Midleton Very Rare – A Guide

Now I am usually very sceptical of anything that puts “rare” in their own title. Things that are designed to be collectable generally aren’t. I’ll make an exception in this case because Midleton Very Rare is arguably one of the most recognisable names in Irish whiskey.

Created in 1984 by the then Master Distiller Barry Crockett, this iconic brand was used to showcase the quality of whiskey that was being produced in the new Midleton distillery (which had only opened nine years previously in 1975). This showcase piece has been released annually ever since.

Midleton Very Rare is a bottling of hand selected whiskeys from the Midleton warehouses that is only bottled in small amounts once or twice a year. Midleton distillery is the centralised distillery for Irish Distillers, whom produce Jameson, Paddy, Powers and the single pot still ranges such as Redbreast and Green/Yellow Spot.
The whiskeys chosen are a blend of mature pot still and grain whiskey that have been matured in ex-bourbon barrels. This produces a whiskey with a base of a rich, creamy pot still character with hints of honey, citrus and a lingering peppery finish.
That said, no two years are exactly alike. The Midleton Very Rare range is not blended like other whiskeys to create a continuity in the whiskey. In fact the handcrafted nature of the whiskey creates a unique offering that has subtle but recognisable differences between the years. This allows enthusiasts and collectors to enjoy the variances year on year and create a new experience every time you sample another year.

To guarantee the quality in this unique whiskey the master distiller applies his signature to every bottle. From 1984 until 2013 the bottles bore the name of the Master Distiller emeritus Barry Crockett. From 2014 onwards the bottles bare the name of the new-ish Master Distiller Brian Nation. Along with the master distiller’s signature each bottle is also individually numbered and includes an invitation to register your bottle in the Old Jameson Distillery in Smithfield in Dublin. There you will find hard back annuals baring the name of every person who has arrived before you to register their bottles. An exciting experience for many who travel from all over the world to visit the home of Jameson and to have their names entombed within the distillery.

Examining some of the older books you will find many references to the “Irish Whiskey Corner” which was where the original 1980’s invitations told you register your bottles. This was the forerunner to the now Jameson visitor’s experience in Smithfield. The Irish Whiskey Corner offered bartenders and enthusiasts an informative trip through the history of Irish whiskey and its creation process with some of the industry experts. As the popularity of the corner grew so too did the experience and it matured (pardon the pun) into the brand home of Jameson that resides in the original Bow Street distillery in Dublin.

Midleton Very Rare 1984-1990
Midleton Very Rare 1984-1990

The older boxes which came with Irish Whiskey Corner invitations ran from the inaugural year in 1984 until 1990. They were hard cardboard boxes lined with golden fabric. Each bottle was 750ml topped by a lovely screw cap is notorious for its poor seal allowing evaporation to occur regularly.

1990 saw several changes to the MVR. The bottles were changed to the European regulation size of 700ml. The oak boxes replaced the cardboard cases. A metal plate adorning the front of the box replaced the old printed title on the cardboard boxes from the 1980’s. As well as this the bottle labels also got a revamp. The off-white labels were replaced with the much more aesthetically pleasing, tan labels we see today.

Midleton 1984 curtsy of Robert Maxwell
Midleton 1984 courtesy of Robert Maxwell
Midleton Very Rare 2014 curtsy of Jamesonwhiskey.com
Midleton Very Rare 2014 courtesy of Jamesonwhiskey.com

In 1994 a decision was made to include references to Jameson whiskey on the bottles of MVR. Apparently the small red seal and the “John Jameson & Son” above the Midleton name was introduced after Korean Air were selling large volumes of MVR but all the new clients all across the world had nothing to associate this premium whiskey with the rest of the IDL range. The new seal and names were to help convey to consumers that Midleton and Jameson were of the same brand family and the quality carried over between the two whiskeys.

Over the last couple of decades, in typical Irish fashion, many whiskeys were gifted to people and were tucked away for special occasions and forgotten about. So checking the parent’s/grandparent’s cupboards for forgotten bottles of whiskey might not be a bad idea after you hear that some of these Midleton Very Rare bottles can be worth a handy chunk of change! Due to the “rarity” of the releases and a healthy market for Irish whiskey Midleton Very Rare appreciates every year at between about 5-10% per annum. Although a safe guess-timate is about 7.5% per annum. While that might not sound like a lot, knowing that your dad’s bottle of 1984 MVR can fetch amounts just shy of a grand might convince you to hold off on cracking it open at the next family BBQ.

Throughout the 30+ years of MVR’s life there have been some hiccups along the way which is seeing certain years fetch larger premiums than some might imagine. Most recently with the collapse of the celtic tiger in Ireland the sales of premium products such as MVR took big hits. The 2008 stock of MVR was being sold up until about June/July of 2009. The 2010 bottling was then launched in about November/December 2009. Meaning that the 2009 bottling of MVR had a market run for about 3/4 months, during the tough economic times. Unlike most years of MVR 2009 only saw one bottling run and then was quickly replaced to, what I imagine was intended to, spur on sales with the new decade release. This limited run sees 2009 fetch a small premium of around about €50 on top of the 5-10% per annum.

