Showing posts with label Single Pot Still. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Single Pot Still. Show all posts

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Whiskey and Sherry. Patience and Time

Whiskey and Sherry
Patience and Time
Time, patience

These are two of the best drinks. Two of the best birthday presents also, one I gave myself, the other from a good friend of mine. There is a strong relationship between the distillery in Midleton where the John’s Lane is produced and Jerez area in Spain where the Neo comes from.

Powers John’s Lane Release, Single Pot Still Whiskey

I’ve been enjoying this rather special whiskey recently. Started with a glass (€9.00) in the Grand National Hotel in Ballina. Next up, it was part of a tasting trio in the Midleton distillery. I loved it there and had another glass (7.50) in the Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder in Killarney. The affair was fully cemented when I treated myself to a birthday bottle at Bradley’s (69.00).


Let’s start with the bare bones. This is a Single Pot Still whiskey. The ABV is 46% and it has been produced at the distillery in Midleton where it has been matured for not less than 12 years in first fill Bourbon casks.

What first attracted me, still does, are the outstanding flavours. It is nicely spiced from the still. Raised in US (mainly) and Spanish casks, there is 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 to a long long finish. It is 46% so the advice is to add a few drops of water. Nothing else is needed to get the best from this Very Highly Recommended beauty.

* When you buy a bottle, you’ll also get Alfred Barnard’s detailed account of John Lane’s Distillery in the Dublin of 1886. Wonder what’s his Twitter handle?

Gonzalez Byass Noe Old Pedro Ximenez Sherry, 15.5%, RRP €39.50 (on offer at €31.60 here at Wines of the World).

If you like sweet wines, as I do, then this sherry, aged 30 years, is irresistible.

The Pedro Ximenez, and this is one hundred per cent PX, is a usual grape for sweet sherry. Here, the PX has been enriched by the age old “soleo” sun-drying method, then matured in oak for thirty years.

And the result is incredible, one of the best wines you’ll ever come across. The colour is a deep ebony. The warm aromas are rich with sweet succulent raisins, figs, spices too. 

It is complex and intense on the palate, rich and dense, very sweet, smooth, luscious and silky, concentration is very high yet it is fresh and clean. And the finish, with notes of coffee, caramel, toffee, and liquorice, goes on and on.

It is the perfect dessert wine, even on its own. But you’ll find it excels over vanilla ice-cream or with dark chocolate. The advice is to serve it slightly chilled or indeed at room temperature. 

You’ll long remember the superb fragrance and intense bouquet acquired in the silence and shade of the cellars. Very Highly Recommended.

* Noe has been ranked in the Top 100 wines in the US and is distributed by Barry & Fitzwilliam.


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.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Midleton Distillery Tour. Happy Angels Hover Over 1.2m Casks

Midleton Distillery Tour
Happy Angels Hover Over 1.2m Casks

In Warehouse 39B
“This is the biggest Pot Still in the world,” said David McCabe, our guide on a tour of Midleton Distillery. The copper giant that he showed us in the old distillery has a capacity 143,872 litres and is no longer in use. Copper has some key properties that make it highly suitable for the task: it is easy to shape, has good conductivity and removes impurities.

In the new distillery, Midleton has the biggest operating stills in the world. And the three copper giants that we saw are due to be joined by another three later in the year. It is amazing to see these three in action, their contribution coming after the milling, the mashing and the fermenting.

And when they have their work done, the triple distillation (most Scotch whisky is distilled twice), the infant whiskey is piped out to holding tanks before being moved again to mature in casks, 1.2 million of them at last count! The giant warehouses make quite a “town”. For more details on how whiskey is made, and we are talking Irish here, the one with the “e”, see here.
The old distillery
Then anothering mind-boggling figure as we sipped from 24 year old and 17 year old whiskeys in one of the warehouses. The evaporation of the alcohol into the air, known in many cultures as the “angels share”,  amounts to some 24,500 bottles of Jameson per annum! Happy angels but there's some harmless pollution, a dark dust that settles on the warehouses. I have also seen it at the Remy Martin distillery in Cognac; hard to miss it there, as the buildings are white.

The difference between our tastings was not just the age factor. The 24 year old had been matured in bourbon casks while the 17 year was from a sherry cask so there was a colour and flavour difference as well.

The colour difference is easily seen at the Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard Whiskey Academy, the pride and joy of David, our Whiskey Ambassador. It is based in a restored building in the old distillery. Back to figures briefly. The old distillery take up about 12 acres while the new one is ten times larger.
The Academy class-room is state of the art, though David also uses the old chalk from time to time too to illustrate a point. Pupils are taken through the process, step by step, and get the opportunity to blend their own whiskey which they can take home with them.

But the theory lessons are short and you won't be bogged down with detail. In between, you are taken out and about on the site to see the practical side of the whisky making business. Check out those Pot Stills. Hands on. See and taste. Lots to see. You’ll notice the Americans and Spaniards put their bungs on the side of the cask, the Irish on the top because the casks are stored in an upright position here.

Since opening its doors in February 2013, the Irish Whiskey Academy has become the dedicated whiskey institute of Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard, hosting courses that focus on the production and heritage of Irish whiskey produced at Midleton. It started off to train the distillery sales force but now there are courses to suit everyone and many students come from abroad. Check it out here  and give yourself a present!

Guess which came from the sherry cask!
One type of whiskey, the Single Pot Still, is the real Irish. This spirit almost died a death, for many reasons, but is now on the up and up.  Check the story of this premium product out here where you’ll read that Jameson is not a Single Pot Still but Redbreast is. 

If you join the Stillhouse (no fee), you’ll get special offers from time to time. I just ordered one bottle of a limited edition of Mano a Lámh, a Redbreast made in special sherry casks. But you’d better act quickly as I believe there are not very many left! Must say though, aside from the odd offer, there is a wealth of information on the site and it is well worth a look.


After that, why not take a trip to Midleton to take the distillery tour. Details here.

Cheers. David and Yours Truly,
after breaking in to the 24 year old!
Evidence is evident!


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.