Tag Archives: whiskey

MIDLETON VERY RARE 2020 TASTING NOTES

Kirsty’s Notes

Nose:  A crunch sugared note is the first I notice, think sugared martini glasses and Hubba Bubba strawberry gum, it’s mouth-wateringly sweet, made sweeter still by notes of orange sherbet and fresh satsumas, tinned peaches and dried apricots and fresh cantaloupe melons.  There are effervescent notes being carried to the fore with lots of lime zest.  The fruitiness of the nose just swirls round and round, the fruits ducking and diving taking centre stage before being rudely pushed aside.  Given a little while longer, there is a waxiness, akin to crayons held in the pudgy, warm, chocolate coated hands of a small child, waxy, yet still sweet.  Given yet more time still those crayons become more grown up, it’s less crayon wax and now definitively beeswax being rubbed into an antique pine dresser.  As this still continues to open up in the glass the orange notes return but softer this time, more orange water and orange barley sugars.  There is a delicious fudge like quality to it, artisan fudge drizzled in white chocolate, creamy and sweet. There’s a rich vanilla note, think Farley’s rusks dipped into warm milk, comforting and inviting, the familiarity of childhood scents drawing you in, demanding you take a sip. 

Palate: There is an initial rush of sweetness that the nose suggested, the orange note breaks away from the more gentle, soft, orange barley sugars becomes more concentrated and astringent, comparable more to a chewable vitamin C tablet or drinking the dregs of a Berocca tablet.  It’s tangy and sour.  There is drying bitterness rushing on the to the tongue and instantly taking away any hint of the tangy, zesty orange.  The interplay between the oak and the spirit has imparted a heavy touch of wood spice, both dusty and brittle, evoking memories of Autumn forest walks with fallen oak trees littering the forest floor like sleeping giants.  There is a savoury note on the palate in complete contrast to the fruity gentleness of the nose.  Think Cajun spice rub, heavy on the mace, rubbed into well aged steaks cooked on a hot griddle pan over a fire of charred, dry, old oak branches.  Occasionally, through the abundance of rich, dark wood spices, and prickly cracked black and green peppercorn heat there are fleeting hints of sun ripened orchards, with ripening apples and fruit laden pear trees. The scent of honeysuckle and pollen heavy in the air, with fluffy bumblebees buzzing lazily around the flowering fruit trees.  This gives this rather rich, bitter dram a much-welcomed lift.

Finish:  Long, very, very long indeed.  Initially starting out very dry, with all of the damp oak notes, and heat from mace, cracked black and green peppercorns and savoury steak rub which featured so prominently on the palate, however as these notes start to slowly recede the orchard fruits, quietly and subtly appear bringing an much needed influx of sweetness before fading out leaving a creamy yet spicy mouthfeel to the very end.

Conclusion:  This is a very interesting whisky indeed.  One that you just cannot figure out.  The nose is so very different to the palate, a complete opposite if you will.  This demands you spend time on it, almost as though it were a small child shouting continually to its parents to watch it.  One of the great qualities about whisky, for me, is just how different they can be, not just to one another, but also from person to person.  Notes that I may love, you may hate, or vice versa.  Some whiskies are gentle, soft, a crowd pleaser, others come along and are decisive, like Marmite, you may love it or you may hate it but you are never going to describe it as merely ok.

This, I feel, is going to be one of those expression.  This will divide opinion, split households, split families and have you fighting to the death….too far?  Ok, it may not be quite that decisive, but this is definitely the dram that gets you talking.  If you love this, then you will love it entirely.  If it is not for you, then it does not matter how much someone may extol the virtues of the cask interplay, or of how much this expression show cases the excellent cask used, it will quite simply not be for you.  There will also be those who can appreciate the difference, the complexity and enjoy the surprise of a palate and nose, that are just so different.  That is where I sit. 

I absolutely adored the nose, I could nose this for hours, it is everything I think of, when I think pot still whisky.  There is a gentle sweetness, the orchard fruits abound, the peaches and honeysuckle are mouth wateringly inviting.  There are creamy fudge notes, white chocolate and that delicious waxiness.  I could not wait to dive into this.  The I hit the palate, and I was so surprised, where oh where were those fruits I was so looking forward to, where had the waxiness gone?  Left in its wake was oak.  Lots of rich, dark, damp, brooding oak.  Without a doubt this highlights outstanding casks, but for me there was just a little too much cask influence, a touch too much spice.  The fruits from the nose do make themselves known, however it is very fleeting, it no less pleasant, and does raise the dram a little, but not quite enough for my personal taste.  Then we move on to the finish and it is so very long, its spicy yet toned down a little.  The heat becomes more akin to a sweet chilli jam and the wood spice is muted somewhat.  The orchard fruits come back and are juicy and sweet, its cheek coating velveteen in its softness as it tails off.  Quite simply the finish is delicious.

So, there you have it, a real dram of two halves.  There are elements I really enjoyed and ones that are not as much to my palate.  It is a grown up, complex, complete Chameleon of a whiskey and that makes it interesting.

