At Irish Distillers, we started looking at using Irish oak about seven years ago, due to the recent rejuvenation in the plantation of Irish oak. Following an extensive analysis on Irish oak over the last number of years, we’re now able to responsibly procure native oak for maturation purposes that is sustainable in the long-term.
Midleton Dair Ghaelach, is the first ever Irish whiskey to be finished in virgin Irish Oak Hogsheads. This uniquely Irish expression is the latest addition to the Midleton Single Pot Still family of whiskeys, satisfying the growing appetite among whiskey lovers for discovering new and innovative styles of Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey.
A selection of traditional Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey distillates, matured for between 15 and 22 years in ex-Bourbon casks, were married together before being filled into native Irish Oak Hogsheads harvested from 130-year- old oak trees from Grinsell’s Wood, within the Ballaghtobin Estate in Co. Kilkenny. By working closely with our partnership estates such as Ballaghtobin, we can trace each bottle back to an individual tree. This provides a unique whiskey experience that we find very exciting and hope other whiskey aficionados will too, as this special whiskey is the true and unique flavour of Ireland.
Irish oak adds to the taste and aroma of the spirit by providing desirable elements from the cask. Over the years, we have identified higher levels of some lignin derivative compounds, such as vanillin and vanillic acid and furfural in Irish oak compared to Spanish or American oak. These contribute to the enhanced vanilla, caramel and chocolate flavours of Dair Ghaelach. This perfectly balances the classically rich, spicy Single Pot Still taste profile. Irish oak also contains a greater concentration of furanic compounds, which tends to give the sweet, caramel and toasted notes that are detectable on the nose of Midleton Dair Ghaelach.
We have uncovered some key facts through our research on Irish oak. These are:
- Irish oak grows at a faster rate than Spanish or American oak due to climate, moisture and length of growing season.
- Irish oak has a lower density compared to Spanish and American oak. Lower density wood is more permeable, therefore releasing more extractives.
- Irish oak has a higher porosity compared to Spanish and American oak. This allows for increased levels of oxidation and increased accessibility to wood compounds.
In summary, the reduced density and increased porosity leads to a more open structure. This open structure allows more wood compounds to be extracted into the spirit and at a faster rate.
For more than 30 years, Midleton Irish Whiskey has been admired for its distillers’ dedication to excellence in Irish craftsmanship and the release of Midleton Dair Ghaelach continues this rich tradition. The process of maturing in native Irish oak has enabled us to showcase our Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey style in a new and innovative way.
With the recent resurgence in plantation, only now has it been viable for us to consider Irish Oak in the maturation of our whiskeys while ensuring that the oak reserves can be enjoyed by generations to come. After six years in the making, Midleton Dair Ghaelach has been a journey of exploration into the craft of Irish whiskey maturation and we are equally delighted with and excited by the newest member of our Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey family
We see no reason why Irish oak cannot play a significant role in the maturation of our Irish Whiskey in the medium- to long-term.
Written by Kevin O’Gorman, Head of Maturation