Green Spot, a pure/single pot still whiskey from the Midleton distillery (they of Jameson fame) has been a bit of a cult whiskey in the US for some time, largely on account of its unavailability. It showed up on these shores again a month or two ago and was greeted with excitement and hype. One retailer sent out a sales email proclaiming it “The Pappy Van Winkle of Ireland” (I’ll let you guess who that was). Once upon a time this kind of thing would have made me want to score a bottle right away but I am more cautious now. In this particular case, as you will see, I am very glad I waited till I’d had a chance to taste a sample.
Green Spot apparently comprises 25% sherry cask matured spirit, and the spirit itself is triple-distilled in a pot still from a combination of malted and unmalted barley (which is what makes it different from Scottish malt whisky, which is also distilled in a pot still and can also be triple-distilled).
Green Spot (40%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Not terribly expressive at first with a dusty, almost cardboardy intro. Some brighter, acidic notes come up from under that after a bit–peppery lime mostly; after a bit takes a turn towards orange. Not really getting a whole lot of sherry here. After a bit there’s some tart-sweet apple and then muskier fruit–pears? That dusty/cardboardy thing doesn’t entirely go away. With more time the lime comes back out.
Palate: Mild with peppery citrus and then some of the musky fruit. Very watery mouthfeel. More cereally on the second sip and something reminiscent of vegetable oil. The citrus gets a little stronger with time and there’s a ghost of sherry in here somewhere but mostly it tastes like it was matured in very inactive casks. At the end there’s a slight soapiness to it too.
Finish: Medium. That minerally note becomes reminiscent of wet cardboard.
Comments: I was expecting to like this but after some promising development on the nose the palate really disappointed. Yes, it’s an easy drinking whisky but there’s not a whole lot else to recommend it; especially at the price (in the region of $50-60 in most markets). Try before you buy. But if you don’t have that opportunity, I recommend that you pass on this–keep in mind, of course, that I don’t seem to have the best record with Irish whiskey. It’s entirely ordinary and while you might feel some small sense of achievement in getting a bottle, the experience of drinking it will likely be less inspiring.
Rating: 76 points.
Thanks to Patrick for the sample!
As someone who loves Irish whiskey, I found the US hyping of this brand to be aggressively misleading, heavy-handed, and LAZY. Yes, I feel that way about most current whisk(e)y hype, but there is NO connection between Green Spot and Pappy Van Winkle. Green Spot has been, and still is, relatively easy to find via international sellers. There are no similarities between the wine merchant Mitchell family and the Van Winkles. And this Spot has never been considered the best of its kind. There is another retailer who has described it as “The Holy Grail” of Irish whiskies. While that description is a little less exploitative, it’s still both misleading and heavy handed.
Green Spot is, to some folks, a beloved brand as it has been retailing for over 125 years. It also used to be very difficult to obtain outside of Ireland. But as of four or five years ago, production increased, and it starting selling in the UK and continental Europe. So it has some history behind it. But it is no longer rare, nor is it worthy of hyperbole.
Much or most of Green Spot is 7 year old whisky, while Redbreast 12 and Powers John’s Lane 12 are both (obviously) 12 years old at minimum. While I think Green Spot is fine (probably a low-80s score for me), it’s probably the last of the single pot stills I recommend unless someone wants something as light as a feather, but then there are cheaper blends that can do the same or better.
And regarding the “LAZY” designation above, if you’re a retailer trying to sell a whiskey’s story to your customers, then at least tell the whiskey’s story. That way people will pay for the story along with the whiskey. If you just shout hyperbole unsupported by fact, then your words are just as bad as the fake reviews strung across movie commercials.
The Pappy Van Winkle of Commentors
you are pretty accurate here. my bottle only cost $40 local. some days it’s better than others. i rarely evaluate irish to the depth of the other malts. the new teeling rum cask would be a better choice for an irish if it ever makes it to states.
I didn’t get offensive notes like MAO, I simply couldn’t find much there at all. Good with pints of stout, I’ll add.
^^^ This (the second sentence in Patrick’s comment). “Good with a pint.” I’d buy a bottle from Patrick if that’s how he (if he were a retailer) marketed it to me. Highlights the best (and relatable) part of the whisky.
As I said to someone else on Facebook, I didn’t even really get much of the off-notes (the cardboardy thing on the nose, the faint soapiness on the palate)–it was just kind of blah. Even the flaws didn’t impart character.
Given how many people swear by this whiskey, I am assuming that there’s been some change in how it’s put together between when its reputation was made and the version that’s made its way to the US. Either that, or scarcity made it sexier. Looking around, I see that other people who’ve had this version have also found it lacking in the way that I describe it. See the comments here from April 25, 2014.
And, for what its worth, the Whiskybase crowd scores it lower than the rest of the major single pot stills.
The Green Spot I’ve tried (and still have some bottles of) is better than what’s described here, but it’s not as good as Redbreast 12. I don’t doubt the accuracy of the review as it wouldn’t surprise me at all that this whiskey has slipped in quality from the older version I’m familiar with (a fresh, clean, robust apple palate with solid mouthfeel). It IS too bad if it has slipped, as it formerly had a unique, if not leading, place among Irish products and punched above its weight for a young whiskey.
Along with its re-packaging, Green Spot has changed its formulation though they’ve gone to some length to deny that. It is now a younger whisky than what was available solely through Mitchell & Son, and presumably a much larger vatting given its much wider distribution. Marketing hype aside (you’re always surprised that marketing hype is just that, aren’t you?), when you hear whisky aficionados talk very fondly of this brand, it’s most likely the old stuff they’re talking about, and that was a very, very good whisky…if you like Irish whiskey, that is.
Good to get some corroboration on the drop in quality–what’s your source of information though on the reformulation?
As for marketing hype, I’m rarely surprised to discover that it’s only hype (though I am surprised sometimes when people who should know better seem to be taken in by it). I do like to point it out and mock it at every opportunity though; maybe if more of us did that some of the people who indulge in it (just some, but even some is better than none) might develop a sense of shame.
I’m just giving you shit, both you and I like to point out marketing BS and make fun of it.
As for info on the pre-world-takeover release, there’s this piece by some asshole: http://thecasks.com/2014/03/17/green-spot-irish-whiskey-circa-2010-review/
There’s not much out there that’s concrete, what I found was gleaned from the Mitchell & Son site and a few Irish whiskey blogs. It was originally part of a line of “Spot” whiskies, Blue (7yo), Green (10yo), Yellow (12yo), and Red (15yo). The others died out (until Yellow was recently revived) and only Green Spot was left. Before the relaunch it was made up of 8-9yo whiskey, approx. 6,000 bottles a year. Like I said, IDL went to some length to say that the new stuff was going to be the same, but the general consensus is that it’s slipped a bit due to younger whiskies being used and a much bigger vatting to accommodate the wide relaunch. Sorry I don’t have anything more concrete than that. I love the old one, but then again, I love PPS Irish. I haven’t tried them side by side, but I do think the new one is pretty good as well, just not as complex and smooth as the old version.
That one does sound much better.
Had this in a nearby “Irish” pub (i.e., bar) a month ago. I had high hopes but it was indeed underwhelming. Just not a lot of body or character to it.
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