Irish Whiskey Traditions

(Pot) Still Traditions

History and tradition grounds me. A few years ago I took one of those genetic DNA tests, and unlike so many people I know, there was very little ethnic diversity in my gene pool. What those results meant to me was that, despite my not being able to trace back my family tree beyond a couple of generations, my ancestors were pretty well rooted in location for almost 500 years. For good or for ill, they weathered the storms of circumstance surrounding them and continued with their traditions, come what may. That thought gave me a feeling of rootedness, and maybe not a little bit of stubborn pride as well. Irish whiskey traditions follow that example to a tee.

Irish Whiskey Traditions

photo credit: Midleton Distilleries

 

When I went to look into the Midleton Distilleries, I found a page about the history of Irish whiskey . History nerd that I am, I started soaking up the story of the rise, and fall, and rise again of the Irish whiskey industry. I won’t go into all the detail here (thank goodness for that!)…there’s a wonderful YouTube video that succinctly and sufficiently tells that story. There are two items I want to highlight though…firstly, in the late 18th century the Irish whiskey distillers started using unmalted barley in their mash to avoid paying the English a tax on malted barley, thus creating the unique taste of Irish Pot Still Whiskey we still have today (stubbornness pays off!). Secondly, the Irish whiskey distillers doggedly clung onto the tradition of using Single Pot Stills to make their whiskey, even after the invention (by an Irishman, no less) of the Coffey (or Continuous) Still in the early half of the 19th century. That desire to maintain their traditions cost the Irish whiskey industry dearly, and it took more than a century to make up for it. In the end though, this combination of stubbornness and rootedness in tradition gave us the wonderful world of Irish whiskey. To the lineup, then!

Irish Whiskey Traditions

What hath stubbornness wrought? A fine line up of Irish whiskeys!

 

Midleton Irish Whiskey tasting at Gordon’s DTX, March 14, 2018

Note: I had previously reviewed some of these offerings in my Can I buy a vowel? post from last March. I find it interesting to compare how my palate has changed (or at least my adjectives have improved) since then. I’ve included those older reviews in italics below the current review just for grins and giggles.

ALL SINGLE POT STILL – a mixture of malted & unmalted barley

Redbreast 12 40%ABV, Bourbon & sherry cask blend 3:1

  • Nose: butterscotch, malted milk, cereal, lightly citrus, apricot
  • Taste: soft, oily, coats mouth, cinnamon, nutmeg, cream
  • Finish: crème brulée, soft cinnamon, lemon pudding
  • Comments: very straightforward & soft, a lightness at the end

 

  • Nose: very lightly sweet, not much aroma, floral
  • Taste: very smooth entrance, lightly oily but light body, sweet & spicy
  • Finish: warm spices at the very end
  • Approachable & drinkable, very nice

 

Redbreast 12 Cask Strength 58.2% ABV, Batch 2017

  • Nose: caramel, vanilla, grapefruit, grass, corn- Bourbon like
  • Taste: thick, cinnamon, cardamom
  • Finish: burnt sugar and warm spices
  • Comments: bourbon-like, I like this

 

  • Nose: heavy spice immediately, cinnamon, high alcoholic w/ water pineapple
  • Taste: alcohol immediately, hard to tease out; w/ water, still high spice, peppers
  • Finish: pepper grows strongly w/ alcohol
  • Still harsh, not my favorite

 

Redbreast 15 46%ABV

  • Nose: clover honey, lemony,
  • Taste: thick body, parsley, brown sugar, apples,
  • Finish: sharp, ginger, apples, bitter lemon
  • Comments: different nose from the taste, the bitterness is hard to nail down

 

  • Nose: caramel, some tropical aroma
  • Taste: some spice entrance, oily but not creamy,
  • Finish: long peppery finish

 

Green Spot 40%ABV

  • Nose: grass, hay, light grain, pineapple
  • Taste: fruity, sharp entry, pears, light body
  • Finish: the sharpness continues, juicy, fruity, grassy bitterness
  • Comments: a bright easy to drink whiskey

 

  • Nose: apples, honey
  • Taste: starts smooth, very sweet, full body
  • Finish: cotton candy
  • Higher unmarked barley, almost too sweet, not something I would buy

 

Green Spot Chateau Montelena Cask 46% ABV, Zinfandel cask finished

  • Nose: large cooked fruit richness, underneath green apples & cut grassy, light butter, almond extract
  • Taste: Thick, oily, sharp, light vanilla, buttercream frosting, tannic
  • Finish: pepper rises, buttercream
  • Comments: very rich in nose, thick in body, lots of layers, really wonderful

 

Midleton Dair Ghaelach 56.2% ABV

  • Nose: Chinese foods like 5-spice, soy sauce, almost meaty, caramel underneath
  • Taste: strong baking spices, gets richer, cooked plums, chocolate cake
  • Finish: cooked fruit at the end
  • Comments: surprising and delicious after the nose, the best of the lot

 

Irish Whiskey Traditions

Home is where the love is

 

As I write this post, we’ve just today finished selling our California house of over 20 years. Part of me is sad that those roots have been cut…that was, after all, where we raised our two wonderful daughters, and it’s a huge part of their history as well as mine. Part of me longs for that feeling of rootedness, of permanence, that living in a place for a long time provides. However, Boston offers its own brand of rootedness…this city is the cradle of America after all, and everywhere I turn there is history, a sense of place (that’s what first captivated me about living here). Maybe I’m being replanted, and maybe it’s time to set down roots here…hey, I’m stubborn enough to do just that.

Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!

Tammy

 

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