The following originally appeared on Food Digital on March 13, 2013:
Beginning life as a failed woolen mill at the end of the 18th century, County Cork’s Midleton Distillery in Ireland spent time as a military barracks before being completely renovated for whisky production in 1825. Under the watchful eye of the brothers Murphy, within five years Midleton Distillery was producing 400,000 gallons a year. In 1867, Midleton merged with four Cork distilleries to form Cork Distillers Company.
Over the next century the distillery didn’t change much. In 1949, two small stills were replaced by the same company that had installed them seventy years earlier! Meanwhile, the world’s largest pot still, with a capacity of almost 32,000 gallons remained in use.
In 1966 the Irish Distillers Group was formed when Cork Distillers Company, Jameson, and Powers merged. In 1975, 150 years after the Murphys had begun distilling at Midleton, production was halted at the original distillery and moved to a new facility on an adjacent site with the capacity to produce 5 million gallons of spirit annually. With three pot stills and three column stills that can be used in different combinations, the modern Midleton distillery has the capability to produce many different styles of whiskey. Since 1988, French drinks giant, Pernod Ricard, has owned Irish Distillers Group.
Producing some of the most famous whiskeys in the world, including Jameson, Powers, and Paddy, there’s a good chance you’ll be drinking whiskey distilled at Midleton this Sunday. Here are a few suggestions to get lesser well-known Midleton whiskeys into your glass:
Red Breast 12 Year Old, cask strength, distilled from a 50/50 combination of malted and unmalted barley, and matured for twelve years in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks this is a very affordable cask strength whisky with a creamy and oily mouthfeel and layers of chocolate flavors. It’s bottled at 57.7% Alcohol (approx. 116 Proof) and available for around $65.
Red Breast 15 Year Old, if you’d prefer an Irish whiskey containing a little less alcohol and a few extra years in the cask, this version of Red Breast is distilled from the same grain bill and matured in the same combination of the casks as the 12 Year Old, cask strength, but it’s bottled at 46% Alcohol (92 Proof). Still with a pleasantly oily mouthfeel, look for orange citrus and leathery notes on the palate. Expect to pay between $65 and $75 a bottle.
Middleton Barry Crockett Legacy, first released in 2011 and named after the distillery’s Master Distiller (Mr Crockett held the post for 37 years before retiring this month) this luxury bottling contains whiskey as old as 25 years. Citrusy with warm spice this is a very impressive Irish whiskey. It’s bottled at 46% Alcohol (92 Proof) and available for between $220 and $260 a bottle.
Have a safe and enjoyable St Patrick’s Day.
Erin Go Bragh!