By Kurt Maitland
I feel a little guilty having my first review for The Whiskey Reviewer start off with an A+ rating (it makes me come off as an easy grader) but the taste buds don’t lie. Midleton is one of the best tasting blended whiskeys I have ever had the pleasure to imbibe. When you look at its pedigree, that should be no surprise. All blends are the child of many fathers and in the case of Midleton’s Very Rare, the “fathers” are very distinguished indeed, being among of the best known and most loved whiskeys Ireland produces.
First a little history, Midleton Very Rare is a relatively new blend, created in 1984 to celebrate the whiskeys produced at the New Midleton Distillery by the Irish Distillers Group (now part of the Pernod Ricard conglomerate). This group was formed in 1966 when the Cork Distillery Company merged with John Power & Son and John Jameson & Son (i.e. the “distinguished fathers” mentioned above). The brands that they produce include Jameson, Paddy, Powers Gold Label and Midleton.
The Midleton creation process is as follows. Each year, the Master Blender decides what whiskeys are to be used in the blend. All whiskeys used are triple distilled and have been aged from 12 to 25 years in ex-Sherry or -Bourbon casks. This process results in a slight difference in vintages of Midleton as the mix of whiskeys can change from year to year, depending on the Master Blender.
Midleton Very Rare (I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of the 2010 vintage) is straightforward, and bottled at 40% alcohol. Its coloring is a little darker than a standard pour of the more familiar Jameson. The nose is caramel with a light sting at the end of it and the taste follows suit.
Wrap the best of the smoothness that is Jameson’s namesake with the finish of the best Powers can offer and you have an idea of what Midleton is all about. It’s a perfect meld of the best aspects of its parents with none of their weaknesses. This stands to reason as the Master Blender is picking the best of the best to make each vintage. Drink Midleton Very Rare straight and it coats your mouth like warm blanket. Pour this over a big block of ice and it is so smooth it could be dessert.
There are a few drawbacks of Midleton, such as its two-headed beast of price and availability. Each year’s run is only 50 casks, so you will pay a hefty price if you want a bit of this stuff. A 750ML bottle of Midleton Very Rare runs between $109 to $140 a bottle Stateside. The 2011 addition of Midleton Very Rare runs €117.89.
Yet keep in mind that Very Rare is the entry-level in the Midleton line. There are Single Cask Pot Still versions for double that price and there is the Midleton 30 Year-Old where the Master Distiller of the Old Midleton Distillery selected the finest whiskeys from his personal collection to make this run. Only 800 bottles were made and at present go for over €2,000.00 a bottle. Do me a favor and save me a nip if you get your hands on a bottle.
Gold at the 2005 San Francisco World Spirits Competition
Double Gold at the 2007 San Francisco World Spirits Competition
Extraordinary – Ultimate Recommendation at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2008