shiitake, mushroom butter.
The John Dory was another soft and delicate dish but thoroughly delicious while the Cod was so well matched with the barley and the broccoli. The fish, in each case, looked invitingly fresh, top class.

Two main courses to pick from:
Pork shoulder, swede, pear;
Beef fillet, cheek, bone marrow, lovage.
The pork was from Woodside Farm, so I wasn't going to ignore that. And I wasn't disappointed. It was superb, full of flavour. And there was only praise too from CL who enjoyed the fillet, also full of flavour. Two quite perfect dishes really, each well accompanied.

White chocolate
Something sweet to finish:
Apple parfait, apple arlette, and spiced bread;
White chocolate cheesecake, blackberry;
Bo Rua Farmhouse cheddar, chutney, nuts.
I know the Bo Rua is lovely but my sweet tooth demanded the chocolate, soft, sweet and soon gone. And much the same could be said by CL about her Apple combination.

* The next Munster Wine & Dine event is a distillery tour (Bertha's Revenge) and lunch at Ballyvolane House - details here.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

World Rediscovers Irish Whiskey. Dave Broom’s Breakfast-style Whiskey.


World Rediscovers Irish Whiskey
Dave Broom’s Breakfast-style Whiskey.
Whiskey ageing silently in Midleton.

It was a tax dodge that led to one of the great whiskeys!

Leading whiskey (sometimes whisky) authority Dave Broom was talking about Green Spot, the first drop up for tasting during the Roaring Silence - Silent Stills Awaken, the title of a session on the irish whiskey renaissance at Ballymaloe’s LitFest at the weekend.

Because of  a punitive tax on malted barley, the Irish distillers decided to use a portion of unmalted barley in their mix and that style became known as Single Pot Still and is now part of the astonishing revival of the Irish spirit. Dave did take the opportunity to point out that John Jameson was a Scot.

Tomas Clancy (left), Dave Broom and Brian Nation (right)

Quite a bit to go yet though according to Tomas Clancy, another of the speakers on the panel. he would like to see the industry here mirror that of Scotland with a mix of both small and large operators. He pointed out that the Scottish industry is worth three billion while, at present, the Irish weighs in at three hundred million. “Investment here, he said, “is heavy.”

Dave may not always be sure of which time zone he is in but he knows his whiskey and obviously likes the Green Spot: “..stimulating nose (a signature of Irish whiskey and it dangerous drinkability!)...oily, coating the tongue..sweet...fresh acidity….
Brian Nation the enthusiastic Master Distiller at Jameson Ireland explained how the malted/unmalted mix and the triple distilling “imparts a creamy mouthfeel. The style has orchard fruits and sweet spices (from the distillate) and is toasty from the wood.”

He pointed out that maturing in wood casks had been started a long time ago by Mitchell & Sons Wine Merchants in Dublin, still associated with Green Spot. And he also paid tribute to his predecessor in Midleton, Barry Crockett, whose foresight “in laying down stocks” was crucial to the current revival.

Late in the 19th century and in the early part of the 20th, Irish whiskey was the world leader but over the decades lost out in the UK and US markets because of various factors, including prohibition, World War 1, War of Independence, and the Irish Civil War. And the decline continued right through the Second World War with all the American soldiers in Britain being wowed by Scotch.

Boosted by a Royal Commission 1909 finding in its favour, the Scots were benefitting hugely from improved versions of Aeneas Coffey’s 1830 Column Still invention. French born Coffey was an Irish tax inspector but the industry here dismissed his breakthrough invention, to their cost. “We were the masters of the Pot Still,” said Tomas Clancy. “But Irish Whiskey was too good, too early.”

Feeling's Single Malt
Broome, who described Coffey’s invention as “a good piece of kit”, now introduced Teeling Whiskey Single Grain, made from maize. It is matured initially in American oak and is “a great whiskey, creamier and sweet, with banana notes, and a short finish. It is gentle and light, a breakfast style whiskey. Good for cocktails too, very versatile.” 

