Proper respect to Eric Sanford. Thanks to him, I can present an of-the-moment whiskey post!
I love Power's Gold Label blended whiskey.
I like Power's 12 year old blended whiskey.
I love single pot still Irish whiskey.
Power's John's Lane 12 year old single pot still Irish whiskey has found its way to the United States.
John's Lane has been available in Ireland and Scotland for almost two years now. In fact I was in Heathrow in the Spring of 2011 when the PR push began for it. Too bad I didn't know what the heck was going on at the time. The rep at World of Whiskies trying to tell me about it and I was all, "Yeah, but I like Powers and it's $20 at home, why would I pay $60 for this stuff?" (Just now I sighed aloud.) Even though he didn't sell me on it, the whiskey has since sold itself and rung up many rave reviews.
Let's back up for two sentences of history: After a bunch of Irish distillers banded together in 1966 to form, well, Irish Distillers, they moved their production into a single large distillery, Midleton (in 1974). Midleton Distillery, in Cork, has since grown and grown and grown in a facility with a production capacity FIVE TIMES the size of Diageo's new Roseisle Distillery.
As the whisky-makers in Midleton strive to keep as many of their old whisky brands alive they create separate whiskies by establishing different cuts in the spirit, different maturation processes, different combinations of grains, and a bunch of other elements that they are much too happy to keep confidential. One of those brands, John Power's and Sons, was always very popular in Ireland when it was being produced at its original home on John's Lane in Dublin. Under Midleton's watch it has continued to be one of the best (if not THE best) sellers in its home country.
Beyond the big selling blends, Irish Distillers continued to produce pot-still-only (aka Pure Pot Still and Single Pot Still) whiskey in smaller quantities for the folks at home. But they could only keep that secret in Ireland for so long, especially when that secret goes by the names of Redbreast and Green Spot. After an international release, the critical and sales success of Redbreast 12 year old enabled additional varieties of Redbreast as well as expansion into other single pot still brands.
And this brand is the one I have been waiting for:
Style: Single Pot Still
Age: at least 12 years (up to 14 years)
Maturation: mostly first* fill ex-bourbon barrels, along with some oloroso sherry butts (*though another official site says second fill)
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
In order to get some perspective on the John's Lane whiskey, I sampled it alongside some Redbreast 12yr Cask Strength Batch 1 reduced to 46%. I've also noticed there are two schools of thought on John's Lane. One is that it is light bodied. The other says it is robust. My opinion sits with the latter.
The color is a dark gold, partially due to some sherry butts, partially due to some caramel e150a.
There's a bold density in the nose that proves to be a challenge to decipher. Like a tall thick dark brown wall made of brown sugar and semisweet chocolate. Beneath that are some overripe white fruits and maybe some figs or dates. A new leather jacket, fresh apricots, and hay. Scattered baked fruit floating in a caramel fudge lake. That's the best I can do after spending an hour with two ounces.
With a nice thick texture, the palate is either more basic than the nose or I haven't figured it out yet. I get baked bananas, dark brown sugar, and a tangy sweetness. Plus there's an industrial note that one can find in body temperature Power's Gold Label.
The whiskey plants its roots deep, leaving an extensive finish behind. Spiced baked fruits, caramel sauce, dried grasses and grains. Maybe a little of that brown sugar too.
Water doesn't help it much. Whatever mystique and density it had evaporates. The wall topples and Power's Gold Label is what's left standing, as it gets grainier and blendy.
Like Redbreast 12yr CS (at its full strength), John's Lane is more of a brooder than a casual beverage. It must be insane at cask strength. Though, as I noticed when adding water, the Midleton folks have found a good ABV point here at 46%. I'm firmly of the opinion that this is dense stuff, especially since the reduced Redbreast CS was so light in comparison. At the same time, I agree with Ralfy's assessment that this is a modern heavily-produced whiskey rather than a lean mean old school whiskey. But "modern" isn't necessarily a bad thing here since the Irish Distillers have built something sturdy with many levels.
I will study further, with a bottle of my own.
Availability - Starting to arrive in the US now...
Pricing - $65-$75 in US and UK (w/shipping)
Rating - 90 (with an Irish bias)