With the weather turning a little colder this week, I've opted to stay in, reorganise a few things in our office drinks cabinet and nail down a few of the excellent samples that have recently turned up here.
And what better way than to shift any persistent chills than with a brace of new Port Askaigs from our friends at Speciality Drinks.
We first featured this bespoke Islay brand a few years back and the 17yo really got our clappers rattling. Classic blasts of salty, sooty peat smoke and a sweet creamy undertone seem to characterise where these bottlings are heading, despite the absence of any mention of the actual contents (we'd hazard a guess at Caol Ila, but could be wildly out)
But before these, (stay tuned for later this week) a special treat is in order. The chaps also included a sample of a very special Irish whiskey, exclusive to Speciality Drinks...and it's an absolute triumph.
The Midleton distillery is perhaps the largest distillery i've ever seen, providing whiskey for not only Jameson, but Red Breast, Green Spot, Powers and a plethora of other well known Irish whiskey brands - as well as a fine line in exclusive bottlings under the Midleton banner. Speciality have secured a single cask, distilled in 1991 and are releasing it a 54.1%. Are we excited by what we've just poured into the glass? Tobesuretobesuretobesure!!!
Speciality Drinks - Midleton - Single Cask Irish Whiskey - Distilled November 1991 - Bottled October 2012 - 54.1%
Nose: Quite simply, an absolute symphony of tropical aromas: Fresh mango, passion fruit, white peach, papaya, kiwi fruit and dried apricot lead first, then it's off into white chocolate, freshly picked mint leaves, swathes of vanilla, a hint of redcurrant and some woody, cedar/cigarbox notes. About as perfect a nose as i've ever experienced in an Irish whiskey.
Palate: The strength is there at first, but it doesn't get in the way of a continuation of the fresh fruit: more ripe peaches, a touch of pineapple, creamy vanilla, stewed apple with a dusting of anise and cinnamon. The flavours hit in waves; first very fresh, then juicy, then creamy. One criticism unfairly levelled at Irish whiskey is that it perhaps lacks a certain amount of complexity or richness when compared to a similarly aged single malt from Scotland. After a few sips of this all I can say is bollocks to that. It's simply sensational.
Finish: As the fruits die away, a distinct pepperiness develops, alongside the creamy notes and perhaps even a touch of dried ginger.
Overall: Contender for the best Irish whiskey i've ever tasted? Without a doubt. The slight downside here is that it costs a considerable sum - £235. But for a 20 year old whisk(e)y of this calibre, I can think of a number of similarly priced alternatives (Scotch, Japanese or American) that wouldn't even start to scrape the surface of how unique this is.
If this is too rich for you, fret not. Midleton's Barry Crockett Legacy will set you back £100 less than this and a bottle of RedBreast 15 year old delivers similar flavours in spades and will cost you £67.
According to the bean counters and statisticians, Irish whiskey is the fastest growing dark spirit in the world right now. Hard to argue with that when you have flavours as triumphant as these.