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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Green Spot

Most-read posts of 2021

I am sure you’ll all agree that it’s been quite a year. But earth-shattering events like a continued global pandemic could not stop the booze news. We had a record…

I am sure you’ll all agree that it’s been quite a year. But earth-shattering events like a continued global pandemic could not stop the booze news. We had a record number of visitors to the blog and these were the most-read posts of 2021.

Looking back at 2021, we don’t want to blow our own trumpets but we published some pretty interesting things on the blog. But which ones did you like the best? Well, using the magic of Google Analytics, we’ve lined up the ones that got the most traffic, and a theme has emerged. It’s whisky. Master of Malt customers love reading about whisky whether it’s big whisky news, whisky comment, whisky features, whisky launches, or whisky cocktails. This makes sense as we are Master of Malt not Master of Crisps. Though we do love crisps.

So, thank you for reading, Happy New Year, and here are our most-read posts of 2021!

Nikka from the Barrell

1) New Japanese whisky regulations 

This was the most-read story by a country mile. There have been rumours flying around that many big-name Japanese blends contained Scotch and Canadian whisky. And finally, producers come clean (ish) on the matter. Big whisky news.

2) A warning about whisky investment

The whisky investment market exploded in 2021. You’ve probably been getting emails outlying how you can make a killing on investing in whisky. Well, read this article by Ian Buxton before you part with any hard-earned cash.

3) Lifting the lid on bulk Scotch whisky sales to Japan

You read the news story and now here’s a detailed look at how the Scottish and Japanese whisky industry have been intertwined for decades from former Diageo man Dr Nick Morgan.

4) New Arrival of the Week: Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2021 release.

A new whisky from Kilchoman is always an event for Master of Malt customers. This heavily-sherried limited edition release did not hang around for long so clearly it struck a chord.

5) Master of Malt tastes… Diageo Special Releases 2021

Another whisky event, the launch of Diageo’s Special Releases. This year’s releases came with packaging that was literally fantastic. The contents were nice too and we thoroughly enjoyed tasting via the internet with Ewan Gunn.

6) Cocktail the the Week: The Penicillin

A great whisky cocktail, the Penicillin, caught the imagination of readers this year. And no wonder because with its mix of peated and blended Scotch whisky, it’s really very special.

7) Blue Spot Irish whiskey returns after more than 50 years 

We were knocked out by the quality of this seven-year-old cask strength single pot still release from Irish Distillers. The online launch, which had whiskey lovers from around the world all comparing notes, was quite something and cheered us up at a difficult time.

8) Torabhaig Distillery’s first whisky!

The first release from Skye’s second working distillery clearly got Master of Malt customers excited because not only did the article get huge traffic but the whisky sold out in record time. 

9) Brendan McCarron to leave Glenmorangie for Distell 

Big whisky news doesn’t come any bigger than one of whisky’s best-loved characters Brendan McCarron (the chap in the header) leaving the Glenmorangie Company for Distell where he took the title of master distiller for Deanston, Tobermory, and Bunnahabhain.

10) RIP Douglas Ankrah

Our last most-read story was a sad one. One of Britain’s bartending greats, Douglas Ankrah, inventor of the Pornstar Martini, died suddenly in his sleep. We posted an obituary with tributes from the British drinks business. 

RIP Douglas Ankrah

RIP Douglas Ankrah

 

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Top ten whiskies by flavour

At a loss for which whisky to buy this Christmas? We’ve handily grouped some of our favourite drams by their taste profile. Here are our top ten whiskies by flavour….

At a loss for which whisky to buy this Christmas? We’ve handily grouped some of our favourite drams by their taste profile. Here are our top ten whiskies by flavour.

Even for whisky experts, it can be hard to know what you’re going to get when you open a bottle. To help customers, there is a trend in bars like The Fife Arms that Adam visited recently to group bottles by flavour rather than region. So in the spirit of a modern whisky bar, we’ve come up with five flavour profiles to help you on your journey. They are:

Floral – lavender, honey, citrus blossom and herbaceous flavours.

Fruity – such as peach, apple or pineapple.

Sherried – classic sweet Oloroso and PX flavours like raisins, orange peel, nuts and dates.

Smoky – peated whiskies with all the different flavours you get here like bonfire, coal smoke, TCP etc.

Sweet – think butterscotch, toffee, vanilla and caramel, lots of American oak character.

Now, of course, your whisky may well be fruity and floral, or sherried and smoky, or even fruity, floral, sherried, smoky and sweet. In which case, we’ve picked the predominant flavour. We admit it’s not a perfect system but it is helpful

So without further ado, here are our favourite whiskies by flavour from Scotland, Ireland and beyond.

Floral

highland-park-12-year-old-viking-honour-whisky

Highland Park 12 Year Old – Viking Honour

Once just known as Highland Park 12 Year Old, now it’s called Viking Honour. Fearsome! The whisky, happily, is the same as it ever was with that classic honey, floral and wood smoke profile. The Orkney distillery does things the time-honoured ways with floor maltings, peat, sherry casks and cool climate maturation. If it ain’t broke and all that. 

