Tag Archives: Midleton

Midleton Very Rare (2015)

Midleton Very Rare is a premium blended Irish whiskey, produced by Irish Distillers at the New Midleton Distillery (located in the East Cork town of Midleton, not surprisingly). Midleton is a storied named in Irish whiskey production, and this whisky is distilled at the same location as the well-known Jameson’s family (among many others).

As the name suggests, Midleton Very Rare is produced in limited batches, and in a vintage year manner. It is a blend consisting of some single pot still whisky and some grain whisky, all triple-distilled. Only 50 hand-picked casks are used for each year’s release, making this relatively rare indeed. Although this is a no-age-statement (NAS) whisky, all casks are reported to be aged between 12 and 25 years, matured in either ex-Bourbon or ex-Sherry casks.

Since each year is a new defined vintage, each differs slightly and has its own character (within the overall profile range). Consistently bottled at 40% ABV, each bottle is individually numbered and presented in a nice wooden case. It is currently available at the LCBO for $215 CAD.  So something to consider as a higher-end gift for the Irish whiskey drinker this holiday season!

Given its limited availability, I have integrated all vintages into one general category (to provide a meaningful reviewer number). Here is how it compares to some higher-end Irish whiskeys:

Bushmills 16yo Single Malt: 8.48 ± 0.50 on 16 reviews ($$$$)
Bushmills 21yo Single Malt: 8.92 ± 0.35 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
Green Spot: 8.45 ± 0.41 on 15 reviews ($$$)
Green Spot Château Léoville Barton: 8.73 ± 0.40 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Jameson 12yo Special Reserve: 8.36 ± 0.27 on 10 reviews ($$$$)
Jameson Gold Reserve: 8.43 ± 0.43 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Midleton Dair Ghaelach: 9.10 ± 0.32 on 6 reviews ($$$$$)
Midleton Very Rare (all vintages): 8.78 ± 0.50 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
Powers 12yo Reserve: 8.60 ± 0.26 on 6 reviews ($$$)
Powers 12yo John’s Lane: 8.79 ± 0.41 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Redbreast 12yo: 8.75 ± 0.42 on 21 reviews ($$$)
Redbreast 15yo: 8.72 ± 0.27 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Redbreast 21yo: 9.18± 0.36 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
Tullamore Dew Blended 12yo: 8.09 ± 0.27 on 8 reviews ($$$)
Writers Tears Pot Still: 8.47 ± 0.37 on 14 reviews ($$)
Yellow Spot: 8.76 ± 0.27 on 14 reviews ($$$$)

Middleton Very Rare gets a good score for an Irish whiskey – but it is also fairly expensive for this class, and there are cheaper options available for equivalent (or higher) ratings.

I recently sampled this from a friend’s bottle, brought back directly from Ireland (newly opened for the evening).

Nose: Starts with classic light honey sweetness, as is common to many Irish whiskies, supplemented with whipped cream. Apple and pear fruits dominate, but there are also hints of sherry aging, with red plums and dark berries. Classic “Juicy Fruit” gum sensation. Vanilla and some of the lighter cooking spices (nutmeg especially). Absolutely no hint of acetone or any other organic solvent smell (which I frequently detect on entry-level Irish and Canadian whiskeys). Great nose for sure.

Palate: Similar fruits as the nose, but with sweet cereal characteristics coming to the fore now. Creamed wheat sensation. Butterscotch joins the vanilla from the nose, with some additional light chocolate notes. Hay and a generally floral characteristic (that I can’t quite identify). Silky mouthfeel, extremely “smooth” to drink (given the low 40% ABV). Absolutely no alcohol burn. Much more character than your typical blended Irish whisky.

midleton-very-rare-2015Finish: Medium. The Juicy Fruit gum and woody/spicy notes persist the longest. My only regret here is that it isn’t longer!

Profile-wise, the Midleton Very Rare is exactly what I like to see in an Irish blend. It is a virtually flawless presentation of this style, with more complexity than usual. Tasty, with absolutely no off notes (which is rare). Unfortunately, it is pretty pricey – and is only bottled at the industry standard of 40% ABV.

For reviews of this whisky, please keep in mind that different vintages are being considered below. Among the most positive reviews I’ve seen are Jonny of Whisky Advocate, Kurt of Whiskey Reviewer, Thomas of Whisky Saga, and Josh the Whiskey Jug. More moderate praise comes from Serge of Whisky Fun, and the guys at Quebec Whisky. In contrast, Jim Murray is not supportive of this whisky. Price seems to be an issue for many reviewers.

