Yellow Spot – 12 “High on the Pot Part III”

While Middleton’s modus operandi seems to bank on the historical names of Jameson & Power’s I would say that it’s had the most success with the brands It acquired from wine & spirit merchants. Both Redbreast & the “spot” line-up succeeded in reaching a single malt loving audience in ways it’s other brands had not.

Both product lines were created by independent merchants who bought bulk spirit from Midleton which they put into the various fortified wine casks that were left over from their main businesses. It’s a formula that works well in today’s cask finish dominated market and allows them to sell more of their whisky without seeing too much of an overlap in flavor profile.

The final subject in this Irish pot-still throw down is Yellow Spot, a 12 yr old blend of Ex-bourbon cask, sherry butt & Malaga wine casks (a fortified wine made using Pedro Ximénez & Moscatel grapes).

Nose: Sharp, sweet oak, mineral oil, the nose starts of tight, a bit of apples and jujubes. Yeasty, floral a bit of gooseberry. With time it gets creamy, like whipped cream on top of fruits & custard. There is some oak but it’s in the background like a green sappy feeling, overall it’s focused on the rich and floral.

Palate: Initially sweet, macadamia nuts, firm oak, coconut, pears and melon. Linseed oil & cooked porridge. There is darker notes from the casks, rich and perfumed with a slight musky center.

Finish: Apples & dried fruit mingle, there’s a sharpness there but it is subdued under the richness of the fortified wines. Which in turn dry out rather than allow the palate to naturally decay.

Notes: It is quite a rounded whisky, initially rich and bright, it’s just on the border of being too much and that astringent finish doesn’t help.

So we now reach the conclusion of out foray into Irish single pot still whisky, what have we learned?

There is a thread that runs through all of them, a mineral, plasticine wax & linseed thing. This unmalted pot still distillate is a trip texture wise, it’s super clingy and heavy no wonder it’s been successfully used as the backbone of the Jameson blends, I can see how this full bodied whisky can hold up to a heavy diluting of grain whisky.

All 3 had that powdered sugar confectionery note, like the powder at the bottom of sugar covered jujubes.

They also all had a little spirit kick left to them and some astringency I don’t know if that’s just the casks or maybe it’s the ABV at which the casks are filled.

It’s unique and breaks from the flavour palate you’d get in single malt.

Yellow Spot 12

46% ABV

86/100

Redbreast – 12 “High on the Pot Part II”

The whisky formerly know as “Pure Pot Still” has had a tumultuous history. It was created as a middle finger to the government, who imposed a malt tax in 1785. Irish distillers set about modifying their whisky recipes to include a portion of unmalted barley and other grains (often oats but wheat & rye were used). Not unlike the mixed mashbill of American distilleries.

Turns out it was pretty tasty and in turn it created a unique category of whisky that set them apart from their Scottish counterparts. Each facility used their own proprietary mix of grains in their whisky creating brands with a loyal following. The eventual decline of the Irish whisky industry caused all major players to consolidate under one large umbrella that became IDL. They continued to fabricate pot still whisky at Middleton but it was mostly used as “flavouring” agent in the blends they were forced to create in order to compete with the Scottish who had found much success with this formula earlier.

The variety of “pure” pot still whisky dwindled down to a few (Redbreast and the contract brand Green Spot) and the recipes used also were streamlined to the following rules. A minimum of 30% unmalted barley and a minimum of 30% malt with a maximum of 5% “other” grains.

As Midleton was the only producer of Pot still Irish whisky they were able to dictate that their preferred ratios be the one to define the category in the IGP, despite the fact that it flies in the face of the history of the many brands they actually use to market their products. There is an interesting set of articles about this controversial IGP on Blackwater distilleries blog blackwaterdistillery.ie/heritage-3/

They are also able to corner the market price on premium offerings of this category since there is literally no competition to bring those into the realm of reason. Many Midleton special editions sell for 300$+ without an age statement or reason to validate this kind of premium. So what’s all the fuss? What does this stuff taste like and will we be able to pick out a common thread to these different brands? Let’s find out.

Nose: Mineral, sweet dried fruits, slight varnish note, almonds, a subtle yeasty sherry note. Putty or perhaps plasticine, there’s a touch of mint too. Some leather, plums, dusty grains and chamomile.

Palate: Light, all on the interplay between the dark dried fruits and the thick pot-still texture. Prunes, buttercream, old oak, spices, some bready notes too.

Finish: Lots of dark notes, paraffin, a slight sulfur. Rubbery notes at the end hold it back a touch.

