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  • Writer's pictureNigel

Blue Spot review

Updated: Jan 10, 2021

Context matters.

Without context, the release of an Irish whiskey in the closing months of 2020 would be of relatively little interest: another entrant into an increasingly crowded marketplace. A single pot still Irish whiskey would raise more interest, for sure, and one served aged seven years at cask strength would be more notable still. But this release is far more intriguing as it rounds out the famous Spot Whiskey range which can be considered one of the most popular Irish whiskey ranges. So Blue Spot must be considered, not only on its own merits, but in the context of its siblings.

Take Redbreast’s standard range and excluding the Dream Cask outliers. The twelve-year-old is exceptional value and the twelve-year-old cask strength is simply exceptional. The twenty-one-year-old is arguably the pinnacle of Irish single pot still whiskey. So, where does the fifteen-year-old fit in to retain relevance? Therein lies the challenge for any addition to the spot range.

In Victorian times, the Mitchell family of Dublin were whiskey bonders based on and around Grafton Street. They acquired barrels of whiskey from the Jameson distillery from nearby Bow Street, appraised them appropriately and then bottled and sold them. When appraising the whiskeys, each barrel was reviewed and judged separately, and a spot of paint was applied to each barrel to show for how many years it should be matured before release – a blue spot on the barrel denoted a whiskey to be matured for seven years; green ten; yellow twelve and red for fifteen. Blue Spot whiskey is the final addition to the core range. According to lore, the recipes and bottlings were lost during the dark days of Irish whiskey from the 1950s for half a century with the exception of Green Spot.

It is impossible to consider Blue Spot without comparing and contrasting to the other spot whiskeys. Like the youngest sibling, it has the advantage of standing on the shoulders of its sisters and, further, as the whiskey here is from Midleton, it has the advantage of history and heritage. With such lineage and pedigree, however, comes the weight of expectation.

I was lucky enough to try Red Spot at Whiskey Live in Dublin in 2019. Green Spot was a staple for me, and one I regularly recommended to friends and, truthfully, anyone who’d listen to me promote Irish whiskies. Yellow Spot was different, perhaps more subtle. So, when Red Spot was announced, I was looking forward very much to tasting it. With the fifteen year maturation and the cost associated with it, expectation and enthusiasm was high. Red Spot is a fine whiskey, but I couldn’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed by the experience. The weight of lineage and pedigree is not inconsiderable.

And so, to the tasting.

The nose is unmistakably part of the Midleton and Spot ranges. The balance of spice and sweetness seems right, and allows the lighter notes of greener fruits to linger, along with the gentlest hint of wood at the edges. There’s pleasing depth to the nose and the spirit (at 58.7% abv) is remarkable by its absence.

On tasting, the cask strength comes through with a certain brashness and boldness. The alcohol is there, but it’s neither overwhelming nor even unpleasant. The wood has a stronger influence here, and the finish is long and satisfying. There is spice here, for sure, and it mixes nicely with the heat of the alcohol base with the typically Irish notes of vanilla coming through, particularly in the finish which has almost chocolate hints.

This is a fine whiskey. The nose is very good indeed and the taste reinforces this – almost fully. It’s incredible how the fierce ABV is tamed by the flavours. So, as a standalone whiskey, Blue Spot hits the mark. It also can hold its identity within the spot range, which in itself is no mean feat. There’s a little touch of an edge to this one, which is different to its more refined siblings. It’s a perfect whiskey to elevate an evening.

The spot range is now complete, and while we may see future variations on the Green Spot, this is the one I'll watch most keenly. As time passes, we'll find different strengths and character in the Blue Spot releases. As an indivdual release, it's impressive. However, beyond this, it strengthens the entire spot range by delivering a potent finish to an already strong range. Blue Spot has a voice, and it's loud. The range is stronger for it, and that's something that was incredibly challenging to deliver. In the end, context mattered.

For its ABV, it’s keenly priced at around €80 for a bottle.

Review rating (Nigel) - 8/10

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