Midleton Very Rare 2012 Release

Midleton Very Rare 2012 Release; a special blended Irish Whiskey

So I spent all day working on my taxes, and I actually got everything done that I needed to do, which means that I deserve something to celebrate! But what to have? Well, since it also happens to be St Patrick’s Day 2017, that something really ought to be an Irish Whiskey, right?!!! Lucky for me that I have an open bottle of the Midleton Very Rare 2012 Release in my closet! 

The Midleton Very Rare is an annual, limited release from the Jameson Distillery. First released in 1984, each bottle of the Midleton Very Rare is numbered and signed by the Master Distiller. For the 2012 release, the Master Distiller was the legendary Barry Crockett, who was born and raised on the distillery grounds. Mr Crockett retired in 2014, so bottlings of the 2014 and later releases now carry the signature of the current Master Distiller, Brian Nation.

The Midleton Very Rare is a blended Irish whiskey, meaning it contains both pot still whisky and grain whisky, but, again, there are no details available about the ratios between the two – at least that I could locate. This whiskey also follows Irish tradition and is triple distilled. While the 2012 Release is officially a No Age Stated bottling, there are reports circulating around that this contains whiskies aged between 12 and 25 years; however, as that is not published by the distillery anywhere, these are non-verified ages.


Review: Midleton Very Rare 2012 Release, Irish Blended Whiskey, Bottle No. 035320, 40% abv, L212531113 09:26

Color: Medium amber.

Nose: (N) Huge notes of vanilla, in a number of forms. Dense, sweet, and rich, the vanilla remains the central pillar of the nose. There is a strong undercurrent of malt, delicate hints of the oak, a soft floral aspect, warm honey on toasted bread, and some soft orchard fruit notes: I get mostly peaches and ripe apples. The nose is very enjoyable, with the malty vanilla and honey remaining front-and-center. (W) Given the low abv, I respectfully added just a couple drops of water to this one over concern that it would not handle water well. Happily, the tiny amount of water I added didn’t bring it down too much, but it did seem to bring out more influence from the ex-bourbon casks. I started to get coconut and a little mint on top of the remaining vanilla-centric notes. The orchard fruits also picked up a little more life. 

Taste: (N) Delicate, light-bodied, and with a softer vanilla, which does allow the other flavors to make themselves known. The maltiness is much more pronounced, the honey, too. The orchard fruits remain subtle, very much the supporting cast. There is a very nice oakiness, here, bringing just a softly bitter, sharp edge to complement the sweet vanilla and rich malty notes. (W) Here the addition of water did seem to alter this whisky. Already delicate and light-bodied, just the small amount of water I added thinned the body even more. Beyond that, the palate remained very consistent with the nose, loads of vanilla and honey sweetness on top of the malty-bready notes, soft fruits, with the addition of the coconut and mint that I also picked up on the nose.

Finish: Exactly as you’d suspect, the finish is very heavy on the vanilla and maltiness, some soft oak spices, ending with just a hint of the coconut. Reasonable length to the finish.

Overall: Well, this one is a bit of a mixed bag. The nose is a beautiful, vanilla-bomb nose, supported by the malt, fruits, and floral notes. After the vibrancy of that beautiful nose, though, the palate suffers a bit from the high expectations and can’t quite live up to the promise. The body of this whiskey is extremely delicate, extremely delicate, and just a tad too thin to hit the high standards set by the nose. Had the body been a bit fatter, the flavors would have made a greater impact and I’d have rated this higher. Despite the minor disappointment on the palate, though, this still is an elegant, well-crafted whiskey that stays true to the Irish traditions. But this is one to try before you splurge!  