What does it taste like?

Honey and floral notes abound on the nose with some wood smoke. On the palate it’s peppery with notes of orange and wood shavings. 

the-hakushu-single-malt-whisky-distillers-reserve-whisky

Hakushu Single Malt Whisky – Distiller’s Reserve

From the Hakushu distillery in the foothills of Mount Kaikomagatake comes their Distiller’s Reserve single malt whisky, a no-age-statement expression, that captures the smoky, herbaceous characteristics of its whiskies. Both lightly-peated and heavily-peated malts were used for this complex and deeply enjoyable whisky. 

What does it taste like?

The herbs are very upfront with this one. Peppermint, pine and pleasant grassy notes with citrus zest and a waft of smoke. 

Fruity 

green spot single-pot-still-whiskey

Green Spot Single Pot Still 

Last year we announced the return of Blue Spot, now we’re showing some love to the best known of the range and a whiskey that has done so much to fly the flag for single pot still whiskey. We’re talking, of course, about the fabulous Green Spot, a whiskey that was matured in a combination of first and second fill bourbon casks as well as sherry casks to deliver a robust, fruity and rich profile. Savour this one.

What does it taste like?

Fresh green apple, sweet barley, sugary porridge, creamy vanilla, papaya, gentle bourbon oak, green woods, menthol, potpourri and citrus.

masthouse single-malt whisky

Masthouse Single Malt

We were very excited to try this first single malt from the Copper Rivet Distillery in Chatham, Kent as we’d tasted some aged new make. It’s fair to say that we were more than impressed as it manages to be vibrant, smooth and packed full of flavour despite only being three years old. It’s made only from Kentish barley, distilled and aged in ex-bourbon and virgin American white oak barrels.

What does it taste like?

The fruit on the nose jumps out of the glass with apple and peaches followed by creamy cereal, sweet spices and vanilla. 

Sherried

glenfarclas 15 year old whisky

Glenfarclas 15 Year Old

A wonderfully sherried 15-year-old dram from Glenfarclas, boasting oodles of dried fruit notes. It’s bottled at 46% ABV simply because this was the strength that George Grant’s grandfather preferred it at. Happily, this also results in the Speysider boasting a big, juicy, Christmas cake profile. 

What does it taste like?

Intensely sherried on the nose with raisins, orange peel, walnuts and dates. This is as close as you get to Christmas cake in a glass. 

Darkness 8 year old

Darkness 8 Year Old 

If you like a sherry bomb then you’ll love the Darkness 8 Year Old. It’s a single malt from an undisclosed distillery aged in ex-bourbon casks before spending a few months in custom-made Oloroso sherry octave casks. Small casks make for a vastly increased surface area to volume ratio, leading to more cask influence. In other words: sherry city!

What does it taste like? 

More sherry than a vicars convention in Jerez. Candied orange peel, dried cherry and chocolate peanuts on the nose, with powerful raisin, prune and oak on the palate. 

Smoky

ardbeg-10-year-old-whisky

Ardbeg 10 Year Old 

Ardbeg 10 Year Old is a firm favourite of peated whisky fans because it does a sublime job of showcasing the flavours Islay and the distillery itself are famous for. As well as all that smoke and sea, however, you’ll also taste an array of sweet, citrusy and fruity elements thanks to the depth of the spirit and the balance ex-bourbon casks bring. 

What does it taste like?

A ridge of vanilla and caramel leads to a mountain of peat smoke capped with citrus fruits and circled by clouds of sea spray.

seaweed-and-aeons-and-digging-and-fire-10-year-old-whisky

Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10 Year Old

They say you can’t judge a book by the cover, but you can judge this whisky by its label. The name makes sense as soon as you take a sip, it’s a smoky peaty Islay malt from an undisclosed distillery with 25% aged Oloroso sherry cask. This has proved an extremely popular malt with MoM customers.

What does it taste like? 

Does exactly what it says on the bottle: there’s woodsmoke, seaweed and charred meat combined with sweet sherry notes, red apple and vanilla. 

compass-box-hedonism-whisky

Sweet

Compass Box Hedonism

Smooth, creamy and really very tasty, Hedonism is a blended grain whisky featuring liquid (depending on batch variation) from Cameronbridge, Carsebridge, Cambus, Invergordon, Port Dundas or Dumbarton that was matured in 100% first-fill American oak barrels or rejuvenated American oak hogsheads. 

What does it taste like?

Fraises des bois, sponge cake, red pepper, black cherry, milk chocolate, toasted oak and sweet spices with some cereal notes.

balvenie-14-year-old-caribbean-cask-whisky

Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask     

‘Finishing’ whisky is commonplace now but it was David Stewart who pioneered the process at The Balvenie in the 1970s. This 14-year-old shows the magic of double cask ageing as it was initially matured in bourbon barrels before finishing in casks that previously held Caribbean rum, imparting some extra sweetness and warmth.

What does it taste like?

It’s a sweetie, no doubt, with toffee, vanilla and coconut, but there’s no shortage of fruit like mangoes, orange and creamy toffee.

