Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Maltal Combat II: The Pot Still Punch-Up

Yellow Spot vs Redbreast Cask Strength

The Fighting Pride of Ireland
Battle two in the Maltal Combat series shines the spotlight on two of Ireland's highly commended single pot still whiskies. Yellow Spot and Redbreast are stablemates hailing from County Cork's Midleton Distillery. Both have won awards on the international stage, making tonight's match-up a unification bout.

Tale of the Tape
Both whiskies are 12 years old and have similarly colourful names. After yesterday's press conference, Yellow Spot weighed in at a respectable 46% and, despite showing signs of jaundice, looked relaxed and confident. Redbreast Cask Strength tipped the scales at a hefty 58.6% and, when quizzed by reporters if the pre-fight training was taken seriously, looked a little flushed. The bookies have the Redbreast down as clear favourite as a result of its sheer power, although with such a sporting pedigree, it would be foolish to write off Yellow Spot.

Yellow Spot - 46%

Banoffee pie with a dusting of espresso. Dried banana chips, peach stones and lashings of honey. Bourbon cask influence is very much in evidence. Puts me in mind of old-school fruit salad drizzled with condensed milk.

Exactly what you'd expect. Everything you get from the nose and more besides. The espresso note is more pronounced as we near the finish and I dare say there's a decent amount of oak going on too but the dessert flavours are the dominant force here; potentially a little unbalanced. As it develops, there's a flash of bubblegum that puts me in mind of immature grain whisky but it doesn't stick around long enough to be too detrimental.

Warm and medium-long. Drying and spicy towards the end with a mouth-watering encore. This really does make use of every bit of its 46%.

On paper, the less brawny of the two but it does incredibly well with what strength it has. Compact, competent and sets the bar high, although some may find this a little too sweet. Shows some weakness when nearing the finish but definitely a contender.

Grade: B
Promising start and lively during the early rounds. Runs out of ideas a little as the fight progresses and suffers a wobble towards the end.

Redbreast Cask Strength - 58.6%

A little more grown-up and austere than the Yellow Spot but oozing quality and menace in equal measure - this could be a handful. Big sherry, black cherries and Belgian chocolate to begin with followed by a hefty slab of marzipan. Muscovado sugar, dates and sultanas. Beware: Nose prickle awaits the enthusiastic sniffer.

Oil slick! The mouthfeel is silkier than a silkworm's silkiest silk stockings. Sweet arrival but tempered with a savouriness that adds real depth of flavour. Some mildly bitter oak and chocolate, which is now dark in nature. Plum duff with more than a hint of nutmeg. Some slight graininess but nowhere near as much as the Yellow Spot.

Given its strength, not as long as I had been expecting. wood, pepper and honey and then strangely a jolt of liquorice appears from nowhere. Ends on a bitter, oaky note which is in perfect contrast to the arrival.

A real crowd-pleaser. Hugely entertaining, delivers its punches well and nicely balanced. More of a complete experience than its opponent.

Grade: A
Started slowly but never looked troubled. Got better and better as the rounds progressed and never ran out of steam. A masterclass in the noble art.

Punchy - in more ways than one
Redbreast Cask Strength (KO - Round 10)
The bookies' favourite on strength alone but it was the combination of poise and balance that was the difference in the end. A deserved winner.

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