Being notably peated, the inaugural chapter emerged in 2020, followed by Chapter Two in 2021, finished in a first fill Port pipe and refill Bourbon cask. The concluding sixth chapter is reserved for release in 2025, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Old Midleton site, which operated from 1825 to 1975.
‘When it’s gone, it’s gone, which is sad in some ways, breaking the link to the old distillery,’ said Kevin O’Gorman, the Master Distiller and head of maturation of the County Cork based, Midleton, upon launching Chapter Three at the Adare Manor hotel.
Priced at £42,500 apiece, just 97 bottles were made available, and feature, from 1973, single pot distilled malted barley with a small percentage (2-3%) of oats which, noted O’Gorman, were deployed ‘as a filtration aid’. The whiskey was drawn from two refill casks in which the spirits spent the entirety of their 47 years, being Bourbon and sherry, amounting to the final strength of 55.7%. ‘I first saw the sherry butt, being cask no. 5513, and Bourbon barrel, no. 41424 when I joined Midleton in 1998,’ he recalled. ‘They were pointed out to me during my first week and I kept a close eye on them over the years in my role in maturation. It is a special honour to launch them to the world.’
Soaring, art deco style decanters for Chapter Three were individually hand blown by the House of Waterford, encapsulated in rare burr elm by John Galvin, a master craftsman who previously created a coffret for Bowmore’s 1965 Vintage Washback Edition. For Chapter Three, the design is inspired by embers from the fire which would have heated what was, back in 1854, the largest pot still in the world at the Old Midleton Distillery.
So, how does The Third Chapter taste? The nose is led by fruit, not oak, featuring cherries, blackberries and blackberry leaf, red apple and plum, then brown sugar, tobacco, orange peel and leather, a hint of green olive, green bell pepper and finally, white pepper. On the juicy palate, a Campari-like bitterness gives way to banana, roasted coffee, dulce de leche, dried forest mushroom and fleeting greengage. The tannins are resolved and the lasting impression is this is a drink which still has youth on its side.
O’Gorman is the fourth person in 75 years to command the title of Master Distiller at Midleton. He walks in the footsteps of previous Master Distillers, Max Crockett, and his son Barry, who created Midleton Very Rare.
Having been raised on a dairy farm in North Cork, O’Gorman loves farming, ‘though one of the beauties of working in whiskey is that I get to deal with barley and malt growers, as well as forestry, sawmills and cooperages, which in a way is linked to farming.’
To continue the legacy of his forebears, O’Gorman takes on graduates including young distillers, scientists and engineers, ‘such as Katherine Condon who was originally at our Micro Distillery, becoming the Distiller of main operations two years ago.’
Retailers for Chapter Three include Harrods, Hedonism, Harvey Nichols, Master of Malt, Berry Bros & Rudd, Bordeaux Index and Fortnum & Mason.