Whisky Focus - Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest

Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest


24th January 2020
Midleton unveil the third release in their highly rated virgin Irish oak finished collection, Midleton Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest edition.

Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach Knockrath ForestIrish Distillers has unveiled the third release in their so far very highly rated Dair Ghaelach collection, the new release is Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest which was initially matured in American bourbon barrels then finished in barrels made from virgin Irish oak grown in Knockrath Forest, County Wicklow.

The story of Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach (which is Gaelic for ‘Irish oak’ and pronounced ‘Dar Gay Lock’), began over a decade ago when the innovative and creative Masters at Midleton decided to explore the possibility of maturing Irish whiskey in native Irish oak. Midleton’s talented team, led by Master of Maturation Kevin O’Gorman, Master Cooper Ger Buckley and Master Blender Billy Leighton, set out to source sustainable Irish oak from estates throughout Ireland to produce a series of whiskeys, each with their own individual history and taste profile, that could be traced back to the specific tree from which the oak cask was made.

For this third edition, the Midleton team selected the Knockrath estate in the ancient Vale of Clara where the oak has grown for more than 150 years amidst the landscape of mountains and lakes. Known for its cool summers and heavy rainfall, the climate of County Wicklow impacts the density and porosity of the oak. This, in addition to a lighter toasting of the wood and unique combination of distillates, has they tell me resulted in subtle flavour differences between Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest and its predecessors, Dair Ghaelach Grinsell’s Wood and Dair Ghaelach Bluebell Forest.

The carefully harvested trees from  Knockrath Forest were felled and shipped to the Maderbar sawmills in Baralla, north-west Spain, where they were traditionally quarter sawn into staves for barrel manufacturing and transferred to the Antonio Páez Lobato cooperage in Jerez. After a 15-month drying process, the staves were worked into barrels and given a light toasting before returning to Ireland.

At Midleton Distillery, the virgin oak casks were filled with Irish pot still whiskeys ranging in age from 13-26 years which had initially matured in American bourbon barrels. Following two further years maturing in the Irish oak, O’Gorman and Leighton diligently checked the barrels each month until finally the pair felt the whiskey had the perfect balance of flavour, aroma and wood contribution ready for bottling.

Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest is bottled at cask strength ranging from 56.1% – 56.6% ABV, giving drinkers the opportunity to taste Irish whiskey almost directly from Irish oak. The native wood contributes notes of caramel, fruits, vanilla and chocolate for a smooth and robust whiskey.

Kevin O’Gorman explains: "Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest is an amazing 150-year journey from Knockrath Forest to bottle and one we’re proud to be part of. Traceability and sustainability are at the heart of this whiskey and, until we started this project, Irish oak had not been used to mature whiskey for well over 100 years. Today, thanks to sustainable practices, we can harvest small volumes and trace each bottle right back to the very oak tree that helped to create it. This has, in turn, fostered an awareness and appreciation among whiskey lovers that there is even a subtle difference between trees which contributes to a whiskey’s unique flavour."

Billy Leighton added: "It’s an honour to present the latest edition in the Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach collection. Truly a taste of Ireland, the barley, water, oak and indeed craftspeople at the heart of this expression are all home-grown, making us extremely proud to share this latest expression in the Midleton story with the world."

Midleton Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest is available from this month in Ireland, UK, France, US and China with a RRP €310 per 70cl and it will soon be available from specialist whisky shops such as The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt
 

Midleton Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest Review


Producer's Tasting Notes:

Nose: Pot still spices are accentuated by the Irish oak contribution, adding waves of toasted wood with hints of vanilla and roasted coffee, layered over fresh fruit which evolves from orchard fruits to tropical notes.

Taste: Classic pot still spices give a luscious texture to the fore, while the influence of the Irish oak adds a medley of sweet notes including chocolate and honeycomb.

Finish: Remarkably long finish with fruit and spices fading to allow the Irish oak to have the final say.
 

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