By Richard Thomas
While helping me with European oak in Monday’s feature on types of whiskey wood, New Midleton’s Master of Maturation Kevin O’Gorman brought the latest Green Spot single pot still whiskey, this one using a Bordeaux wine cask finish, into the conversation.
Midleton only recently embraced the idea of putting finishes (secondary maturation) onto their whiskeys, with Chateau Leoville Barton following on the beer barrel finish of Jameson Caskmates and the revival of new Irish oak used in Midleton Dair Ghaelach. The new Green Spot has something in common with the latter whiskey, both being pot stills and showing the same attention to detail.
French wine oak is usually chosen for its tighter grain structure, although according to O’Gorman the specific species of oak used in the Chateau Leoville Barton casks is both the most common and usually has the widest grain. That would maximize the exposure of the whiskey to the wood, relative to a tighter grain choice. After coming from the usual Green Spot sources of pot still whiskey matured in ex-bourbon barrels and ex-sherry butts, the whiskey is transferred to the wine barrels for 12 to 24 months. Chateau Leoville Barton is owned by a French family with Irish immigrant roots dating back to the 18th Century.
Bottled at 46% abv, Green Spot Chateau Leoville Barton has a lovely light copper appearance in the glass. It has the kind of look that brilliantly catches sunlight, as I discovered whilst sampling it on my balcony on a clear, breezy summer’s day.
The scent is fragrant, rising up out of the glass, and once you put your nose in it the density increases to become rich and oily. Honey sweetness is at the core, accented by strong currents of green leaf and berry, like standing amid raspberry or blackberry bushes. The French oak has also clearly brought out the best in the pot still spiciness, because this concoction smells like it got a big spoonful of cake spice.
That heft in the nose comes over on the palate, with the liquid really coating the teeth and tongue. The flavor is a well-balanced melding of dry, toasty wood, cereal-driven honey sweetness, berry fruit and baking spices. Master Blender Billy Leighton did a marvelous job here, weighing the wine finish against the virtues of Green Spot perfectly.
The finish has a hard act to follow, and winds down on a spicy and sweet note, leaving behind a substantive and warm afterglow.
Green Spot Chateau Leoville Barton has a recommended price point of £43 and €59. The whiskey is slated for five markets, with the UK, Ireland and France specified. My guess is that if the US was supposed to be among them, a dollar price would have also been provided.