Last week a small group of whiskey enthusiasts joined me in The Merchant Hotel for an exclusive tasting of the new Midleton Dair Ghaelach Bluebell Forest. This series of whiskeys incorporates Irish oak – the first Irish whiskey in recent history to do so.
For this project, we felled 6 trees in Bluebell Forest in Castle Blunden Estate, County Kilkenny, all done in accordance with the Irish Forest Service as we wanted to make sure the project was completely sustainable. The trees were transported to Maderbar Sawmills in Galicia to be quarter sawn into staves. The staves then made their journey to the Antonio Paez Lobato cooperage in Jerez where they were dried for 15 months in the Spanish sun and given a light to medium toast before being worked into 29 casks.
Finally the casks returned to Ireland and were filled with 12-23 year old pot still whiskeys which had previously been matured in American oak. After 19 months it was deemed the perfect balance of flavour had been achieved and the whiskey was bottled. Each bottle can be traced back to one of the six trees the cask came from.
To celebrate the release of this new whiskey I hosted a vertical tasting of all six trees. This small group of enthusiasts were amongst the first people in the world to taste all six versions of this truly special whiskey. What surprised us most was how different the whiskeys were. Some light and delicate with notes of red fruit and spice whilst others were rich and boasted rich flavours like chocolate and crème brûlée. The dialogue that developed after tasting each whiskey made this one of the most interesting and engaging tastings I’ve ever hosted and every person there seemed to have a different favourite tree.
A truly special evening with a fantastic new release from Midleton and an exciting new chapter for Irish whiskey.
Words by Joe Magowan.