Assaf Erell is a whisky enthusiast, and likes to explore new aromas and flavours. Assaf lives in Tel Aviv, and is about to start his M.Sc. in Physics. He can also be found hanging around at the Tapuz.co.il Wine and Alcohol Forum.
When Gal offered me the chance to write a guest post for Whisky Israel I was happy to step up. I don’t have enough spare time to start my own blog yet, but I do like the opportunity to write the occasional post. Gal came up with the idea of an Irish whiskey post, and we decided to narrow it down to Single Pot Still whiskeys – I had wanted to make a comparison tasting of them for quite some time.
Irish Single Pot Still whiskeys are a style of their own, one that is making big waves for the last couple of years, and leading the reawakening of Irish Whiskey globally. The term Single Pot Still Whiskey, coined at 2010 (Previously Pure Pot Still), refers to Irish triple distilled whiskey, that was distilled in copper pot stills from a mix of malted and unmalted barley.
The history of Pure Pot Still Irish whiskeys goes a long way back, almost to the beginning of whiskey making in fact. During the 17th century the British government, who ruled over Ireland, introduced a significant tax on malted barley. In order to cut down their costs, the Irish distillers started to add some unmalted barley to their mashbill, and so the Pure Pot Still style was born.
The addition of the unmalted barley resulted in a spicier and fruitier spirit, and for many decades since it was in fact the major type of whiskey made in Ireland. During the 20th century, with the rise in popularity of Scotch Blended Whisky, Irish whisky lost ground and many distilleries closed down.
It was only during the 70’s that the newly merged Irish Distillers LTD in Midleton revived the Jameson brand as a blend of Pot Still and Grain whiskey. It marked the revival of Irish Whiskey as a whole, and the Pot Still style was largely put aside.
In recent years however, things started to change. The rise in popularity of whisky worldwide, especially of Single Malts, drew attention to the strong character and taste of Pure Pot Still whiskeys. Now labelled as Single Pot Still Whiskey, examples of this style such as Redbreast won important awards and made Single Pot Still Whiskey one of the hottest trends in the whisky world today.
In this review we compare a traditional Single Pot Still whiskey, along with a remake of an old one and a brand new premium limited edition. Lets dram!
Green Spot is a brand that goes back several decades. It is produced by the Middleton distillery for Mitchell & Son, a wine merchant from Dublin established in 1805. Mitchell & Son would send empty wine barrels (Sherry, Port, and others) to Jameson’s Bow Street Distillery, who would fill them with fresh Pot Still new make and send them back to the merchant’s cellars to mature.
Mitchell & Son would then taste the whiskey, and mark the barrels with a spot of paint of different colours to mark how long they were to be aged. Originally there were 4 colours: blue for 8 years, green for 10, yellow for 12 and red for 15 years.
Today’s Green Spot is aged 8-9 years, 75% in Bourbon barrels and 25% in Sherry casks. Only a limited quantity of around 1200 bottles is produced annually.
A gentle nose, which starts with flowers and malted barley, and develops to a lovely scent of apples and apple sauce. Perhaps a little cinnamon too, or do I relate this with the apple sauce?
With a drop of water spiciness comes forward, along with bananas and fresh pears.
The body follows the nose, with a light but slightly oily mouth feel, and a little youthful burn. The taste is fruity and sweet, and just a little bitter. Honey, vanilla, and also Bananas come to mind again, still green and not yet ripe.
The finish is pleasant but a little short, with the flowers and spices from the nose returning and adding to the complexity of the whiskey.
All in all, a worthy entry level Single Pot Still dram, with a humble price point that makes Green Spot a nice everyday dram for summer evenings.
Yellow Spot is the second ‘Spot’ released by Mitchell & Son, revived in 2012 after an absence of over 50 years. Like in the old days, its vatted from a combination of Bourbon, Sherry and Malaga wine casks – all aged for over 12 years in the casks, with no finishes involved. Unlike the Green Spot, the Yellow Spot is bottled at 46%.
A sweet nose, and rather complex. Ripe fruits like bananas and peaches, sweat spices, and a rummy note in the background.
On the palette the whiskey is rich and creamy, with a slight burn. A drop of water helps greatly and makes it smooth and mellow.
Again the taste is complex, with vanilla, the above fruits, dried fruits – especially apricots, dry Oloroso Sherry, and a shy lemony bitterness at the end that adds some freshness.
The finish is long, with the fruits gradually turning to cloves, vanilla and delicate white pepper.
The added strength is very noticeable here, giving the whisky a wonderful texture and rich taste. It is much sweeter and more ‘ripe’ than the Green Spot, probably thanks to the sweet Malaga wine. Much recommended.
The Barry Crockett Legacy, bottled in 2011 as a limited edition, is a special Pot Still Whiskey from the best Bourbon casks and a small amount of whiskey aged in new, unused American oak. The Bourbon barrels, usually reserved for the Midleton Very Rare version, were picked by Barry Crockett himself – The legendary distillery manager that retired a few month ago after 47 years at the distillery.
At first the smell is closed, and I am not getting much. But after about 10 minutes it opens up and becomes pleasant and sweet, with vanilla ice cream, caramel, baking spices, melons, canned litchis, and lime peel.
This whiskey has a firm and even slightly syrupy mouth feel. The taste is very rich and fruity, with remarkably distinctive passion fruits, lemons and oranges. These fruity tastes also mean some zest, but the sweetness keeps it in perfect balance.
The finish is of medium length, with some caramel again and still a fruity and citrusy combination of sweet and sour that leaves a fresh and clean tongue.
This is a unique and wonderful Single Pot Still whiskey, which reveals deep and crystal clear tastes after its long maturation. This whiskey is really amazing in my opinion.