Love it or hate it, its really will have you talking.  It is one you will want to give to all your friends to try to see what they think and to start the debate.  For those reasons alone it really is one you will want to try.  Find out whether or not it is the dram for you, or one you are not so sure on.  There are some really spectacular casks married together, and Brian Nation has left a curio of a whiskey as his parting gift. 

Give it a go, you will find something along the journey that you really love, and it will be a whiskey that you remember for quite some time.

Available from select retailers priced at approx. €180

MIDLETON VERY RARE 2020 vintage

Irish Distillers, maker of some of the world’s most enjoyed whiskeys, has unveiled the eagerly awaited Midleton Very Rare 2020, a unique parting gift from former Master Distiller Brian Nation.

In his final days as Master Distiller, Brian continued the long-standing tradition of hand-selecting whiskeys reserved for this coveted annual expression from Midleton Distillery’s exceptional inventory for the last time. The result heralds the 37th edition in the world-renowned range.

Chosen from the most outstanding quality single pot still and single grain Irish whiskeys laid down over the past four decades in Midleton, Co Cork, Midleton Very Rare 2020 showcases an expression of whiskeys aged from 13 to 35 years in lightly charred ex-bourbon American oak barrels. 

This year, Brian Nation selected a higher pot still inclusion when compared to previous vintages, while also increasing the use of refill barrels amongst his choice of casks. The result is a luxurious and balanced whiskey with rich pot still notes and elegant grain distillates that take centre stage thanks to the inclusion of refill casks – a fitting legacy from one of Irish whiskey’s great Master Distillers.

Former Master Distiller Brian Nation & Master Distiller Kevin O’Gorman

Kevin O’Gorman, newly appointed Master Distiller at Irish Distillers, and long-time collaborator of Brian Nation, comments:

“As a colleague and friend to Brian for many years, I could not be prouder to present his final Midleton Very Rare vintage and his legacy as Irish Distillers’ Master Distiller, to consumers across the globe. 

“Selected each year with passion and precision, this expression offers an initial burst of tangy fruity sweetness on the palate, with pot still spices building over time to add a mild prickle of chili oil. Indeed, Brian’s love of a single pot still is reflected in this exceptional whiskey, while preserving the balance and beauty for which Midleton Very Rare is renowned.”

Midleton Very Rare 2020 Vintage Release

Bottled at 40% ABV, Midleton Very Rare 2020 is available online and in Ireland now, and will hit shelves in the UK, USA, Global Travel Retail, Australia, Germany and Canada in the coming months at the RRP of €180.  

In a break from tradition and in response to consumer demand for the annual vintage to be made available earlier in the year in question, newly appointed Master Distiller Kevin O’Gorman will reveal Midleton Very Rare 2021 in spring next year, honouring a rare changing of the guard at the iconic Midleton Distillery.   

Only the third Master Distiller to influence one of the world’s most sought-after whiskey collections, the unveiling of Midleton Very Rare 2021 will mark the beginning of a new chapter in the world of Irish whiskey.

#MidletonVeryRare

Official tasting notes:

Aroma
Initial top notes of cane sugar and vanilla intertwined with pepper and nutmeg spices, complimented by sweet orchard fruits and white chocolate fudge all layered over polished antique wood notes, showcasing an intriguing balance between spirit and wood thanks to the complex interaction from the many years spent in the finest oak casks.

Taste
Initial burst of tangy fruit sweetness of orange peel and sweet pear creating a succulent texture while the pot still spices build overtime adding a mild prickle of chilli oil. The presence of the charred oak remains constant in the background adding balance to the fruits and spices.

Finish
Satisfyingly long finish with the fruits slowly fading, allowing the oak and spices to linger until the very end.

Steve McCarthy, Designer, Illustrator & Designer 2017 Jameson Bottle

Steve firstly you appear a very private man, having carried out my research (like a good interviewer), there is surprisingly little about you out on the net, why so private?

Steve McCarthy

Illustrators tend to toil away in secret with very little contact to the outside world, but I’m definitely not a recluse, in fact I generally get a great deal of inspiration from the people I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by in Dublin.

It’s quite possible I’m hard to find online, but If you happen to pass Grogan’s pub on South William Street any time soon, ask anyone and they will know all my business.

Did you always have an artistic talent?

I’ve always been curious, and I’ve always been a bit inside my own head – drawing seemed an easier way to communicate when I was younger, as I was very dyslexic, so you could say it was how I adapted.

I don’t really believe in talent, you never question your ability to speak your native tongue, and it’s well understood that to learn another language it’s just a matter of studying. Artistic skill is the same, it’s just another language.

Did you know that you would work within the arts?

I knew from an early age that drawing was my favourite solution to problems and when I needed to earn some money I turned to art and I still love drawing today.

I’ve begun to appreciate the problem solving aspect of creative work much more. I like the practice of being presented with a creative puzzle and using whatever tools necessary to solve it. The pencil is still my favourite tool though.

Having had a look at your website I was really drawn to the slightly darker side (my interpretation) of your drawings.  Is there a dark side, or was it just my interpretation?

