The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2016

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Page 50 of 116

50  /  the tasting panel  /  march 2016 FINE SPIRITS T he names are the stuff of Irish whiskey legacy: Jameson, Powers, Midleton, Redbreast. Certainly, the amber distillate of Eire is seeing a golden age—and Pernod Ricard has made itself the sworn keeper of the legacy. Prudent busi- ness decision? Absolutely. But it's more than that: It's history, and by reviving it and looking forward, Pernod Ricard's current lineup of single pot-still whiskeys seems only poised to grow. "All these brands stood alone and all had their own identity," says Jessamine McLellan, Pernod Ricard's National Brand Ambassador for single pot still whiskey and Powers. Indeed, when you taste them side by side, Ireland's trademark soft, supple style is the thread that links them, but like all brothers and sisters, each has its own distinct thumbprint. According to McLellan, "We make a range of distillates—or "new make" spirits. For each, its identity is already known. All are produced at Midleton," the main distillery for Pernod Ricard's ample catalog of fine Irish spirits, "but it's not musical barrels! They're aged differently." Up until the 19th century, Ireland was home to thousands of distilleries, but wars, Irish and American temperance, and the world's taste for other whiskies were just a few of the factors that lead to a near complete silence of Ireland's pot stills. After Pernod Ricard purchased Irish Distillers in the 1990s—the company that encompasses Jameson & Son, John Power & Son and Cork Distilleries—then Master Distiller (and Irish whiskey–making legend) Barry Crockett went on a mission to find the distinct characteristics of each whiskey made by the individual distillers, in order to preserve their individuality—and, in a sense, a piece of Irish history, too. Overseen today by Master Distiller Brian Nation, there are currently nine single pot-still Irish whiskeys in Pernod Ricard's catalog (with more releases to come in the near future), each with its own clear identity. The Redbreast line is notable for its use of oloroso Sherry casks for the spirit's finishing, adding a fleshy, rich, fruity character and an irresistible flavor of toffee so apparent in expressions like the Redbreast 12 Year Old, which becomes more peppery and herbaceous in the 15. In bottlings like the Green and Yellow Spot single pot whiskies, the fresh apple notes so abundant on the former, which sees mostly ex-bourbon casks and finishes in about ten percent Sherry, morphs into something more heady and tropical in the Yellow Spot, where Malaga Sherry casks plump up the apple notes with yellow raisin, banana and caramel. "Personally, I think it's one of the most complex whiskeys we make. At 46% ABV, it comes alive with a drop of water," offers McLellan. In the Powers line, the sophisticated John's Lane 12 Year Old, a blended pot still whiskey, stands out for its savory licorice notes balanced by brown sugar, leather and cedar—a whiskey that gets finished in ten percent oloroso Sherry casks. And if you ever have the opportunity to sip Midleton's Barry Crockett Legacy, its supple texture and sweet notes of vanilla bean, caramel, orange and marzipan will make it clear why Mr. Crockett was the right person to start this spirited excavation project in the first place. What's next? "We've got some amazing innovations coming up," says McLellan, who adds that on aver- age, there will be about two new expressions per year added to the Pernod Ricard Irish whiskey single pot still lineup, including some from the just-opened Midleton micro-distillery where resurrecting old recipes from the archives will be the order of the day. Pot Still of Gold SILENT NO MORE, THE POT STILLS OF IRELAND ARE BACK IN A BIG, SPIRITED WAY AS PERNOD RICARD LEADS THE CHARGE by Amy Zavatto Powers Signature is a single pot still whiskey, while Powers John's Lane is a blended pot still whiskey. Green Spot sees mostly ex-bourbon casks and finishes in about ten per- cent Sherry; Yellow Spot uses Malaga Sherry casks. The Redbreast line is notable for its use of oloroso Sherry casks for the spirit's finishing. Midleton Very Rare and Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy, which pays homage to the Irish whiskey–mak- ing legend.

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