Midleton’s Silent Distillery Collection reaches Chapter Three…
From Wagyu steak to NFTs, the word rare seems to have gradually lost its tenacity throughout the years. One hundred and fifty years after its opening, the Old Midleton Distillery closed its doors and opened a newer incarnation the very next day, which also formed as a home for other iconic Irish whiskey brands such as Jameson, John Powers, Green Spot and my beloved Redbreast. To this day it also houses the largest pot still in the whiskey business, and serves to supply the entire world with the bulk of Irish whisky; from historical brands to innovative expressions.
The point in difference that Midleton has offered itself as a brand compared to the rest of the consistently excellent juice it creates on a broader scale is making every year’s release genuinely rare; truly limited.
In 1984, under the watchful eye of his father Max, Master Distiller Emeritus Barry Crockett had a vision of creating a genuine legacy of whiskies, now under the watchful eye of Kevin O’Gorman – himself a protégé of Barry. Casks are carefully selected, set aside, and released only when they have unarguably reached their apex. With the 200th anniversary of the distillery clearly in sight, February 2020 saw the launch of a series of the rarest of the very rare: tiny releases of some of the oldest Irish whiskies in the world, showcasing the experimental attitude that Crockett brought to the whiskey world throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s just as the legacy of the distillery evolved and transitioned into the powerhouse it is today.
Chapter One of the Silent Distillery Collection focused on the innovation of peated Irish whiskey, evoking smoke as the core element. Last year, water was central to the theme of Chapter Two, the port and sherry finished whiskey presented in a showstopping decanter by the legendary Waterford House further up the coast, encased in a stunning cabinet by John Galvin: the luxury designer born a stone’s throw from the distillery. To talk to John and Kevin side by side – perhaps with a sprightly glass of Very Rare 1998 to hand – the connection becomes all the clearer: a passion for driving forward innovation with a clear respect of the past, as well as an unabashed flair for storytelling through raw materials.
Now halfway into the six chapters, I find myself in the cellar of the Adare Manor, an immensely historical manor seventy miles north of the distillery, replete with a world class golf course, the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the county and home to a wide variety of fairies and gargoyles. Chapter Three, inspired by fire, is 47 years old and limited to only 97 bottles, making it very rare indeed. Aged in American oak and finished in first-fill oloroso butts, our intimate tasting revealed a fruit-laden drop: alongside butterscotch a hint of blackberry and mango, a whisper of citrus and tobacco creeping in at the end. A long lasting, heady finish of toasted hazelnut – something of a reoccurring note from Middleton – is pleasantly persistent.
Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Collection Chapter Three is released today (May 3, 2022), and unlike good steak or NFTs will not be available for very long.