These two new whiskeys are the latest additions to Irish Distillers' experimental Method & Madness range of whiskeys. Both continue the brand's tradition of using unorthadox casks for maturation. Both are single pot still whiskeys with one being finished in casks made from cherry wood and the other in casks made from acacia wood. Both are also bottled at 46% ABV.
The Method & Madness range was launched in 2017 carrying the tag line of 'when knowledge and discovery collide'. The range is designed to push the boundaries of Irish whiskey and showcase some of the most innovative work that the blenders, coopers and distillers are producing. It also aims to combine the creativity of the whiskey makers and enthusiasm and fresh ideas of their apprentices. Many of the experiments are taking place at the Midleton Micro Distillery in Co. Cork.
The Wild Cherry Wood Finish has seen nine single pot still whiskeys part-matured in casks with wood sourced from France. The finishes range from seven months to four years to add increased complexity. Initial maturation was in ex-bourbon or ex-sherry casks. It is available in selected markets including Ireland, the UK and travel retail with a cost of £82/€92 per bottle.
The Acacia Wood Finish has again seen initial maturation in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks before being transferred to casks made with acacia wood, again sourced from France. The whiskeys have undergone finishing periods ranging from one to four years. This release will be exclusive to the Celtic Whiskey Shop in Ireland and a bottle will cost £82/€92.
Our tasting notes
Method & Madness Wild Cherry Wood Finish
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is highly perfumed and slightly feisty. There are aromas of green apple, vanilla, gingerbread and icing sugar with hints of tropical fruit (think of lychee and mango especially). Underneath are further aromas of delicate woody spices with cinnamon and all-spice most noticeable, along with a pinch of clove.
On the palate this whiskey initially feels quite light, vibrant and delicate. Sweetness leads the way with sugar syrup, vanilla extract and a hint of toffee leading the way. Then comes the fruit elements - think of crisp green apples and pears mingling with peach, lychee and mango. There are also increasingly influential notes of dessicated coconut and fresh ginger. The warmth of the ginger is accentuated by later notes of white pepper and the woody spices from the nose, although these are more dominant than before. This combined warmth carries through to the finish, which would be quite short without it. The spiciness gives a mouthwatering bittersweet and dry feel.
Method & Madness Acacia Wood Finish
The colour is a deep amber, almost walnut brown, and the nose is rich and expressive. There are aromas of golden syrup, milk chocolate and roasted coffee beans to begin with and these evolve to give further aromas of mixed nuts, mulling spices and hints of marzipan, black treacle and orange oil. The overall feel is a heady one.
On the palate this whisky has an immediate robust and viscous feel to it. There are initial notes of creamy toffee and hard caramel, which are then joined by a distinct nuttiness. This is a mix of hazelnut praline with toasted almond and something else - the nearest we could identify was brazil nut. There are hints of fruit and these go in the tropical direction with overipe pineapple and mango to the fore, along with further hints of cooked banana. The robust feel is added to by notes of malted cereals, milky coffee mocha and increasingly heavy and warm earthy spices - think of cinnamon, cloves, cedarwood, nutmeg and charred oak. These carry through to the lengthy finish as the sweeter and spicier elements grip the taste buds and refuse to let go.
What's the verdict?
These two new additions to the Method & Madness range are both interesting in their own ways. The Wild Cherry Wood Finish is light, feisty and fresh while the Acacia Wood is much heavier, richer and spicier. They present two quite contrasting aroma and flavour profiles, and add two further styles to the experimental range. It will be interesting to see what other unorthadox casks or whiskeys appear through Method & Madness as time passes. A very interesting project.