Redbreast 21 Year Old

The oldest member of the Redbreast family, this 21 year old expression is currently the highest ranking Irish whisky in my Meta-Critic database.

As I previously introduced in my review of the popular Redbreast 12 year old, the classic Irish pot still style involves a mix of malted and unmalted barley that is triple-distilled in single large copper pot stills. This method introduces a distinctive sticky mouthfeel in the whisky (sometimes referred to as “greasiness”), while still producing great malt complexity.

Like others of the line, Redbreast 21 yo is matured in a mixture of ex-bourbon barrels and first-fill oloroso casks, resulting in a complex whiskey. Jim Murray has just declared the 21yo his Irish whiskey of the year in the 2017 edition of his popular “whisky bible”.

So I thought it was time to crack open my bottle and give it a proper review here. It retails for $250 CAD at the LCBO, and is bottled at 46% ABV.

Here is how it compares to other highly-ranked Irish whiskies in my Meta-Critic Whisky Database:

Bushmills 16yo Single Malt: 8.48 ± 0.49 on 16 reviews ($$$$)
Bushmills 21yo Single Malt: 8.92 ± 0.35 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
Knappogue Castle 16yo Twin Wood: 8.77 ± 0.47 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Midleton Dair Ghaelach: 9.10 ± 0.32 on 6 reviews ($$$$$)
Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey: 8.78 ± 0.50 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
Powers 12yo John’s Lane: 8.82 ± 0.41 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Redbreast 12yo: 8.77 ± 0.42 on 21 reviews ($$$)
Redbreast 12yo Cask Strength: 9.01 ± 0.32 on 15 reviews ($$$$)
Redbreast 15yo: 8.72 ± 0.26 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Redbreast 21yo: 9.20 ± 0.35 on 10 reviews ($$$$$)
Teeling Silver Reserve 21yo Sauternes Finish: 8.89 ± 0.36 on 9 reviews ($$$$$)

While I discourage directly comparing scores across different classes of whiskies, the Redbreast 21 yo does rank in the top 20 of the >900 whiskies tracked on my site.

Let’s see what I find in the glass:

Nose: Sweet, with tropical fruits (pineapple, mango, and guava) and lighter fruits (pear, golden delicious apple). Faint hints of concentrated fruits, like prunes and sultanas.  More tropical than I remember the 12yo being. Fair amount of honey. Wood spice and a bit of vanilla (but surprisingly not overly oaky). Peanuts. A touch of eucalyptus and some heather.  More alcohol singe than expected for the low ABV, but no real solvent smells.

Palate: Rich fruits, tending more towards plums and prunes now. Brown sugar joins the vanilla, and gives it a fudge-like taste and mouth feel (very rich and creamy). Eucalyptus even more noticeable now, as are the spices, with black pepper joining the wood spices (cinnamon and cloves in particular). Some crushed coconut adds to the nutty effect. The woodiness is also enhanced now, but still not overwhelming. The heather notes pick up as well. There’s relatively little burn here, although the spicy kick can linger.

Finish: Long. Juicy fruits linger the longest, with a cola taste and some sweet honey. Spiciness contributes to a mild burn (which is pleasurable).  No real bitterness from the wood, which is very impressive for the age. Leaves a sticky residue on the lips and gums (which is a classic single pot still characteristic).

rebreast-21As expected, this is an amped-up experience from the 12 yo – although it hits many of the same notes.  The extra time in wood has helped mellow some of the harsher characteristics still present in the 12 yo, and enhances the “tropical” and sweet notes. The slow burn of spices at the end of the finish is also in keeping with its ripe old age, but surprisingly it has avoided being “over-oaked” and bitter.

I agree with the critics – this is a top-notch Irish pot still whisky. Aside from Jim Murray’s top score, Josh of the Whiskey Jug and Dominic of Whisky Advocate both rave about this whisky. Similarly, Oliver of Dramming/Pour Me Another One and Serge of Whisky Fun both give this one top marks. André and Patrick of Quebec Whisky give it the lowest scores I’ve seen.

Redbreast 12 Year Old

Redbreast gets a lot of attention from whisky enthusiasts – especially those who typically specialize in single malts.  It is an example of the Irish pure pot still style (aka single pot still), which is the traditional method for Irish whisky production.

This process involves a mix of malted and unmalted barley that has been combined and triple-distilled in a large, single copper pot stills. This method introduces a distinctive “greasiness” in the mouthfeel of the whisky, while still maintaining a lot of classic malt whisky flavours.