This weighs in at 46% abv and Dave suggested adding some water. I did and got a good result!
Brian told us that this Single Grain, made with maize and malt, is produced in the column still. “It is a fruity, floral style. Jameson, by the way, is a blend of single grain and Single Pot Still.”

In the 1940’s, people, especially Americans, began to look for lighter whiskeys and Tullamore Distillery deliberately blended for the palate. Now there is, since 2013, a brand new distillery there. It has impressed Dave Broome. “It is an astonishing piece of work - go see it.”

The piece of work we had in front of us at that point was the Tullamore Dew Phoenix. Brian Nation said you have to be innovative to meet demand for styles and brands. “Don't sit on your laurels. Look to innovate and stay ahead of the game.”

On the whiskey itself, Dave remarked that the Single Pot Still comes through. “It has a rich dark character and you also note the effects of the sherry barrels. At 55%, it need water. It is lovely, well balanced, with good characters.”

Tomas Clancy said our ancestors didn't want to waste anything. So the empty barrells from Jerez and Porto and other places were put to use to mature whisky. “Colour was one of the main impacts as the barrels changed a dirty looking spirit into an inviting looking liquid.”

Lots of praise for the “innovative, cheeky Teelings” from Broom as we sampled  their Single Malt. “Keep an eye on them,” he continued. “They are raising the bar”. Clancy agreed:”They are fantaiusci, will get even more so. They are not in it by accident, they have seen where the opportunities are and should have a fascinating future.”

The introduction of our Glendalough 7 year old Single Malt provoked a discussion about the future. The past first though as Tomas said the current 9 to 10 per cent annual growth is down to Midleton. The stills at  Midleton are artisan, don't lose sight of it. Micros are okay but won't be the industry in 20 years time. He remarked too that distilleries need to be encouraged and instanced the fact that one of the bigger new ones had received a half million euro water bill even before they had started operating!

Whiskey making, old and new
Dave encouraged us consumers to celebrate the diversity and encouraged producers to differentiate.. “can't all be Jameson copies.There is craftsmanship at every step, at every level.” Big is not necessarily bad.

Brian Nation said at present Ireland has four per cent of the world market and the plan is to grow that to 12 per cent by 2030. “There is plenty of room for other distillers but we need to see the quality kept up. One bad apple….”

We had earlier met Dave Broom’s breakfast whiskey. Now he introduced us to his desert island tipple, the one he'd grab if the ship was going down, none other than the local Redbreast 12, “a style of whiskey the world has fallen in love with, really well priced.”

Brian explained that the key difference here is the cuts during the distillation. “It is full bodied, robust, lots of flavours. On the nose you have the fruitcake aromas, a contribution from the Oloroso casks. The feel is creamy and there are spices there too and also that dried fruit. For me, this is an exquisite whiskey.”

Dave, who had been totally encouraging all along about Irish Whiskey, rounded it all off by saying the category was “on fire”. “Everyone wants Irish Whiskey!” Sláinte to the panel and to Colm McCan and his volunteers at LifeFest who, year after year, come up with the goods.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Taste of the Week. Redbreast Mano a Lámh

Taste of the Week

Redbreast Mano a Lámh
Some were worried that this limited edition Redbreast Mano a Lámh would be dominated by the sherry, the whiskey having been matured exclusively in first fill Spanish Oloroso sherry casks.

Certainly, you get sherry aromas, especially early on, and indeed some flavours too but, no mistake about it, this is very much a whiskey, very much a Redbreast, enhanced by its encounter with the Spanish wood and is my Taste of the Week.

If you join the Stillhouse (no fee), you’ll get special offers from time to time. Not sure though if they have any of the original 2000 bottles of this one left. Must say, aside from the odd offer, there is a wealth of information on the site and it is well worth a look.