Rating 85




Region: Ireland

Distillery: Jameson, Midleton, County Cork

Type: Irish blended whiskey

Age: No Age Statement (reported as being between 12 and 25 years)

ABV: 40%

Maturation: ex-bourbon casks

Price: $150 (2014) 

Availability: Secondary market

Sample Source: My own bottle



Blue Hanger 7th Edition – Blended Malt Whisky

The Blue Hanger 7th Edition – Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

The Blue Hanger 7th Edition is a blended malt whisky from venerable Berry Bros & Rudd. The 7th Edition Release came out in 2013 and was a US-only release. As a blended malt, or what used to be called a vatted malt, the Blue Hanger 7th Edition only contains malt whiskies, but the malts come from different distilleries. In the case of the 7th Edition, this whisky is a blending of 1992 Bruichladdich (ex-bourbon hogshead – 1), 1990 Bunnahabhain (ex-sherry butt – 1), 1997 Miltonduff (ex-bourbon hogsheads – 4), and two ex-bourbon hogsheads of peated 2006 Bunnahabhain. With the inclusion of the young-ish Bunnahabhain, based on the SWA regulations, this whisky would be in the neighborhood of 6-7 years old as a 2013 bottling, if Berry Bros had elected to include an age-statement. 


Just a little background on the genesis of the Blue Hanger whiskies. From the Berry Bros website:

“Blue Hanger, a blended malt whisky (a category previously known as vatted malts), is named after William Hanger, the 3rd Lord Coleraine, a loyal customer of Berry Bros. & Rudd during the late 18th century. He was renowned for the striking blue clothes he wore and gained the soubriquet, “Blue Hanger”.

Each release of Blue Hanger is a labour of love. Our spirits buyer, Doug McIvor, noses and tastes his way through many samples to identify exceptional casks before working with them to produce the best possible results in terms of aroma, flavour and finish. Every release is unique although there is continuity in overall style to retain the rich, smooth, fruity complexity that makes this Whisky stand out from the crowd.”


Now that we’ve got that out of the way……


Blue Hanger 7th Edition Release, Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, 2013 Release, 3,088 total bottles, 45.6% abv


Color: Medium gold

Nose: (N) A very nice nose, but with a surprisingly major young, earthy peat influence – I really didn’t expect that! There is a bit of new-make in the rubbery-ness of the peat. Behind the peat, there are some sweeter notes: saltwater taffy, a touch of vanilla; lemon grass, and some ripe red fruits, along with some delicate sherry traits – nutty and herbal aromas. I also get some dried hay. Throughout there seems to be a vein of oak – fresh shavings, white pepper, a touch of cinnamon. Always, there is a light campfire smoke and the earthiness of the peat that slightly dominates the fruits. 


Taste: (N) The body is resinous, fat, and creamy in the arrival. Lemon-vanilla, the earthiness from the peat. There is something which is a bit sharp (young?) that acts as a counterpoint to the earthiness. The soft smoke continues on the palate. There are notes of warm bread, cardamom, almonds, cinnamon, orange zest, milk chocolate, green apples. (W) Adding a little water does have an adverse impact on the richness of the body, but it also serves to open this up a bit, introducing a more lively fruitiness, more sherry notes with more herbal spice, sweet orange, and almonds. There is a note sweet lime (yes, contradictory, I know!), some cut grass, and the milk chocolate. 


Finish: The peaty, campfire smoke notes drives the finish, carrying the earthiness and smokiness throughout, although there are subtle fruit and vanilla notes, also a hint of the milk chocolate at the very end. 


Overall: To frame my process, I do my tasting notes before looking up the details of the various whiskies, so when I add a (?) that indicates an impression but one I am not entirely certain of at the time. Here, with the young (?) reference, it seems to bear out that the young peated whiskies from Bunnahabhain bring out this sharpness.

Getting back to the whisky, the Blue Hanger 7th Edition is very enjoyable. The nose is a lot of fun – as long as you like bold peat and smoke notes. The body, too, is very nice. The palate is perhaps the weak point in the whisky because the peat is a bit too dominant, keeping the fruitiness and sherry-maturation notes from being able to shine to their fullest. When you add in that slightly odd sharpness, the palate brings my rating down a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I like this whisky, even if it is not the best value around.  

Rating 84




Bottler: Berry Bros & Rudd, London

Type: Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

Distilleries: Bunnahabhain, Miltonduff, Bruichladdich

Bottled: 2013 Release

Age: NAS (roughly 6-7 years by SWA definitions, but contains older whiskies, too)

ABV: 45.6%

Maturation: 1992 Bruichladdich (ex-bourbon hogshead – 1), 1990 Bunnahabhain (ex-sherry butt – 1), 1997 Miltonduff (ex-bourbon hogsheads – 4), and two ex-bourbon hogsheads of peated 2006 Bunnahabhain.