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Blue Spot Irish whiskey returns after more than 50 years

The final spot is here! For the first time since the 1960s, there are four colours in the ‘Spot’ range of single pot still Irish whiskey with the arrival of…

The final spot is here! For the first time since the 1960s, there are four colours in the ‘Spot’ range of single pot still Irish whiskey with the arrival of the Madeira-aged cask strength Blue Spot. We spoke to people behind its rebirth and, most importantly, had a little taste.

In November 2018, we visited Dublin for the relaunch of Red Spot single pot still Irish whiskey and while we were there, Kevin O’ Gorman from the Midleton Distillery hinted heavily that the team were working on the release of the final spot in the range, Blue. Well, now the wait is over. 

But before we dive in, first a bit of recap. The Spot range of whiskeys, of which Green Spot is the best known, are a relic of the old days when the big distillers didn’t bottle their own whiskey. Instead, merchants all over the country would buy and age new make spirit and sell it under their own brands. One such was Mitchell & Sons wine merchants in Dublin. They began buying spirit from John Jameson and Sons distillery on Bow Street in 1887 and filling it into empty wine casks, mainly sherry, Port, Malaga, Madeira and Marsala. 

Master distiller Kevin O’ Gorman

These casks would mature in the firm’s Fitzwilliam Lane cellars and then daubed with a spot depending on its ageing potential with red being the highest designation. At one point the firm sold four designations: Blue, a seven year old, Green, a ten, yellow, 12 and red, 15 year old. Gradually, however, the mighty Irish whiskey industry contracted and independent bottling died out. Green Spot survived, now made at the New Midleton distillery in Cork, but the other Spots were discontinued in the early 1960s.

At one time, Green Spot was the only single pot still whiskey available. It was hard to get hold of and often a welcome present for Irishmen living abroad. Peter Dunne from Mitchell & Sons told a story about two men coming into the shop and buying six bottles. He’d never sold so many before and was curious about who they were for. Apparently, these men were friends of Samuel Beckett on their way to visit him in Paris. 

Now, of course, things are very different, the style is revered and Green Spot is available globally.  Now an NAS expression, it contains whiskeys between seven and ten years old. Yellow Spot was reintroduced in 2012 as a 12 year old whiskey aged in sweet Malaga casks followed in 2018 by a 15 year old Red Spot aged first in bourbon and then Marsala casks. Now the final piece in the jigsaw is here. Sadly we weren’t able to travel to Dublin this time but instead did a Soom tasting with Katherine Condon and Kevin O’ Gorman from Irish Distillers, Jonathan and Robert Mitchell from Mitchell & Sons, and Humberto Jardin from Henriques & Henriques in Madeira.

This relaunched version is aged in bourbon and sherry casks like Green Spot, but adds Madeira, a wine which would have been imported by Mitchell & Sons. According to O’ Gorman, they didn’t really know what the original Blue Spot tasted like beyond that it was seven years old and had some Madeira influence, nobody has seen a bottle for years.

It’s back!

Jonathan Mitchell explained: “The inclusion of whiskey aged in Madeira casks adds flavours that would have been originally introduced into Irish whiskey by the Mitchell family. As the full Spot range comes back to life, we find ourselves bursting with pride for the role our family played in the creation of this treasured range of whiskeys.” These casks were coopered in northern Portugal before being sent to the island of Madeira for seasoning in Tinta Negra, a full-bodied medium sweet wine, for three years before they’re ready to be sent to Ireland to be filled with medium style pot still spirit. 

It’s a seven year old whiskey but according to master distiller Kevin O’ Gorman, it contains much older Madeira cask whisky including some barrels that were filled when he first joined the company. He commented: “It is with absolute pleasure that we reintroduce Blue Spot and bring a piece of Dublin’s rich whiskey history back to life. Over the years I have had the honour of collaborating with the Mitchell family, who for generations have celebrated the influence of fine wines on Irish whiskey, as we have reintroduced expressions to the beloved Spot range. I am incredibly proud to celebrate with Jonathan and Robert Mitchell on this historic day as Blue Spot takes its place alongside Green, Yellow and Red Spot, reuniting the whole family once again.”

This reborn version is non-chill filtered and bottled at cask strength in batches so the alcohol will vary. Our sample was 58.7% ABV. There’s a full tasting note below but it really rounds off the spot range: the Green being all about that fresh green apple note, the Yellow honey, peaches and creme brulee while the Red Spot majors on dried fruit, rum and nuts; the Blue, in contrast, is bigger, burlier and spicier but with no shortage of elegance. Those Madeira casks provide nuttiness and the alcohol comes through more as flavour than heat, making it dangerously drinkable for such a strong whisky. According to O’ Gorman, it just tasted so right at cask strength that he thought there was no point adjusting it. We have to agree. 

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Big hit of spices on the nose, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon, followed by a medley of puddings: banana custard, apple pie, and frangipane tart. 

