Introducing Midleton Very Rare 30th Anniversary Pearl Edition Irish Whiskey

Irish Whiskey

Believe it or not, it is 30 years since Midleton Very Rare Whiskey first made an appearance in the Whiskey world.

Midleton really was the flagship whiskey of Irish distillers and represented all that was best in the Irish Distillers whiskey family which includes Jameson, Powers, Redbreast, Paddy and the famous Green Spot and Yellow Spot Pot Still Irish Whiskeys.

From the very first bottle produced in 1984, the Midleton Premium whiskeys have always had a close and personal association with Master Distiller Barry Crockett, who’s personal signature adorned every bottle of Midleton ever released. Barry Crockett is an Irish Whiskey legend who’s father Max Crockett had been Master Distiller before him. In fact Barry was born and grew up in the Master Distiller’s House on the distillery grounds. Today, the same building serves as the Irish Distillers and Midleton Distillery archive.

30th Anniversary Midleton Pearl Edition30th Anniversary Midleton Pearl Edition
Midleton Very Rare was Barry’s very own personal creation blended from hand picked casks of the distillery’s very best pot still spirit to create depth and character and some very old and special grain spirit to add incredible smoothness. The blend was then matured under the watchful eye of Midleton’s Master of Maturation before being released to market annually in small and limited quantities with each bottle individually numbered.

Earlier expressions from 1984 and the late 80’s may have been more reliant of their quality of distillation rather than maturation as the new Midleton Distillery had only opened in 1975. However as stock levels of the maturing whiskey casks grew, the age of blends of grain and pot still used in Midleton Very Rare also grew to somewhere between 15 and 21 years.

Ever since that very first release of Midleton Very Rare in 1984, Barry has approved and released a new expression for each calendar year.

When Barry retired in 2012, his place was taken by his protégé Brian Nation and since 2012, each bottle now carries the signature of Brian, as Midleton’s new Master Distiller.

To celebrate the 30th or Pearl Anniversary of Midleton Very Rare, Barry Crockett as Master Distiller Emeritus was invited back to join current master Distiller Brian Nation in selecting a 30 Year Old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey from 1984 and a Grain Whiskey from 1981 to blend into an anniversary whiskey of exceptional quality. Both whiskeys had been aged in American oak barrels which after 30 years had imparted luscious honey and vanilla flavours.

A Select Group of Whiskey Writers
Midleton Pearl 30th Anniversary in Wooden BoxMidleton Pearl 30th Anniversary in Wooden Box

I was honoured to be amongst a select group of a dozen or so International Whiskey Writers invited to join Barry, Brian, Midleton Distillery’s Master of Maturation Kevin O’Gorman, Master Blender Billy Leighton, Master Cooper Ger Buckley, and other Midleton Distillery Leaders for a celebratory dinner in an Distillery Warehouse Cooperage to launch this very special 30th (Pearl) Anniversary Midleton Very Rare Whiskey.

Midleton Very Rare Pearl Edition will not just be very rare. It will be exceptionally rare as just 117 bottles have been produced at a suggested retail price of €6,000 each. Each bottle has been individually hand crafted by Keith and Kathleen Leadbetter of Jerpoint Glass Studios in Co. Kilkenny and each presentation box is also hand crafted in native Irish Oak in Co. Wexford.

In addition, each presentation case also carries a celebratory booklet and an extra 50 cl sample, in a smaller hand crafted bottle so that you can taste and share your Midleton Pearl without opening your main bottle. Midleton Pearl will only be available for purchase in Ireland, the UK, Germany, France and China.

As I said, 117 bottles have been produced, but I’m guessing that following our tasting at the event, that that number is now down to 114 at most!