The Single Pot Still site: Redbreast Mano a Lámh is being released exclusively to members of The Stillhouse. While the core Redbreast range is matured in a combination of American bourbon and Spanish oloroso butts, Redbreast Mano a Lámh luxuriates in this signature sherry style by bringing together whiskeys which have been matured exclusively in first fill Spanish oloroso sherry casks, imparting distinct, rich, fruity flavours and a full body.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Raising Uisce Beatha. Irish Whiskey Renaissance.

Irish Whiskey Renaissance
Raising Uisce Beatha*


A tasty introduction to the Single Pot Still whiskeys of Midleton.

Irish Whiskey, the one with the “e”, is on the rise again.

“There is a huge renaissance in Irish Whiskey...25 years of solid growth,” declared Midleton Distillery’s Production Director Peter Morehead during a recent radio progamme.  

And that reality is reinforced by the amount of new distilleries (including West Cork, Dingle, Blackwater and Tullamore) newly in production or about to go into production - you do have to wait three years and a day for your spirit to qualify as whiskey.

It is a stunning comeback by an industry that was on its knees in the 1960’s. But, starting in 1966, amalgamations and foreign takeovers led to the revival with Jameson leading the rise. You can read all about the history of whiskey in this country on the Single Pot Still website.

Here, you'll see how Irish Whiskey makers’ belief in the quality of their Single Pot Still product inadvertently handed an advantage to their Scottish rivals. Of course, there were other factors as Irish slid to the bottom. But that quality is now a key part of the revival, especially in Midleton.

While other whiskey, and whisky, are made from a mash of malted barley, the Pot Still is made from a mash of malted and unmalted barley, an uniquely Irish approach to whiskey distillation. I, despite many a drop of Paddy and, more lately Jameson, am not an whiskey expert, but this is my take on four of these representatives of “the quintessential style of Irish whiskey” recently.

Started off with the familiar Redbreast 12 (and, yes, it is named after the robin). Twelve years, by the way, is the age of the youngest whiskey in the bottle. It has quite rich aromas, partly because it has been matured in Sherry casks. Indeed, all casks from fortified wines areas - Sherry, Port, Madeira, Marsala - can be used by whiskey makers.
Dave Quinn, Master of Whiskey Science
at Jameson Distillery, Midleton

The Redbreast is harmonious on the palate with a good flavoursome finish. While the alcohol is not at all prominent on the 12, the Redbreast 21, as you might expect, is even smoother - got a sample of that during the radio show.
Back to my own line-up now and the Green Spot. This is fresher and spicier, both on the nose and on the palate, a little bit sweeter too, the spicy notes lingering on the finish. Both the first two have an ABV of 40%.

The Power’s John Lane weighs in at 46% and has a darker nose “an abundance of earthy aromas”. There is a spicy introduction to the palate and then hints of sweetness and these continue through to the lingering finish, a finish that I really enjoyed.

The final tasting in the classy quartet was the Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy, another beauty. The nose picks up aromas of vanilla (prominent for me) and toasted oak and the tasting notes also hint “at a touch of lime, succulent green berries, pears and green sweet pepper”.

On the palate it is sweet and spicy but so well balanced and the finish is also superb. Perhaps my favourite of the four. It too has an ABV of 46%.

I was drinking the Single Pot Stills neat, the better to taste the diversity of the flavour spectrum. But most people prefer some kind of mixer - a current favourite seems to be Jameson (not a Single Pot Still!), Ginger and Lime. You can check that, and many more suggestions, here.

The Single Pot Still Irish whiskey was once the most popular in the world. Full of complex flavours and with a creamy mouthfeel, it is a drink we can be proud of. And great to see it on the up again. Slainte!


  • To delve deeper into the story of this type of whiskey, please check out this Single Pot Still site . 

    *Uisce Beatha is Irish for Whiskey, means water of life.




