Yellow Spot 12 Year Old Irish Whiskey
Yellow Spot is a member of a family of “bonded” Irish Whiskies produced by Irish Distillers for an independent wine merchant in Ireland, Mitchell & Son, of Dublin. As with Green Spot and the recently re-released Red Spot, the whisky name derives from Mitchell’s historic practice of marking casks of different ages with spot of coloured paint.
Green Spot – the youngest in age and the lightest in flavour – became their most popular seller, and is the only one to remain in continuous production over the years (albeit with no age statement in recent years). The others were discontinued in the late 1960s, with Yellow Spot (12 years old) relaunched in 2012, and Red Spot (15 years old) recently relaunched in 2019.
All are examples of single pot still Irish whisky (aka pure pot still). This is when a combination of malted and unmalted barley are distilled together in a single, large copper pot still. This is the traditional method for whisky production in Ireland.
Yellow Spot has a 12 year old age statement, and is a combination of pot still whiskies matured in three types of casks: American bourbon casks, Spanish Sherry butts and Spanish Malaga casks. The latter two are is in keeping with Mitchell’s tradition of importing fortified wines. The Malaga casks are an unusual choice, very rare in the whisky world. Malaga is a sweet fortified wine originating in the Spanish city of Málaga, and is made from a mix of Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel grapes. Full-term maturation is used for this component, which should impart a richer and sweeter flavour than more typical sherry cask finishing.
The whisky is non-chill-filtered, and bottled at a respectable 46% ABV. I picked up my bottle a couple of years ago at the LCBO here in Ontario for $100 CAD.
Let’s see how it compares to other higher-end Irish whiskies in my Meta-Critic database:
Green Spot: 8.51 ± 0.35 on 24 reviews ($$$$)
Green Spot Chateau Leoville Barton: 8.82 ± 0.35 on 14 reviews ($$$$)
Green Spot Chateau Montelena: 8.44 ± 0.29 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Red Spot 15yo: 8.61 ± 0.35 on 9 reviews ($$$$$)
Yellow Spot 12yo: 8.79 ± 0.24 on 22 reviews ($$$$)
Jameson 12yo Special Reserve: 8.37 ± 0.27 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Jameson 18yo Limited Reserve: 8.65 ± 0.26 on 12 reviews ($$$$$)
Jameson Gold Reserve: 8.44 ± 0.49 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy: 9.10 ± 0.24 on 15 reviews ($$$$$)
Midleton Very Rare (all vintages): 8.81 ± 0.42 on 14 reviews ($$$$$)
Powers 12yo John’s Lane: 8.84 ± 0.36 on 19 reviews ($$$$)
Redbreast 12yo: 8.71 ± 0.41 on 26 reviews ($$$)
Redbreast 12yo Cask Strength: 9.02 ± 0.30 on 26 reviews ($$$$)
Redbreast 15yo: 8.73 ± 0.26 on 20 reviews ($$$$)
Redbreast 21yo: 9.11 ± 0.31 on 20 reviews ($$$$$)
Redbreast Lustau Edition: 8.66 ± 0.32 on 20 reviews ($$$$)
Let’s see what I find in the glass:
Nose: Definitely woody, with light caramel, vanilla and honeysuckle notes. Fresh and dried apricots and peaches, and a touch of fresh cherries. Wood spice, especially nutmeg and cloves. Wet green tea leaves. Hay and fresh-cut green grass. It is unusual to find both the fresh and dry notes at the same time, which must be due to the diverse wood aging. Faint hint of sweat socks, but not objectionable. With a bit of water it gets sweeter, as brown sugar joins the mix – plus a creamy custard.
Palate: Spicier than I expected, with the wood spice up front (especially the cloves), as well as black pepper. Caramel, vanilla and honey sweetness. Ground cherries. Consistent with the nose, it is very earthy, with moist and dry notes both present. Oily mouthfeel, likely thanks to the higher ABV (which also brings with it a fair amount of alcohol heat, unusual for an Irish whisky). Dry paper note returns on swallow. A bit of water sweetens and helps with the ethanol sting, without affecting the pleasant oiliness. Definitely recommend you add a few drops.
Finish: Medium long. Cinnamon and nutmeg are prominent now. Dried apricots again. Astringency shows up, in a tannic tea way. A faint lingering sweetness for sure, but I find the oaky notes dominate, with a mild woody bitterness. The classic Irish pot still “greasiness” shows up at the end, with a sticky coating on the lips and gums. With water, I find a bit of anise joins the woody/earthy character, which I like.
A bit of water really helps here, restoring a more typical Irish whisky sweetness, and taming the mouth burn and bitterness on the finish. Highly recommended you add a few drops.
My only (minor) complaint here is that the classic Irish pot still character is a bit submerged under the fortified wine finish. It is still there if you hunt for it though. A very nice example overall of what good sherry finishing can do with a delicate base spirit.
Yellow Spot receives very high scores from Nathan the Scotch Noob, Josh the Whiskey Jug, Kurt of Whiskey Reviewer and Jan of Best Shot Whisky (honestly, I’m in this camp as well). Moderately positive are Jonny of Whisky Advocate, Serge of Whisky Fun, and The Muskok and Tomodera of Reddit. The lowest scores (although with still fairly positive comments) come from Ruben of Whisky Notes and Thomas of Whisky Saga.