In conversation with the Master Distiller of one of Ireland's oldest and rarest whiskies, Midleton Very Rare.
Midleton is known for its long history and tradition going back to 1825, with Jameson, which it owns, going back to 1780. Kevin O’Gorman describes becoming Master Distiller at Midleton Distillery as quite simply, a privilege. Growing up on a dairy farm in Cork, he is only the fourth person in 75 years to hold the title, following in the footsteps of previous Master Distillers Max Crockett, the forefather of modern Irish whiskey; his son Barry Crockett, the creator of Midleton Very Rare, and Brian Nation.
Midleton's Very Rare Silent Distillery Collection Chapter Three is the third release in Ireland’s oldest ever whiskey collection which follows Chapter’s One and Two with Chapter Three bottles retailing from £37,000.
O'Gorman describes the latest release of Midleton's Very Rare Silent Distillery Whiskey, and how to taste it.
How many bottles of Chapter Three exist?
The latest Chapter, which marks the halfway point of the collection, consists of 97 bottles. It is an exceptional 47-year-old whiskey born from the marriage of two single cask barrels of sherry and bourbon. It is crafted from a marriage of distillations left to mature over 47 years in a hand-selected bourbon barrel and a sherry butt, Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Chapter Three, is a wonderfully aged yet contemporary expression of Irish Whiskey like no other.
How did you feel when you first tasted Chapter Three?
I knew straight away they were going to be very special. It wasn’t a case of opening the cask one day and tasting the whiskey. We had tracked the casks over the years. I was aware of these casks since I started at Midleton. In 1998, I was doing a tour of the warehouse and Denis McSweeney pointed out some old casks in warehouses A2 and A3. I was told this was the last liquid from the old Midleton distillery and they were very rare and special casks, and the last link to the old distillery. We tracked them all along, like we do with our whiskeys, recording our notes, monitoring the performance and any changes, and then returned a year later to do the same thing.
Where do the whiskey barrels come from?
We get our barrels from all over the world, mostly we use barrels from the USA and Europe for our different whiskeys at Midleton. We use 200 litre barrels from the USA that are first used to produce bourbon; you must use a new oak barrel in the production of bourbon. Before bourbon, it would have been fortified wine barrels that were used. We also use huge 500 litre European oak sherry barrels from Spain, they are used for sherry first.
What commands the high price on Midleton Very Rare Chapters?
Each bottle of Chapter Three retails for £42,500 (US$53,600). What commands the price is the years of looking after it. If you look at Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery collection, it’s so precious because it’s the last liquid from the old distillery and because of its age and the years of minding it and the skill involved in looking after it. It’s precious liquid, it really is. In 2025, when the last Chapter is done, that will be the last link, the last liquid that’s the book closed. It’s had an amazing journey for that kind of whiskey... that is what commands the price.
Who buys the very rare Chapter collection?
Collectors and investors buy our Chapter whiskey, and some buy to consume, but the USA is one of the biggest buyers. This Chapter Three will be sold through retailers in Ireland (Brown Thomas), UK (Harrods, Hedonism, Harvey Nichols, Fortnum & Mason, Master of Malt, The Whiskey Exchange, Berry Bros. & Rudd, Fine and Rare and Bordeaux Index), France (La Maison du Whiskey), USA, Singapore (Duty Free).
Are younger people investing in the Chapters?
Yes, there’s been a lot of interest over the last 4 or 5 years from younger people learning about and investing in Midleton and Midleton Very Rare, because there is a vintage every year. Younger people want to know more about whiskey, the provenance, and flavours, how we make it... there just wasn’t that level of interest when I was younger.
In November 2022, Adare Manor Hotel will have a ballot where, for a fee, 13 people can apply to come to a special event hosted by myself here at the manor and they will get the chance to taste the whiskey.
How do you feel about people adding mixers to your whiskey?
I don’t mind at all because whiskey is used in cocktails and people enjoy it. I may add a drop of water to my whiskey but I’m not a purist, it’s just how I like it.
The opportunity to taste Midleton Very Rare Chapter Three is available at an event at Adare Manor Hotel in Ireland on 29 November 2022, with