Yellow Spot Irish Whiskey

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 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.

Yellow Spot Irish Whiskey
46% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $80 to $100 (not available in the US)
Acquired: 700ml bottle purchased in Ireland. Thanks Mom & Dad!

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  • I don’t remember if I’ve asked you this before, and I know you mentioned it being overpriced, but how is John’s Lane? I remember being surprised to find it – people kept talking about Green Spot and Redbreast as if they’re the only pure pot still options, and then there’s this other one I saw on my liquor store shelf. I’ve shied away thus far given that it costs $25 more than Redbreast, but I’m wondering if you thought it was even close to worth it.

    • Hi Eric. I alas have not had the pleasure of trying John Lane or the “other” new single pot stills: Midleton Very Rare and Barry Crockett Legacy. These are the kind of special releases that are hard to justify the price untasted. Let me know what you think if you have a chance to try it!

      • I have had the Midleton Very Rare (I didn’t realize it was single pot still). It’s incredible. It blasts you with so many flavors at once it will make your head spin. If you manage to see it priced anywhere below $100 and you feel like a splurge, get it. Some whiskies, you don’t taste every dollar. That one, you do.

        I haven’t tried Barry Crockett Legacy – $250 is kind of breaking point – I’d only buy a drink that cost that much if I won the lottery.

  • John’s lane is great! But it’s a HOT glass of whiskey. A lot like Phoenix. Another mouthy monster! And a freakin HOT mouthy monster at that.

    All; Lane, Phoenix, Green and Yellow Spot are not as hot as most bourbons and they have so much character. I personally like Tealing single grain, not available in US, and regular Tealing. Finished in Rum casks. Score one for cane sugar! And Red Breast 12 and 15, prefer non cask.

    The point? Maybe it’s to say, it’s a great time to love Irish Whiskey!

  • Just tried a sample of Yellow Spot 12 and have to say, I’ll pass. I didn’t find it anywhere close to as good as Redbreast 12, Powers 12, or Writer’s Tears. Thought it lacked character of any kind. But that only goes to show that all palette’s are different and why there is so much variety out there.

  • I’m enjoying this for the first time tonight, so I looked up your review. When it comes to single pot still, Powers John’s Lane 12 is my favorite. However, in my opinion, Redbreast 12 offers the best value for you money in the category. While I think this tastes every bit as good as the other two, I don’t see anything to justify the premium I paid for it. Where I shop Redbreast is $49 and Powers is $65. This sells for $85.

  • Decided to venture into Irish whisky with Yellow Spot (picked over Green Spot for longer aging and higher ABV. I tried it before reading your review. Agree with that this is a bit hot, though not unpleasant. Reminds me of Glenmorangie, with a butt of a kick. Now on to the Redbreast