By Richard Thomas
Strictly speaking, New Midleton wasn’t the first distillery in modern times to try using new Irish oak in their whiskey, but they were the first to put a definitive stamp on it with their Dair Ghaelach. Gaelic for “Irish oak,” Dair Ghaelach is a marriage of ex-bourbon pot still whiskeys of between 15 and 22 years of age, which is then given a finish in new Irish oak hogsheads.
Dair Ghaelach and Irish coopering oak together are limited enough in nature that each bottle can traced back to a barrel made from a particular tree. The first batch, for example, comes from just 10 trees harvested out of Grinsell’s Wood on Ballaghtobin Estate, County Kilkenny. It’s a cask strength whiskey to boot, bottled at 58.1% abv. Conceived by Billy Leighton and Kevin O’Gorman, Midleton’s Master Blender and Master of Maturation respectively, the whiskey is a noteworthy, super premium entry into the hot pot still class.
The new oak finish starts to show right from the start, as soon as the whiskey hits the glass, with a coppery, middle amber look. The nose is very aromatic and creamy, big and bold with candy and woody spices, plus orange zest, making it reminiscent of some of the heavier, citrus cordials I’ve had.
Once on the palate, the whiskey has a light, but still creamy texture. The liquid starts by packing big flavors, a sweet mixture of citrus, pineapple and banana, seasoned with honey, cloves, anise and vanilla. Later equally large notes of tobacco and dry, spicy wood unroll, and it is this latter pair that carry over into the finish, a lingering, moderately warm thing.
Dair Ghealach is a whiskey with big, chest-out personality, but one that is also strutting its stuff with good balance too. It stands as an excellent statement of both what one can do with old pot still whiskeys and with new Irish oak.
Dair Ghealach is expensive, but when you consider what it is, still reasonably priced at $250.