Palate: It’s a spicy one, with plenty of black and sichuan peppers. It’s full-bodied and super creamy with vanilla green apple, peaches, lemon peel and toasted hazelnuts. 

Finish: There’s a milk chocolate creaminess that goes on and on with fresh fruit and nuts lingering, and just a lick of rum at the end.

Overall: Masses of pot still character, a powerful, charismatic and distinctly Irish whiskey. 

You can buy Blue Spot from Master of Malt now!

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Fab Irish whiskey and gin for St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is next week (Tuesday 17 March) and you know what that means: it’s time to indulge in some delightfully Irish spirits! There are plenty of ways to…

St. Patrick’s Day is next week (Tuesday 17 March) and you know what that means: it’s time to indulge in some delightfully Irish spirits!

There are plenty of ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. You could try not patronising your Irish friends with terrible impressions and old stereotypes. That’s always fun. Or you could ditch the horrible green beer and drink deliciously Irish booze and raise a glass to the patron saint. That sounds much better, doesn’t it?

Whether you’re a fan of gin or whiskey, we’ve got plenty of festive Irish fancies for you to enjoy. Oh, and don’t forget that you can still enter our latest fabulous VIP competition, the winner of which will go to the old country to create their very own bottling with J.J. Corry founder Louise McGuane!

Fab Irish whiskey and gin for St. Patrick's Day

Redbreast 12 Year Old  

Not just one of the best single pot still Irish whiskeys you’ll ever taste, but just hands down one of the best whiskeys you’ll ever enjoy, Redbreast 12 Year Old is a real favourite of ours here at MoM Towers. It was matured in a combination of bourbon-seasoned American oak barrels and 0loroso sherry-seasoned Spanish oak butts to give it that classic nutty, rich and oily profile.

What does it taste like?:

Citrus peels, ginger, linseed, melon, marzipan, dried fruits, custard and a hint of sherry.

Fab Irish whiskey and gin for St. Patrick's Day

Green Spot Château Léoville Barton 

If you want to push the boat out this St Patrick’s Day and go for something a little different, then you won’t go wrong with the first-ever single pot still Irish whiskey finished in Bordeaux casks. Matured initially in a mixture of ex-0loroso sherry, fresh American oak and ex-bourbon barrels, this delicious Green Spot whiskey was then finished in the ex-Château Léoville Barton Bordeaux wine casks for 12 to 24 months. What’s so cool about this choice of cask is that Ch. Léoville Barton is not only a highly-regarded grand cru Château, but it was founded by an Irishman, Thomas Barton, and still run by his descendants to this day.

What does it taste like?:

Wild raspberry, a little potpourri, crab apple, honey, gingerbread, toffee, green apple, lemon peel, vanilla, redcurrant and warming spice.

Fab Irish whiskey and gin for St. Patrick's Day

Mór Irish Gin

You probably know of Tullamore D.E.W  and its range of delicious whiskies, but did you know it’s not the only delightful distiller in the town? Mór Irish Gin is made in the Arderin Distillery in Tullamore using a quartet of berries amongst its botanical selection – juniper berry, blackberry, cranberry and raspberry! It also features floral wafts of angelica, rosemary and coriander too. 

What does it taste like?:

Earthy at first, with coriander and rosemary making a big impression. Becomes sweet and juicy with big bundles of fresh berry notes at the core. A slight peppery hint on the finish.

Fab Irish whiskey and gin for St. Patrick's Day

Writers Tears Copper Pot Irish Whiskey 

If you’re looking for a light, sweet Irish whiskey then we recommend Writers Tears Copper Pot Irish Whiskey. Made using a mix of single pot still and single malt whiskeys, this tipple is wonderfully easy to drink and would make for a great introduction to Irish whiskey for folks new to the spirit. I should point out that no writers were harmed in the making of this whiskey.

What does it taste like?:

Thick honey spread on granary toast, citrus peels, vanilla, golden malt, green apple skin, caramel and a hint of oak.

Fab Irish whiskey and gin for St. Patrick's Day

Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin

Some people name their gin brands after their founders, others prefer to honour the place it was made or a key botanical. But this gin from Ballyvolane House was named after Bertha, a Droimeann cow from Kerry that was said to have been the oldest in the world when she died aged 48 in 1993. Which is amazing. Unsurprisingly, given the gin honours a cow, it uses whey alcohol from Irish dairies as its base and is distilled using locally-foraged botanicals.

What does it taste like?:

Almond, hay, dried juniper, orange peel, floral angelica, cumin spiciness, clove, cardamom, creamy vanilla, fresh citrus peels, oily juniper, lime and liquorice root.

Fab Irish whiskey and gin for St. Patrick's Day

Teeling Small Batch

When the Teeling Whiskey Company released this delicious small-batch blend we learned that this was a distillery that was interested in making unconventional, experimental whiskey and we love them for it. To create this expression, grain and malt whiskies were initially matured in ex-bourbon barrels before being married together in a Central American rum cask for up to 12 months. This one makes a delightful Old Fashioned.

What does it taste like?:

Cut grass, dried herbs, caramel, cinnamon, orange blossom, allspice, vanilla, apple pie, rose petal jelly, lemon curd and blackberries.

