Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard has unveiled Midleton Dair Ghaelach, its first ever Irish whiskey to be finished in virgin Irish Oak Hogsheads. This uniquely Irish expression is the latest addition to the Midleton Single Pot Still family of whiskeys, satisfying the growing appetite among whisk(e)y lovers for discovering new and innovative styles of Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey.
Midleton Dair Ghaelach, meaning ‘Irish oak’, is the result of a six-year exploration by the Midleton Masters into using native oak to mature Irish whiskey. Led by Master Blender, Billy Leighton, and Kevin O’Gorman, Master of Maturation, the project had two prerequisites. The first was to ensure that all Irish oak was sourced exclusively from sustainable Irish Oak forests that could guarantee both a long-term supply and the re-generation of native wood, while the second was to explore what new taste profiles could be created from Irish oak maturation to craft a new and outstanding Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey.
In collaboration with professional Irish forestry consultants, O’Gorman and Leighton selected Grinsell’s Wood within the Ballaghtobin Estate, Co. Kilkenny, to provide the oak for the first in a series of virgin oak releases in the coming years. Each bottle can be traced back to one of ten 130-year-old Irish oak trees in Grinsell’s Wood, which were felled in April 2012.
To craft the oak into casks, fellow artisans at the Maderbar sawmills in Baralla, north-west Spain, used the quarter-sawing process to cut the trees into staves under the watchful eye of the Midleton Masters. The staves were then transferred to the Antonio Páez Lobato cooperage in Jerez, where after drying for fifteen month the staves were worked into 48 Irish Oak Hogshead casks and given a medium toast.
At Midleton, a selection of traditional Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey distillates, matured for between 15 and 22 years in ex-Bourbon casks, were married together before being filled into the Irish oak Hogsheads. Leighton and O’Gorman nosed and tasted the whiskey each month and after almost one year, judged it to be beautifully balanced with just the perfect contribution of Irish oak.
Analysis shows that the Irish oak contains higher levels of some lignin derivative compounds, such as vanillin and vanillic acid, and furfural, in comparison to American and Spanish oak. These compounds further enhance the whiskey with vanilla, caramel and chocolate flavours, which are detectable on the nose of Midleton Dair Ghaelach and perfectly balance the classically rich, spicy Single Pot Still taste profile.
Kevin O’Gorman, Master of Maturation at the Midleton Distillery, comments: “With the recent resurgence in plantation, only now has it been viable for us to consider Irish Oak in the maturation of our whiskeys while ensuring that the oak reserves can be enjoyed by generations to come. After six years in the making, Midleton Dair Ghaelach has been a journey of exploration into the craft of Irish whiskey maturation and we are equally delighted with and excited by the newest member of our Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey family.”
Billy Leighton, Master Blender at the Midleton Distillery, further comments: “The process of maturing in native oak has enabled us to showcase our Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey style in a new and innovative way; the casks impart much more generous toasted wood, vanilla and caramel flavours than what we expect from American bourbon and Spanish oak, which we hope whiskey lovers will appreciate and enjoy.”
Brendan Buckley, Global Innovation and Prestige Whiskeys Director at Irish Distillers, added: “For more than 30 years, Midleton Irish Whiskey has been admired for its distillers’ dedication to excellence in Irish craftsmanship and the release of Midleton Dair Ghaelach continues this rich tradition. By working closely with our partnership estates such as Ballaghtobin, we are able to trace each bottle back to an individual tree. This provides a unique whiskey experience that we find very exciting and hope other whiskey aficionados will too, as we see no reason why Irish oak cannot play a significant role in the maturation of our Irish Whiskey in the medium- to long-term.”
Bottled at cask strength between 58.1 and 58.5% ABV without the use of chill filtration, Midleton Dair Ghaelach is available from April 2015.
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