Monday, December 1, 2014

Moncrieff’s Pot On In Midleton. Cocktail of Whiskey, Food, Music, Nostalgia and Politics

Moncrieff’s Pot On In Midleton Distillery

Cocktail of Whiskey, Food, Music, Nostalgia and Politics
At home: Brian Nation (left) and
Peter Morehead, both of Midleton Distillery.
 Positive Ireland got an outing on the Moncrieff Show last Friday. The programme was broadcast from the Midleton Distillery and the Production Director there, Peter Morehead, had good news: “There is a huge renaissance in Irish Whiskey...25 years of solid growth.” Expansion continues at the East Cork plant which started life as a Woollen Mill, then became a Barrack before distilling started here in 1825.


Brian Nation, the Master Distiller, confirmed that Midleton has the “biggest operational pots in the world”. The size is not just for show: “Shape and size are very important to the development of whiskey.”

Enough of the history. We were here to sample two of the Redbreast Single Pot Still series, starting with the 12 year old. Twelve years, by the way, is the age of the youngest whiskey in the bottle. Peter likes it at this time of the year because of its “Christmas-y aromas and flavours”, some of which arise because it is matured in Sherry casks. Indeed, all casks from fortified wines areas - Sherry, Port, Madeira, Marsala - can be used by whiskey makers.

Brian was our guide on the 21 year old Redbreast. Again 21 years is the age of the youngest in the bottle, the oldest is 28. If it was in Sherry casks all the time, you wouldn't recognise it as whiskey, so it is in Sherry casks for the final three years only. It is a gorgeous drop with a very smooth mouthfeel. As Brian said: “There is a step-up in age and a step-up in complexity.”


Moncrieff (right) with Jerry Buttimer.
Delighted to see and hear Giana Ferguson of Gubbeen on the show. Giana, a blow-in to West Cork over forty years ago, has just had her book, also Gubbeen, published, said that travel, “a lot of rambling in Europe”, helped guide her towards a love of “the richness of food”.

Forty years back, she and some of her friends in West Cork were “known as the lunatic fringe”. These individuals, on the retreat in the 70s from Thatcher and the Cold War, were idealistic. Some put down roots there and “it worked for us with food”. Cheesemaking was Giana’s chosen field.

It wasn't easy but help was at hand. “There was an amazing degree of trial and error and a need for a serious core of knowledge in cheesemaking. We were lucky to have UCC - they opened their doors to the West Cork cheesemakers”.

Sean Moncrieff, a sympathetic interviewer (knows when to say quiet and when to butt in), asked her about sales and marketing. “I did the marketing by the seat of my pants,” she said. “I think the secret to marketing is telling the truth. Even then we needed good luck and that, with ‘synchronicity’, led to international sales. Now we have a micro economy down on the farm and it is trickling down to the village.”

Giana Ferguson of Gubbeen tells her story.
Alice Taylor is another West Cork based lady with a book on the shelves. This is called Do You Remember?

Sean asked her what did she remember about the run-up to Christmas in the good old days. Alice recalled going to the wood for holly (it had to have berries) and plucking the geese with her sisters. “I loved Christmas Eve..there was a wonderful sense of waiting … very peaceful.” A couple of good turnips came in handy: one to support the Christmas candle, the other to hold the tree. The tree was really just a branch as her father wasn't too keen on cutting down a whole tree saying a tree took thirty or forty years to grow and any fool could cut it down in five minutes.

The show had started with a interview with local Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer. Jerry was very impressive, especially on his being gay and his coming out. Referring to the upcoming referendum (May 2015) on same sex marriage he said “it is beyond politics” and “about the lives of our people”.

The show finished with the regular Movies and Booze slot, with both Sue Murphy (movies) and Martin Moran on hand. Earlier, live music was provided by Nicole Maguire. Talented Nicole has a new album called What You Really Mean but the song that she sang, with a Christmas touch, was Joni Mitchel’s classic The River. All part of a lively and engaging afternoon's entertainment.

Cheers Moncrieff!

** To know more about Single Pot Still Whiskey (you can even become a member of the Stillhouse) click here.
You'll find podcasts of the Moncrieff Show here .