For our September tasting, Waterford Whiskey Society welcomed Derek King, the brand ambassador for Midleton’s Powers Whiskey range to Zoom. Currently the Powers range is undergoing a rebranding process to bring, what some perceive as a dusty old brand, into the modern world of whiskey. Powers began back in 1791 at John’s Lane just outside Dublin cities walls and has a long legacy of being a staple in the home of Irish families for many generations. The famous “Diamond P” logo was registered in 1877 and continues to this day along with the motto that everything had to be “a measure above”. Derek decided to give us a twist on our usual tastings and brought us through the deconstruction of both Three Swallow Release and Johns Lane, which certainly did not disappoint.
Firstly, Derek took us through the deconstruction of Three Swallows Release beginning with the finished liquid. This has an ABV of 40% and is a great whiskey to introduce newcomers to pot still whiskey, a blend of malted and unmalted barley, triple distilled. This whiskey is spicy on the nose with notes of cloves, green apple, marzipan and barley. On the palate it has a creamy mouth feel, a mellow spice with hints of citrus like grapefruit. The finish is quick and sweet with honey and burnt sugar. This whiskey is made up of 7% Sherry cask and 93% Bourbon cask liquid. All Powers distillate is LMP – light Midleton pot still and is aged differently for the variety of blends.
Derek took us through the thought process behind the rebranding of the Three Swallows label, which gets it’s name from the original Powers family whose three carriage men were treated to a hip flask filled with enough for one swallow each on the cold nights while waiting for the family to return from parties. Also, in those days many were illiterate so to be able to distinguish a whiskeys age, one swallow bird on the label meant a young whiskey, three swallows meant a whiskey of 7 years pot still. The new colour of teal on the label reflects the colour of sunlight bouncing off a swallow’s wing in flight.
Following on came the components, firstly a 1st Fill Bourbon liquid at 56% ABV bottled on 2nd of February 2014. This had a boozy heat, oily and direct and sharp on the nose. Its notes on the palate were marzipan, tropical fruit, crème brulee, and overripe bananas.
Next came the 2nd Fill Bourbon Whiskey at 59.2% ABV bottled on 20th March 2013. This component of the Three Swallows is fresh on the nose with a hint of mint and red pepper. It is dry on the palate with notes of star anise, Christmas spices, citrus peel and red fruits.
Finally came the sherry element, a 1st Fill Sherry 9-year-old whiskey, bottled on the 23rd December 2011 at 60.1% ABV. It has hints of steeped blackberries, Christmas cake with an earthy background of forest floor and damp cardboard, peppery on the tip with a deep strawberry finish – a very nice whiskey on its own.
Next came the Johns Lane deconstruction starting with the original Johns Lane, released in 2011 at 46% ABV. This whiskey is dark and earthy, rich on the nose with hints of bergamot, apricot and marmalade. It is spicy on the tongue with a buttery mouth feel and a dark fruit finish – a real quality pot still whiskey at a very reasonable price. Johns Lane is made up of 10% Sherry Cask and 90% Bourbon Cask.
Derek took us through a real trip down memory lane with some beautiful pictures from the Powers archives of Powers building and the people who ran the distillery down through the ages. Alfred Bernard was quoted in 1886 as saying that of all the distilleries he visited, the Powers Distillery in Dublin was “quite possibly the most beautifully efficient and perfect distillery”.
Next was the breakdown of the Johns Lane components beginning with 1st Fill Bourbon at 59.5% ABV bottled on the 10th April 2006. This whiskey had notes of tree bark, a dark aroma of coffee sliced with fruit salad. It was smooth on the tongue and had a quick finish with an explosion of summer berries, dry, charred oak, vanilla and balsamic vinegar.
The 2nd Fill Bourbon at 59.2% bottled on the 18th April 2006 was a real surprise. It was berries on the nose. On the palate it had hints of hedgerow, cherry, forest, honey stewed rhubarb and wood.
Next came the 1st Fill Sherry bottled on the 4th February 2002 at 57.2% ABV. This 18 year old whiskey was a huge hit. It was smokey with notes of tobacco, coffee, dark orange chocolate. On the nose it was spicy, Christmassy and dark. Essentially this whiskey was big on taste and big on volume.
Finally, to finish of the evening Derek gave us the Johns Lane Cask Strength at 58.2% ABV to taste. Lighter in colour to the original Johns Lane, it was vatted straight from the barrels. This was truly a delicious whiskey and a lovely discussion ensued after 9 samples of whiskey on the merits of cask strength whiskey or if it was overrated.
We would like to thank Derek for a great evening full of great whiskey and lively discussions and we look forward to seeing you all at the next tasting. As always we would like to thank the committee members for all their hard work in preparing and organising the tasting.
Regards from the committee of the Waterford Whiskey Society.