So, what was my experience of Midleton Pearl?
Barry Crockett Midleton Pearl Irish Whiskey LaunchStuart is lucky enough to be sitting beside Midleton Master Distillers Barry Crockett and Brian Nation as they open the very first bottle of Midleton Pearl.
Photo with kind permission of my US Whiskey Writer Colleague Mark Gillespie of WhiskyCast.com.As you can see from Mark Gillespie’s (WhiskyCast.com) photo, I was lucky enough to be sitting near the end of the banquet style table where Barry and Brian stood to give a short pre-tasting presentation. Following, the presentation, each guest was poured a generous measure of Pearl in a beautiful Waterford Crystal Glass by their nearest Midleton host and being in the right place at the right time, I had the great honour as a relatively new Irish Whiskey writer, in having my own glass poured by Barry Crockett himself, before clinking glasses with Barry, Brian and Billy to toast the launch of what may well be the very best Irish Whiskey ever produced.

The nose was classic Midleton Whiskey, warm, spicy and rounded with a hint of toasted oak and some soft bees wax notes.
Tasting the first drop, Midleton Pearl is incredibly rich and complex. Honey sweet and spicy at the same time, it reminded me of warm, rich gingerbread.

The mouthfeel is warm and full with a luscious pot still oiliness. There is no mistaking the classic Midleton traits, but this is Midleton to the power of 4 with absolutely superb depth and character.

The Finish is warm and tingling feel with a long and gentle fade.

Five Pooka Irish WhiskeyFive Pooka Irish WhiskeyAnd a Pooka Rating? Of course it was never in doubt that Midleton Pearl is a Five Pooka Irish Whiskey. On second thoughts, it’s the King of the Pookas!

My sincere thanks to my Friends at Midleton for honouring me with an invitation to this very special Irish Whiskey night. Visiting Midleton is like visiting family. There is always a warmth, openness and kindness in their hospitality which make each and every guest feel not just very welcome, but very special.

I must also mention the superb meal and service by Ballymaloe House who created an incredible long table banuquet in the old warehouse for the 30 or so attendees. I’m not sure if the whiskey was worthy of the event or was the event worthy of the whiskey! Of course, it was the event that was worthy of the whiskey, but as I have often said before, fine whiskey is not just about taste and smell. It is also about look, the feel of a heavy crystal glass in your hand and of course, warm ambiance and company. It was a great pleasure to meet my fellow International Whisk(e)y Writers and Bloggers from Ireland, the UK, Mainland Europe and the USA, many of whom have since become valued whiskey friends and contacts.

Barry Crockett and Brian Nation were kind enough to sign my Midleton Pearl menu!Barry Crockett and Brian Nation were kind enough to sign my Midleton Pearl menu!Finally, as you can see from the attached photo, each guest received a personalised engraved wooden place holder with their menu. As I mentioned earlier, each bottle of Midleton Pearl is signed by both Barry and Brian. Spotting a unique opportunity, I was delighted that the three Midleton Masters, Barry, Brian and Billy all were kind enough to sign my dinner menu leaving me with a treasured and very personal memento of my attendance at a truly great event in Irish whiskey history. The launch of Midleton Very Rare Pearl 30th Anniversary Edition Irish Whiskey may well have been the launch of the best Irish Whiskey ever.

The post Introducing Midleton Very Rare 30th Anniversary Pearl Edition Irish Whiskey appeared first on Irish Whiskey.

As a young child living near Midleton in Ireland, my dad loved Scammel trucks! And now, as I stand right next to a vintage John Jameson liveried Scammel in the old Midleton distillery, I can see what he where he was coming from.

Scammel Trucks - Irish Whiskey AcademyMy Dad loved Scammell Trucks. This one is on display at the Jameson Experience Visitor Centre at Midleton Distillery.

In the rural Ireland of the 1950’s, Scammels were a sign of all that was best in a developing nation. They were the giant trucks which brought modern technology to Ireland and were symbols of power and progress for companies such as Jameson which even then had already been at the cutting end of Irish innovation and industrial development for over one hundred years. Scammels and the innovative new Ireland they represented, inspired young children like my Dad to become the engineers and scientists of the 60’s who built modern Ireland over the next 50 years replacing steam, steel, boilerplate and copper stills with electronics and silicon.