Fab Irish whiskey and gin for St. Patrick's Day

J.J. Corry The Gael – Batch 2 

Amazing VIP competitions are not the only thing that’s great about J.J. Corry. It also blends some truly delicious whiskey, like The Gael Irish whiskey. Made from a blend of 60% malt and 40% grain and aged in a combo of ex-bourbon and sherry casks, this expression is meant to serve as a mission statement of sorts – an example of what the team is aiming for when its own whiskey comes of age. We can’t wait to see what they do next.

What does it taste like?:

Sugary shortbread, peaches and cream, lemon drizzle cake, honeycomb, hazelnut spread, apricot yoghurt, mince pie filling, rye bread and thyme.

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Wonderful whiskies from curious casks

From Château Léoville Barton to Rhum Agricole, taking in a combination of Tequila and mezcal, these are some of the most strange and sensational cask-finishes used to mature whisky you’ll…

From Château Léoville Barton to Rhum Agricole, taking in a combination of Tequila and mezcal, these are some of the most strange and sensational cask-finishes used to mature whisky you’ll find at MoM Towers.

Cask-finishing has become a popular phenomenon in the whisky industry over the last couple of decades as experimental producers seek to add a touch of something different and delightful to their distillates. But despite there being a glut of great expressions on the market that benefit from secondary maturation already, there’s always room for innovation and this leads some to choose a road that’s less travelled, but very rewarding.

To celebrate those who dare to do it differently, we’ve decided to shine a light on some of the most unusual cask-finished whiskies around. Enjoy the selection!

Glen Moray Rhum Agricole Cask Finish Project

Glen Moray loves a good experiment, to the joy of fans of all things unusual and writers who need ideas for a blog like this. The distillery in Speyside has finished this single malt Scotch whisky in casks that previously held rhum agricole from Martinique for around 24 months, a style that should bring a lot of grassy, fruity sweetness to the dram.

What does it taste like?:

Candied lemon peel, honey, white pepper, toffee apple, dried grass, toasted brown sugar, walnut, cherry and banana.

J.J. Corry The Battalion

From Chapel Gate whiskey bonders comes J.J. Corry The Battalion, a blend of 60% grain and 40% malt whiskey that was initially aged in bourbon casks. Then the grain portion continued its maturation in a combination of Tequila and mezcal casks for seven months, while the malt portion continued maturing in just mezcal casks for seven months. Ever had a whiskey matured in both Tequila and mezcal casks? Of course, you haven’t! This bottling gets extra badass brownie points for being named after the Battalion San Patricos, a group of Irish soldiers who fought for Mexico in the Mexican-American war

What does it taste like?:

Fresh leafy notes, apple skin, tangy pineapple, ripe pear, green grass, vegetal agave, oak spice, sea salt, dried herbs, lemon curd and a slight oily nutty note.

Talisker 2007 (bottled 2017) Amoroso Cask Finish – Distillers Edition

The Distillers Editions from Talisker are always sure to deliver some true delights and this expression is no exception. Finished for a period in casks that previously held amoroso (a blend of oloroso and sweet Pedro Ximénez)  sherry, the profile pairs wonderfully with the distinctive maritime salinity of this single malt.

What does it taste like?:

Toffee, seaweed, a sharp hint of fresh citrus fruit, milky coffee, juicy pineapple, apple and some light vegetal hints of fresh thyme and basil balanced by a kick of sea spray, lingering smoke and dried fruit.

Penderyn Madeira Finish

Not many brands would make its original ‘house style’ such a distinctive profile, but then Penderyn has proved itself to be quite the experimental distillery since it first began distilling back in September 2000. This bottling was aged initially in ex-bourbon barrels before it was finished in ex-Madeira wine casks, an idea that speaks to the influence the late Dr. Jim Swan had on the Welsh whisky makers.

What does it taste like?:

Herbs, vanilla sweetness, resin, sultanas, toast, over-ripe grapes, custard and stem ginger.

Glenfiddich Experimental Series – IPA Cask Finish

You’d expect Glenfiddich’s Experimental Series to have a few single malts with a point of difference and this IPA Cask finish doesn’t disappoint. Created from a collaboration between Glenfiddich Malt Master Brian Kinsman and IPA expert Seb Jones, the IPA which was in the casks before the whisky was specially brewed for this expression by the Speyside Craft Brewery.

What does it taste like?:

Fresh green apple, William’s pear, spring blossom, aromatic hops, fresh herbs, zesty citrus and creamy vanilla.

Midleton Method and Madness Single Pot Still

Another highly innovative series from an exceptional distillery, Method and Madness Single Pot Still was perhaps the most intriguing release from the first batch of Midleton’s experimental range. You won’t find many single pot still whiskies, matured initially in ex-sherry and bourbon barrels and finished in French chestnut, believe us!

What does it taste like?:

Red liquorice laces, fresh rosemary mint, grated root ginger, sweet fruit, aromatic green tea, cinnamon toast, rich wood and ripe banana.