Notes: Elegant and classy, I didn’t understand the fuss about this whisky at first in fact I reviewed it quite poorly before. It requires attention as it doesn’t jump out at you.

Redbreast 12

40% ABV

87/100

Highland Park Valknut “Sweet Home Valhalla”

Everyone loves to talk trash about Highland Park, more so than Macallan. I think it’s largely in part to how far they’ve leaned into this whole Viking mythos, coupled with the sheer volume of new releases.

I personally don’t mind the whole Viking thing that much. What’s at issue along with other Edrington properties is that one feels as though the marketing department has taken over all aspects of the product. Anyone who’s watched early episodes of Mad Men will be familiar with the kind of cynical marketing techniques that cares very little about the actual product itself.

With this series they’ve combined several tried and true marketing techniques. “limited” editions (15,000 to 20,000 bottles isn’t really that limited), creating a new series of 3-4 scheduled releases and finally a story or myth to bind them all together. With the promise of more “sherry” and more peat what could go wrong? Let’s lean into this one.

Nose: Burnt hay, peameal bacon, it’s a bit closed at first, then opens up with vanilla & seaweed. The sherry eventually shows up and takes over the proceedings. Lots of dried grape, and grape candy, yeast, a bit of ink and plasticine and sulfur.

Palate: Ashy, mineral very sweet like glycerin and honey. Further time brings, vynil, old books, wine gums, faint smoke a touch of BBQ pork. Sour oak, stir fried broccoli, then the return of a lot of sweetness.

Finish: yeasty, grape reduction, a touch of balsamic and seaside. The finish is medium in length but mouth drying.

Blab: Underdeveloped nose. Sharp and stuffy peat. There’s sulfur but no depth to the sherry. Plenty of that weird plum/grape sweetness that is almost cloying like PX. I never thought I’d say that I missed dark origins but I do.

Mortlach 12-The Wee Witchie “Basic Witch”

Mortlach is one of those Diageo stepchild distilleries that was used mainly as blend fodder, for years it had no regular output under its name save one lonely 16 year old Flora & Fauna release.

It gained notoriety as a darling of the Indie scene, many praising the almost meaty, full bodied characteristics of it’s distillate especially when applied to ex-sherry casks. It’s precisely this trait that made it such a great asset to use in blending.

The distillery engages in a complex distilling scheme where the tail runs from its first two wash stills are accumulated and distilled several times in their smallest spirit still (the eponymous Wee Witchie). This is done in order to produce a small quantity of heavy style distillate that will be then included with the other two stills spirit runs. Add to that the use of worm tub condensers which also contributes its unique sulfury character and it explains the meaty, heavy adjectives that are often used to describe Mortlach.

Let’s see if we get any of those signature flavours in the new 12 yr old.

Nose: initially a bit feisty, stone fruit, Yellow plums, a bit of gooseberry. Underneath that first wave there is barley, gristy cereal notes, a good dose of vanilla. There is a touch of sulfur and a phenolic feeling overall & sweet citrus. As the nose opens up further I get a kind of sweet, red delicious apples, a touch of cardboard.

An interesting nose, there’s lots of spirit left attached to it but it’s got a lot to keep you interested.

Palate: Lemon lozenge, astringent, sharp oak, a bit sour, overproofed bread, mineral, chalky. Almost gritty, a feeling of dry vermouth.

Finish: Sour oak, a bit of vanilla, lemon scented cleaning products, fades fast leaving mostly a slight mustiness

Blab: The nose is rather full and round but overall this isn’t memorable. The finish is short and leaves behind the more cardboard like elements. It starts of promising but overall this is a let down I don’t get much in the way of what we think of as sherry character either.

Mortlach 12-The Wee Witchie

43.4% ABV

81/100

Glengoyne 15 “Highland Fling”

Glengoyne might not have crossed your radar, yet they’ve managed to amass a steady following in the last few years. This former Edrington property was developed into a successful single malt brand by new owners Ian Mcleod, they banked on the beauty of the site as a tourist destination but also the sherry heavy maturation profile that former owner’s we’re know for.

They have quite a nice range of products most are age stated and thus far have managed to remain within reach of the average consumer.

This release is said to be composed of 50% ex-bourbon casks, 30% 1st fill American oak ex-sherry cask & 20% 1st fill European oak ex-sherry casks.

Enjoy this photo of the store where I tasted this whisky as I sadly forgot to take a photo of the bottle.

Nose: Funky sherry, dunnage notes, a bit of mustiness mixed with sweetness. Dried fruit cake wrapped in wax paper, there’s some sulfur in the form more of spent match but it is light. Vanilla, some yeasty notes, the oak brings a bit of spice, a touch of ginger and mace.