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“The Classic Whiskeys of Ireland” 5 bottle plinth from 1997. Sorry about potato quality. Will try upload a better version soon

In 1997 IDL released a 5 whiskey bottle plinth showcasing Bushmills 10 &16 year old (then owned by IDL), Jameson 1780 (now Jameson 12 year), Redbreast pure pot still and the crown jewel was MVR 1997. This plinth was eventually replaced in the millennium by a 6 bottle plinth featuring the newly released Powers 12 Gold Label. But back in 97′ the large uptake of these new plinths saw 1997 MVR being distributed without its iconic box. The plinth also removed the usability of the wooden cases for bar owners, so for those whom purchased the bottle separately with its casing promptly misplaced it or dumped it. This has lead to a small shortage of the lovely oak boxes that accompany every bottle of MVR since 1990 (they were reinforced card boxes prior to this). I will point out though that this has not lead to any form of mad shortage of the whiskey itself, just the boxes.

The nineties and naughties weren’t the only decades to have rare years. To complete the decades of rarity the 1980’s appear to join the rare ranks with bottles from 1986 & 1987. It appears that even in the 80’s people saw the potential collectors value of the first couple of releases of MVR. This appears to have resulted in mild hoarding of 1984 and 1985 making these years relatively available. It appears that after a couple of years of hard hoarding 1986 and 1987 were deemed good enough to drink. These bottles appear to have scarcer availability across both retailers and private auctions alike.

The appreciation of these whiskeys has seen the collectibility of MVR increase over the last few years and if you feel like you want to get a bottle for yourself and tuck it away for a rainy day I would point you in the direction of either the Celtic Whiskey Shop on Dublin’s Dawson Street, whom always carry a good selection of MVR years or private auctions such as whiskyauction.com (this is a particularly reliable site with no buyers premium and reasonable shipping but be warned the website background is a nauseating tartan pattern).

A complete collection of Midleton Very Rare lives up to its name and is a rare sight indeed. You might catch a glimpse of one in one of the Jameson distilleries or in the hands of a private collector but if you were to attempt to purchase an entire collection yourself you would be greeted with healthy price tag €50,000. A princely sum for 30 years of collecting fine Irish whiskey.

Midleton Very Rare is arguably one of the most iconic names in Irish whiskey. Known in Ireland and abroad as a synonym for premium quality. While it is not the most expensive Irish whiskey out there, nor is it the most expensive whiskey in the IDL range, it delivers a stellar example of the abilities of the Midleton Distillery. This very premium blend is a good sipping whiskey and a good one to keep tucked away for years to come.

Sláinte.

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60 thoughts on “Midleton Very Rare – A Guide

  1. I have a bottle of Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey, bottled in 1994 and in its original pristine casket with a certificate of authenticity from Master Distiller Barry Crockett, bottle No. 7118. I have had it for more than 20 years now and it has travelled from one continent to another and back again. Had originally planned opening it for a special occasion a few years back but decided against it, I am now considering offering it to a collector.. Would some expert out there care to put an approximate value on it ?

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    1. Hi Alexander. A bottle of 1994 has an approximate market value of about €450 in today’s market! Irish whiskey is hot at the moment so you might even be able to get more than that at auction! Hope this is helpful!

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  2. Hi Matt,
    I have a bottle of 1984 in its original box with certificate but evaporation has occurred – I was “pleased” to read about your note about the screw tops causing this. I know it will affect the value but are you able to provide a rough estimate of what its worth now?
    Thanks,
    Sam

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    1. Hi Sam,
      Unfortunately if the evaporation is below the shoulders of the bottle it will generally indicate that oxidation will likely have occurred and create a harsh taste. This evaporation would make the bottle less attractive to collectors since there isn’t really the option to drink the bottle if the buyer ever had the inclination. It basically would come down to what a person who wanted a 84 MVR wanted to pay for it.
      Thankfully you still have the box and the COA that definitely helps the price, unfortunately without seeing the level of evaporation in the bottle I couldn’t say for definite but I’d imagine (assuming good enough condition) with a motivated buyer you could get anywhere between 400-600 euro. Remember that this is just my opinion, I’m basing this on bottles that have sold without their boxes and full to the brim (for reference) and the few that I have seen sell publicly with lower fill levels due to evaporation. Hope this helps a small bit

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  3. Many thanks for your informative reply Matt. I’ve sent a couple of pictures to your email and if you have time would appreciate your thoughts. Thinking i might start collecting – just out of interest what would you recommend – buying the new bottle every year or investing every couple of years on an older bottle ? Something to leave my boys as they dont fancy the wedding china 🙂

