You know what really gets me excited when it comes to whisky ? good affordable products and… Innovative good affordable products ! And something tells me that Method & Madness new releases could be just what I’m after. Let’s try them !
〈 Before going any further though, there’s often this common idea, well spread amongst whisky enthusiasts (and not only the ones you like to call “novices” ;)) that whisky can only be aged in oak casks. This is very much true if you want your whisky to be a Scotch Whisky, but in Europe, the only rule is that whisky should be aged for at least 3 years in a WOOD cask. Many countries are then able to experiment other woods when it comes to maturation and Method & Madness (as well as a few other craft distilleries) is definitely at the forefront of this innovative path (hello Chestnut). 〉
Official brand information:
“Irish Distillers, makers of some of the world’s best-known and successful Irish whiskeys, has added two new and experimental, limited edition Irish whiskeys to its METHOD AND MADNESS range; Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Finished in Wild Cherry Wood and Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Finished in Acacia Wood. The whiskeys represent the latest results of the research that Midleton Distillery and Micro Distillery, in County Cork, have undertaken into maturation in different wood types over more than 10 years.
In a world first, the Midleton masters and apprentices present a single pot still Irish whiskey that has been finished in nine casks crafted from wild cherry wood, sourced from France, for between seven months and four years. Wood from the cherry tree is characterised by its porosity, which results in significant interaction between the wood and the whiskey and has added complex flavours of shredded ginger, coconut and black tea to the ex-bourbon and sherry cask-matured whiskey. Bottled at 46% ABV, METHOD AND MADNESS Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Finished in Wild Cherry Wood is available in six markets, including Ireland, the UK and global travel retail, from September 2019 at the RRP of €92.
Kevin O’Gorman, Master of Maturation at Midleton Distillery, commented: “Since 2014, our research into maturation in different wood types has challenged our expertise and approach to whiskey-making – but none so much as our experimentations with wild cherry casks. The rare, porous wood is different to anything that we have handled before, so it has been a real achievement to create the perfect balance of flavour – the result is a world-first in Irish whiskey, with a nose of coconut fibre and ginger, a palate of fresh green herbs, black tea and unmistakable pot still spices and a long, fresh finish with prickly spice and hazelnut.”
The second new release is a single pot still Irish whiskey that has been finished in barrels crafted from acacia wood, sourced from France, for between one and four years. Initially matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and sherry casks, the dense acacia wood has a tight grain that slowly imparts rich nutty and chocolatey flavours and a dark mahogany hue. METHOD AND MADNESS Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Finished in Acacia Wood is bottled at 46% ABV and is available exclusively through the Celtic Whiskey Shop in Ireland from September 2019 at the RRP of €92.”
Let’s now put those 2 new “World First” releases under the radar (I kinda feel like there’s a pattern going on around here those days with “world first” tastings, hello Mackmyra Intelligens)!
M&M Single Pot Still Wild Cherry Wood ♥
Nose: Elegant, woody and fragrant with aromas of pencil shavings, ginger root and sandal wood. Some delicate floral notes also appear with orange blossom, rose, white flowers and jasmin tea. At the second nose, an underlying layer of creamy bourbon vanilla shows off, balancing the more “spicy/floral/woody” dominant profile.
Palate: The texture is rather chewy and the herbal flavours are quite dominating at first (tea leaves, honeysuckle, heather) but you can still spot some typical aromas coming from the initial bourbon & sherry maturation like wood spices, vanilla, dried fruits and nuts. The finish is drier with pepper, cloves and a slight herbal astringency.
Overall: A disconcerting experience. It’s really hard to say the “wild cherry wood” finish brings this or that, either in texture or flavours, for the obvious reason that I have no clue what this type of wood is supposed to bring to a whisky. I would say it definitely has something to do with the herbal-lead profile of this expression but… Does it ? x) I mean, you know what to expect – at least a little – when you read “bourbon matured” or “sherry matured”, or even red wine, white wine, rum, cognac… But wild cherry wood ? No idea, and this complete “no clue” feeling made this tasting thrilling !
M&M Single Pot Still Acacia Wood ♥
Nose: Rubbery, spicy and gourmet with pecan pie, precious wood, pancakes covered in maple syrup, Dutch waffles, caramel and a yummy wave of sweet spices (chaï-like). Promising!
Palate: Wow, this is right up my street! Rich, velvety and rather complex. Showing aromas of chocolate-covered bananas, mochaccino, molasses, wood spices and baked peaches. The finish is spicy and deliciously persistant.
Overall: Definitely darker in color than its brother, so one sure thing is that both finishes DID have a very different impact on the initial whiskey. Again, I can’t say which kind of flavours were brought by the Acacia wood but having tried those 2 expressions face to face, which were both initally matured the same way (bourbon & sherry), I can definitely acknowledge that these finishes aren’t anything gimmicky but really worth trying, exploring and maybe one day, mastering!
All in all, this tasting was a little confusing, disturbing even, because I didn’t have any taste markers or reference points to hold on to. It took me back to my first whisky tastings, when I had a very fresh approach to the drams I was sipping (because I had no clue about what I was supposed to expect anyway) and no preconceived ideas and that was a real breathe of fresh air ! It made me realise, as regular whisky drinkers, we may have created ourselves some sort of patterns for what is meant to taste like what, and even though we sometimes go wild and very poetic with our tasting notes, we’re still very much following the paths of our mental whisky maps.
Those new expressions are also the liquid proof that there’s still plenty of room for innovation in the whisky industry (sorry Scotch, you ganna have to pass your turn on this one though… 😉) and that we may only be at the early stages of wood exploration ! Isn’t it exciting knowing that there’s a whole new world to explore BEYOND OAK, and it’s opening its mysterious doors !
Whisky, you’ll never cease to amaze me ! ♥
PS: Thanks to the awesome Irish Distillers team for the amazing press pack, I mean, This M&M branded sweater is surely gonna make a lot of people jealous (and stop me from ranting about not finding anything M&M branded at the Midleton distillery) xD