I've taken to Irish blends much better than Scotch blends. I enjoy a handful of $20 Irish whiskeys and l-o-v-e a sixth. Meanwhile, there isn't one $20 Scotch blend about which I can say the same.
Objectively: Perhaps the pot still whiskey merges with the grain better. The additional distillation pass might help curb the cheap grains' more difficult aspects. Or maybe there's a higher pot-still-to-grain ratio in whiskey than malt-to-grain in whisky.
Subjectively: I drank (shot?) poor Scotch in college. A few years later I sipped whiskey with Irish folks in small pubs on cold rainy nights. Better memories are attached to one than the other. And also Powers is delicious.
With all of that in mind, this week's blends will be both Irish and a little harder to come by than last week's scotch. Next week we'll go back to Scotland, then back to Ireland for the following week for some normal $20 bottlings.
Today we go back to the Powers line.
Type: Irish Blended Whiskey
Current Owner: Pernod-Ricard
Age: 12 to 24 years
Maturation: ex-bourbon American Oak
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
I gave a bit of Powers (and personal) history in my effusive Powers Gold Label report. Currently, all of their whiskey (both grain and pot still) gets distilled at the massive Midleton Distillery in Cork. The young grain and pot still whiskies go into the Gold Label blend. The whiskies over 12 years of age go into the 12yr Special Reserve -- first released in the '90s -- I'm reporting on today. A special selection of pot still only whiskies, aged 12 through 14 years, go into their John Lane's Pot Still bottling. The Special Reserve is available here in The States while the Single Pot Still is not.
I've flirted with purchasing the Special Reserve whenever I see it in a liquor store, but never committed to it. Then on April 12th, I had the pleasure of ordering it up neatly at Dublin Square Irish Pub in San Diego. It was $12 a glass which is a bit steep (and Redbreast was significantly cheaper for some reason) but I went with it anyway since it's rarely found at bars and could possibly save me the expense of buying an entire bottle blindly.
So how did it go?
Color -- Light gold (lighter than the pic above)
Nose -- Bananas + brown sugar + sweet cream + vanilla = banana split!
Palate -- Pot Still much stronger than the grain so there's some heft and spiced heat, vanilla, not dissimilar to their Gold Label but a little saltier and a little smoother
Finish -- Moderate length, some caramel, salt, then a little bitterness
Nose -- Water brings out more brown sugar, then fresh air and molasses
Palate -- Smooth and soft, delicious, think creamy maple syrup
Finish -- Improved, more maple syrup
Powers knows how to make some whiskey. While the 12yr might have a more complex nose, I actually like the cheaper and younger Gold Label better. They are similar palate-wise, but the 12yr is softer and quieter. It's more focused with fewer surprises.
Those adjectives (softer, quieter, focused) would mean all good things to some palates. If that's true for you then I recommend the 12yr. I find more character (and characteristics) in the Gold Label's mouth. I've spent considerably more time with Gold Label than any other Irish whiskey. It's a touch crazier and rougher than the 12yr, so if that's the way you play, I recommend their Gold Label.
The 12yr takes to water better than Gold, but I don't recommend hitting it with a bunch of ice because it's already so hushed. Probably wouldn't be half bad in a hot whiskey.
Again, this whole grading thing can be goofy, so this may not be final. And perhaps I will buy a bottle some day and rethink it...
Availability - Many liquor specialists
Pricing - Great at $29-$32
Rating - 83