Jefferson’s Grand Selection Château Pichon Baron Cask Finish

Jefferson’s Grand Selection range demonstrates that the Americans are no strangers to the joys of cask-finishing with a selection of excellent Jefferson bourbons finished in a variety of wine casks. This particular bottling was finished for a period in casks that previously held Bordeaux red wine from Château Pichon Baron, and it’s as downright delicious as it sounds.

What does it taste like?:

Red apples, raspberries, buttered corn, honey, heavy cinnamon heat, fresh floral notes and dense red berry elements supported by waxy peels and earthy oak.

Green Spot Château Léoville Barton

This beauty is certainly a treat. We’re always suckers for all things Spot (Red, Yellow, Green – they’re all great), but this happens to be the first-ever single pot still Irish whiskey finished in Bordeaux casks! The Bordeaux wine takes its name from the Irish wine merchant Thomas “French Tom” Barton and the grand cru Château is still run by his descendants to this day, so this is a real celebration all things awesome and Irish.

What does it taste like?:

Wild raspberry, a little potpourri, crab apple, toffee, lemon peel, warming spice, vanilla, honey and gingerbread.

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Win two incredible bottles of money-can’t-buy Yellow Spot!

To celebrate the day devoted to the man who chased the snakes out of Ireland, we’re offering you £5 off Yellow Spot, PLUS the chance to win two very rare…

To celebrate the day devoted to the man who chased the snakes out of Ireland, we’re offering you £5 off Yellow Spot, PLUS the chance to win two very rare bottles. So rare, there are only two of them. And one lucky person will win both!

Sunday 17 March is St. Patrick’s Day, and what better way to celebrate than with a good drop of Irish whiskey. There are so many delicious ones to choose from nowadays. We’re particularly partial to the Spot range of single pot still whiskeys. We went to to Dublin recently to try the latest release, Red Spot 15 Year Old, which we thought was pretty bloody brilliant.

Billy doing his hand-selecting thing

But we have something for you that trumps even that. You could win two very special bottles of Yellow Spot drawn from a single cask specially selected by master blender Billy Leighton! The spirit was originally laid down in November 2003 in an American oak ex-bourbon cask. Then in April 2008, it was transferred to a first-fill Spanish oak Malaga wine cask where it has been resting until now. Bottled at a natural cask strength of 58.2% ABV, these two bottles offer an incredible opportunity to taste a unique single cask component of Yellow Spot whiskey. Malaga, an intensely sweet wine from Andalucia, gives the whiskey a rich honeyed quality, and combined with that creamy spicy pot still flavour, the results are out of this world.

Only two sample bottles have been filled with this special whisky (don’t worry! They’re still 700ml), and just to reiterate, the winner will get both. Two bottles! One to drink now and one to keep for that special occasion: daughter getting into medical school, winning a charity golf tournament, or just because you’re worth it. Simply snap up a bottle from the excellent Spot range between now and 23:59 Fri 22 March, and you’ll be automagically be entered into the Yellow Spot draw. See below for Terms and Conditions.

Yellow Spot

Lovely, lovely Yellow Spot – at £5 off!

Everyone’s a winner with £5 off Yellow Spot!

And hold onto your hats because we’re not done yet with whiskey-related excitement – regardless of whether you’re the lucky winner of those Malaga cask bottlings (we’re not jealous at all…) we’re delighting your wallet as well as your taste buds with £5 off Yellow Spot this St. Patrick’s Day!

Yep, so you can snap up a bargain to savour now, while giving yourself the chance to win something truly extraordinary. Good luck!

MoM Yellow Spot St. Patrick’s Day 2019 Competition open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 8 – 22 March 2019. Winner chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. Some shipping destinations excluded. Entry also available with no purchase. See full T&Cs for details.

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We chat all things Irish whiskey with Billy Leighton!

St Patrick’s Day is almost upon us! In the spirit of the moment, we caught up with Irish Distillers master blender Billy Leighton to talk Spot Irish whiskey, the ace…

St Patrick’s Day is almost upon us! In the spirit of the moment, we caught up with Irish Distillers master blender Billy Leighton to talk Spot Irish whiskey, the ace cask samples we have up for grabs, new distilleries and innovations for the future.

It’s St Patrick’s Day on Sunday! 17 March brings with it a celebration of all things Ireland, and it would be highly remiss if that didn’t include a splash of something boozily delicious – Irish gin, Poitín, and of course, whiskey! And to help get in the celebratory spirit, we’ve not only taken £5 off each bottle of the marvellous Yellow Spot, but we’re running a competition to win two 700ml bottles of incredible Malaga cask whiskey, too. Hand drawn by Billy Leighton, Irish Distillers master blender, no less!

But Irish spirits are for life, not just St Patrick’s Day. With that in mind, we got Billy himself on the blower to quiz him not only on Yellow Spot and those delicious sample bottles, but the past, present and future of Irish whiskey, too. And from the historical single pot still style to the wealth of new distilleries opening up (Clonakilty became the 23rd earlier this month!), it’s looking bright indeed…

Master of Malt: Hello Billy! First off, in your own words, tell us about the history of Spot and how all the whiskeys came about?

