Midleton Distillery unveils new €40,000-a-bottle whiskey

By Gabriel Power | 11 May 2021 | Indulge

The Silent Distillery Collection Chapter Two is part of a six-part series of ultra-rare whiskies released by the distillery

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For whiskey lovers (or investors) who are drawn to the more eye-catching entries into the market, few distilleries can offer more thrills than Midleton Distillery, nestled in the rolling hills of County Cork, Ireland. This isn't your run-of-the-mill whiskey maker, instead serving up some of the oldest, rarest and most fascinating whiskey ever to hail from the island.

While the distillery's flagship whiskies are superb examples of deeply satisfying, smooth Irish whiskey, Midleton Distillery's recent forays into the world of ultra-rare whiskey are what really sets it apart from its peers; last year saw the launch the first instalment in its Silent Distillery Collection, a selection of six limited-release whiskies with one released annually from 2020 until the year 2025, ranging in age from 45 to 50 years old. All six of the whiskies are from the legendary Old Midleton Distillery which operated from 1825-1975, with the first edition, Chapter One, unveiled early last year.

Now under the guidance of master distiller Kevin O'Gorman, the distillery has moved on to Chapter Two, a stunning 46 Year old single pot still Irish whiskey distilled in 1973 in the signature style of Old Midleton. And it is, frankly, astonishing.

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Having been lucky enough to secure a sample of this vanishingly rare whiskey, I approached the tasting with a sense of trepidation; to me it had seemed unlikely that any flavour profile could adequately convey the hallowed prestige of such a spirit, borne of years of meticulous craftsmanship before spending decades ageing in bourbon, sherry and port casks, before finally maturing in a third-fill bourbon cask. And with a €40,000 price tag to go along with it, it was hard not to be a little intimidated not only by what was in store, but by the fear that attempting to decipher such a luxury spirit would throw me into depths of sommelier-esque analysis in which I would likely sink like a brick.

But instead, guided Mr O'Gorman himself, I was able to study, sniff and sip this extraordinary spirit with the confidence of a seasoned veteran, and I can report that the final product is as delicious as it is utterly unique. On the nose it takes the form of an extremely high-end, no-nosense Irish whiskey, featuring an electric, fruity and gently spiced bouquet, and while there's an undoubted woodiness carried over from the multiple casks it has rested in, it's far from overpowering or cloying, instead offering a leathery, nutty twist.

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But on the tongue, it becomes an entirely different beast. This is a gargantuan whiskey with a hefty mouthfeel; so thick and heavy is its initial impression on the tongue that it almost feels viscous, its 53.6% ABV rushing in to loosen up the tastebuds in preparation for the wealth of complex flavours to follow.

And indeed, this rush quickly gives way to a fascinating blend of notes. There are berries and spices that build gradually, while the gentle sweetness of malt and other assorted fruits mingle with a notable thread of ginger throughout. Those who, like myself, are used to perhaps a more generic strain of Irish whiskey, might also be surprised to find an unsual and persistent umami note in lingering the background, offering an intriguing, almost meaty counter to the layers of fruity, floral sweetness that dominate the palate. On the finish, the spices give way first leaving a fruity profile that gradually fades, allowing the oak to play us out. 

For those who like their tipples bold, complex and with a slice of history on the side, Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Chapter Two is not to be missed. It is a remarkable feat of distillation, offering drinkers a phenomenal array of flavours and a fascinating back story to go with it.