Midleton Unveils Very Rare 2022 Whiskeys

The 2022 vintage of Midleton Very Rare

© photo provided

The 2022 vintage of Midleton Very Rare

The 2022 vintage of Midleton Very Rare

© photo provided

Falstaff: When did you join Midleton?

Kevin O’Gorman: I walked through the gates in 1998, meeting then master distiller, Barry Crockett, who taught me the importance of detail. He was so exact, dealing with losses of alcohol and revenue figures down to the decimal point. He also taught me his view on what was important in the glass. While we have sophisticated equipment for analysis, ultimately, it is the nose and the taste which matter. Four years on, I became operations manager in the maturation operations area, which we call the spirit store, involving blending, filling and emptying casks, and warehousing. I worked with master of maturation, Brendan Monks, getting involved in purchasing casks from around the world, which included a lot of fascinating travel. He coached me on the importance of craft, wood quality, patience and persistence. When Brendan retired in 2007, I took over as head of maturation. And when our previous master distiller left for America in 2020, I also assumed the role of master distiller – a double master. I make the call on the cask selection and the whole putting together of each Midleton Very Rare vintage.  

What makes the place special? 

There is a real family togetherness here at Midleton. There is an incredible team of craftspeople who have so much pride in what they do. Then there’s the aromas of cereals from the brewhouse and toasted oak and vanilla in the warehouses. It’s an incredible place with an amazing history going back to 1825.

Where does Midleton Very Rare sit in the context of Irish whiskey? 

There was a much narrower range of Irish whiskey on the market, including Jameson, Redbreast and Green Spot when Barry Crockett had the vision and bravery to launch Midleton Very Rare in 1984. It led the way in terms of ultra-premium Irish whiskeys and is now regarded as the pinnacle. This brand has an incredible history and tradition and now in its 39th year, receives the same care and attention as it did all those years ago. I was chatting to a friend the other night who was talking about how The Terminator was released back in 1984 which got me thinking how old this brand is. 

What is the unifying characteristic in the 39 releases?

The Midleton Very Rare DNA blends the finest casks of grain and pot whiskeys with the majority stored in the low-roofed, A2 stone warehouse dating from the 1860s. The single pot whiskey is made from malted and un-malted barley, triple distilled in a copper pot still which gives a robust, fruity, spicy whiskey, while the grain, being a mix of malted barley and maize, is distilled in a column still, coming off at a higher strength which gives delicate notes of rosewater, with a sweetness, particularly when matured in American oak. Together, you get fruits, spices, toffee and vanilla. It is up to the distiller of the day to decide on the proportion of grain and pot. For the Midleton Very Rare 2022 vintage, I maintained a high proportion of grain whiskeys to contribute an elegant perfume of rose petals.

What about the wood?

Barry was always a fan of American oak which is why he picked only first-, second- or third-fill American oak from Tennessee and Bourbon contributing vanilla, fudge and butterscotch. The distiller decides on the proportion of first-fill American oak casks versus refills which also affects the wood influence on the whiskey. The other parameter that can be controlled is the age with the 2022 vintage covering a range of 12–33 years.

Do you mind people hoarding Midleton Very Rare for investment?

Since I joined, I’ve collected two bottles per vintage: one to drink – whiskey being there to be enjoyed – and the other to pass on to my family which I think is the ideal solution. When I started, I didn’t think my name would be on the bottle.  

TASTING NOTES AND SCORES

95 POINTS

  • Midleton Very Rare 2013

Exotic, fresh pineapple fragrance then a juicy palate with banoffee pie notes. Complex beyond an easy initial charm. Featuring 14-23 year old whiskeys. 750ml, 40% ABV, £1,300/$1,707.

  • Midleton Very Rare 2022

Super fresh with mandarin, then candied apple and chocolate coated hazelnuts on the nose, then moss on the palate with a dusting of white pepper and floral undertones. Good acidity; precise. The final flavours redolent of Jaffa cakes. Featuring 12 parcels of whiskeys, 12-33 years old. The blend took O’Gorman six months to perform. 750ml, 40% ABV, £190/$250.

94 POINTS

  • Midleton Very Rare 1985

Upfront vanilla, warm fudge, mint chocolate, coffee cake, lemon balm and black pepper aromas, then a gelatinous palate with sugared cobnuts and cereal. Creamy, with less fruit than the subsequent expressions. Featuring whiskeys from 12-17 years old. 750ml, 40% ABV, £2,000/$2,626.

  • Midleton Very Rare 2000

Opulent, butterscotch, gourmet white chocolate, fresh vanilla and kiwi scents followed by butterscotch on the palate and coconut oil. Featuring 12-20 year old whiskeys. 750ml, 40% ABV, £200/$263.

93 POINTS

  • Midleton Very Rare 1996

Lime cordial, lime zest, orange peel and salted caramel nose followed by luscious red apple on the mouth-watering palate, though alcohol feels more present. Finally, dried lime within the long finish. Featuring 12-18 year old whiskeys. 750ml, 40% ABV, £499/$655.

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