A few years ago
I could walk into
All photos authors own.
A few years ago
I could walk into
All photos authors own.
Sonny Molloy’s in Galway certainly know how to throw a party.
This one happened to be the latest release of the revered Midleton Very Rare series – the 2019 bottle.
I missed out on John Wilson’s – the Irish Times wine guru – introduction and only arrived as Brian Nation – Head Distiller at Midleton Distillery – led out the first whiskey of the evening.
Barry Crockett Legacy, Single Pot Still, 46%
Like meeting an old friend again – this single pot stills greets you with a warm embrace – cheers you with it’s complex palate and entertains you with a gorgeous oak spiciness.
Next up came a special treat.
Midleton Single Cask, Single Pot Still, 56%
Drawn from a 21 year old virgin oak cask resting at Midleton – yours for a starting price of only €80,000 – this wasn’t a shy whiskey.
Rich & warm woody oak tannins with a hint of spice – I could have nosed this beauty all night long.
The palate started off flavoursome & smooth – before the strength & gradually drying tannic spice made it’s presence felt – which left my mouth reeling.
Not for the faint hearted.
And then the finale.
Midleton Very Rare, 2019, Blend, 40%
A blend of up to 226 barrels of grain & single pot still aged from 13 to 34 years carefully put together by Brian Nation himself.
A surprisingly fruity nose – reminded me of wine gums, the dark ones especially.
A silky smooth palate tempered by a lovely gentle sweet grain mixed in with dry oaky tannins – which didn’t overpower – allowing a cornucopia of flavour to flow around the mouth with depth & character in abundance.
A perfectly balanced blend showcasing the rich diversity & age range of the casks available at Midleton Distillery.
A joy to behold.
A big thank you to all the team at Sonny Molloy’s & Midleton Distillery for the warm hospitality – fabulous whiskey – tasty canapés and highly enjoyable evening.
May the road rise with you!
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.
May the road rise with you!
After disembarking at Galway Docks from successfully launching The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey the entertainment continued into the wee small hours. We were whisked away to one of the founding members of The Galway Whiskey Trail‘s bars – Sonny Molloy’s.
Drinks soon flowed – wines for the non-whiskey drinking brigade – cocktails for the more youthful contingent – and yet more whiskey for myself.
Being in Sonny’s surrounded by a stunning display of whiskeys allowed me to further explore the wonderful world of peated Irish whiskey.
Peated Irish whiskey.
It’s not a category everyone seems to be aware of – let alone be familiar with.
Connemara is the most well known example of this style. A Beam/Suntory brand from the Cooley Distillery in County Louth. It’s a fairly light tasting peated whiskey in its original non-age statement (NAS) single malt bottling but is also available as a 12 year old, a stunning 22 year old, a cask strength and if you look for it – a Turf Mor expression too.
A few years ago I tasted the 22 year old at it’s launch during the 2014 Irish Whiskey Awards held in Kilbeggan Distillery. I’m afraid to say peat wasn’t my strong point at that time so it was lost on me – but I have since developed a palate for peat and should go back to re-taste it again.
Contrary to Iain Banks eminently enjoyable whisky book ‘Raw Spirit’ who likens peated whisky to Marmite in that you either love it – or hate it – I think the charms of peat have slowly grown on me.
Sonny’s also stock some lovely discontinued peated Irish whiskey.
Michael Collins 10 Year Old Single Malt is a lighty peated expression also from Cooley before the Beam takeover in 2011. Originally destined for the American market by Sidney Frank Importing Company lawsuits ensued after the loss of supply but luckily this brand may re-surface as part of the Sazerac portfolio. I certainly await it’s return – although I can still enjoy the odd dram now and then of the original in decent whiskey bars around Ireland.
The peated Irish whiskey that really tantalises my tastebuds however is Inishowen. It’s your standard entry level blend of young grain spirit mixed with peaty malt bottled at 40%. Cooley are responsible again for this delightfully smooth youthful yet fully peated whiskey.
I’d go so far to say this whiskey out performs the big Scottish guns of Johnnie Walker, Famous Grouse, Haig and Teachers et al – no sharp edges here with Inishowen. Just a wonderful aroma and taste of peat together with a lovely sweet refreshing grain finish. Pity it’s discontinued – as I love it’s simple charms – much like the youthful exuberance of my musical interlude.
In my merry state – I laid down 2 challenges.
1 – If any standard Scottish blend can match Inishowen I’d love to try it – I haven’t come across one yet.
2 – When will an Irish distillery release a blend to match Inishowen?
Now I know Teeling are already laying down peated distillate and Nephin Whiskey are planning a peated single malt – so I may not have to wait too long – but a plain ordinary everyday peated blend is what I’m looking for – not a premium product.
With my challenge set – I cheerily left what was developing into an Irish bloggers lovefest – rejoined Mrs Whiskey who had bonded with the wine drinking fraternity – and bid our farewells for the evening before things got messy.
I raise a glass of The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey as a toast of appreciation for the wonderful launch party
And a toast to it’s success.
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