One of my favourite film directors is David Lynch, he is as comfortable with horror as he is with humour and he sees nothing wrong with walking a narrow line between the two, which is how I feel. I think comedy is much more vivid when its framed in tragedy, in the same way colours are so much brighter against the dark.

Are you a fan of whisk(e)y?

Yes absolutely, whiskey is such a big part of Irish culture especially around St. Patrick’s Day.

Do you remember your first whisk(e)y?

I don’t remember my first whiskey, probably because it was drowned in Diet Coke or some such mixer.  I do remember when I was in my 20s,  I’d just left my girlfriend’s house after spending the whole day breaking up,  I guess we were distracted so we hadn’t heard there was a riot taking place in Dublin at the time.

I passed a burning car and a couple of over turned bins before realising what was going on – it was absolute mayhem – and in a lot of ways the mood suited how I was feeling right then.

Along my route I ducked into an open door which happened to be a bar, I sat down probably looking really sorry for myself and the bar man – all joking aside – placed a neat whiskey in front of me, he didn’t even ask what I wanted.  The Barman just looked at me as if to say, “it could be worse”. It was the sweetest whiskey I ever tasted.

As it does in Scotland, whiskey plays a massive part in Ireland’s heritage, right back through the ages, how important is it as a part of Ireland and its history?

Whiskey plays a huge role in Ireland’s heritage. St. Patrick’s Day, as everyone knows, is one of the most important cultural holidays in Ireland and it wouldn’t be the same without a small glass of Jameson.

More recently I have learnt the history of Jameson right back through the ages to when John Jameson started distilling in Dublin at Jameson’s Bow Street Distillery in 1780. Jameson has been making whiskey the same way ever since.

How did the collaboration with Jameson come to be?

Every year Jameson celebrates St. Patrick’s Day by commissioning an artist to create a piece of original art for its limited edition bottle. I was picked out because my bold, colourful style together with a certain level of humour and wit was a perfect match for Jameson.

I was honoured to be chosen considering the famous artists who have produced artwork for the limited edition bottle in the past including my good friends, street artist James Earley and illustrator Steve Simpson.

What was your biggest source of inspiration for your design?

Jameson Limited Edition St Patrick's Day Bottle
Jameson St Patrick’s Day 2017 bottle
Photo credit: Eoin Holland – http://www.eoinholland.com

The biggest source of inspiration for my design of the Jameson’s St. Patrick’s Day bottling was the legend behind the Irish phrase, “to chance your arm”. Legend has it that in 1492, ‘Black James’ Butler and his men found themselves barricaded behind the door to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.

On the other side was Gearóid Fitzgerald who, tired of the constant fighting between the clans, decided it was time to make peace. Fitzgerald ordered his men to cut a hole in the door before extending his hand through the gap as a token of friendship. Rather than cut his arm off with a sword, Butler shook it and the long standing feud came to an end, giving Dublin one of its most famous sayings: “to chance your arm”.

I was also inspired by age old Dublin landmarks that are loved in equal measure by the people of Dublin, and by me. In the background of my design you can view Ha’Penny Bridge across the River Liffey, the surrounding Irish mountains and the Smithfield tower.

Were you familiar with the bottles, and designers that worked on the previous bottles? Is there a desire to work within their themes, or did you want to get away from that?

I’m good friends with Steve Simpson and James Early – they really made it difficult for me. It was tricky but at the very least I wanted my bottle to have its own personality.

Both James and Steve put a lot of time and thought into what they did and made things very personal to them – all I wanted to do was keep that attention to detail going.

What was the most challenging part of designing the packaging?

There’s a massive amount of constrictions with what you can and can’t put on a bottle and, on top of that, it has to feel and look very much like a Jameson bottle at a glance.

Even though there were all these hurdles Jameson initially gave me free reign to develop the concept and then they guided me through the challenge of making that concept work within the constrictions.

Did it take a long time to design?   

The whole project from being approached, to inspiration and crafting the design took 24 months.

Now that it’s in production, how does it feel to see all these bottles with your label on them?  I take it you have one or two stashed away? 

I do, but it’s funny, I haven’t had that moment yet, where you bump into your work when you’re not expecting it, I’ve had that happen with books and with smaller projects but nothing on this scale.

I almost want to book a flight to see how far away I could go and still spot my design – it often happens when you least expect it, that’s the best.

For people that maybe haven’t visited Ireland yet, what hidden gems would you recommend?

The Aran Islands, there’s just something unquantifiable about them, the communities are so full of creativity and ingenuity and they embody everything great about this little patch in the Atlantic.

What projects do you have planned next?

I’m illustrating a book, which is out in September. I’m also writing my own book that will hopefully be coming out the following year. Apart from that, I’ll be celebrating with my bottle – it’s been 24 months in the making, so I have a lot of time to make up for.

Thank you for that Steve, we will be sure to keep an eye out for your upcoming publications and enjoy your time with your bottle, you’ve earned it.

Jameson 2017 St Patrick’s Day release is now on sale, don’t miss out grab a bottle or two whilst you can as it will be very popular indeed.

Kirsty Clarke (@KirstyClarke29)