RED SPOT SINGLE POT STILL IRISH WHISKEY
triple cask matured in Bourbon, Sherry, and Marsala casks
MASH BILL – undisclosed mash combining malted and un-malted barley
PROOF – 92
AGE – 15 years
DISTILLERY – Mitchell & Son (distilled, aged and bottled for them by Midleton Distillery)
PRICE – $131
BUY AGAIN? – on sale, maybe
Early on in my whiskey journey I tried Jameson, Writers’ Tears, Redbreast 12, Tullamore D.E.W—fairly typical and available Irish whiskeys. They were all friendly and easy to drink, none with the punch or wild curveballs I so enjoy in bourbon, rye, and scotch. Irish whiskeys seemed to me more tightly united than their Scottish and American cousins. So, being more inclined toward extremes, I didn’t find myself drawn to Irish whiskey and to date haven’t yet given it proper study.
Time passed and I had a glass of Redbreast 21 Year, which raised my eyebrows a bit. But I remained unconvinced. A bottle of Writer’s Tears Double Oaked was fine but didn’t bring me around any further. Then more recently I enjoyed an exceptional limited release Redbreast 14 Year batch that really swept me away. This prompted me to pick up this bottle of Red Spot, the eldest sibling of the Spot Whiskeys—the others being Yellow (12 years), Green (a blend of 7 to 10 year whiskeys), and variations on the Green finished in specific wine casks.
When I first cracked this bottle, I was disappointed. It was good. But again, no surprises. Very approachable with nice, familiar flavors. Exactly what I expect from Irish whiskey. But also a synthetic note. Though the bottle specifies it is not chill filtered, there is no note on added color. I wondered if I was tasting some visual science.
Then recently I had a handful of pours during a long game of chess, played over Zoom with an actor friend in New York. Since being stuck at home, we play every other Tuesday using actual boards. Playing real chess, rather than an online digital game, gives us a welcomed, normalizing sense of the ye olde analog world. The release of tension after one finally makes one’s latest move always seems to necessitate a sip from the glass. So after four hours I’d gone through more than a fair amount of the Red Spot. From the first sip to the last that night, it tasted special. The synthetic note was gone. The creaminess and baked fruits were now emphasized, and the whole tasted much more integrated than it had previously.
And so as the bottle was now nearing its end, I figured it was time for an official tasting. Here are notes on some of this bottle’s final ounces, tasted in a genuine Irish crystal glass, the design of which allows one to neatly measure out two full shots. It’s a glass that encourages indulgence. And it works!
COLOR – a brassy honey-amber with hints of gold and orange
NOSE – bright like the color, cream, custard, fresh baked fruit like apple and peach, some light creamy caramel after more airing out
TASTE – also bright, but very creamy, with vanilla caramel candies, custard with mild tart fruits like persimmon, some lemon, a mild spiciness from the copper pot distillation
FINISH – that spicy edge lingering around the cream, caramel candies, and a bit of the various baked fruits
OVERALL – lively, welcoming, easy, and witty
This is really good. Now, this is really good. Like I said, early on I thought it was fine. And “fine” isn’t what you want when you’re paying three digits. But it takes air exceptionally well, both over the life of the bottle and in the glass on a given night. I still don’t imagine buying another bottle, unless by some miracle I found it significantly discounted. But I’m glad for this journey it has taken me on.
That Redbreast 14 Year woke me up to the true possibilities of Irish whiskey’s range. This Red Spot then provided a journey not unlike many bourbon, rye, or scotch journeys I’ve gone on, whereby the experience at uncorking is one thing and the final ounces another. I’m still fairly convinced Irish whiskey is by its nature too predictable overall for my personal tastes. But I’ve also come to appreciate those predictable aspects. I particularly enjoy that bright spiciness that comes from repeated distillation in copper pots. It is distinct from a proof or rye spiciness. The copper pot seems to literally brighten the flavors.
Then, with this Red Spot, there are the multiple, international casks involved in the aging. The American bourbon, Spanish sherry, and Sicilian Marsala casks are seamlessly blended, balancing caramel and fruit aspects into one lovely whole.
Pick up a bottle if the price doesn’t daunt you. There’s the question of whether it’s to one’s personal tastes. But there is no denying the quality at work here. For myself, I’m content to stick to more affordable Irish whiskeys. The flavor experience of Irish whiskey just doesn’t vary from brand to brand with enough extremity to justify the cost of these rarer bottlings for me.
But I’m sure going to enjoy polishing off this bottle when the time comes. And I’m guessing that time will come soon. After all, it’s the COVID-era. I’ve got nowhere else I need to be.