Midleton Very Rare Pearl Edition (continued)

Midleton Very Rare Pearl Edition (continued)

Now, the whiskey itself: for three decades now, Midleton Very Rare has marked the passage of time with an annual vintage release. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first bottling in 1984, Irish Distillers has produced a very, very rare Midleton Very Rare Pearl Edition. It’s a collaboration between Master Distillers present and former, Brian Nation and Barry Crockett, the bottle carrying the signatures of both. These two particular distillers share more than 60 years’ experience between them.

From the very limited inventory of 30-plus year old casks that Midleton retains, Barry chose a pot still cask from 1984, while Brian selected a grain cask from 1981. These were then married in a fourth-fill bourbon cask for 6 months. (“Fourth-fill” means the fourth time the distillery has filled the cask. Midleton normally retires a cask after three fills because the wood no longer contributes to maturation. For marrying these two whiskeys, however, a negligible effect from the wood was exactly what was required.)

Evaporation loss over three decades, along with bottling at the cask strength of 53.1%, meant that there was only enough liquid to fill 117 bottles, with us lucky souls whittling it down to 116.

Midleton Very Rare Pearl Edition sampling

It was important to me to approach the climatic sip with an impartial, albeit underdeveloped, palate. After a day at Castlemartyr Hotel and an evening being plied with some of the finest cuisine I’ve ever had, not to mention magnums of wine, it’s easy to get swept up in the whole pomp and circumstance of the event. Hell, I’m certain the band even played Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance at one point. At length the music ebbed and a hush swept over the barn, as the two master distillers Brian Nation and Barry Crockett approached the floor and the Waterford Crystal tumblers were laid out to the 30-or-so guests.

A measure of Midleton Very Rare Pearl Edition was poured to all and a toast was raised by the men at the head of the table as we all swirled the amber liquid in the glass. Never having drank anything of this calibre before I sceptically wondered, as our guides began describing the aromas we should be smelling pre-sip, whether I would catch any of the flavours at all. But there they were: garden mint and rosemary, as if I were sticking my head into a herb garden. Then suddenly, as if prompted by our guides, a sickly sweet scent of honey and gingerbread.

It was magical, as if by swirling the whiskey we were uncovering layers of flavour and wafting them up through the glass. And as the burning liquid hit my lips a full 3 minute barrage of tastes peppered my mouth.

Initially sweet, but then giving way to an array of freshening menthol touches, which THEN segued into the more spritely seasoning of cinnamon and liquorice, before coming full circle back to a deeply sweet oak. The complexity of the drink was astounding and I marvelled at how many flavours were contained within. Not a mixture meshed together, but several distinct tastes, some nuanced, others clearly present, but all delicately and deliberately infused over 30 years. The spice of the aftertaste stays with me to this day. A masterpiece.




Of course, the presentation was something special. The bottles are handmade by Jerpoint Glass Studio and each box contains a 700ml bottle and a hand-blown 50ml miniature that allows the whiskey to be tasted without cracking open the larger bottle. The oak cases were crafted in County Wexford, from wood supplied by the Shane Castle Estate in County Antrim.

It both honours and shames me that so few of these bottles were distributed. Shames me because I know with each sip I took, I contributed to the extinction of the wondrous drink. I can say with confidence that what I experienced truly was a magic and I will be lucky to taste something so divine again.

Midleton Very Rare Pearl Edition Bottle

Available from The Whisky Exchange

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