Method & Madness Core Range Review
In Autumn 2015 a new micro-distillery was opened at Midleton just beside the existing distillery with the sole purpose of experimentation and innovation. It has a production capacity of around 400 casks a year. To quote the brand website 'Method & Madness is a whiskey brand hatched from the minds of the Masters and Apprentices of Midleton Distillery'. (It all sounds a bit Jedi versus Sith to me!)
There are quite a broad palate of people involved in this new venture, Master & Apprentice Blenders, Distillers, Coopers, Whiskey Scientists to name a few. So it is with genuine anticipation that I look forward to what they produce as Irish whiskey isn't quite so strictly curtailed as Scotch. For example, all Scotch whisky must be distilled, matured & bottle in Scotland and must only be matured in oak casks to be called Scotch. Irish whiskey has a bit more free reign as regards the choice of timber for maturation. As such in this first release from the Method & Madness range we see French Chestnut being used for maturation purposes.
The range consists of Single Grain, Single Pot-still & Single Malt whiskies. Single Malt? From Midleton? Well, not quite. When Irish Distillers agreed to sell Bushmills to Diageo part of the agreement included a package of Bushmills Single Malt being shipped to Midleton, hence the Single Malt aspect of the first Method & Madness releases.
All the whiskies reviewed are bottled at 46% (Yay), non-chill filtered (double yay) but there is no mention of natural colouring (oh well, as Meatloaf sang, 'Two out of three ain't bad).
Again as their website quotes, "There will be trial, and error, and brilliant bottled breakthroughs that start with 'What If?' ". So let's see if they have indeed bestoyed the world with some 'brilliant bottled breakthroughs'!
M&M Single Grain - retails around £40
A no-age-statement whiskey initially matured in ex-bourbon barrels the light grain spirit has been finished for 12 months in virgin Spanish oak from Galicia, North West Spain.
Freshly sharpened pencils, vanilla, butterscotch, clove oil.
A medium mouth feel with honey & vanilla sweetness that bursts into black pepper, cloves & dry oak.
The initial sweetness fades quickly leaving a tingling clove spiciness and a hint of peppermint.
M&M Single Pot-still - retails around £60-£65
A no-age-statement single pot-still whiskey matured in a combination of ex-oloroso sherry casks & ex-bourbon casks before a further finish in French Chestnut casks from the Isére region of France.
Deep amber with a dash of copper
Rich sherry aromas, autumn spices (ginger, cinnamon & nutmeg), fennel notes, vanilla, pear & melon
Warm & peppery, coffee, creme caramel, dried tropical fruit, cocoa powder, intense autumn spices.
The tannins and spices combine for a long, spicy & dry finish.
M&M Single Malt - retails around £65-£70
A Bushmills spirit distilled in 2001/02 and aged for 14 years. Initially aged in ex-bourbon barrels before being part aged in French Limousin Oak normally used for Cognac maturation.
Some floral notes with the usual Bushmills house style of peaches, apricots & bananas. A little oak & spice eventually works its way to the fore.
Amazing interplay between sweet & spicy. Green apple & pears pushed aside by stewed red fruit. Milk chocolate, all spice and white pepper. Slight menthol edge at the end.
The counter play of sweet & spicy continues, eventually the spice wins leaving a pleasant warming of the back of the throat.
I really enjoyed all three of these expressions. I loved the clove spiciness of the Single Grain finished in the virgin oak. The Single Malt was a great example of what Bushmills could produce if they put their minds to it, vibrant, full of flavour & really interesting. Of the three though the Single Pot-still really stood out, so much so I bottle a bottle. It is sweet, spicy, aromatic and complex with the French Chestnut enhancing the vanilla, caramel & cocoa notes. 900 cases of this were bottled and I would urge anyone to seek this expression out.
Price wise I thought that the Single Grain & Pot-still were about on point but I feel the Single Malt is just a bit too pricey, especially with many outlets pricing it at nearly £70 for a 14 year old whiskey. However, the quality of all three liquids is undeniably good.
There is also a 31 Single Grain expression matured exclusively in just three refill bourbon barrels which allowed for around 100 bottles from each cask, bottled at cask strength between 51.3% & 52.5% abv. Price? Only around £1,250 per bottle. Now as I have not tasted this precious liquid I cannot state whether it warrants the price, however as I recently purchased a Dumbarton (closed distillery) 30 year old Single Grain whisky at cask strength and one of only 197 bottles at a lot less than a tenth of the price of this expression, I do wonder if Method & Madness can really justify a price such as that. My own shallow pockets will unlikely be able to answer that conundrum I'm afraid!