Irish Whiskey Ambassador, Joe Magowan, got the chance to sit down with Mitchell and Son and chat all things Spot whiskey…
Can you tell us a little about Mitchell and Son?
Mitchell and Son was started in Dublin in 1805 by William Mitchell who hailed from Northern England. At the time he was a trained pastry chef and moved to Dublin to open up a bakery, confectionary business and restaurant on Grafton Street. It was here where the family business really began. We’ve changed somewhat since then, and to this day 212 years later I’m glad to say we’re still in business, albeit in the world of retailing and wholesaling wines and spirits as opposed to cakes! We’re most well known for our involvement in the Spot range of Irish Whiskey.
In the late 1800s the Mitchell family were involved in the wine importing business. At this stage we were importing quite large quantities of sherry, port, burgundy wine, Bordeaux wine and sweet dessert wine from Malaga in Spain. These wines were being imported in wooden casks and when the casks were emptied we discovered they were ideal for maturing Irish Whiskey. From 1887 we were regularly shipping empty casks to the Jameson Distillery on Bow St where new make spirit was being added before the barrels were shipped back to us to age gracefully for up to 15 years.
Ourselves and Gilby’s would have been the biggest bonders at the time and when the three main distilleries (Jameson, Powers and Cork) decided to join together under the guidance of Kevin McCourt, the bonding situation changed where it was centralised under Irish distillers to try to ensure consistency was achieved. Our bonding ceased in the mid to late 1960s and we had around 10 years supply of whiskey in our bonded store. Green Spot, which at the time was a 10 year old, Yellow Spot, which was a 12 year old, and Red Spot, which was a 15 year old. There was also a very small amount of 7 year old Blue Spot, but it didn’t feature much in the Spot range.
Where did the Spot range get its name from?
We marked the casks with spots of paint to differentiate them during the ageing process. Green for Green Spot, Yellow for Yellow Spot and Red for Red Spot! The whiskey that ran out the quickest was the 12 and 15 year old.
How do you feel about the comeback of Irish whiskey? I know there was concern in the 60’s that whiskeys like Green Spot could have disappeared forever.
Yes that’s true – however in the early 70’s, when bonding stopped, we didn’t worry too much as we knew we had about 10 years supply of whiskey. However the closer it got to the stock dissipating, the more we got concerned that the brands would disappear. We ended up sitting down with the MD of Irish Distillers and discussed how best to deal with this. We agreed that the best way of protecting the brands was for Irish Distillers to purchase the brand names and allow Mitchells to receive the distribution rights for the island of Ireland – it has remained like this to this day. The marketing of Green Spot and the success of our newer release of Yellow Spot in the last decade has grown and it’s fantastic to see the resurgance of Irish Whiskey.
Finally then I’d just like to ask about your feelings about Irish whiskey. Do you drink much irish whiskey yourself?
Oh yes – and I can safely say I’ve never really drank much Scotch – It’s not something that appeals to me the same way Irish whiskey does. It is fantastic to see Irish Whiskey as popular as it is today and I was really delighted when the guys were able to recreate Yellow Spot and I would put that as my favourite tipple. I’m excited about the upcoming innovation with the Green Spot series – the Leoville Barton and Chateau Montelana releases will be quite incredible. I love nothing more than a whiskey in the evening, neat without any water or ice and I think the glass is vital – I like the Riedel single malt glass instead of the heavier rocks glass.