For any whiskey fan who has had the relative joy of visiting one of Ireland’s many whiskey bars over the past 5 years or so, I’d be absolutely certain that if they asked for a recommendation at the bar they would be recommended one of two whiskeys, Redbreast or Green Spot. This fact brings forward the relativity of said joy, as the point where many of the so-called ‘Whiskey Bars’ in Ireland fall down when compared with the great Whisky Bars of Scotland is the knowledge of the staff on the whiskeys themselves. The most recommended whiskey brands in Ireland are all under the Irish Distillers (Pernod Ricard) portfolio from the Midleton Distillery and it is these two that are leaned the heaviest on.
Why? Well first things first, they are Single Pot Still Irish Whiskeys. A unique style of whiskey to Ireland, made with a mix mash of malted and un-malted barley, and up to 5% other grains according to the Technical File. It’s the style of whiskey which set Ireland apart in the 1800s when Irish Whiskey was the most popular in the world, and it is the style of whiskey which today fuels many conversations on the differences between Irish Whiskey and the other great whiskies of the world. The un-malted green barley adds significant texture to the distillate, best described as oily or creamy, and it aids the creation of the signature Pot Still spice that many fans of the category exclaim in their tasting notes without actually be able to describe what that actually tastes like.
Secondly, it’s a style which has been championed by the biggest player in the Irish Whiskey industry, Pernod Ricard, therefore it’s the most talked about in the trade. More money, more people on the ground, when this is considered, of course, they are going to be the most recommended.
So, although the whiskey knowledge throughout the trade provides for a rather narrow range of recommendation for the consumer, there’s no more remarkable experience than that which can be created in many of Ireland’s great whiskey bars, and it’s these experiences that caused these bars to the be filled to the rafters in our oh-so-longed after pre-Covid world.
That being said, I raise the issue of whiskey knowledge only because, aside from a small number of bars, it’s a weakness in our comparative excellence in the hospitality industry in Ireland, and that The Spot Whiskey range, as a case study, are proving to be an excellent range through which you can learn about Single Pot Still whiskey. They can easily display the importance of a consistent flavour profile for your brand, the many opportunities in cask finishing and using unique component whiskeys, while also not breaking the bank entirely.
Previously on Malt, we’ve most recently seen Phil review Red Spot which he gave a well deserved 7/10 while pointing out it may have been a touch overpriced. He also offered up some thoughts on the Green Spot Chateau Leoville Barton release which he felt wasn’t quite true to the original Green Spot character, but could allow that to take away from the tasting experience, a solid 6/10. And if you’ve been a long time follower of Malt, you may have read Mark’s musings on Yellow Spot way back in 2012, where he displays the imaginative tasting notes we are all so familiar with now, making it sound almost unmentionably good. And, I can confirm that it still tastes the same today.
For anyone interested in the origins on the Spot whiskey range, you need look no further than the previous reviews mentioned above. But just to offer a quick re-cap, The Spot Whiskeys were created by Ireland’s longest-running Wine Merchant’s, Mitchell & Son, dating back to 1805 where they started as confectioners, in a building which now houses the largest McDonald’s in Ireland on Grafton Street in Dublin, oh the poetic justice. They built an implausible reputation with some rather notable customers including being the preferred confectioner to the Queen of England in the mid-1800s. In 1887, they moved to Kildare street where they spent over 100 years diversifying to a Wine Merchant’s with a restaurant attached.
As with most Wine Merchants, they sent many of their spent wine casks to the Bow Street distillery to be filled with whiskey which they would store in their bonds and later bottle themselves. And as is well known, they would mark the age of the whiskey with a corresponding spot of colour, Blue for 7, Green for 10, Yellow for 12, Red for 15. They have old price-lists dating back to early 1930s which showed all 4 whiskeys together for the first time, as is well noted, the Blue disappeared in the ’50s with the Yellow and the Red following shortly after.
