Midleton Dair Ghaelach is a series of Irish pot still whiskeys matured in traditional bourbon barrels and then finished for 2 years in native Irish oak. Each series uses wood from a specific forest – Knockrath Forest in this third release.
Not only is the wood sourced from one forest, they also created barrels from individual trees. Each tree was shipped to Baralla (Galicia, Spain) where it was cut into staves sent to the Páez Lobato cooperage in Jerez. They were worked into barrels and given a light toasting before returning to Ireland, where they were filled with a mix of whiskeys ranging from 13 to 26 years.
Giving detailed tasting notes for each of these whiskies would be ridiculous: in fact they are really close together and some would even be impossible to set apart. So I’ll write about Tree #1 and use this as a benchmark to compare the others.
Midleton Dair Ghaelach – Knockrath Forest Tree 1 (56,6%, OB ‘Virgin Irish Oak Collection’ 2019)
Nose: you’re mostly getting the classic virgin oak elements. Vanilla cake, some leathery notes and coconut shavings. Some peach sweetness in the background, a hint of tinned pineapple and plenty of pot still spice: pepper, nutmeg and ginger.
Mouth: sweet baking spice again, with a leathery dryness and toasted oak shavings. In a second wave there are nice tropical fruits (pink grapefruit, hints of passion fruits and pineapple cubes). Light mocha in the end.
Finish: long, with some woody heat and spice as it fades away.
Even though I’m not a fan of virgin oak maturation, this finds a good balance and allows the tropical fruits to have their say. You can still get some of them from Celtic Whiskey for instance.
Midleton Dair Ghaelach – Knockrath Forest Tree 2 (56,6%, OB ‘Virgin Irish Oak Collection’ 2019)
This one has a brighter kind of fruitiness, with more lime and tart gooseberries. Less vanilla but equal amounts of pot still spice. In terms of Irish fruitiness this would be my favourite. However it gets quite woody on the palate, leaving a slightly plankish impression. Hints of cinnamon and lemon zest. Score: 86/100
Midleton Dair Ghaelach – Knockrath Forest Tree 3 (56,3%, OB ‘Virgin Irish Oak Collection’ 2019)
Overall more spices here, with less fruits and more pencil shavings. Some vanilla and light hints of latte, but it shows less complexity. Perhaps a little over-oaked for my taste. On the palate as well it’s a bit rough and grainy, with a slightly tannic edge. Score: 83/100
Midleton Dair Ghaelach – Knockrath Forest Tree 4 (56,1%, OB ‘Virgin Irish Oak Collection’ 2019)
Close to Tree #1, with a nice mix of characteristics. There’s also a nice hint of oak polish and waxy notes that I personally adore. One of my favourites on the nose, alongside #2. On the palate as well, it finds a nice balance of sweet fruits and oak spice. Score: 86/100
Midleton Dair Ghaelach – Knockrath Forest Tree 5 (56,5%, OB ‘Virgin Irish Oak Collection’ 2019)
More cake and vanilla as well as some hints of cognac. A slightly musty, earthy note too. Only minor fruits. The woodiness turned to something very herbal, almost medicinal now, with plenty of menthol and eucalyptus. Complex and interestingly different, but maybe not the most seductive one. Score: 84/100
Midleton Dair Ghaelach – Knockrath Forest Tree 6 (56,6%, OB ‘Virgin Irish Oak Collection’ 2019)
This one has the loudest hints of coconut, or rather coconut cream. Add in some vanilla and pineapple and you have a Piña Colada style. Really works as it also pushes the wood to the background. Similar impression on the palate: a syrupy, quite tropical fruitiness with coconut, banana and pink grapefruit. Score: 88/100 and as it turns out, this one is still available.
Midleton Dair Ghaelach – Knockrath Forest Tree 7 (56,5%, OB ‘Virgin Irish Oak Collection’ 2019)
A lime and lemon note up front, though slightly less than #2. The oak is certainly louder here as well. Sweet and fairly spicy, slightly tannic on the palate. Score: 85/100
Afterthoughts: this is a difficult exercise. Maybe I should have given most of them the same score, that’s how close they are together. Also, in general they are very wood-forward. That is the whole point of course, and while they are very bold whiskeys, I personally prefer Midleton spirit without a virgin oak finish. And last but not least: does this work from a commercial perspective? I’ve had several questions from consumers who are afraid to buy an inferior cask… Is choice stress a welcome side-effect of this experiment?