Price: K&L Wines (Dec 2013) $108.99

Availability: If you look around, you may luck out and still find one or two on shelves

Sample Source: My own bottle


Whisky Review: the Ledaig 10 yo

On a blustery, chilly day like today, pouring a glass of peated whisky, closing your eyes and letting the imagination run wild, you can almost feel yourself on a remote part of some windswept island in the Hebrides. Well, you can if you have an overly vivid imagination and, perhaps, may have read one too many whisky marketing blurbs! Still, there is wee bit of truth to the idea that a peated whisky conjures up the images of the rugged, raw nature of a remote Scottish island and which further translates into a truly distinct nosing and tasting experience. And speaking of distinct, in this next step in my closet clean-out project, today we’re looking at the Ledaig 10 year old, a peated single malt whisky from the Tobermory Distillery. (How’s that for a segue!) 


Very quickly, a little about the distillery! The Tobermory Distillery, located on the picturesque Isle of Mull, has a long, albeit sporadic, history of whisky production, suffering long periods of inactivity, and even a decades long closure that saw most of the buildings dismantled and left to ruin. Thankfully, the distillery was reopened in 1989, and then purchased in 1991 by Burn Stewart Distillers who have expanded the availability of their malts. Tobermory produces regularly produces two distinct style of whiskies: Tobermory, which is their unpeated version, and Ledaig, a peated malt. 


Review: Ledaig 10 year old, Single Malt Scotch, Bottled 2015,  P029220 L5 08:46 1306,  46.3% abv


Color: Chardonnay gold.

Nose: (N) Ah, yes, bring on the funk! A dirty, grimy, earthy, oily, diesel-y, smoked fishy, rubbery peat smoke greets you from the start. There are no apologies in this nose, it is what it is! Big, audacious, abrupt, and, that’s the way, uh huh, uh huh, I like it, uh huh, uh huh! But it really is more than a one-trick pony.  Behind the peat there are notes of cut grass, a subtle vanilla, some herbal spices, tropical fruits, lime zest, and green apples. (W) With a couple drops of water, this changes fairly significantly, bringing out a more vanilla-focused profile. Sure, the peat and smoke are still there, but they are no longer so dominating.

Taste: (N) Vanilla is more evident on the palate, showing up early and staying late. Yet there is also a slight saltiness in this one. There are the tropical fruits – pineapple and banana; green apples and lime zest, a buttery/bready note (think flour tortilla), and a more subtle rubbery, earthy peat, with a drop of iodine and some smoked fish. (W) Water also brings out more vanilla, with the palate becoming quite a bit sweeter. But beyond the increase in vanilla, this remains fairly consistent. Lime and the tropical fruits; salty, delicate smoke, the saltiness, and a little more vanilla. 

Finish: As the peat sort of picks up late in the palate, it carries over into the finish where it is a prominent note. There is that soft saltiness, the smoke, lime and vanilla, ending with a sooty and dry aspect.

Overall:  Ledaig has this wonderfully odd quality that I really enjoy. Similar to some of the Port Charlotte, Springbank, and Ben Nevis, the peaty notes in the Ledaig 10 are quirky, grimy, weird, and probably not for the novice. But if you’re a fan of those traits, you’ll enjoy this one. Sure, this is not the most complex whisky out there, but it has a character that is fun, there is plenty of peat influence if you enjoy peat, and it also represents a fairly good value-to-quality ratio. 

