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Midleton Very Rare 2023: Tasting Notes and Review

Kevin O'Gorman reveals the 40th version of the annual release, and his third as master distiller.

By Alex Martin

Irish Distillers, the company behind some of the biggest Irish whiskey brands, has taken a brave step towards sustainability after substituting the traditional Midleton Very Rare wooden box with a recycled one for the 2023 edition.

Now in its 40th year, the annual Midleton Very Rare release is a jewel in Irish whiskey’s crown. Master distiller Kevin O’Gorman uses single pot still and single grain Irish whiskeys aged in American oak casks to create a blend that encompasses the best Irish whiskey flavor profiles.

It is an occasion whiskey, popular at weddings, landmark birthdays and for gifting. That makes the decision to veer away from a solid wooden box such a big one, as it dilutes its sense of luxury. But the company is committed to a long-term sustainable strategy, which means moving away from virgin packaging to something with a smaller footprint.

[See also: The Best Scotch Whisky Brands in the World]

Midleton Very Rare Series
This is the 40th release in the Midleton Very Rare Series / ©Irish Distillers

The company claims that the new recyclable packaging has reduced fossil fuel and greenhouse gas emissions by 53% compared to the previous box, athis is only the start. Irish Distillers has committed to removing all unrecyclable secondary packaging from its entire portfolio by 2025.

But the box is the box. What really matters is what’s inside it. While there is a foundational flavor running through every Midleton Very Rare, each expression has its own distinct profile. For the Midleton Very Rare 2023, O’Gorman has increased the number of first refill casks in the blend, which, ironically, brings more wood-spice notes to the profile.

So while 2021 and 2022 were both on the sweeter side of the scale, the 2023 edition is one for those who like older, more mature whiskeys. It also puts O’Gorman’s skill as a distiller on full display. First taking charge of the series in 2021, he has already produced three distinctive expressions using essentially the same ingredients.

[See also: Behind Midleton Very Rare’s Dair Ghaelach Series]

O’Gorman said: “Each year, it is a privilege and an honor to pour through the samples of exceptional liquids stored in the Midleton warehouses to create the next pinnacle of luxury Irish whiskey, and the 2023 vintage is no different.

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“The tradition and history of Midleton Distillery means I am lucky enough to sample some of the finest Irish whiskeys in existence. Finding the perfect blend of single pot still and single grain whiskeys for this year is a testament to those who have gone before me, while the presentation of the liquid in recyclable packaging is a step towards the future for this historic brand.”

Midleton Very Rare 2023 Tasting Notes

Nose: An initial fruitiness with green apples and pears mixed in with freshly crushed ginger. Hazelnut praline takes over as the heavier notes develop, but the wood influence remains present throughout. Clearly, a healthy mix of old and mature whiskeys have made it into the blend.

Palate: A surprising amount of wooded spice initially, but very little in the way of tannins. In fact, there is no dryness at all – a remarkable feat of blending. The texture is creamy and the initial notes are fragrant. Loose tea, fresh mint and dried flowers. The wooded spice continues to develop on the palate, mixed in with some citrus fruits.

Finish: The finish is almost all oak tannins, but still retains a creamy texture. It is a finish usually reserved for the maturest and oldest of whiskeys.

Overall: Considering this is the first release in 33 years not to have a wooden box, it is ironic that the liquid has relied heavily on the wooded influence of first-fill bourbon casks. The idea behind Midleton Very Rare is that each expression has its own character and this is a marked step away from O’Gorman’s previous two versions. It will suit a seasoned drinker and provides plenty of bang for the buck. Don’t let the packaging distract you, this is a release as engrained in wood as ever before.

Midleton Very Rare 2023 is bottled at 40% ABV and will be available in select stores throughout 2023 at an SRP of $250,

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