I received an invitation to ‘Go West’ recently – so I did.
‘Go West – Lots of open air,
Go West – Where the skies are blue’
ran the lyrics to a popular song.
By the time I got there on a dark, rainy & windswept November evening there was lots of open air for sure, but it was turning my skin blue with the wintry showers!
Thankfully there was a warm welcome and an even warmer open fire in the cosy heart of Sonny Molloy’s Whiskey Bar in Galway.
The event happened to be the Connacht launch of the very highly esteemed Midleton Very Rare 2017 release hosted by none other than wine guru John Wilson who introduced us to Irish Distillers Head Distiller Brian Nation . Brian – in turn – welcomed the gathered crowd into the world of Midleton VR.
For those that are not familiar with Midleton VR – a brief introduction.
Midleton VR is a 40% non age statement blend of the finest aged single pot still & single grain casks Midleton Distillery has in stock at the time of blending the annual release. Normally matured in bourbon casks the whiskey to many is the finest Irish whiskey blend there is. Being an annual limited release the series – started in 1984 – automatically becomes sought after by whiskey collectors.
So glasses were poured – and a very attractive MVR logoed glass too – as Brian led us through a communal sampling of the delights of this 2017 bottling.
Now at this juncture I must admit to trying a few Midleton VRs in my time. None of them overwhelmed me nor grabbed me as many a whiskey does. They are usually very well crafted & finely balanced with a complex marrying of subtle notes & flavours so that no one element dominates. Perhaps just a bit too subtle & well balanced for my palate?
But on the first nosing of this 2017 release the rich warm aromas associated with bourbon cask maturation drew me in. A combination of a 32 year old single grain with single pot stills up to 26 years old certainly worked their charms.
On tasting the lovely oily mouthfeel which coated the palate together with that signature single pot still spice combined to further entrance me.
A hint of orchard fruits emerged too & the whole flurry of flavours danced on the tongue during the very long finish.
I think I’ve just been won over by this one.
To up the stakes Brian produced an unmarked bottle. He proceeded to tell us we were the first audience to sample the 2nd generation of Midleton Dair Ghaelach whiskey finished in virgin Irish oak casks from a forest in Ireland he couldn’t reveal!
Being a cask strength release around the 58% mark this single pot still was a far punchier whiskey. Lovely rich oaky tannins over and above the vanillas & caramel from the bourbon cask maturation pleased me very much. A meatier whiskey than the finely tuned VR.
If that wasn’t enough Brian revealed a final tasting.
Midleton have recently announced the Very Rare Cask Circle Club where for varying degrees of money you can select your own casks & maturation times before Middleton will bottle the cask for your pleasure.
We would be tasting from one of those casks offered for sale.
Originally barreled in a bourbon cask in 2004 & re-casked into a Malaga hogshead in 2009 this 13 year old single pot still could be yours for somewhere in the region of 230 to 250,000 euro!
Erm, Could I have a sample before I buy?
Again at cask strength this is a powerful whiskey packed with flavour. The Malaga influence has toned down some of the fire & introduced more sweet yet heavier fruity notes to the rich vanilla bourbon undertones. It would make any prospective buyer very happy indeed. I’m just not sure my budget can stretch that far at present!
Brian then presented Shane McMahon – General Manager at Sonny Molloy’s – with a bottle of Midleton VR 2017. Shane scaled a ladder to place this latest release among the complete collection of Midleton VR bottles dating back to 1984 which is housed in a glass cabinet in the bar itself.
An astounding collection, an astounding evening & an astounding whiskey!
I would like to thank all the staff & teams at Sonny Molloys & Irish Distillers for the warm hospitality & generous tastings on the evening.