Viscous, bristling, “Single Pot Still.” It’s the Irish classic. Critically beloved and notoriously difficult to get ahold of outside the country, Ireland’s nearly forgotten “national” tipple has always been a society favourite. We even have our own bottling. And, when compared to its single malt sister, it’s not like there are really all that many bottlings to be had.
But it wasn’t always so. Born rather accidentally from a wily 18th century tax dodge, the spry gingery spices and lathery texture of the style’s mixed mashbill eventually became synonymous with Irish distilling itself. By the late 1800s, “Irish Pot Still” whiskey not only ran like the Shannon through our own country but filled the clubs and cabinets of the British Empire as “Dublin Sipping Whiskey” replaced cognac as the aristocracy’s drink of choice. When the English journalist Alfred Barnard made his grand 1886 tour of the distilleries of Ireland and Scotland, he wrote with overflowing admiration of Ireland’s “fat, creamy” pot still tipples “pronounced in the ancient aroma of Irish Whisky so dear to the hearts of connoisseurs.”
A hundred years later, nothing was left. By 1986, most of those distilleries had been reduced to rubble and the only proper “Pure Pot Still” whiskeys left were Green Spot and Redbreast. The drink that once lubricated Georgian Dublin and first convinced the world that whiskey itself was worth drinking had then vanished into near extinction. Society member Fionnán O’Connor has spent the last year and a half writing a book on this lovely liquid and, at this month’s tasting, he’ll be walking us through the story of Irish Pot Still’s tragic disappearance and miraculous revival with a flight of classics showing off all that is strange and beautiful in Irish whiskey’s spicy little secret.
Due to the scarcity and diversity of a few of this month’s tipples, we’ll be dividing a few details based on guest preference. When booking your ticket please select your booking based on which of Ireland’s two old survivors you’d prefer to explore: Redbreast or Green Spot. And, of course, if you’d prefer to sample a little of everything, book strategically with a friend and share alike. After forty “red” or “green” tickets have been booked, all subsequent tickets will have their colour assigned to them.
For those who don’t already have a definite stylistic preference:
The Red Ticket:
The classic Irish whiskey. Pot Still gingers and plenty of sherry barrel aging, resulting in a lathery, full-bodied canon of brown sugars, figgy bruised fruits and lip-lickingly gingery Christmas pudding bristles. An older, richer, style of pot still.
The Green Ticket:
A younger, spryer, pot still with a grassy menthol-tinted gingersnap grin. More overtly liquoricey than its red older brother and trading in the sherry for some less apologetic prickles and a resinous textural grip. The purist’s single pot still.
1. Green Spot: Circa. 2006, Classic screw-cap bottling
2. Redbreast 15, 2005, La Maison du Whisky
3. Powers John's Lane
4. Redbreast 12 Cask Strength 2013
5. Jameson 15 Pure Pot Still
6. Green Spot 12 (Green Ticket), Cask Strength
7. Redbreast 21 (Red Ticket)
8. Dingle Single Pot Still: Experimental spirit