Monday, 10 August 2015

Green Spot - Château Léoville Barton - Review

Irish whiskey fans have already had a year to remember with Irish Distillers treating us to a few new releases including the Redbreast "Mano a Lámh" and the Midleton "Dair Ghaelach".  But it is their latest release that I shall be looking at this time around.

Green Spot "Château Léoville Barton" is the first ever Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey to be finished in Bordeaux wine casks.

Set in the heart of Bordeaux, one of the most revered wine making regions in the world, Léoville Barton is a grand cru Château renowned for producing world class wine.  Léoville Barton is overseen today by Anthony and Lilian Barton who are direct descendants of Thomas Barton, a "Wine Geese" winemaker who founded a wine merchant company in 1725 after migrating from his native Ireland.

For those of you not familiar with the term "Wine Geese" this refers to winemakers who migrated from Ireland in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries to establish wineries in countries such as France, Spain, Australia and the USA.

Green Spot, as I'm sure you may already know, can trace it's roots back to Dublin based wine merchants, Mitchell & Son, who matured, bottled and sold the original Green Spot under bond.  

Established in 1805, Mitchell & Son aged whiskeys, bought from John Jameson's Bow Street distillery in Dublin, in their own casks up until 1968.

It is this distinct connection between the two histories of Léoville Barton and Green Spot, that makes Anthony Barton feel very privileged to be able to contribute to the merging of these industries to produce something unique and "exceptional".  

With regards the whiskey itself, it has initially been matured in a traditional mix of ex-Oloroso sherry, new bourbon and ex-bourbon barrels.  The whiskeys were then transferred into the ex-Bordeaux wine casks for between 12 and 24 months, imparting "distinctive floral flavours of varying intensity" and "resulting in a perfectly balanced whiskey".

It has been bottled at 46% ABV, with no added colour, and no chill filtering, and has been available from June at a RRP of roughly £40.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Initially a savoury butter note, some "green" notes that I would noramlly get with Redbreast 15yo and a distinct dusty note lurks in the background.  As it opens in the glass it becomes much sweeter, almost candy like, with foam banana sweets, a little green apple and the butter now becomes quite fudge like with the sweetness.  There's not a massive amount of red fruit going on but some gentle strawberry is here.  Not much spice either.  Feels very smooth from the bourbon barrels with a creamy sweetness to match.  With this nose it feels like the bourbon barrels are definitely the dominant force but with time a wine note does come through in the form of grappa.

Palate - Nice balance of the sweet flavours with a now notable dry spice coming from the European oak.  More green apples and vanilla cream.  Red berries are more prominent here with a spicy cracked black pepper undertone.  Mouth feel is a little on the thin side but I stress only a little.  On the whole the "perfectly balanced" comment is definitely noticeable on the palate.

Finish - Nice length with the red fruits really starting to show along with a nice lingering dryness from the cask.  In opposition to the nose, the finish feels like the wine casks are the dominant force.

Overall this is a good whiskey, heading in the direction, but just falling short, of the very good.  It is well made and the wine casks have imparted a subtle note onto the spirit.

As with most reviews I usually get most notes down on the first taste and go over the notes with a second glass, to add any further flavours, and with the second glass this was improving with the fruit flavours becoming more complex.

That was until I added the tiniest drop of water which did more damage than good.  In my opinion this needs no water whatsoever and is best left as presented.

Would I recommend this whiskey? Yes.  Would I buy this at the price it's meant to be sold at? Yes.  Would it win any awards in the mythical awards ceremony in my head?  On this taste, probably not.

I'm left to ponder this against another release mentioned earlier, the Redbreast "Mano a Lámh", as they are both NAS Pot Stills, at a similar price point, and to be honest I'd probably opt for the Redbreast.  (Incidentally a review of this shall be up soon)

That said though, do not let that put you off.  As with anything this is obviously only my opinion and the only way to get a personal experience is to get out there and try it yourself.  If you love the normal Green Spot then this just may be the one for you.

Until next time,



PS A huge thanks Richmond Towers Communications for the sample and press release.

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