Midleton Very Rare Whiskey 2019 was launched at The Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin by Master Distiller Brian Nation. This superb whiskey combines only hand-selected single pot still and single grain Irish whiskeys of exceptional quality and rarity, from the Midleton inventory. Each whiskey has been matured exclusively in lightly charred ex-bourbon American oak barrels for between 13 and 34 years. 2019 marks the oldest collection of casks used to create a Midleton Very Rare.
Brian Nation explains:
“Each year, for over forty years, we have been setting aside very small amounts of the finest single pot still and single grain distillates so that the Midleton Very Rare legacy can continue. I am delighted that our 2019 vintage is once again a whiskey of exceptional quality that fits beautifully into the family, this vintage features an extraordinary blend of whiskeys from the rarest casks in our collection, with the youngest whiskey in our 2019 vintage having been aged for 13 years, and the oldest dating back to 1985.”
The dinner and presentation were launched in the famous Constitution Suite, the Shelbourne’s most famous room. It is here that Irish Distillers were formed from the Cork Distilleries Company, John Jameson & Son and John Power & Son in 1966 in response to declining whisky sales. Even more famously the Irish Constitution was drafted here in 1922 by the committee chaired by Michael Collins, instigating the birth of the Irish Free State. The signing of the Constitution was done on the very table at which we dined. An evocative room indeed in which to experience the Midleton Very Rare 2019.
The evening started off tasting some key years employed in this remarkable 2019 single pot still whiskey, made from malted and unmalted barley. The 1984 was sweet and creamy at first, with a lingering taste of charred oak, coffee and vanilla. The 1989 had notes of apple and spice, with a hint of Armagnac. The 1997, a favourite of Brian’s as it was the year he joined Midleton, was beautifully balanced; caramel with vanilla spice, cinnamon and clove. Last was Brian’s first release as Master Distiller, the Very Rare 2014; ripe fruit, oak, barley notes, pot still spice and banana.
Needless to say, these vintages are extremely rare and valuable, a bottle of the Midleton Very Rare 1989 would set you back around £10k or more, if you are lucky enough to find one. Journalists from all over the world subsequently discussed their favourite over dinner, with many differing opinions. I adored the 1984, not just because it sparked memories of that year for me. After a delectable three-course feast, we delighted in the dulcet tones of Lisa Canny singing and playing the harp, accompanied by virtuoso guitar player Tony McHugh, both utterly mesmerising.
Finally Brian presented the Midleton Very Rare 2019. We swirled our tulip glasses at arm’s length bringing them gradually closer, nosing the fragrance wafting from the amber liquid, recalling a summer orchard by the sea, soft apple notes with hints of pepper. Then sipping carefully, once, twice, then a third time just to be sure we had it right. A little fire on the tongue, with a silky mouth taste, wood spice, subtle fruit flavours, oak, caramel, cinnamon and a touch of cloves. The finish is slow and long-lasting, with stronger perfumed, floral notes evaporating on the tongue and a smidgin of coffee.
The Midleton Very Rare 2019 is a triumph, I would love to buy extra bottles and lay them down for the future. Whilst I’m dreaming, I’d scour the world and get a few bottles from each one of the 36 years and hold evenings for my friends, perhaps around Christmas. That would see everyone through to the new year in style. Midleton only produce a very limited number of these bottles, thereby the name. The stocks are increasingly valuable and they must keep casks aside for future generations and iterations.
We were also celebrating the launch of the Midleton Very Rare 1825 Room (the year Midleton was founded) an online club offering exclusive whiskeys available only to members. Discover stories on the history of Midleton Distillery and the world of Midleton Very Rare, delve into limited edition interviews with their Master Distillers, and be the first to hear of Midleton Very Rare releases. This includes the unique chance to buy a bottle of the Midleton Very Rare 1984 at its original price in 1984 of £40 Irish punts, an exceptional offer.
This wonderful news was aptly toasted in the new 1824 Bar at The Shelbourne, honouring the year the hotel was founded, part of a new £40 million refurbishment. Steeped in history and fine whiskey, we spent the rest of the evening enjoying expansive conversations and vintage Midleton Very Rare, plus a few others from this magnificent and historic distillery.
Just to whet your whistle, here are some of the cocktails they served in the Shelbourne’s 1824 Bar that evening.
Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach, Burgundy Chablis Spirit and Champagne Caviar.
The Orchid Cocktail:
Midleton Very Rare, Lillet Rose, Homemade Cacao Vermouth and Pomelo Bitters.
An Úll Cocktail:
Midleton Very Rare Barry Crocket Legacy, Apple Core Infused Irish Apple Brandy, Apple Sherbet and Caramel Honey Apple.
I think the descriptions speak for themselves!
As the evening came to a close, I asked Brian if his taste in whiskey had changed over the years. Had his palate evolved as he had matured? He looked taken aback by this and quickly replied that it was a good question and thought for a while. He felt that whilst he had advanced in years, his goal has always been to make each release of Midleton Very Rare the finest whiskey in the world. He could experiment with other whiskey ranges, but when it came to the Very Rare, it was simply about producing the best quality. And as time goes by they have an even greater range of vintage casks to choose from. A fusion of artistic endeavour and craftsmanship you can drink, what a fantastic job Brian Nation has!