March 10, 2014

Review: Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey - Part Two of SmokyBeast's St Paddy's Day Irish Whiskey Fest!

Last week, after discovering an inexcusable lack of a single Irish whiskey reviewed in almost a hundred bottles on the Beast, we kicked off our March with the beginning of a St. Patrick's Day marathon of incredible Irish whiskies.  Green Spot Pure Pot Still, just released in the US after many years of anticipation, scored big.  It's a great representation of what Irish whiskey has to offer: very smooth and balanced with flavors of fall fruits - apples and pears, and just a surreal level of drinkability.

Since Beastie is still decked out in his version of a Leprechaun senior prom, we might as well continue our greatest hits of green.  This week we're privileged to be drinking perhaps the most seminal and well-regarded Irish whiskey in history: Midleton Very Rare.

Sketch of Bow Street Distillery
(courtesy of Ireland Whiskey Trail)

In 1966, the three top whiskey producers in Ireland (John Jameson & Son, John Power & Son, and The Cork Distillery Company) merged to create Irish Distillers Group.  They closed the historic Bow Street Distillery in Dublin that had been founded by John Jameson in 1780.  Production was consolidated to a larger facility in Midleton, Cork nearby Jameson's other historic Old Midleton Distillery.

In 1984, Irish Distiller's Group launched Midleton Very Rare, a limited edition (50 casks per year) blend of choice vintages aged 12 to 25 years.  Each bottle is dated and numbered, and comes with an invitation to register its ownership in a special ledger at the distillery.  (Very cool in a sort of Willy Wonka meets Rock & Roll Hall of Fame milieu.)

Sketch of Old Midleton Distillery
The Midleton Very Rare is limited, but it's still pretty widely accessible and is around at most well-stocked liquor stores.  It runs anywhere from around $115 to $160.

The bottle we're enjoying tonight is the 2012 release.  We discovered Midleton back in 2009 and remember being absolutely floored by the balance of rich and smooth action going on.  We're hoping the 2012 version measures up.

Tasting Notes

Nose:  We're in the same general territory as the Green Spot here with distinct apples and ripe pears, however there is noticeably more oak.  The oak and the fruits combine into a what can only be described as really good men's aftershave.  There's some oily/waxiness to it, some sandalwood type aromas, and a little musk.  Very very alluring nose.

Palate:  On the tongue there's a nuttiness that comes out, like cashew oil.  Again the wonderful balance is immediately apparent.  It's not sweet, it's not overly woody, definitely not smoky, and it's incredibly drinkable.  Also there a lot of flavor, especially at the 40% ABV.

Finish:  The fruits come back big-time in the finish, adding to the apples and pears some lemon candy, cherries, and honeycomb.  The spirit is quite refined.  You can taste the maturity and the finesse of this blend that has the richness of a younger whiskey well-married with the smoothness and warmth of an older barrel.


It's easy to see why Green Spot is such a runaway hit.  The two bottles are similar, but Green Spot has way more out-front fruit.  It's like a brilliant punch of green pears in the bouquet and warm apple cider on the palate.  But the Midleton Very Rare is a much more refined beauty that just reeks of quality.  This is a special occasion bottle.  It's very smooth and won't overpower any situation from a light dinner to an after dinner drink by the fire.  This is a particularly perfect gift if you want to buy a very special bottle of whiskey for someone who is not a big scotch or bourbon fanatic.  It's virtually impossible not to be impressed by Midelton Very Rare, whether you're a veteran whiskey aficionado or are having the treat of your first great bottle.  We'd recommend drinking them in this order.  Grab a bottle of Green Spot, and if you find yourself in love with Irish whiskey (which is more than likely) take the plunge with Midleton Very Rare for a birthday or some such special evening.

Come back next week for the Paddy's day crown jewel: Redbreast 21 Year.



  1. I'm yet to try the Midleton Very Rare but your notes on it's finish sound so good!! :) The Barry Crockett Legacy is stunning, is it similar to that?

    1. We've never actually gotten to try the Barry Crockett, but considering it's just an older and more carefully selected blend of Midleton (and twice the price!), we can't imagine it's that bad. Post some tasting notes and let us know what you think of it!