For make no mistake, the Whiskey industry was considered to be every bit as innovative and progressive then as Silicon Valley is today. The Whiskey industry leapt forward hand in hand with the Steam Age. Improvements in boiler and pipe making led to better more efficient copper pot stills, Column stills and distillery engineering. Steam engines could step in when dry summers halted the millstones waterwheels and it was the advent of steam locomotives and steam boats that brought whiskey to a wider audience in Europe and America making it an important export asset for the UK and Ireland.

Today, Whiskey creation encompasses, science, art, engineering, heritage, agriculture, craftsmanship, innovation, business and most of all a passionate appreciation of the product and pride in strong links to the past. Irish whiskey, unlike Scotch whisky is still crafted today in much the same way as it was over 200 years ago, with technology never allowed to compromise the preservation of heritage, taste and quality.

Irish Whiskey Academy JournalistsIrish Whiskey Academy Journalists

I join a dozen fellow Whiskey journalists from the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands who have all been invited to spend a few days as the guests of Irish Distillers at their brand new Irish Whiskey Academy attached to the Jameson Irish Whiskey Experience at their Midelton Distillery near Cork. Our hotel for the duration of the visit is the lovely Castlemartyr Resort which is just a few kms from the Distillery.

After an icebreaker of Redbreast 15, we join the Irish Whiskey Academy staff for lunch at the Malt House Restaurant in the Jameson Visitor Centre. Here, we meet David McCabe who would be our lead tutor for the course and Kelly O’Mahony who is the Customer Experience Manager. Even over lunch it was obvious that we were dealing with people who are just passionate about their work.
Kelly describes how even such a large facility such as Midleton, with its mix of complex industrial outputs and tourism services is really a village. A Village in spirit? I venture. At the end of this trip I would realise just how right we both were..

We start after lunch with a quick orientation tour of the old distillery including a look at the old perforated tile malting floors, waterwheel, steam engine and what is believed to be the largest pot still in the world. It was still distilling spirit in Midleton until recently after over 100 years of service, only to be replaced by a brand new modern replica a few years ago. Whiskey making has not really changed that much in over 200 years so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

After the obligatory class photo at the sign outside the Academy, we entered the state of the art academy building which houses ultra-modern audio visual technology, its own distillation and blending science lab and of course a beautifully decorated tasting lounge reminiscent of some of the posher clubs in Dublin and London. And the Teacher? Our tutor Dave McCabe is clearly a man who lives, breathes and loves his whiskey! They say the best teachers emphasize the fun in life and learning and Dave is clearly one of those teachers. Already I know that the next few days are going to be great fun as well as being informative!

Kelly had earlier told us we would be following the making of whiskey from grain to glass, so naturally we started with the farmer who grows that grain. They don’t actually talk about Farmers in the academy but rather about the 140 Farming Families scattered around Munster who supply 60 tons a day of barley to Midleton.

From there, we went through Barley quality, explored malted barley and worked our way up to milling, mashing and brewing the 10% ABV Weiss beer like “Wort” which will eventually be distilled into whiskey spirit in batches of 116,000 litres a time.

Irish Whiskey AcademyIrish Whiskey Academy Distillation Class with Irish Whiskey Academy Dave McCabe

We then moved to a detailed study of distillation, covering the intricacies of triple pot still distillation including the art and science of distillation feints and cuts before moving on to the Coffey Still or Column Still Distillation associated with the lighter single grain spirit which is added to pot still to make the lighter and sweeter blended whiskeys.

We then moved to a study of Maturation which is the art of aging whiskey in wooden Casks or barrels. Not just any old barrel, but specially imported single use Bourbon Casks from Kentucky at $120 each and specially selected Sherry and Malaga Wine casks from the south of Spain costing over €700 each with 5,000 used per year.

