Updated April 3, 2016
By Richard Thomas
Concurrent with the renewed interest in Irish whiskeys is a rise in popularity for single pot still whiskeys among the enthusiast set, and when you are talking single pot still, two brands inevitably dominate discussion: Redbreast and “the Spots.” I find the Spots (Green Spot and Yellow Spot) come up almost as often as Redbreast, and that is odd when you consider how much harder to find the Spots are.
The Spots have their origin with Dublin’s Mitchell & Son wine merchants. No one is sure when these venerable negociants got into the whiskey trade, but documentation places it at least as far back as the 1920s. The origin of the name applied to the Spots comes from the way the barrels were tagged with a daub of paint, color coded to particular age ranges.
Eventually Mitchell & Sons turned the process of blending and marrying the pot still whiskeys over to their supplier, Midleton, and the Spots survived the nadir of the Irish whiskey industry to become one of the very few bonded Irish whiskeys, and the only one made for an independent bottler. In Ireland, the Spots are still sold by Mitchell & Son, but elsewhere they are sold by Pernod Ricard, Midleton’s parent company.
Green Spot is the entry-level run of the pair of surviving Spots, made from 7 to 10 year old pot still whiskeys aged in first- and second-fill bourbon barrels and ex-sherry casks. The whiskey is bottled at 40% abv (80 proof).
The scent lies in just the right spot (no pun intended), where malty honey, peppermint, and a toasty, oaky vanilla are all evenly balanced. From there, the flavor continues and grows. The pot still whiskey spiciness expresses itself as a mix of orange zest and cloves, wrapped in caramel and rounded out by a tinge of earthy woodiness, all on a creamy texture. The finish is long, but restrained with only a mild spicy afterglow.
Addendum By John Rayls
Green Spot Irish Whiskey has a beautiful hue combination of soft orange and yellow gold in both the bottle and the glass. As the light penetrates and reflects, it creates an illusion of a crisp Fall New England day. It truly is a beautiful whiskey to observe. The legs are long and very slow to appear. However once there, they seem to go on forever.
The nose is very subtle (as I find most Irish whiskeys). You may notice notes of cereal and fresh fruit over a very subtle sweet oak. There is some complexity present, but you’ll need a strong commitment to the process to experience it.
Midleton believes the taste to be a full spicy body with a hint of cloves along with fruity sweetness of green apples rounded off with toasted oak, and, surprisingly, I agree. Initially, the light creamy coating of the mouth will draw you in as you begin to experience the sweet green apple taste over a light sweet oak. A more aggressive, but pleasant spiciness soon replaces the fruit experience. The spice is almost reluctant, but eventually leads to a long, enjoyable finish filled with cloves and other hints of spice.
At 80 proof, this is a very drinkable, well-balanced whiskey, smooth without being dull. It is a subtle whiskey in all regards, except for, possibly, the finish. For my part, I would hate to miss any part of the experience, so my advice is that Green Spot Irish Whiskey deserves your full attention.
In the United States, expect to pay around $45 for this exemplar of the single pot still class. The same numbers apply for Europe, where it runs for about €45. In the UK, £38 looks typical.