Rare Japanese casks meet Midleton’s finest drops mixing tradition with intuition
Irish Distillers, maker of some of the world’s best-known and most successful Irish whiskeys, has unveiled an exclusive collection of Single Pot Still whiskeys, each finished in rare Japanese casks as the Masters and Apprentices behind METHOD AND MADNESS continue to combine tradition with innovation for a world class taste experience.
The limited-edition series features three showstopping Single Pot Still whiskeys including a 33-Year-Old finished in Japanese Mizunara oak for three years, and two other perfectly balanced expressions, finished respectively, in Japanese Chestnut and Japanese Cedarwood casks for over 13 months.
Sitting at the head of the collection, the 33-Year-Old Mizunara is the oldest Irish whiskey to be finished in the sought-after Japanese oak sourced from the Hokkaido region in Northern Japan, where the temperate rainforest creates the ideal growing conditions for the oak used for barrel production. The relatively high wood density and medium charring of the cask impart elevated flavours of nutmeg and vanilla to the single pot still distillate originally laid down for maturation in ex-bourbon barrels in 1988. The whiskey was then refilled into this exceptional Mizunara cask for a further three years, resulting in a perfect harmony of spicy pot still and perfumed oak. Bottled at 52.8% ABV, just 252 bottles of METHOD AND MADNESS Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Japanese Mizunara Oak Cask will be available globally at an RRP of €3,000 (700ml).
While the Mizunara Cask represents the generations of tradition and craftsmanship in which whiskey making and Japanese culture are steeped, the two younger expressions highlight the innovation and experimentation for which the distillery is renowned. Each of the single pot still distillates were first matured in bourbon and sherry barrels before a finishing period in Japanese Cedarwood Casks (ABV 48%) – a world first for the Irish whiskey category – and Japanese Chestnut Casks (ABV 48%), marking a new first for the industry.
Stunning packaging, designed by Swedish-Irish design team M&E, brings the influence of the different wood finishes to life on pack with a traditional black and gold label for the Mizunara and brightly coloured designs, inspired by the neon lights of Tokyo, for the Cedarwood and Chestnut releases. Elevating the trademark METHOD AND MADNESS marbling, the labels feature traditional Suminagashi designs – a Japanese marbling method dating back to the 12th Century. Each of the three expressions is also adorned with a unique kanji, or character, from traditional Japanese calligraphy describing the wood type and age of the liquids.
The Japanese Cedarwood expression is characterised by notes of eucalyptus and fresh botanicals, imparted by the exquisite cedar barrels traditionally favoured for Sake maturation. The cedar logs are sourced from the Kyushu region in southern Japan, where the warm wet conditions create a particularly fragrant and porous wood giving the whiskey its unique flavour profile of herbal tea, caraway seeds and clove spice alongside a delicate fruit finish.
Equally magnificent, the Japanese chestnut wood also hails from southern Japan, where the rocky terrain and abundant rainfall make for a relatively low wood density imparting notes of liquorice and lingering spice with flavours of orange zest and cooling menthol. METHOD AND MADNESS Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Finished in Japanese Cedarwood Casks and METHOD AND MADNESS Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Finished in Japanese Chestnut Casks will be available in extremely limited quantities at the RRP of €95 (700ml).
Sprung from the minds of Masters and Apprentices, METHOD AND MADNESS is a whiskey that pays heed to tradition while exploring the unordinary. As the team’s continued quest for the uncommon cask led them, this time, to Japan, they connected with the esteemed Ariake Sangyo cooperage in Miyazaki. Working alongside these expert coopers, the team was able to procure a selection of rare and precious casks and ship them back to the Micro Distillery at Midleton, Co. Cork, for the final finishing phases of these three exceptional whiskeys.
Eva O’Doherty, Distiller at the Micro Distillery, comments: “Bringing these exceptional whiskeys to life has been a joyous journey of discovery, whilst working with each of the new wood types has continued to test and challenge our whiskey making skills. Whilst we were confident we could apply tried and tested maturation methods for the Mizunara Oak Cask, the porosity of the Cedar and Chestnut wood – or Sugi and Kuri in Japanese – presented new challenges which required close observation to achieve the perfect balance of contribution. It’s an honour to share this first-of-its-kind collection as we continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in Irish whiskey making.”
Finbarr Curran, Wood Planning and Maturation Team Lead, adds: “This truly exceptional trilogy represents not only our ambition and far-reaching partnerships with some of the world’s best cooperages, but three individual triumphs in skill and innovation – the ethos which continues to drive the METHOD AND MANDESS collection. It’s with great pride that we share this with the world.”
METHOD AND MADNESS Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Japanese Mizunara Oak Cask is available now from specialist retailers in Ireland, France, UK, USA and global travel retail. METHOD AND MADNESS Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Finished in Japanese Cedarwood Casks and METHOD AND MADNESS Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Finished in Japanese Chestnut Casks will follow in late March. The whiskeys will be available exclusively via the Whisky Exchange in the UK and distributed by Castle Brands in the USA from September 2022.
The official tasting notes are as follows:
METHOD AND MADNESS Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Japanese Mizunara Oak Cask
Nose: Coffee cake, toasted nuts, worn leather
Taste: Nutmeg, vanilla, wood tannins
Finish: Pot still spice, subtle fruits, fresh oak
METHOD AND MADNESS Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Finished in Japanese Cedarwood Casks
Nose: Eucalyptus, fresh botanicals, balsamic undertones
Taste: Herbal tea, caraway seeds, clove spice
Finish: Delicate fruits, sweet-scented wood, rich spices
METHOD AND MADNESS Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Finished in Japanese Chestnut Casks
Nose: Peppermint leaves, caramelised almonds, ground pepper
Taste: Liquorice, orange zest, cooling menthol
Finish: Herbal fruits, roasted coffee, lingering spices