You may not have noticed this before in Irish whiskies, since most are actually blends of single pot still whisky and lighter grain whisky (e.g. Jameson’s, Powers, etc.). In this sense, a single pot still whisky (like Redbreast 12 Year Old) is closer to a classic single malt, while the more common entry-level Irish whiskies are closer to scotch blends.

Indeed, many enthusiasts are comfortable describing the flavour of pure pot still whiskies in the same terms as single malts (in this case, cluster E on my flavour map). That would place it in the same category as a number of the traditional vatted speyside/highland single malts that have some proportion of wine cask-aged whiskies in their mix.

Produced by Middleton, Redbreast 12 year old is a very affordable whisky – by comparable quality single malt standards. It currently sells for $75 CAD for a 750mL bottle at the LCBO. While bottled at the standard 40% ABV, there is a cask-strength version of the 12yo (57.4%) that you can pick up here for $110.

Here is how it compares to a number of whiskies of similar flavour and price in my Meta-Critic Database:

Aberfeldy 12yo: 8.16 ± 0.32 on 17 reviews ($$$)
Auchentoshan 12yo: 8.29 ± 0.25 on 21 reviews ($$$)
Balvenie 12yo Doublewood: 8.45 ± 0.34 on 19 reviews ($$$$)
Balvenie 12yo Single Barrel: 8.61 ± 0.37 on 10 reviews ($$$$)
Dalmore 12yo: 8.45 ± 0.26 on 16 reviews ($$$)
Dalmore Valour: 8.04 ± 0.37 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich 14yo Rich Oak: 8.59 ± 0.33 on 9 reviews ($$$)
Monkey Shoulder: 8.27 ± 0.38 on 15 reviews ($$)
Redbreast 12yo: 8.78 ± 0.41 on 21 reviews ($$$)
Redbreast 12yo Cask Strength: 9.05 ± 0.32 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Redbreast 15yo: 8.71 ± 0.26 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
The Irishman Founder’s Reserve: 8.38 ± 0.30 on 6 reviews ($$)
Tullamore Dew 10yo Single Malt: 8.00 ± 0.79 on 6 reviews ($$$)
Writers Tears Pot Still: 8.48 ± 0.38 on 14 reviews ($$)

Again, for the price and flavour cluster, you can see the Redbreast 12yo does very well. Indeed, it is the Meta-Critic score leader for this cluster in the <$75 group ($$$).

Here is what I find in the glass for the standard 12 yo Redbreast:

Nose: Nutty and slightly malty (the latter fades with a bit of time in the glass). Spicy, with pepper and a bit of black licorice (anise). While not overly sherried, I suspect some proportion of this whisky spent time in a sherry cask – I get hints of light berries and milk chocolate raisonettes. A touch of solvent smell, but I can’t place it.

Palate: Rich up-front hit of brown sugar, vanilla and honey. Slightly flat cola too. Light fruits again, with tart citrus kicking in now. Very oily and juicy, giving it a chewy mouthfeel that is quite distinctive. Much more substantial than most Irish whiskies I’ve tried. Just a touch of bitterness comes in at the end, which some may find harsh if used to the lighter Irish whiskies.

Finish: Moderately long, with persistent spice – and that cola effect is back.  Not a lot of variety, just a consistent fade out. The bitterness persists as well, encouraging you to take another sip. Not particularly complex, but longer lasting than most Irish whiskies.

Redbreast.12The Redbreast 12 yo is a solid performer, with more substantial character than most commonly available Irish whiskies.  But it still carries through the typical Irish sweetness, just mixed with a single malt-like balance of flavours. This makes Redbreast 12 yo somewhat unique in my experience – sort of a hybrid of a typical Irish whisky and a sherry cask-matured speyside single malt.

Ideally, I think it best suited for those wanting to take their Irish whisky experience up to the next level. Or those who find some of the stronger sherry-finished highland/speysides to be a bit much (i.e., think of it as a sweeter Glendronach 12 yo). Indeed, I would personally rate it much closer to the Glendronach 12 yo (which gets a Meta-Critic score of 8.58 ± 0.22 on 20 reviews). But that still makes Redbreast 12yo a great value.

For a range of opinions on this whisky, the lowest scores I’ve seen come from André and Patrick at Quebec Whisky and Ralfy. Most seem to be of comparable opinion to Serge of Whisky Fun or Jim Murray. The highest scores I’ve seen come from John Hansel of Whisky Advocate and Michael of Diving for Pearls.