Billy Leighton: I think the Spot range has a really good heritage. It goes back to the family, Mitchell & Son, and they’ve been in Dublin for generations now, close 240 years. And it’s still run by Mitchell and his son; we [Irish Distillers] have a very good relationship with them. They’re a lovely family, Jonathan and Robert are the current father and son. But when their family business started up back in the early 1800s, they were wine merchants, importing wine from all around the world. Casks of oak, fortified wine: sherry, Port, Madeira, Marsala, all those fortified wines. And then, about 1880, 1890, they then became whiskey bonders. They had all these empty wine casks, having the wine bottled, and where they’re left with the casks. So they then will have bought new-make spirit from the Jameson Distillery in Dublin and filled that into their freshly emptied fortified wine casks. I don’t know what spawned the colour-coding system, but it was a good idea to colour-code their casks, to designate the age of the whiskey they were going to bottle. For example, they would have put out a green dawb of paint on casks that were intended to be used at ten years old, and that became their ‘green spot’. And likewise, the yellow paint was 12 years old; the red paint was 15 years old. They had a ‘blue spot’ as well, which was a seven year old. So that’s how the whole Spot range came about.

Spot Irish whiskey family

The Spot family of Irish whiskeys

MoM: And that was in Irish whiskey boom time…

BL: Well certainly in the 1970s, 1976-ish I think it was, Irish pot still whiskey had gone through a very, very bad time. Between the early 1900s and right up until the 1960s, Irish pot still whiskey was almost dead and buried! It was brands like Green Spot and Redbreast, two single pot still brands, that endured the bad times. In the mid-seventies, Irish Distillers basically took over the Spot Whiskies – of which there was only one at the time! The Green Spot. It became an Irish Distillers brand but the distribution in Ireland remained with Mitchell & Son. Then we did a bit of a makeover on the brand, and it got a new lease of life. I think the interest in Irish single pot still whiskey was starting to gain a bit more traction again, so we decided then to extend the range. That’s when we re-introduced Yellow Spot with the 12 year old age-statement on it, and then just recently the Red Spot, with the 15 year old statement.

MoM: Why do you think the Green Spot survived and the others didn’t? Was it to do with the age or the flavour profile? Why did one endure when the others fell by the wayside?

You know, it could have been availability of stock. The Irish whiskey category had dwindled away to virtual extinction. They couldn’t have sustained or justified maintaining the full range. The Green Spot is no longer a ten year old, it doesn’t have an age statement. So I think it was just to keep that brand alive. And maybe more for sentimental purposes than anything else, you know?

Bill Leighton Irish whiskey

Billy does his thing

MoM: Sure. And today, aside from age statements, what separates the different Spots, and are they very similar at all to the historical ones?

BL: Well, we like to think so. But the wood management wouldn’t have been as sophisticated as what we have today. So they would have had all of those different fortified wine casks available – sherry, Port, Madeira, Marsala – they wouldn’t necessarily have… structured their formulations to call out any cask type in particular. What we have tried to do is stay as close to the heritage of the brand, but we tend now to call out the different fortified wine casks that we’re using. In the Yellow Spot we call out the Malaga cask inclusion, with the Red Spot it’s the Marsala cask, Green Spot has got oloroso sherry casks. It is the only fortified wine cask in there. The Yellow Spot and the Red Spot have a little bit of oloroso sherry in there, but again, it’s kind of doing what the Mitchells did. It wasn’t so much one particular cask type became Yellow Spot and a different cask type became Red Spot. There would have been a mix of casks. Back in the day, the age was the only differentiating factor.

MoM: So we’ve got these two Malaga cask bottles up for grabs, which is incredibly exciting. Tell us a little bit about what sets these apart, and how you go about choosing casks for bottling…

BL: Well for these special bottles that are up for grabs, we went and looked at what Malaga casks we’re currently using in Yellow Spot. We sampled a few of them, and picked out a good one that we felt had a nice balance of the single pot still character and also that Malaga component we’re using in Yellow Spot. How I see the Malaga cask manifesting itself in Yellow Spot is kind of heather-honey sweet note. It takes the sweetness you would see in Green Spot and it takes the sweetness up another level. The Malaga casks, whenever they’re seasoned in Malaga, the wine that’s used is 100% Pedro Ximénez. 30% of the Pedro Ximénez grapes would be sundried, so it’s concentrating the sweetness there. And I’m particularly partial to sweet wine, and the Malaga just fits the bill. Those honey-sweet notes very much complement and balance with the spiciness of the pot-still distillate itself. So it works, it works very, very well for me.

Red Spot Irish whiskey

Red Spot is a recent addition to the Irish pot still family

MoM: Fabulous. More broadly, Irish whiskey is obviously booming. Why do you think that is, and why do you think single pot still Irish whiskies are so popular again?