Again the word “Family” was used, as almost all of the precious Spanish Sherry Casks are sourced from a single family business near Jerez. Don Antonio Paez Lobato is well over 80 and still actively manages the family cooperage. His relationship with the Midleton Family is strong and enduring. So much so that Midleton Master Cooper Ger Buckley sends his apprentices over to Spain for work experience and Don Antonio’s Grandchildren have come to Ireland for work experience in Midleton.
It was time for a break from Class work so we were invited downstairs to the tasting lounge to taste 4 very different Pot Still whiskeys from Midleton.

The wonderful Green Spot which has long been my own personal favourite Irish whiskey.
Redbreast 12 year old with its wonderful sherry barrel Christmassy flavours.
Powers Johns Lane non chill filtered with its Spicy dry finish.
Barry Crockett Legacy No need to say more than it bears the Master’s Name!

Midleton Pot Still Irish Whiskey TastingMidleton Pot Still Irish Whiskey Tasting

From there, it was time to reinforce our learning with a visit to the modern production plant. Here, we saw at first hand the delivery and quality checking of barley and the mashing, brewing and filtering process. We walked past the massive, externally cooled outdoor column stills which distill single grain whiskey spirit for blending on our way to visit the highlight of the day, the great Pot Still hall. There to tell us about the huge copper wonder machines, was none other but Midleton’s very own Master Distiller Brian Nation who took over from retiring Master, Barry Crockett in 2013. This audience alone would have made the trip for us as this is the man whose name will replace Barry’s on every single bottle of Midleton Very Rare Whiskey produced during his reign. It was interesting to note as we toured the vast Pot Still hall, that space has been left for a second team of three copper pot stills to join the team in the near future. This will double pot still whiskey production at the Midleton plant.

Irish Whiskey MidletonIrish Whiskey Academy Tutor David McCabe shows off the Giant Copper Pot Stills installed last year. Three more are due to be installed to the right of photo.

That night, over dinner at nearby Ballymaloe house with Midleton’s Master of Maturation Kevin O’Gorman, our tutor David and Midleton’s senior marketing team, I again got a real sense that this huge Pernod Ricard owned Midleton organisation is still at heart, a very Irish operation and even more importantly, I left that evening feeling that I had been at dinner with a small Irish Family business rather than a branch of a huge multinational industry. Someone very high up in Pernod Ricard has wisely decided that when it comes to excellence in Irish whiskey teams, if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it!

The next morning we were up bright and early to spend an hour with Midleton’s Ger Buckley who is a 5th generation Master Cooper. As we already knew from David, Midleton imports all their barrels from Kentucky and Spain. Each barrel however is quality inspected on arrival by Ger or one of his small team of coopers who can the repair errant barrels using tools and techniques which have remain unchanged for thousands of years, handed down from father to son. I don’t have space in this blog piece to do justice to the wonderful hour we spent in Ger’s class, but a point that really came home to me is that a Master Cooper is not just an excellent Cooper, He or she must also an excellent teacher or “Professor” with an ability to pass on a standard of craftsmanship to not just new coopers, but a new generation of coopers. Ger’s own natural flair for teaching is a perfect match for his artistic and technical prowess and this has been recognised in Midleton’s series of YouTube video talks featuring the Master in action.

Irish Whiskey Academy MidletonMidleton Master Cooper Ger Buckley tells us all about the ancient craft of Cooperage, largely unchanged in tools and practice for 1,000’s of years.

A meeting in the Tasting Lounge with Midleton’s own professional archivist Carol Quinn followed and again the message I took from her talk to us was of the connection between heritage, business and family that was then and still is now the very essence of the Midleton distillery. We were given unique access to primary source documentation including the deed marking the permission given to the distillery by Midleton’s famous travelling salesman and all round “character” Paddy O’Flaherty to trade mark his name for Paddy Whiskey 101 years ago.
After a more detailed classroom session on column distillation used to make single grain whiskey used in Midleton’s blended whiskeys, we were invited to a tasting of Jameson’s Premium blends.

