Friday, 1 March 2013

Green Spot Story



hmm... looks like wine...
This isn’t actually an historical and factual story of Green Spot single pot still Irish whisky, but rather my convoluted story that culminates in me getting hold of a bottle, which I’m sure you will find absolutely fascinating. Incidentally, if you do want to know a bit of factual information about Green Spot, allow me to recommend Scotchnoob’s review, which you can find here.

In 2002, when I was still in a band, we were offered the chance to play a gig in Dublin. We booked flights with Easyjet or Ryanair, and arranged to stay with the band that invited us, and borrow their amps.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. The gig was cancelled, and Pits and I were left with two tickets to Dublin and no reason to go. Brenda and I decided we would go instead, but sadly this didn’t happen either; accommodation looked to cost more than we could afford, and it was proving impossible to get through to the airline’s phone number to change the name on Pits’ ticket. So we decided to write it off – couldn’t really afford to, but we couldn’t afford to go either.

I’ve still never been to Dublin, but I would very much like to. I know, I know, it should be easy enough, but it won’t be happening in the next year. The missus and I have already got our various travel plans mentally arranged, so sadly it looked like there would be no opportunity for me to indulge in a bit of Irish whisky collecting – outside of a trip to Tesco.

But, just when I’d given up hope, I had a text from my friend Dave, telling me he was going to Dublin for a couple of days. I wouldn’t normally get all that excited about other people’s travel plans, but I think I was having a bit of a bad week, and for some reason that cheered me right up.

Figuring Dave might have his own Duty Free requirements, I suggested that, you know, if you don’t, and if it’s not too much trouble, would you consider picking me up some nice Irish whisky?

Absolutely no problem, said Dave. He actually sounded delighted to do so, but what did I have in mind? Well, my mind was fairly blank – I just knew that I wanted something I couldn’t buy in Tesco, so I had a quick look at The Whisky Exchange. It wasn’t far down the page that I found Green Spot, another whisky that I recalled reading about in 101 Whiskies toTry Before You Die

It’s surprising, the amount of information in that book that turns out to be inaccurate – or rather, to have changed since publication. Green Spot, it says, is produced in small batches of only 6000 bottles every year. I don’t know how many bottles are produced each year now, but this whisky is much more readily available than it once was - due to Irish Distillers Ltd acquiring the distribution licence in 2011 (thanks, Scotchnoob). I suppose I’ll never know whether that has had any impact upon its quality, though Scotchnoob’s review suggests that while the whisky isn’t supposed to have changed, some suspect the newer packaged product is younger and lighter.

Dave had a lovely time in Dublin. He and his missus visited the Guinness brewery, where they learned to pour a “perfect” pint, and then visited the Jameson distillery where they learned some pretty interesting things. [If I remember rightly] they were shown inside a barrel with some new make whisky in it that was almost full, then a barrel of [let’s say] 12 year old that was only half full, and then a barrel of [again, the effect is more important than exact detail] 18 year old that was perhaps a quarter full.

I had always thought that older whisky was more expensive simply because of the amount of time it had to be sitting in a warehouse, not making any money before it could be sold – that’s basic accounting principles. It turns out though, that it is at least as much to do with evaporation of the product –you see, the longer you age it, the less of it you have. This evaporation is known as the angel’s share, which coincidentally is also the title of a 2012 Ken Loach film that I’d never heard of previously…

Suddenly older whiskies don’t seem quite so expensive. In fact, that (again, at thewhiskyexchange) you can buy a 12 year old bottle of Jameson for £50 and an 18 year old bottle for £70, makes the 18 year old start to sound like a bargain! I would just hope the 18 year old is actually better than the 12 year old – not always the case.

Well, I found all that fascinating. Incidentally, Dave also said he took the opportunity to get himself a ‘proper’ whisky glass. When I questioned him about it later though, it turned out not to be the Glencairn glass, but something else entirely, with ‘Jameson’ written on it.

He did indeed come through with the whisky though, and returned bearing a bottle of Green Spot, exactly as requested. Thanks Dave, it’s much appreciated. I’d told him my budget would stretch to £40, and it came in at £35. Cash back; though he did say they were selling it at the Distillery for £60, so it’s a good job he waited to try Duty Free.

It’s not much to look at – in fact, it looks like a wine bottle – but I had high hopes for this, the first bottle of Irish whisky I’d ever try that wasn’t (strictly) Jameson, even though it is distilled at the Jameson distillery, so really it is Jameson, isn’t it? It’s nice to build up a little anticipation, so I waited about a week before allowing myself to open it.

When the right Sunday night came, the missus and I settled down in front of The Inbetweeners Movie, and I opened proceedings with a glass of the Dewar’s, that I might then have something to compare the Green Spot with. I could tell straight away that the Green Spot was a little classier, but the difference wasn’t so pronounced as to push it into the special category. Indeed, it wasn’t until a week (and two glasses) later that this whisky began to show its worth. In fact, I’ve since concluded that Sunday night is not the best time to drink your special spirits. I don’t know about you, but heavy drinking on Friday and Saturday night usually means there is some interference in my tasting faculties by Sunday – or so it seems.

 This time then, we were watching a weird French film called Lemming. I poured a generous glass, and enjoyed it about as much as I think it is possible to enjoy a glass of whisky without, I don’t know, being naked and in the company of a beautiful lady.

The liquid felt soft and oily, it played around the tongue, causing excited jets of saliva to spring forth and enclose it like your cosiest duvet. It was delightful, and was followed by a tinge of sadness when I finally allowed myself to finish the glass around 45 minutes later. Fantastic. I can’t wait till I bring it out again.

That’s all I have to say about Green Spot for now, though I do want to take this opportunity, to set the record straight about the Dewar’s. Once again, I have allowed myself to judge too soon, and it turns out I haven’t been entirely fair. The Dewar’s has revealed itself (over quite a long time) to be a far more complex blend than I have been giving it credit for. Yes, it has the blend taste, but it can also be woody and sweet by turns and has a generous finish. I hereby recommend it. And I recommend Green Spot, too.

That then, brings me to the various pre-weekend formalities. It’s looking like being a quiet one for me tonight, but I’ll still get some of the spirits out – nothing special though; given my hungover state, that was brought on by going a bit mad at the Manchester Whisky Club’s Tomatin night, I think the good stuff would be wasted on me. There’s always tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, our good friends Gav and Clare are coming over, and I’m actually looking forward to opening some wine, because I attempted to follow the advice that Clare gave me after last week’s How DoYou Select Wine? post. We’ll see how I did, and I’ll probably be blogging about all that at some point in the future, so look out for it.

So yes, tomorrow will be drinking and eating, two of my favourite things. I’ve also heard that the legendary DJ Premier is appearing at Sound Control, and I’m wondering whether that might be on the cards later…

Whatever you’re doing, make sure it’s booze-fuelled and trouble free, eh? Have a good un.

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