BL: Taking a step back a little bit, I think it’s fairly well-accepted within the Irish whiskey industry that the whole renaissance has been brought about by the success of Jameson. Around the world, you know?  And where people are getting a taste for Jameson, they’re more inquisitive; a lot of the flavour is being driven by that pot still component. People are always wanting to find out more, and Green Spot would be the opportunity for them to try that single pot still component. I think it’s consumer awareness brought about by the attention that Jameson is bringing to the Irish whiskey category as a whole. ‘Why do we talk about Irish single pot still whiskey, is it not just the same as Scotch malt, only it comes from Ireland?’ When they try it, they find out that Irish single pot still is a completely different style of whiskey from a Scotch malt. And once they get the experience of a single pot still, such as Green Spot, they want to know a little bit more about what other offerings there are. And then of course there are other brands, like Redbreast for example, which is a single pot still Irish whiskey but with a different expression of maturation. I really think the Irish single pot still whiskey is where the future is.

MoM: Absolutely. But Irish whiskey as a whole is changing, not just single pot still. I think one of the reasons is all the new distilleries coming online. And now we’re seeing a lot of new spirit coming into the market. Do you think we’re going to see significant shifts in the structure of Irish whiskey and the character of the category?

BL: There are lot of new distilleries and it’s exciting when you see so many opening up, and they’re all going to want to make their mark and have their own individual style. I think that’s only good for the whole category, consumers included in that. I think for a long time, like ten years ago when we had only four operating distilleries, we didn’t have such a selection. And neither did we need one, to be honest! But each new distillery coming on stream is going to want to make their own mark and do things their own way. The only thing maybe to add there is that [it’s great] as long as all these new styles of whiskey don’t compromise the quality standard that Jameson has set, you know? That’s one thing we want to be careful about, that the perceived quality of Irish whiskey doesn’t slip.

Yellow Spot Irish whiskey

Oh haiiii Yellow Spot

MoM: Yeah, it’s got to be good!

BL: And from that point of view, Irish Distillers has probably been in the business the longest, but our doors are always open. We have a mentoring scheme in place now where new distillers can come along, probably through the Irish Whiskey Association, and see how we do things. We’re not telling them how to make the whiskey because they’d probably all end up making the same sort of whiskey! But it’s just to highlight production methods, even cask procurement, things that people don’t even think about. Like how much freight on casks costs. We’re quite open to tell things as they are, because we want to see everybody succeeding in the Irish whiskey category, making their own contribution to future growth.

MoM: Through the mentoring programme, you and the team must meet a lot of new people and a lot of new minds with a lot of new ideas. Is there anything that particularly excites you?

BL: It’s early days, but a lot of the new brands that we’re seeing in the marketplace now are pretty much different maturation expressions. People are procuring some whiskey for themselves and then doing their own twist on it. That in itself is adding a bit of excitement, maturation styles and tweaks that wouldn’t have been done before. When we had the four operating distilleries [Midleton, Cooley, Bushmills and Kilbeggan], everybody was kind of just set in their ways. They had successful formulations, why mess with them? But now we have the Irish Whiskey Regulations, they’re out there, but they’re there to be tested. There will be opportunities for using different types of wood, for example; Irish regulations allow us to use wood other than oak. So there’s interest there at the moment. We’ve introduced a whiskey finished in chestnut casks with Method and Madness. Bushmills has introduced an acacia cask finish. But also, whenever the new distilleries are up and running there are loads of opportunities for using different cereal types rather than just barley; raw barley and malted barley. There are opportunities there for other grain types, maybe rye or oats, wheat, whatever. I would say in the not-too-distant future, we’ll be seeing a little bit more variation on the distillate type itself, driven by different cereals.

Billy Leighton Irish whiskey experiments

Billy being all experimental

MoM: That’s exciting. And how much of this might be happening at the Middleton microdistillery?

BL: Oh yeah, we do quite a lot of experimentation there in the micro. We have done some trials with various cereals over the past few years. Some of that will actually become whiskey in the next while – it will be over three years old. It’s going along and it’s working very nicely. But we wouldn’t be giving anything away on that or releasing anything until we’re happy that it’s of the quality and the style that we’re happy to share with the consumers.

MoM: And going back full circle to Spot Whiskeys, what’s next for the Spot brand? We don’t have a Blue Spot anymore, might we see a return of that?

BL: We get this on social media all the time: ‘when are you going to complete the family of Spots?’, and it’s not something that we have ignored at all. It’s been discussed, but we don’t have any solid plans at the minute to reintroduce a Blue Spot. There have been discussions. Maybe what could be more likely, I’m not saying it would happen, but we might look at other variants on Green Spot. For example, to add to the Léoville Barton and the Chateau Montelena expressions. So I think there’s a lovely story there that connects Irish families that have left Ireland to go and get involved in the wine business around the world. And the Mitchells are still wine importers, so they have contacts all around the world. So anything we may do in that direction would be in collaboration with the Mitchells. You probably will see maybe the odd single cask offering with the Green Spot label on it. But that’s as much as there is really at the minute.

MoM: Lots of potential developments in the future. Thanks so much, Billy!

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