February 11, 2013
Green Spot is one of the few surviving “bonded” Irish whiskeys – made by the ubiquitous Irish Distillers Limited (originally at the Jameson Bow Street Distillery, and now at the larger facility in Midleton, where all IDL whiskeys are made) – but sold by the wine merchants Mitchell & Son of Dublin, Ireland. Originating sometime after Mitchell & Son began selling whiskey in 1887, ‘Green Spot’ refers to the family tradition of marking barrels of maturing whisky with a daub of paint to indicate their age – originally the shop sold Green, Yellow, Red, and Blue Spot whiskeys, most aged in the shop’s excess fortified wine barrels.
Today, only the green one remains of the line (although a 12 year-old Yellow Spot, aged in three types of casks, has recently returned to the European market). Green Spot is a single pot still Irish whiskey, meaning a combination of malted and unmalted barley is distilled together (triple-distlled, in this case) in a copper pot still, like Redbreast which is also produced at the Midleton distillery by IDL. Unlike most Irish Whiskeys, single pot still whiskies do not contain any column-still grain whiskey, making this style analogous to (but not the same as) single-malt. Green Spot is then aged in 75% American oak ex-bourbon barrels and 25% in sherry casks for 8-9 years, although it bears no age statement. It is likely caramel colored, chill-filtered, and bottled at 40% ABV.
It was re-packaged circa 2011 when IDL acquired the license to distribute Green Spot outside of Ireland (although IDL has not yet announced plans to ship to the United States, there are rumblings). Despite IDL’s claims that only the packaging has changed and not the whiskey, consensus online is that the newer one is lighter in style and could be younger than the “old” bottling. Without a sample of old Green Spot to compare, I cannot comment. Below are notes from my tasting of the “new” repackaged Green Spot from a 700ml bottle that I bought online via UK retailer Master of Malt.
Nose: Clearly sherried. Orange peel and candied ginger. Tangy and somewhat herbal. Green pear and cotton candy. Honey-lemon throat lozenges. After a rest in the glass, there is a fibrous fruitiness, like the skin of a red delicious apple. Even further in is a faint whiff of the nutty coconut I associate with bourbon-matured pot still whiskey.
Palate: Unctuous body – mouth coating. Minimal burn. Spicy ginger, apple cider, and nondescript grain.
Finish: Medium length, the honey and lemon lozenge remains behind as the spicy notes fade. No trace of bitterness. Simple and refreshing.
With Water: A splash of water reveals bright, fresh green banana on the nose, really washes out the palate, and adds a little peanut butter note to the finish. I wouldn’t recommend the water for how it affects the body. At 40% ABV, it hardly needs further dilution.
Overall: While it has the same mouth-filling unctuousness as Redbreast, the sherry notes seem to cover up the nutty/oily notes I associate with single pot still whiskey. There seems to be a lot of depth here, but it’s hidden by a layer of simplicity. One must really search for the complexity. Still, it is tasty and unique: nobody else makes a sherry-matured Irish single pot still.
With Redbreast’s popularity and the distinct lack of competition in the market for single pot still Irish whiskey, I imagine that IDL is looking very hard at ramping production and distribution of Green Spot, and that they intend to address the US market at some point. With its lighter style (closer, in fact, to the very popular Jameson) and the surge of interest in single pot still, I think this would be a killer product in the US right now.
Note: I don’t usually do this, but I feel that Green Spot warrants a second look. I feel there is more to discover, so I will be updating these tasting notes and possibly my conclusion sometime this week – watch this space.