Rating 83



Region: Island

Distillery: Tobermory, Isle of Mull, Scotland

Type: Single Malt

Age: 10 years

ABV: 46.3% 

Maturation: Not disclosed, but likely prominently ex-bourbon casks

Price: $50 (Specs)

Availability: Usually available

Sample Source: My own bottle


Whisky review: Cardhu 12

Cardhu 12 year old, a Speyside Staple

Continuing with my closet clean-out project, here we have the Cardhu 12 year old, a Speyside whisky from the Cardhu Distillery, another workhorse in the Diageo stable. Most of the Cardhu production is destined for various blends, including the Johnnie Walker line, so there aren’t a ton of offerings beyond the prominent 12 year old, but this one is generally available in your local retail shops. The Cardhu 12 is commonly described a soft, pleasing, and inoffensive scotch whisky, but if you take the time to sip this one, I think you’ll enjoy the experience. 


Review: Cardhu 12 year old, Bottled 2012,  L20951X000 04067850, 40% abv

Color: Light amber-gold

Nose: (N) If I were asked to offer a broadly general description of a Speyside whisky, I imagine that this Cardhu 12 is what I would describe. Although it seems rather delicate, at the same time, the nose is richly aromatic and with a beautiful blending of soft floral notes mingling with ripe fruits. This is a very easy nose with the 40% abv, which makes it very inviting. There are touches of ripe pear, warm malt, a hint of orange, some buttery vanilla, a little cinnamon, perhaps some nutmeg, and a slight whisper of campfire smoke. (W) Adding very little water (I was worried about drowning this one) brings out some notes of caramel and vanilla toffee, pears and unripe peaches, black pepper, just a hint of orange marmalade, and dried flowers.

Taste: (N) Again, delicate seems to be the most appropriate descriptive term for the Cardhu 12 yo. This is soft and supple on the arrival, sweet-ish, but not overly sweet; candied pear, vanilla cream, sweet malt, some lemon juice, a bit of peppery spice, herbs and dried flowers, orange pith adding a softly bitter, dry-ish aspect, dried vanilla bean, and some apple peel. On the tongue, the smoke is move evident, although it is still very much a secondary feature. The low abv is revealed in the body, which starts out nicely, but quickly thins. (W) Much more vanilla in the initial arrival along with a quick burst of lemon pepper. Cinnamon, dried pears sprinkled with powdered sugar, vanilla cream, a sweet malt, a couple drops of fresh lemon juice, a bit of warm bread, and an evaporative smokiness. Even with just three small drops of water, the body just becomes that much more delicate. Skip the water.

Finish: Sweet malt and vanilla, pears, lemon juice, some soft bitter tannins, in a surprisingly dry finish. 

Overall: I can’t see anyone not liking this one. Sure, it’s a bit middle-of-the-road, but it is well-constructed, balanced, reasonably complex, delicate, and, well, just plain nice. Or in dating terms – it has a great personality!

While smooth may not be the most desirable description to use when evaluating a whisky, smooth is a term that I think most people would accept as the overriding impression of the Cardhu 12 yo, and which also means that it would make a very good introductory whisky for someone wishing to begin an exploration of scotch. Like the Cragganmore 12, this one flies under the radar a bit, but is one that shouldn’t be overlooked entirely! And it is a pretty good value-for-money option in today’s crazy whisky market. 


Rating 81




Region: Speyside

Distillery: Cardhu Distillery, Morayshire, Scotland

Type: Single Malt

Age: 12 years

ABV: 40%

Maturation: not disclosed

Price: $45 (USD)

Availability: Readily available 

Sample Source: My own bottle


Glenfiddich 125th Anniversary Edition

Whisky Review: The Glenfiddich 125th Anniversary Edition


Ok, this is a review I am very late in writing up, but it is one that I’ve been so eager to talk about! Wait, eager to talk about a Glenfiddich, you ask? I know, I know. sometimes the idea of a Glenfiddich whisky doesn’t necessarily cause you to suffer tremors of excitement. Sure, Glenfiddich is a tried and true, quality whisky, but sometimes it does lack any real wow factor. Let’s be honest, though, that may be a curse related to its status as one of the world’s biggest selling malts. But this is no ordinary Glenfiddich; this particular Glenfiddich is different! And I can easily and honestly say that The Glenfiddich 125th Anniversary Edition is, without question, my absolute favorite Glenfiddich of all time, well, at least so far, anyway!

