Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest

Midleton Dair Ghaelach header

The Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelich collection is not only a byword (or byphrase?) for high quality, delicious single pot still whiskey, but it also stands for satisfying even the geekiest of geeky whiskey curiosities. Following on from the Grinsell’s Wood (where Lucas took a trip to many moons ago) and Bluebell Forest releases, the Irish virgin oak casks used for the third release in the Dair Ghaelach range come from the Knockrath Forest in County Wicklow.

Unfamiliar with the Dair Ghaelach collection? It’s quite simple, yet wonderfully unique. It started over ten years ago, with Irish Distillers (the owners of the Midleton Distillery) looking to explore the possibility of finishing single pot still whiskey in sustainable Irish oak from estates throughout Ireland. If that wasn’t enough, they also wanted to separate out the oak trees, in order to tease apart the subtle nuances each individual tree had on the flavour of the finished whiskey. Hence single tree single casks.

With this new expression, single pot still Irish whiskeys aged 13 to 26 years old which were matured solely in ex-bourbon American Oak casks were vatted together, before being filled into seven single tree single casks, each sourced from the Knockrath Forest. A remarkable-sounding feat in itself, but when you consider just what goes into creating those single tree single casks, the mind starts to boggle.

The Knockrath Forest has been owned and looked after by the Brabazon family since the 16th century, and it’s where the Great Spotted Woodpecker was re-introduced to Ireland following a decade in exile. The trees, once felled, were then transported to the Maderbar sawmills in Baralla, north west Spain to be quarter sawn, before being transferred to the Antonio Páez Lobato cooperage in Jerez. Following a 15 month drying process, the staves were coopered into barrels, lightly toasted, and shipped back to Ireland to be filled with the aforementioned vatting of single pot still whiskey for a finishing period of two years.

Midleton’s Master of Maturation, Kevin O’Gorman

Commenting on the release, Midleton’s Master of Maturation, Kevin O’Gorman, said: “Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest is an amazing 150-year journey from Knockrath Forest to bottle and one we’re proud to be part of. Traceability and sustainability are at the heart of this whiskey and, until we started this project, Irish oak had not been used to mature whiskey for well over 100 years. Today, thanks to sustainable practices, we can harvest small volumes and trace each bottle right back to the very oak tree that helped to create it. This has, in turn, fostered an awareness and appreciation among whiskey lovers that there is even a subtle difference between trees which contributes to a whiskey’s unique flavour.”

Master Blender, Billy Leighton, said: “It’s an honour to present the latest edition in the Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach collection. Truly a taste of Ireland, the barley, water, oak and indeed craftspeople at the heart of this expression are all home-grown, making us extremely proud to share this latest expression in the Midleton story with the world.”

I won’t give the nosing and tasting notes of all seven individual single casks, or else by the third cask I’ll likely have run out of tasting descriptors. Instead, here are my overall thoughts on the collection apart from Tree 5, which to me, was significantly different to the other six.

Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest
13-26yo Single Pot Still Whiskey
Seven Virgin Irish Oak Single Tree Single Casks
56.1-56.6% ABV
€310 RRP per 70cl bottle

Oodles of vanilla, tropical fruit and baking spices on all casks. Some are fresher (1, 4 and 6) with notes of gooseberry, green apple, pomegranate, pineapple, pine, wood resin, lemon, and banana. Others had a touch more spice alongside more pronounced citrus notes (2 and 7) with notes of cinnamon, clove and ginger, as well as sherbet dibdabs, lemon posset, and lime peel. Cask three is a touch more gentle and syrupy, with poached peaches and apricots, some lychee, and custard cream biscuits.

Overall, each single cask is a big, bold, and unwavering brute of a whiskey at cask strength. The virgin Irish oak has clearly had a huge impact, yet beneath than veneer, the fresh, fruity, and spicy character of the Midleton single pot spirit shines through. There are clear differences, albeit very subtle ones, between each of the seven single casks which made this tasting exercise all the more interesting, apart from Tree 5. I don’t know what went on there, but that whiskey is remarkably different compared to all the others – oily, waxy, herbal, mineralic, earthy, sprinkled with rancio notes, as well as some fermented fruits, and almost medicinal at times. It’s my pick of the bunch. Either way, whichever cask you happen to pick up you certainly won’t be disappointed, but to truly appreciate the mindset behind this collection, see if you can fine a wee pub or bar somewhere which has more than one cask on offer and treat yourself to a comparative tasting. It’ll really open your eyes. And for those of you who are REALLY into their whiskey minutae, here are the ABVs; Tree 1 56.6%, Tree 2 56.3%, Tree 3 56.5,% Tree 4 56.1%, Tree 5 56.5%, Tree 6 56.6%, and Tree 7 56.5%. There. OCD satisfied.

 

 

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