Midleton Very Rare Irish whiskey, as the name suggests, is something rather special. The 38th edition of the collectable range has just been released, and it’s Master Distiller Kevin O’Gorman’s first effort following predecessor Brian Nation’s move to Minneapolis.
Midleton Very Rare 2021: Making the Magic
The process starts with countless casks in the storehouse being tested, with those showing the best potential being set aside for future use. These live in the legendary A2 warehouse, where these casks are kept, monitored and repeatedly tested, looking for special parcels or casks that are suitable for becoming a part of Midleton’s finest whiskey.
After 37 sought-after editions, O’Gorman’s first blend is a balanced mix of hand-selected single pot still whiskey and single grain whiskey, all sourced from that famous warehouse. The youngest barrel in the blend is 15 years old, but some go back as far as 36 years, with the average maturation being 18 years. Each has been aged in lightly charred ex-bourbon oak casks from the US, with some of the mix coming from first-fill barrels, while other maturations are second-fill material.
O’Gorman took several months sampling and choosing the right whiskey, starting the process in July before finally creating two prototypes in November. The grain whiskey content was elevated, but there’s a bit of 1984 single pot still whiskey as a nod to Master Distiller Emeritus, Barry Crockett. Keen to avoid too robust a drink, balancing the wood-driven flavours of the first fill bourbon casks (all American barrels from Kentucky) with the more subtle second fill infused flavours was a priority.
The result is a blend of ten different parcels of whiskey, each of differing ages and types, from a range of different pots that promises a multi-layered flavour. It’s a drink O’Gorman is proud to put his signature on.
Midleton Very Rare 2021: Kevin O’Gorman, Master Distiller
“It is a great honour to become the custodian of this extraordinary Irish whiskey family and to have my signature adorn our 2021 vintage,” says O’Gorman. “The journey to launching this vintage began almost 40 years ago. Continuing the work of my predecessors was both a daunting and extremely enjoyable process that allowed me to explore some of our rarest casks and create an exceptional blend that sits seamlessly within the family.
“I am particularly proud to have been able to include distillate that was laid down in 1984, the year the collection was first conceived by Master Distiller Emeritus Barry Crockett, from who I have learned so much.
“For me, this vintage adds a new dimension and elegance to the style and quality for which the range is renowned. I couldn’t ask for a better way to begin my chapter as Irish Distillers’ Master Distiller.”
Work starts on the 39th edition of the Midleton Very Rare in April, with O’Gorman starting the testing, testing and blending process all over again.
“It’s the difficult second album, isn’t it?” asked O’Gorman. “I’m not going to do anything radical, there’ll be no fortified wine barrels. I’ll be playing around with the oak, the different ages and maturations, just playing the tune.”
Midleton Very Rare 2021: Tasting
Pouring a sample measure, you’re presented with a surprisingly delicate aroma. There’s a floral note to it, balanced by some coffee, vanilla and toffee notes provided by those bourbon barrels, with a sprinkling of nutmeg topping it off.
In the mouth, there’s a softness to the whiskey. That could be because it’s just 40% ABV, quite a bit lower in strength than the Barry Crockett Legacy bottle at 46%, or the Dair Ghaelach at 56%. That’s a conscious decision, of course, and provides a rounded, full and delicately smooth texture.
Apples, a bit of lime, and maybe nectarines hit initially, with spices building as the flavours permeate the mouth. Those bourbon barrels again provide a good hit of vanilla, coffee and toffee – and even a bit of walnut – but it’s not overpowering at all. There’s a bit of heat from cloves or nutmeg, adding an extra interesting layer to the experience.
A long finish has the spice and fruit flavours fading to leave quite a woody finish, those barrels getting the final say after years of maturation.
Midleton Very Rare 2021: Availability
Presented in a glorious wooden case, Midleton Very Rare 2021 is available in Ireland now and will hit the shelves in the UK, USA, Australia, Germany, France, Canada and global travel outlets in the coming months for a suggested retail price of €180 (£130).
The 2021 vintage will be the first to be launched at the start of the year. As the new Midleton Very Rare calendar establishes this year, Ireland, online platforms and select markets will retain an allocation for a second sales period in late autumn to ensure availability before the festive period, in keeping with customer expectations.
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