Whisk(e)y societies are, on the whole, pretty damn good. Not only do they bring together like-minded folks under one banner, but they can help to crack open the protective nutshell around the spirit. Of course, there can be a little bit of snobbery and one-upmanship, but in general, everyone we've had the pleasure to meet and share a dram with just loves whisk(e)y and wants others to love it as much as they do.
The good thing is that distillers love them too. Clubs and societies are great proving grounds for new releases - cask samples count as currency and it's not unlikely to be given a seemingly random whisky, which gains the seal of approval, only for it to be commercially released a year later.
On this tip, earlier this month Irish Distillers went one step better, when they partnered up with the Irish Whiskey Society to launch an exclusive members' cask. The whiskey in question is the result of a sampling process which happened back in April, where cask 1038, a 17 year old ex-bourbon barrel yielding just 204 bottles done the approval from the club.
Fortunately, we were able to lay our hands on a wee sample from the cask- and an absolute belter it is too. So for those of you who, like us, are gaining a real soft spot for single pot still Irish whiskey, you might want to get yourself over to the Irish Whiskey Society website, join up and grab a bottle before they all disappear...
Midleton Irish Whiskey - Single Cask Release - The Irish Whiskey Society - 17 years Old - 55.2% Cask Filled 13th January 1995 - Bottled 17th October 2012
Nose: An immediate note of fresh bananas (ok, actually slightly overripe, if we're being honest), backdropped with a delicious golden syrup note, sweetened vanilla cream, malty cereal and a waft of honey. Beautifully balanced and very expressive.
Palate: The sweetness continues onto the palate, with more of the bananas (this time, those little foam sweet bananas) a big hit of vanilla, some plummy jam notes and a very mouth coating creamy cereal.
Finish: Lingering traces of banana and caramel, with a little spiciness on the very end.
Overall: Age has been extraordinarily kind to this whiskey - it is wonderfully balanced, silky smooth and enormously drinkable. Whilst this is clearly a one-off release and it seems a shame to keep it within the realms of the club environment, what it highlights is just how formidable single pot still Irish whiskey is becoming. With any luck, Irish Distillers have a few of these 'wonder casks' up their sleeves - if you're A: reading this and B: sitting on a parcel of them - please bottle them at this age and strength- we think you're onto a winner...