Jameson Standard of which 5 Million cases are made each year for worldwide distribution. A blend of pot still and single grain whiskey matured in bourbon and sherry casks.
Jameson Select Reserve Black Barrel Small Batch matured in selected casks which have been extra charred by Ger Buckley’s team after arrival in Midleton. The Grain component is unusual in that its first distillation is by pot still followed by the normal two column still distillations associated with triple distilled single grain whiskey.
Jameson Gold is a blend of three Single grain and pot still whiskeys from 14 to 25 years old, one of which has been aged in virgin oak lending vanilla sweetness to the pot still spicy and peppery nose and softer oloroso fruitiness.
Jameson 18 Year Old Limited Reserve is a blend of the Master Distillers handpicked sherry and bourbon aged casks none of which are less than 18 years old. The final blend is then aged for a further period in first fill bourbon barrels before being filled in a limited run of serial numbered bottles. The finished product is wonderfully mellow and complex with a lovely long and lingering finish.

Irish Whiskey Academy Warehouse VisitIrish Whiskey Academy visit to the vast Warehouse 42. Smell the Angel’s Share!

Before lunch, we had a one hour workshop on maturation or the aging of whiskey in casks. After seeing how casks arrive from Kentucky and Spain, we watched the inspection, repair and filling process before joining Midleton’s Master of Maturation Kevin O’Gorman for a very special visit to Warehouse 42 where I was allowed to crack open a sealed cask of 15 year old whiskey to check its progress 3 years from bottling by using a valinch or big copper whiskey pipette to fill my classmates glasses for a unique warehouse cask strength tasting. Later, over lunch, Ger Buckley signed the bung I extracted from the barrel as a very special memento of the visit.

After lunch it was time to put all we had learnt in the last two days into practice with a class and science lab practical in the art of whiskey blending. We had access to a variety of different aged Pot Still and Single Grain Whiskeys matured in a variety of different casks. And the result? The rarest Irish whiskey ever produced. A small batch (70 Ml) blend by Midleton’s latest apprentice Whiskey Blender Stuart McNamara!

It was time to end the course and say au revoir to our new friends in Midleton. But before we departed Midleton as the Irish Whiskey Academy’s latest graduates, we were each issued with a superbly produced Irish Whiskey Academy manual each of which had been individually serial numbered and personalised with our name.

I was amazed at how much I learnt during this intensive but highly enjoyable visit. There is not enough space or time in this short blog to go into the finer detail of the classes but I will follow up in coming weeks with more detailed individual articles.
I have no doubt that the knowledge, memories and experience gained and the friendships forged with my fellow students and the Midleton “Family” will stay with me for the rest of my Whiskey writing career. It was a unique insight into all that is best about the Irish Whiskey World.

Irish Distillers Academy Bottles4 Famous Midleton Pot Still Whiskeys and Stuart’s latest Really Small Batch Irish Whiskey Blend.

As someone with a professional background in training and education in my non Whiskey life, I was extremely impressed with the superb facilities and training standards in the academy. But most of all I was impressed with the Irish Whiskey Academy staff. It is people like David, Ger, Kelly, Carol and Kevin who really power this Distillery and its brands. With people of such talent, commitment and passion, the future of the Irish whiskey industry is in very safe hands for many generations to come.

If you would like to sample the wonders of the Irish Whiskey Academy for yourself, check out www.IrishWhiskeyAcademy.com . They have a range of 4 courses ranging from a 2 hours Irish Whiskey Academy Experience for €59, an afternoon at the Irish Whiskey Academy for €175, a full day Irish Whiskey Academy Discoverer Package for €325 and the two day Irish Whiskey Academy experience for €1,199 including 5* Hotel accommodation and a hosted dinner evening in a local premium restaurant.
Stuart McNamara is an Irish Whiskey Writer and Director of IrishWhiskey.com and IrishWhiskey.fr.

The post Irish Whiskey Academy and Midleton Distillery – A Village in Spirit appeared first on Irish Whiskey.

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