Irish By Nino Marchetti / January 27, 2020 Irish Distillers, holders of the Midleton Very Rare brand, have among their various offerings a series of expressions focused upon finishing mature whiskeys in native Irish oak barrels. The first release, in 2015, was in barrels from 130-year-old Irish oak trees in Grinsell’s Wood and, more recently in 2017, wood was made use of from that grown in the Bluebell Forest of Castle Blunden Estate in County Kilkenny. Now, for 2020, we have a new release finished in virgin Irish oak grown in Knockrath Forest, County Wicklow.The new Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest, according to those behind it, came about when “the Midleton team selected the Knockrath estate in the ancient Vale of Clara where the oak has grown for more than 150 years amidst the landscape of mountains and lakes. Known for its cool summers and heavy rainfall, the climate of County Wicklow impacts the density and porosity of the oak. This, in addition to a lighter toasting of the wood and unique combination of distillates, results in subtle flavour differences between Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest and its predecessors, Dair Ghaelach Grinsell’s Wood and Dair Ghaelach Bluebell Forest.“Since the 16th century the Brabazon family has watched over Knockrath Forest and continues to sustainably manage the trees from one season to the next. Under their guardianship, the Knockrath estate became one of the first sites where the iconic Great Spotted Woodpecker – engraved into the whiskey’s stunning wooden case – set up residence on its return to Ireland following years in exile. Today, after ten years of silence, the woodpecker’s drumming can be heard throughout the forests of Wicklow and beyond thanks to the Brabazon family and the expanding oak forests.Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest (image via Irish Distillers)“Once felled, the carefully harvested trees were shipped to the Maderbar sawmills in Baralla, north-west Spain, where they were traditionally quarter sawn into staves for barrel manufacturing and transferred to the Antonio Páez Lobato cooperage in Jerez. After a 15-month drying process, the staves were worked into barrels and given a light toasting before returning to Ireland.”Back at Midleton Distillery, the virgin oak casks were filled with Irish pot still whiskeys ranging in age from 13-26 years. This was followed by two further years of maturation before bottling occurred at cask strength ranging from 56.1% – 56.6% ABV.“Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest is an amazing 150-year journey from Knockrath Forest to bottle and one we’re proud to be part of,” said Midleton Master of Maturation, Kevin O’Gorman, in a prepared statement. “Traceability and sustainability are at the heart of this whiskey and, until we started this project, Irish oak had not been used to mature whiskey for well over 100 years.“Today, thanks to sustainable practices, we can harvest small volumes and trace each bottle right back to the very oak tree that helped to create it. This has, in turn, fostered an awareness and appreciation among whiskey lovers that there is even a subtle difference between trees which contributes to a whiskey’s unique flavour.”As it stands now plans call for this whiskey to be available from this month in Ireland, UK, France, US and China for a price of €310, or $345 USD. You’ll find some official tasting notes for it below.Nose: Pot still spices are accentuated by the Irish oak contribution, adding waves of toasted wood with hints of vanilla and roasted coffee, layered over fresh fruit which evolves from orchard fruits to tropical notes.Taste: Classic pot still spices give a luscious texture to the fore, while the influence of the Irish oak adds a medley of sweet notes including chocolate and honeycomb.Finish: Remarkably long finish with fruit and spices fading to allow the Irish oak to have the final say.