    Thanks again for all your help
    Sam

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    1. Hi Sam,

      I haven’t received any emails yet from you. If you are thinking of collecting then I guess you need to decide what interests you and motivates you? At the moment I collect old Irish Distillers bottles I.E. Bow Street Jameson, John’s Lane Powers, Cork Distilleries Company stuff. If you are just looking to collect for monetary sake to hold on to them the Midleton Very Rare would be a good choice from an Irish perspective. Of course maximising your potential return would be to purchase a bottle every year when they come out and put it on the shelf but that’s just one approach! These probably would be the easiest though since they are pre-disposed to appreciating every year

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    1. Hi Slimdenby, The 1986 is currently selling at in or around €830-855 area in perfect condition with the box included. The 1988 is estimated anywhere between €710 -770 area in perfect condition with the box. Again bottles are worth what somebody is willing to pay for them. Auctions can gain you more or indeed substantially less. These prices should be taken as a guide and definitely not as law because markets do fluctuate

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  4. Hello Matt!
    I’m by no means an expert at this or anything so bear with me! I stumbled upon Midleton Very Rare and would love to get it as a gift for a family member for christmas. I recently found out that they liked it through an instagram post (the 2013 edition) and I was wondering if you knew where I’d be able to find some for purchase? I know, supposedly, that no two years are the same so I’m reluctant on just opting for a 2015 edition. Thought, comments, advice or alternatives would be greatly appreciated!

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    1. Hi Waylan,

      Thanks for your comment. The only place that I would really suggest looking outside of private auctions is the Celtic Whiskey Shop. They’ve a pretty good collection of the MVR in stock. Failing that perhaps check out small retailers in your area that might have stock that hasn’t moved in a couple of years. As for alternatives the 2015 bottling is very good edition to the collection. If you were unable to find a 2013 I feel like the 2015 would be a fine substitute. They do differ between batches but not drastically enough to stop a person who liked 2013 liking the 2015 bottling. I hope this helps! Ask away if you have any more questions

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  5. Hi matt I have a 1986 mvr in box excellent condition no evaporation been in loft for 15 years was my father’s passed on to myself. Just wandering aprox value . Live in England ..

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    1. Hi George,

      Your 1986 is on the rarer side of the 80’s batches. Assuming that it is in perfect condition in the box with COA etc I think I n today’s market in a retail setting you’d probably be able to get around €800 for it. Private collectors’ auctions they have been selling for approximately half that over the last couple of years. Again, as always, these are just guided based on the auction results I have at my disposal and retail prices. Hope this helps

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    2. Hi George,

      Not sure if you’ll get this note but if you do and you still have that bottle of Midleton 1986 please let me know as I might be interested in buying it.

      Thanks,
      Ian

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      1. This is not George but it is John I have a bottle of 1986 MVR in perfect condition, cardboard sleeve and certificates

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      2. Hi Ian I have a bottle of Midleton very rare Irish Wiskey 2008 keen to sell could u give me a New Zealand price for such bottle its in oak box good con other than label panel on front worn but hard to read comes with all papers

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  6. Hi Matt. Great post I’ve learned a lot so far. What’s your opinion on the Barry Crocket Legacy bottle. Would it be a good investment in your opinion or should I just stick with the usual very rare ones? Thankyou in advance

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    1. Hi Peter. I am a big fan of the Barry Crockett legacy, it’s a remarkable whiskey and single pot still, unlike our very rare friends here. Although as for monetary investment I don’t think that you would be seeing a great return over a long period of time investing in them. This, like always, is just my personal opinion but they have produced many many thousands of bottles of the Legacy and it does not share the yearly vintage that the MVR does. Again I could be wrong and in 15 years time it could be worth a bomb. Although if you were looking for a monetary safe bet I would stick with the MVR

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    1. Hi Derek thanks for your comment looking at the current market value for the 09 bottles would be in or around 240/250 on a full retail price. Auctions can vary drastically. As always I will say that this is just a personal valuation based on what I’m seeing being bought and sold currently. This is not a definite fixed value of the bottle. Just a guideline. Hope this helps.

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    1. Hi, thanks for your comment. Midleton 1990 is the last year of the cardboard box displays. Assuming that the box, fabric and invitations and COA are fully intact along with the bottle and tax stamps I think you’d be looking at full retail value of around about 550/560. As always I will say that this is just a personal valuation based on what I’m seeing being bought and sold currently. This is not a definite fixed value of the bottle. Just a guideline. Hope this helps.

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      1. Hi Matt,

        do you know if the numbering on the Middleton Very Rare bottles start at one for each vintage? I ask as I have a bottle from 1986 that is numbered 200 and many of the bottles that I see online seem to have much higher numbers.

