Irish Distillers recently unveiled a limited collection of single pot still whiskeys, each finished in rare Japanese casks.
The distillers behind the Method and Madness Collection are said to have looked to combine tradition and innovation for a worldly taste experience.
The series features three single pot still whiskeys, including a 33-Year-Old finished in Japanese Mizunara oak for three years, and two other expressions finished in Japanese Chestnut and Japanese Cedarwood casks for more than a year.
The Method And Madness Irish Whiskeys Japanese Oak series (image via Irish Distillers)
The focal point of the collection, the 33-Year-Old Mizunara, is the oldest Irish whiskey to be finished in the Japanese oak sourced from the Hokkaido region in Northern Japan. There, the temperate rainforest creates what’s described as the ideal growing conditions for the oak used for barrel production.
The team at Irish Distillers explained that the relatively low wood density and medium charring of the cask helps impart what they feel are elevated flavors of nutmeg and vanilla to the single pot still distillate, which was originally sent for maturation in ex-bourbon barrels in 1988.
The whiskey was then refilled into the Mizunara cask for a further three years. Bottled at 52.8% ABV, only 252 bottles of Method and Madness Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Japanese Mizunara Oak Cask will be available globally at a suggested retail price of €3,000 (700ml).
Each of the two younger single pot still distillates were first matured in bourbon and sherry barrels before a finishing period in Japanese Cedarwood Casks (ABV 48%) and Japanese Chestnut Casks (ABV 48%).
The collection’s packaging was designed by Swedish-Irish design team M&E and seeks to bring the influence of the different wood finishes to life with a traditional black and gold label for the Mizunara and brightly colored designs, inspired by the neon lights of Tokyo, for the Cedarwood and Chestnut releases.
The labels feature traditional Suminagashi designs, a Japanese marbling method dating back to the 12th century. Each of the three expressions also feature a unique character from traditional Japanese calligraphy describing the wood type and age of the liquids.
The Japanese Cedarwood expression is characterized by notes of eucalyptus and fresh botanicals, imparted by the cedar barrels traditionally favored for Sake maturation. The cedar logs are sourced from the Kyushu region in southern Japan, where the warm, wet conditions create a fragrant and porous wood, giving the whiskey its flavor profile of herbal tea, caraway seeds and clove spice alongside a fruit finish.
The Japanese chestnut wood also hails from southern Japan, where the rocky terrain and abundant rainfall make for a relatively low wood density, in turn imparting notes of licorice and spice with flavors of orange zest and cooling menthol.
The Cedarwood and Chestnut Casks carry a suggested retail price of €95 (700ml).
Eva O’Doherty, distiller, said in a prepared statement, “Bringing these exceptional whiskeys to life has been a joyous journey of discovery, whilst working with each of the new wood types has continued to test and challenge our whiskey making skills.”
While the team was confident they could apply tried and tested maturation methods for the Mizunara Oak Cask, O’Doherty said the porosity of the cedar and chestnut wood presented new challenges which required close observation to achieve the perfect balance of contribution.
“It’s an honor to share this first-of-its-kind collection as we continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in Irish whiskey making,” she added.
Finbarr Curran, team lead for wood planning and maturation, noted that “this truly exceptional trilogy represents not only our ambition and far-reaching partnerships with some of the world’s best cooperages, but three individual triumphs in skill and innovation – the ethos which continues to drive the Method and Madness collection.”
Distiller’s notes for the three Method and Madness Single Pot Still Irish Whiskeys:
Japanese Mizunara Oak Cask
Nose: Coffee cake, toasted nuts, worn leather.
Taste: Nutmeg, vanilla, wood tannins.
Finish: Pot still spice, subtle fruits, fresh oak.
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