With time it becomes really waxy, with apples and chicory coffee notes.

Palate: Nice round entry, cake batter, malty, spicy gingery oak, a touch of autumn leaves, sultanas, toffee, a latte with too much milk, a bit of toasted almonds. The mouth feel is a little thin.

Finish: A bit of marzipan, grassy, green sap. crystallized fruits, a touch of pineapple. Whole wheat bread. Slight cured ham funk, a touch of meat.

Blab: It’s a good whisky, it offers some of the more potent sherry notes you find in more expensive or older whisky, yet still has zip on the palate. A good solid performer except for the texture and finish where the lower proof 43% might make it lose a bit of power. I have tasted most of the range barring the 25 yr old and I prefer the 15 I think it captures the best of what the distillery has to offer, the 21 is solid too. No surprise in today’s whisky world I believe this expression is going to be removed from the line-up.

Glengoyne 15

43% ABV

86/100

Bruichladdich Black Arts 6.1 “Arcane Rambler”

Black Arts has become the oldest regular expression of the Bruichladdich portfolio. It is basically composed of 20± year old pre-closure stock that had been matured or finished in various types of casks with a heavy emphasis on wine/sherry/fortified wines. It is then vatted into a secret recipe know only to the head distiller.

This is the second edition that has been crafted by Adam Hannet since he’s taken over the role of master distiller.

Nose: Old books, slight sulfur and dried berries, as it opens up you get grape syrup, fresh oak a bit of pickled ginger & waxed orange rind. There’s an interesting note like a cross between sour cherry and marzipan also present is this background freshness and something akin to peated rosewater?

This edition seems to start off not quite as tight and funky than past ones I’ve tried, there is some sulfur but it’s balanced with a touch of sea spray, it almost feels like that’s the element bringing the freshness.

Palate : Oily, bitter herbs, sweet cured ham & cold coffee. musky fruits like melon, grape skins, fresh pastry, a slight sherry vinegar sharpness and then that aged sherry barrel funk. A Musty Concrete Basement collides with broken jars of mustard fruits and grape jam.

Finish: Sweet, Water biscuits, marinated stone fruits and blackberries with saltwater and a trace of smoke. Cooked jam, a tinge of paraffin and cologne. Loads of yeast and tobacco in finish a good amount of oak and a trace of incense.

Blab: This is big whisky and yet it feels fun, unlike the 4.1 which I reviewed recently which was kind of heavy sulfury and messy. 6.1 has those heavy low end notes but all that is pulled up by this freshness on the nose that other versions don’t exhibit. There is an interplay between the sharp acidic wine elements and the fruit, It’s rather pleasant and prevents the whole affair from becoming too stodgy.

Expensive but I feel like this one is actually worth paying for, great blending a fairly unique profile as well that sticks with you.

Bruichladdich Black Arts 6.1

46.9% ABV
88/100

Glenrothes 18 – “Bazooka Joe Needs a Personality Test”

Part of the re-vamp of the Glenrothes line, it was recently sold back to Edrington group by Berry Brothers & Rudd. They have decided to move from using vintages to age statements.

Although if we follow Edrington’s Modus Operandi, a flood of NAS releases will follow they just need to find the right angle or hook. Pretentious fuckboys and overuse of the word luxury are already taken by Macallan. Viking porn and the raping of mythology is the domain of Highland Park.

I shouldn’t be so sarcastic, age statements are a good thing in this current era of whisky marketing and this current range could provide Glenrothes with a bit of needed sex appeal.

Nose: Grape gum, paraffin, faint spices, cloves and nutmeg, creamy vanilla and a bit of mint. Grapes on the stems, marshmallows, bazooka Joe gum including the waxed joke attached to it.

Palate: Spicy oak, sharp, full & sweet arrival. Canned peaches, dried figs, raisins, sticky toffee pudding, oranges, a bit of pepper and cocoa.

Finish: Quick, the texture is very light, very grapey, ginger, jasmine tea and creamy vanilla.

The Blab: It’s a pretty good whisky, it doesn’t have any major missteps, the flavors tend towards bright sherry, lots of almost grape juice concentrate. You will find none of that dark, savory, leathery sherry here, it felt like it was a bit sherry by the numbers, very muted, it doesn’t have much in the way of personality. Despite it being 18 yrs old you would be just as well served by any number of 12-15 year old expressions from Glengoyne, Tomatin or Glendronach for example. which have more dynamics and vigor.

The Glenrothes 18

43% ABV

83/100