Yay! Green Spot is available in the US! About time, too. The softer, sweeter, lighter cousin of Midleton’s Redbreast 12 year has been enjoying a renaissance in the UK and now in the US. Being the impatient type, I couldn’t wait, and asked my parents to bring back a bottle of Yellow Spot, the older and fortified-wine-finished sibling of Green Spot, from their trip to Ireland. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
Yellow and Green Spot are two 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, the ‘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.
Green and Yellow Spot are single pot still Irish whiskeys, meaning a combination of malted and unmalted barley is distilled together (triple-distilled, 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. Yellow Spot is matured for 12 years in a combination of ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and ex-Malaga (a sweet Spanish fortified wine) casks. The vatted result is bottled without chill-filtration at 46% ABV.
Nose: The Malaga wine cask effect is subtle but effective – soft fruits, mildly vinous, with a strong heart of butterscotch and buttery caramel. Like Green Spot, the cereal notes are in balance, and just this side of light. It bears little to no resemblance to Redbreast, despite the similar distillation. Deeper in the glass, there is an undercurrent of vanilla cake frosting.
Palate: A bit hot. Sweet, but not a body on the thin side. Hard candy, port reduction, and a ghost of sweetened coconut. Also, marshmallow.
Finish: Medium-long, with a nice carrying presence of candied- apple shell, buttery oak, and butterscotch. Ends slightly bitter, with dry wood.
With Water: Water picks up the nose tickle, and adds a bit of red grape skin. Makes the palate and finish a little tannic. Water optional here.
Overall: The Malaga effect on this whisky is very similar to the port finish on Glenmorangie’s Quinta Ruban – lots of red fruits and candy. In this case, it (or the sherry) covers up the essential grain flavors that make single pot still such a fascinating category. While Redbreast 12 (which is far cheaper) showcases the nuts and coconut, Yellow Spot (while very tasty and impeccably composed) showcases the wine. Even so, Yellow Spot does not disappoint.
Any fan of Irish Whiskey must consider Green and Yellow Spot to be mileposts on their journey to discover that country’s whiskey, making this a “Must Try” – of course, it’s a pricy dram, and thus best suited to a splurge purchase or perhaps a bottle split among a few people.