        Take care,

        Carrie

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      2. Hi Carrie, each vintage would restart the bottle numbers from one for each vintage. Certain years had several releases due to increasing demand so there are no set amounts that each year must follow. You just happen to have one of the earlier bottles bottled that year it seems! Hope this helps

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  7. Hi I have 2 bottles of Midleton Very Rare 1984 – the covers are damaged however the boxes are in good condition. No vaporization.
    Serial # 2683 & 2684. I would appreciate some advice on how to go about selling them and how much they might be worth.
    many thanks

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  8. I have a bottle of 1986 Mir. In box with certificate. Unopened. Perfect condition. Serial number 00249. How much is it worth and any offers

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  9. That should read. I have a bottle of 1986 Midleton Very Rare. Unopened. Perfect condition. Original white cardboard sleeve. Serial number 00249 certificate and lining anyone interested?

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      1. Thank you Matt I was surprised at how youthful you loook in the picture. For one so knowledgeable about whiskey I’d have thought you would have a strawbeerry shaped and coloured nose and a knarled face, Maybe it is the Water of Life

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Matt, I have a bottle of 1984 very rare Midleton no 00433 with usual signature Barry Crockett and in box,which I’m considering selling.
    Could you advise current value
    regards
    Marty

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    1. Hi Marty,

      Apologies for not replying before now! I never got a notification about your post! Are you still looking for an estimate on the current value of this bottle?

      Regards,

      Matt.

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  11. Midleton very rare Irish Wiskey 2008 in oak box all papers everything originals came with mint condition I.e hinges corners box slight scratch not to noticeable got really look it round to see but the front label panel in worn (poor) condition but part readable. Wanting to sell at highest bidder NZ owner so be keen to no NZ value

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  12. Hi
    I have one bottle of Midleton very rare whisky, I purchased from the distillery when I was in Ireland the label states that it was bottled in 1997 it is still in the wooden box with all paper work. What would be the approximate price If I were bto sell it?

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    1. Hi Peter,

      Unfortunately purchasing from the distillery doesn’t add any provenance or premium (if only it did!).

      As I always say I am no professional appraiser I give my estimates based on knowledge of private auctions and retail estimate. Assuming the bottle, box and COA were in mint condition, I would estimate that a fair retail value would be approximately €400-€410. In private auctions these bottles have been selling for on average for around €280-€310 over the last couple of years.

      I hope this was helpful.

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  13. Hi I have a bottle of 1997 very rare in box with cert like new bot no.9141 . Was wondering what it is worth and if it would be of any intrest to sell

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  14. I have the opportunity to buy a MVR 1986 very little to no evaporation with box and fullpaperwork. Guy I know is asking $500. Is this a good value to purchase? Thank you.

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  15. Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey 1995 750ml – Boxed

    Would you please be able to let us know how much the above item is worth?

    I’ve had it a few years and would like to sell it. It’s never been opened, it’s in a wooden oak box with a plaque on the front of the box, also has an ‘Invitation’ card in the box with a Bottle No. of 11242 and a certificate of Authenticity in the box.

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  16. Hi Matt

    I have a bottle of 1984 perfect condition in box and sleeve I see currently there are none available for sale and the last one went for nearly 1k Euro with VAT £800 before Vat from the Whisky Exchange would you recommend selling or keep hold as an investment , if I sold what price could be expected

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  17. Hi Matt,

    I have a 1997 Midleton with orginal casket etc. I saw above the issue over evaporation being an issue with the screw tops. Is their anything I can do to help reduce/stop this from happening? I cant say I have seen decrease in it’s contents….

    Thanks
    Keith

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    1. Hi Keith, Sorry for the slow reply. Midleton Very Rares post 1990 are all cork stoppers rather than screw caps. Evaporation can still be an issue for cork stoppers too if they aren’t sealed properly. Although, the MVR range have their own thermal cap seal. That should be all the protection it needs. Just keep the bottle upright and out of direct sunlight and keep it in a room that doesn’t have huge swings in heat and it should keep indefinitely

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  18. Hi matt I live in Greece and have come across a wood jameson 5 bottle 1997 classic wood plinth unfortunate not with bottles is the stand worth anything , thanks wayne

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    1. Hi Wayne. If its an identical plinth, you might be able to find a collector or a bar that may want to purchase it but its not an incredibly saught after item. I would suggest a price of between 20 and 40 euro for the plinth, depending on how much someone wanted it

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      1. I have one bottle of Midelton very rare whiskey boxed with certificate in perfect condition, could you please advise me where the best place is to sell it.?
        Many thanks
        Peter Carvell

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      2. In my opinion I would sell on an auction site. I think that this would yield the best result for your pocket. I would advise you look at selling on whiskyauction.com (which are based in Perth Scotland) or whiskyauctioneer.com also

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