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 has a unique identifier and is 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 ($$$$)
Jameson 12yo Special Reserve: 8.36 ± 0.27 on 10 reviews ($$$$)
Jameson Gold Reserve: 8.43 ± 0.43 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Midleton Dair Ghaelach: 9.10 ± 0.32 on 6 reviews ($$$$$)
Midleton Very Rare (all vintages): 8.82 ± 0.45 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
Powers 12yo Reserve: 8.60 ± 0.26 on 6 reviews ($$$)
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 roughly equivalent 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. Noticeable caramel. 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). Faint whiff of acetone, but much less than what I normally detect for Irish whiskies (and Canadian whiskies for that matter). Great nose for sure.
Palate: Similar fruits as the nose, but with sweet cereal characteristics coming to the fore now. Creamed wheat sensation. The caramel and vanilla from the nose are here, accentuated 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. More character than your typical blended Irish whisky, but still easy drinking.
Finish: 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 few off notes. 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, with the lowest scores from the guys at Quebec Whisky. and Jim Murray (although the latter is variable, depending on vintage). Price seems to be an issue for many reviewers.