The Glenfiddich 125th Anniversary Edition was released in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Glenfiddich distillery. This is a whisky so limited that even the official Glenfiddich website has no mention of it! Sadly, as with most limited editions, this one is no longer available through retail outlets, so finding one of these bottles means you have to go to an auction house and try your luck!

Since most people know the core range of the Glenfiddich malts, and its rather delicate, fruity nature, what is it exactly that makes this particular whisky distinct? The Glenfiddich 125th Anniversary Edition was made using a combination of peated and unpeated whiskies aged in Spanish ex-Sherry butts and American ex-bourbon casks. Yes, you heard that right….this is a peated Glenfiddich! And this isn’t one of those whiskies with just a distant hint of peat – this is a full-fledged, smoke-first, peated whisky! 

So, if the Glenfiddich 125th Anniversary Edition is such a rare and exclusive whisky, how did I come to have a bottle in my possession? Well, sometimes it is good to know the right people! I’d met David Allardice, the Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador a few times and we talked about whisky…naturally. Later, I invited him to present at one of our Newcomers Whisky Club events. He graciously accepted – and his presentation, and the accompanying selection of whiskies – was one of our club’s true highlights! To this day, our members still talk about what a great experience it was! But back to the whisky! Being the consummate nice guy, at the end of the evening, David left me with a partially filled bottle of this fabulous whisky! Although I know that I am getting way ahead of myself, giving away the plot, and ruining the actual review at the same time, I will tell you now that I thoroughly enjoyed this whisky! And since then, every time I see David, I tell him how I think that Glenfiddich need to put out a regular release of peated whisky! Now if only they would listen to me!

Okay, let’s get to the review!



Review: The Glenfiddich 125th Anniversary Edition, Released 2012, 43% abc

Color: Light amber

Nose: There is no mistaking the peat in this whisky, it greets you before you even get close to the glass. The peat shows an earthy backbone but with some rubber bands, old tires, and seaweed. If you are patient, from behind the peat come notes of brown sugar and Creme Brule, cloves and nutmeg, ripe red apples, cinnamon, peaches, dark chocolate, cigar leaves, and vanilla cream. Just beautiful! Adding just a couple of drops of water makes the peat a tad smokier, but also brings out more Creme Brule and brown sugar to start, As the whisky settles, it returns to its very elegant mix of fruit and sweet notes, the soft spices, the chocolate and the ever-present smoky, earthy peat. 

Taste: An elegant and soft arrival that starts out with the sweeter vanilla, brown sugar, and fruit notes, then the peat mixes in, bringing its earthiness, a hint of the rubber bands, and a softly ashy element. Apples in vanilla cream, milk chocolate now instead of the dark chocolate, herbal spices, and the stone fruits. Water really isn’t needed and I’m sure that if you added more than a few drops, it might do it more harm than you want, but the few drops I added were sufficient to keep this one interesting, letting the peat, fruits and spices tickle your tongue! 

Finish: Sweet orchard fruits and vanilla toffee, the clove and cinnamon spices, a growing earth peat with a soft, ashy ending. Very good length, too!

Overall: In true Glenfiddich fashion, there are no sharp edges in this whisky, even with its peated nature. Perhaps it is the 43% abv, perhaps it is just blended to be this delicate, but the balance and mouthfeel is just right. Sure, a little higher abv would put a little more oomph into this whisky, but this remains spot on as it was bottled. The flavors are complex, rising and falling over time, keeping you very engaged. The peat is perfectly balanced with the other flavors. The addition of water isn’t necessary as the low abv% keeps this very approachable and it really doesn’t alter the character.

The best part for me is definitely the nose. It is a really beautiful nose that will keep you occupied for a long time, if you can resist the urge to drink this too quickly! The lone detraction, and it is not really that much of a detraction, is the low abv. A few percentage points higher would probably make this absolutely sing!

Rating 89




Region: Speyside

Distillery: Glenfiddich

Type: Single Malt 

Age: No Age Statement

ABV: 43% abv

Maturation: Spanish ex-Sherry butts, American oak ex-bourbon casks.

Price: +/- $125 USD via auction

Availability: Secondary market only

Sample Source: a partial bottle gift from David Allardice, Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador