2017 has brought a new version of well-known Irish blend Midleton Very Rare. Composed of single pot still and grain whiskeys drawn from ex-Bourbon barrels, the annual release first unveiled in 1984, is now in its 34th incarnation. The 2014 edition of Very Rare was released for the 30th anniversary of the blend and was the first to bear the name of the new Master Distiller Brian Nation who took over from Barry Crocket who retired in 2013.
That year, there was also a ‘Pearl Edition’ of just 117 bottles released at a higher strength of 53.1% ABV to mark the anniversary of the brand. The 2014 edition however, is bottled at the traditional 40%, and like all Very Rare releases, is a blend of pot still and grain whiskeys matured in ex-Bourbon barrels. This edition has constituents aged from between 15 and 22 years.
Nose: An inviting fusion of fruits, florals and aged notes. Pineapple, melon (cantaloupe), green apples, peaches, nectarines and coconuts makes for a fruity start as one might expect from a well-made Irish whisky. Fruits are joined by delicate florals of lilies and violets and a smattering of wood aromas – teak, varnish and light aromats in the form of ginger. It’s quite sweet, all sitting on a bed of toffee and crème caramel, and whilst easy-going is rather alluring all the same.
Taste: A reasonable mouthfeel, but still a touch thin for my liking at 40%. Less sweet than the nose, but still fairly fruity – tinned orchard fruits, mangoes, peaches are bolstered by some vanilla and an edge of minerality – akin to copper coins (a flavour I find quite common in pot still whiskeys) with a hint of sharp but concentrated citrus juice. Toffee still comes through and intermingles with some stronger roasted golden malt flavours. These bring a certain earthiness with them…not quite dunnage warehouse but heading in that general direction. Cask influence is on the down low but still brings with it some nutmeg and light white pepper.
Finish: A touch short, but with a pleasant astringency which shows off both the fruity aspect as well as revealing some more grainy notes.
Midleton Very Rare is entirely pleasant, light going and tasty. It displays some elegance and is inarguably easy drinking, but at the same time, would really benefit from both higher ABV and more pronounced intensity of flavour. It’s fruity, but not quite at the levels of ‘fruit bomb’ that you can find with some particularly high quality Irish whiskey (particularly those distilled in the 90’s that are surfacing nowadays). Good stuff, but crying out for a cask strength version. The 2016 is still available from Master of Malt for £135.