Midleton Very Rare is one of those bottles that you probably hear way more about that actually get to drink. These very limited releases from Irish Distillers down in Midleton, County Cork, have a rabid fan base of whiskey drinkers who care deeply about Irish whiskey as a style. (Irish Distillers also makes some of Ireland’s most famous whiskey brands from Redbreast to Jameson to Powers and so many more.)
This year’s 2021 Vintage marked the beginning of a new era as Master Distiller Kevin O’Gorman’s first Very Rare release. O’Gorman took over the reins of Midelton from Irish whiskey distilling legend Brian Nation who’s now in Minnesota making a go of it there as a Master Distiller in the craft game.
As an avid fan of Midleton and Irish whiskey in general, I was very happy when this bottle arrived on my doorstep. So let’s get into how this one tastes!
Midleton Very Rare Vintage Release 2021 Finest Irish Whiskey
Average Price: Sold Out ($180 MSRP)
The 38th Very Rare release from Midleton is a marrying of single pot still and grain whiskeys that spent 15 to 36 years aging in ex-bourbon barrels. The barrels were specifically chosen for their very light char. Those whiskeys were masterfully vatted and then proofed down with that iconic Cork County springwater to a very accessible 80 proof.
This opens with a clear sense of Irish grain whiskey that leads towards apple candy (think fancy Jolly Ranchers). There’s also a touch of lemon pepper on the nose that works really well with that sweet apple candy.
The palate is interesting. You definitely know you’re drinking Irish whiskey with a light grain vibe with a slightly floral note that leads towards … I want to say … pears stewed with saffron, very mild cinnamon, and grape-forward brandy. The fruitiness kicks up a notch as you sip again, surfacing as a sweet/tart/savory kiwi — the green flesh and white pith, not the sandpaper skin.
Going back in for a second and third nose and sip reveals a deep vanilla bourbon nature next to a light maltiness. There’s exactly zero alcohol burn thanks to that low ABV. The end is soft, fruity, and slightly warming but doesn’t overstay its welcome.
The presentation of this bottle is pretty damn special. The bottle comes tucked into a nice wooden box with some serious heft. The bottle itself feels like an art-deco throwback, also with some serious heft. It’s not overly ostentatious but is eye-catching.
The label has a lot on it, which can be intimidating. But it sort of works for how special this release is.
Overall, this is a perfectly fine dram of very refined whiskey. It’s much thinner than Redbreast but not as light as Jameson. Still, it doesn’t feel like I’m drinking something overly aged or tinkered with. That’s a good thing because that means it’s super easy to drink, ultra-refined and confident, and quite pleasant.
If I were ranking this against only Irish whiskey, I think it’d fall around 95/100. It’s a fine dram that highlights the beautiful nuance of the style. If I were ranking this against all whisk(e)y (which I am!), I’d say this is more an 85/100.
It’s very light for the bracket of high-end whiskeys this falls into. I could see whiskey heads who drink murky Kentucky, Texas, or Indiana bourbons at the same price point saying, “there’s not a lot of there there” thanks to the very low ABV.