...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Powers Signature Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey (bottled 2013)

Powers Gold Label was the first whisk(e)y I ever adored, and I always had a bottle on hand until Pernod Ricard rebooted the Powers line in 2013. Gold Label, a blend, received a new label and bottle shape, its ABV went up 3.2 points and its price jumped 67%. The 12 year old Special Reserve blend was pulled from the market and was replaced by two pot still Powerses, the 12yo John's Lane and the NAS Signature. As I wrote in my review of the newer Gold Label, this rebranding did not acheive the intended result. After two years, Powers' volume sales in the US dropped 33%, while the other six top Irish whiskey brands' volume rose by 28%.

I don't entirely understand what happened next. In 2015, Signature was removed from the market, and Three Swallows took its place. Both were single pot stills, both had no age statement and the price remained about the same. But the ABV was dropped from 46% to 40%. Yes, the pot still was now more watered down than the blend. Meanwhile the "three swallows" emblem and/or phrase had existed on Powers blends' labels in the past, which introduced some potential confusion. Also, Signature's and Three Swallows's packaging was identical, except for swapping out blue for green. Needless to say, I will not be purchasing a bottle of Three Swallows.

But I did buy Signature when a US retailer started slinging it for close-out prices. I'd previously had Signature at pubs, and found it reasonably good enough (and similar enough) to make the blend irrelevant. Now it's time for a proper review.

Brand: Powers (no more apostrophe?)
Style: Single Pot Still
Distillery: Midleton
Region: Cork, Ireland
Age: ???
Maturation: bourbon barrels + Oloroso sherry casks
Bottle code: L317131149 14:55
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Added colorant? Probably

Vanilla shortbread and clementines lead the nose, followed by brown sugar and almond extract. Subtler notes of tropical fruit, pickle brine and plaster linger throughout. Yes, its palate is like the current blend, but richer and sweeter with less of an industrial hardness. But at the same time it's simpler. Brown sugar, sea salt and lemon notes lift it up, and it gradually develops a Campari-like bite. The finish goes lighter on the bitter, bigger on the pepper. It's sweet, think vanilla ice cream and lemon sorbet.

As noted above, Signature is sweeter than the blend, but also less complex. It's less difficult, more friendly. It does have a good thick mouthfeel, thanks to less dilution and no chill-filtration. Yet, I opened this bottle four months ago and it's still more than half full. It sits next to the Knappogue Castle 12 year old single barrel and I reach for the KC first, almost every time. I can't find any enthusiasm for it, aside from the occasional hot whiskey. Perhaps its disappearance wasn't a terrible loss.

Availability - still available at dozens of American retailers
Pricing - $40-$60
Rating - 83