Nowadays, the whiskeys are part of the Irish Distiller portfolio, although the Mitchell’s are still involved, as distributor for the products in Ireland and they play a role in the continued commitment to the heritage of the brand. In a past life, I worked for Mitchell & Son as an Assistant Manager in one of their shops, and during this time, I liaised with Irish distillers on the release on the upcoming release of Red Spot. And, being the rather brash and untrusting young individual that I still am, I raised an issue with the Marketing department and the now Master Distiller, Kevin O’Gorman, who has played a pivotal role in the re-introduction of each of the Spots through his Master of Maturation role. The issue wasn’t a big one, I simply pointed out that since IDL had acquired Redbreast from W.A Gilbey’s, that Gilbey’s had essentially been written out of the Redbreast story in recent years and that I felt they would probably do the same to the Mitchell’s. Needless to say, I was met with immediate contempt and made to feel like the little boy that I was.
Even though Mitchell & Son Wine Merchants no longer play a role in making the whiskey, they add much more than just heritage to this brand. So, with the Mitchell crest proudly adorned on every bottle, they continue to showcase the Spot Whiskey’s on every suitable occasion, such as the Virtual press launch for Blue Spot this past week. Anyone who has read my previous reviews will be aware of my lack of love for the Virtual launch although this was a well put together affair. We were treated to an introduction from 6th & 7th generation Mitchell’s, Jonathan & Robert, who champion the Mitchell & Son business day in day out. And also, we were joined by Peter Dunne, Director, whom I served under and a man I can only describe as the consummate gentleman, who’s wine knowledge is to be revered and who’s hosting techniques ought to be celebrated, he really should write a book on how to host a tasting. Although, this tasting was led by Kevin O’Gorman along with Distiller, Karen Condon, who provided an in-depth analysis of the 4 core Spot Whiskey products, including the new Blue Spot 7 year old Cask Strength.
Now, as I’m sure you’ve assumed I was provided with a generous sample of Blue Spot free-of-charge so as I could partake in the virtual launch, with plenty for in-depth analysis which I hope gives you an informed view on this new addition to the Single Pot Still category.
Blue Spot 7 Year Old Cask Strength Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey- Review
Continuing on from the trends set by Yellow Spot and Red Spot, this release uses component whiskeys matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks with the inclusion of a wine cask component, in this case Madeira casks. They state that the components age’s range between 7-20 years, which is irrelevant given the age statement, it has been bottled at 58.7% cask strength which will vary from batch to batch, and has been bottled after non-chill filtration. It will retail in Ireland for €80, with most, if not all, of the initial allocation selling out on the opening days.
Colour: A pale Amber.
On the nose: I know I said it above but it is distinctly Pot Still. Touches of sherry throughout, hints of candied mango, orange zest and a whippet of lime peels. It becomes quite nutty, there’s sweet marzipan but it’s dominant in roasted hazelnuts. As it develops it gets more intense with banana skins and butterscotch sweetness. Note the alcohol is present but pleasant.
In the mouth: Lovely oily, mouthcoating texture and a bursting of orchard fruits in the aromatics of the mouth. As it clings to the tongue it gives you a mixture of floral notes like the hull of red berries and fragrant violet petal. It lingers in the back palate with chocolate, caramel, an abundance of nuts and a hint of peppery spice.
When breaking down a premium whiskey, you look for layers, a start-middle-end, a middle-middle, does its develop with time, does it make you think, does it taste good. This whiskey delivers all that and more. The typical Orchard fruits of the Spot range shout out on the palate while the Madeira components brings a round nutty character which serves as a resonator for the other notes. Terrific blending on display here and a great first release for Kevin O’Gorman in the Spot range. If you see one for sale, buy it.
On a final note, given this has been released at the same price as Yellow Spot, I highly doubt that will stay the same in the New Year, my money would be on the price of Yellow Spot increasing sooner, rather than later.
Pictures and sample kindly provided by Oisin Davis, Great Irish Beverages, on behalf of Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard.