Author Fionnán O’Connor has assembled a beautiful coffee table style hardcover book entirely about the magic of Irish single pot still (previously called Pure Pot Still) whiskey. In the author’s own words, “It’s worth repeating that there aren’t really that many of them. What’s left from the past can be difficult to find and, although the future looks brighter than it has in a century, what’s bottled at present is still relatively slim. … that’s also why this book seemed worth writing in the first place and I can only hope that that same narrowness of scope might offer me a little more room to give each of these tipples the attention they deserve.”
…Green Spot isn’t cheap to start with. Nor, presumably, are empty grand cru Bordeaux barrels from Château Léoville-Barton. Midleton has taken the classic Green Spot and aged it for an additional 1 to 2 years in the French oak Bordeaux casks, before bottling at 46% ABV.
The West Cork Distillery is a new (opened in 2003 as an experimental “pet project” and then expanded to its current location in 2013) and actually independent Irish distiller, unlike the previous poster-child for Irish (whiskey) independence, Cooley, which sold to Beam Suntory in 2011. Among other things, West Cork bottles this blend and a 10 year-old Irish Single Malt.
Greenore made waves when it was first released and single-handedly made a name for single-grain whiskey in a market dominated by blends and single malts.
Bushmills is an odd duck. One of the few remaining historical Irish distilleries (in fact the oldest licensed distillery in the world), Bushmills makes single-malt and blends it with grain whiskey in the Scottish style.
Black Bush is probably the most successful inexpensive blended whisky on the market that I’ve had, with the sole exception of Bank Note… If you haven’t settled on an Irish Whiskey for your “everyday” dram or cocktail cabinet yet, give this one a serious look.
Until then the company is selling sourced and finished whiskies such as this one, a rum-finished Irish whiskey of unknown origin. It is a blend, with 35% malt and 65% grain aged somewhere between 4 and 7 years. The vatted blend is then finished for 4 to 6 months in Flor de Caña rum casks, an unusual touch.
Yellow Spot is Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey 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.
The current Kilbeggan is a blend of Cooley grain whiskey and malt whiskey. This differentiates it from other Irish blends like Jameson and Powers, which contain Irish single pot-still whiskey instead of just malt. Kilbeggan is aged for at least 3 years (or “sometimes longer”) in ex-bourbon barrels at the warehouse at the old Kilbeggan site.
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.