Mike brought up the contentious issue of sourcing whiskey last month. Micil have followed the sourcing playbook by the letter; they’ve released poitín and liqueurs but have decided to run the gauntlet and face the conundrum posed by Mike: run a reputational risk or wait until the spirit is ready and potentially run a financial risk? The reputational risk is chosen, what will the outcome be?
Having enjoyed the heritage poitín, I approached Mark McLaughlin, brand ambassador for Micil, to ask whether he would be interested in the WOL reviewing Micil’s latest whiskey releases. The brand, the poitín and values emanating from Micil made me feel confident that the whiskey they have sourced and managed would be of appropriate quality. Fortunately, Mark obliged, and I received two very generous samples of their double release: the Inverin Small Batch and the Earls Island Single Pot Still Irish whiskey. Before we look at each of them, it’s worth stating that Micil openly declares their whiskey as sourced; although there is no indication of where it is sourced from, the information is there, and transparency is affirmed.
Micil’s mission statement for these whiskies was to source mature whiskey and exceptional finishing casks to create flavours not seen before in Irish whiskey. They are said to be inspired by the distilling traditions of poitín makers, the historic legal distilleries of Galway city and the ingredients used. This exciting take could go either way.
First up, the Inverin. Inspired by Micil’s ‘rich’ distilling history, it is said to invoke aromas of the illicit stills and Kilns of Inverin. It’s made up of a 5-part peated Micil Blend, which consists of 45% ex-bourbon grain, 20% triple distilled peated malt, 20% virgin grain, 10% double distilled malt and 5% triple distilled pot still. The Inverin is subsequently broken down into three cask finishes; 47.5% of it was finished in re-char ex-bourbon American oak casks, 47.5% in PX European oak casks, with a 5% double distilled malt finished in a heritage poitín chestnut cask and PX cask. It’s bottled at 46% and has no added colouring or chill filtering; both absences are clearly stated on the label.
Nose: Quite fruity initiallywith pears and some green apples, bringing vibrancy and freshness to the nose. Some savoury came through with buttery toast, then it’s back to sweet notes, this time red liquorice and light vanilla. Overall, the nose is quite floral and perfumy, and whilst intertwined with a sweet smoky note coming through excellently.
Palate: Some smoke initially; it’s certainly not overpowering and provides a nice edge. There’s also a peppery spice to it and a herbaceous note with peppermint becoming more evident throughout the palate. Some of the fruit from the nose endures, but it morphs from pears into pear drops this time. The smoke is constant throughout, but there’s also roast chicken crisps and rum and raisin ice cream.
Finish: Quite clean and crisp. Probably around medium length, but there are a few different elements to the finish. The sweetness from the end of the palate, then there’s the peppery spice. Then more of the herbaceous, soft mint, which switches into coconut.
Next is the Micil Earls Island Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey. The great Galway distilleries and Latin wine merchants who ‘made their way home’ have inspired the Bordeaux red wine cask finish. It’s made of two different components of triple distilled pot still whiskey. 75.5% of it is finished in Bordeaux red wine French oak cask, and 24.5% is finished in peated whiskey American Oak quarter casks. As stated, it’s bottled at 46% again and has no chill filtering or added colouring.
Nose: Not your typical SPS, but whiskey that’s been heavily influenced by its cask. An immediate stoned fruit complex of maraschino cherries. Then there’s a prevalent desert note consisting of black forest gateau and rhubarb crumble. Then more sweet shop nostalgias of jammy dodgers and giant strawberries.
Palate: The jammy notes linger on with jam reduction, Victoria sponge, jam doughnut and lots of marzipan as well. Then there’s some resemblance of an SPS too, with spice and cinnamon. The peaty element comes through nicely too; the lower component makes it pleasant and not overpowering at all.
Finish: There’s a warmth to the medium finish, with pink peppercorns giving it depth. The dram fades eventually with a vanilla softness.
I have to say that I am pretty sceptical about sourced whiskies, particularly at lower price points. I think that I’ve tasted too many that fall way short of what is good quality, and like Mike opines, it’s just to ‘get something out there.’ This, however, is different, and I will hopefully articulate why.
The Inverin. At first look, this might read like a Frankenstein’s monster of a concoction. However, it’s more like a Micil Masterpiece; it’s actually quite a balanced and considered blend. There’s depth, variety and pleasantness throughout this dram. In terms of price, it’s probably just about right and is certainly one of the better blends I have tasted recently, perhaps because it’s different and inventive.
The Earls Island. This is a decent Irish pot still. There’s a slight resemblance to a typical pot still, but I think the red wine cask accentuates the notes and makes it pleasant and diverse. The added peated element conforms it to history and gives it extra depth. In terms of the its pitch, I ranked Redbreast 12 as a 7.5 as I consider it to be excellent, and considering both are pitched around the same price, there is a slight difference in score. However, I would still consider 6.5 a strong score for this brand’s first whiskey in its infancy development.
Whilst the component break-down on the website is excellent for both whiskies, there is no indication of the age of the spirit. This isn’t necessarily an issue, but we at the WOL have become quite the advocates of complete transparency, and it’s something we would like to see.
So back to the original question, is this a reputational risk? Absolutely, but I think it has paid off. Have no doubt that these are not your ‘run of the mill’ sourced whiskies to get the Micil word out there. They’re well-thought-out and clever whiskies that epitomise the principles that Micil have strove to foster.
Disclosure: The samples that informed this article were provided to the Water of Life team by Micil distillery free of charge. Micil distillery have not had any other input into this article, nor has the Water of Life team relinquished any editorial control.