For those of us who live outside the Emerald Isle, Green Spot has been a mainstay on our whiskey wish list. Partly because it is a renowned whiskey with a colorful past. And partly because it’s one of a few remaining “pure pot still whiskies”. (more on that in a minute)
Until recently, Midleton Distillery produced only a few hundred cases of Green Spot each year. And there lies the real reason it was so desirable. It was not exported and until the arrival of online ordering, Green Spot was very difficult to get outside Ireland. Indeed, if you were not in Dublin, it was unlikely you’d be getting a taste of that fine whiskey. What we cannot readily have, we want all the more!
Green Spot, as a brand, dates back to the late 1800’s when Irish distilleries began selling new spirit to regional grocers. Some, like Mitchell & Son, were also wine merchants. These merchants would, in turn, fill the whiskey into empty wine, sherry and port casks. They would then store the whiskey in their cellars and warehouses allowing it to mature and gain added value.
The whiskey that eventually emerged from those dark, damp cellars, is considered by many, the finest whiskey in the world. The Irish in fact, dominated the world whiskey market throughout the latter part of the 19th and early into the 20th century.
Irish whiskey differs from Scottish and American whiskies in that the Irish make their whiskey from malted and unmalted barley. It is then mixed in the same mash and then triple distilled in traditional copper pot stills. This results in a light, refined whiskey, referred to as “pure pot still” whiskey. The Scotch however use only malted barley (single malts) and distill it just twice. Americans and Canadians distill their whiskies from corn (bourbon) or cereals such as rye, which offers a completely different tasting experience.
At Mitchell’s the casks were color coded according to their bottling age. Green Spot was originally a 5 year bottling (later a 10yr). There was also a 7 year Blue Spot, a 12 year Yellow Spot and rounding out the line was a 15 year Red Spot. Sadly, Mitchell & Son discontinued all but Green Spot when demand for Irish whiskey declined after Prohibition and WWII.
( A side note, Midleton reintroduced Yellow Spot 12 in 2012, but more on that in another post.)
After WWII the Irish whiskey industry was in disarray and the production of whiskey fell off dramatically. Compounding the problem for the whiskey merchants was the fact that casks were becoming less and less available as they started importing more bottled wine.
By 1970 it was no longer practical for merchants to bottle their own brand. Many brands died out as their reserves diminished. However, in the case of Green Spot, Midleton Distillery bought the brand but agreed to continue their relationship with Mitchell and Son who, to this day, retain sole distribution rights within Ireland.
It was also around this time that the surviving distilleries, John Jameson & Son, John Powers & Son and Cork Distilleries decided to merge into the Irish Distillers. These independent distillers viewed this as a last-ditch attempt to save the Irish whiskey industry. In 1972 Bushmills joined the group, setting the stage for the slow but steady resurgence of the Irish whiskey industry.
A New Day
Today the popularity of “Irish” is soaring and the grand old “pure pot” whiskies like Redbreast 12, 15 and 21, and now Green Spot and Yellow Spot, are leading the charge. These whiskies pay homage to the industry’s golden age and offer a whiskey experience that is sure to delight the novice, the aficionado and connoisseur alike.
At the beginning of the article I mentioned my whiskey wish list. To be honest, it’s a very long list, but, it got a little shorter last year. My daughters and their husbands surprised me with a bottle of Green Spot. I had not seen the new packaging so it took a moment for me to realize what I had in my hands. I haven’t been able to bring myself to open it, until today that is, but what better way to celebrate the launching of Whiskybits than with a dram of one of the world’s finest whiskies!
The Green Spot that I am sipping tonight does not carry an age statement but it is my understanding it is a vatting of seven and eight year old whiskies, 25% of which has matured in sherry casks. The result is a creamy whiskey with a rich, barley flavor.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some savoring to do!
GREEN SPOT TASTING NOTES
I do not deny I am a whiskey enthusiast, but I am honest enough with myself to know that I fall way short of being a connoisseur. So, as will always be the case at Whiskybits, I will happily defer the reviews to the experts.
The following Tasting Note is from Mitchell & Son’s website:
Nose: Fresh aromatic oils and spices with orchard fruits and barley on a background of toasted wood.
Taste: Full spicy body. A hint of cloves along with the fruity sweetness of green apples, rounded off with toasted oak.
Finish: Lingering flavours of spices and barley.