Earlier in October of this year, we brought you the story of a first for Irish whiskey, which took the form of a Single Malt whiskey that was fully matured in Hungarian Virgin Oak casks, released under the Dingle Distillery’s Founding Father’s program. This release’s name was ‘Zoltán’s Special #1’, now let us unveil ‘Zoltán’s Special #3′ a 12.5 year old Cask Strength whiskey from the first batch of whiskey distilled in Westmeath in over 50 years.
This whiskey was the brainchild of Irish based, Hungarian born, Irish whiskey enthusiast Zoltán Vári. Now, it must be said, that Zoltán is not one for keeping people waiting. Approximately a month after he released his limited run of Zoltán’s Special #1 he has unveiled ‘Zoltán’s Special #3’ to the whiskey world of Ireland. A fantastically interesting whiskey in its own right but even before Zoltán got his hands on this spirit the whiskey had a fantastic story to tell.
As a regular visitor to the re-opened distillery in Kilbeggan Village in Co. Westmeath, he befriended those who worked in the distillery, one of whom suggested that he should purchase one of their smaller casks for himself. After a few minutes of negotiation and a taoscán or two I am sure, he walked away the proud owner of a 100L half cask of whiskey that was distilled in 2007. What makes this whiskey interesting is the fact that this cask was cask #8 of a group of 13 that were filled with the first distillate to run from this distillery’s pot stills in over 50 years, really making that whiskey a part of distilling history in Ireland. It is worth noting that none of the other 12 remaining casks were ever sold to individuals, truly making this cask a unique release outside of the distillery itself.
Zoltán left the barrel to mature for a further 9 years in the distillery’s warehouses in its 109 litre cask before seeking the cask to be transferred to oak from his native Hungary. Unfortunately, the cask suffered a large amount of leakage in its 9 last years maturing away. Of the 103 litres of original spirit, Zoltán was able to transfer just over 50 litres of final spirit, to a 50 litre Hungarian virigin oak octave cask (or quarter cask) for its final 6 month finish.
After finishing, Zoltán took the spirit from the cask and filled 117 350ml bottles with Zoltán’s Special #3, a 52.9% ABV 12.5 year old single malt finished in these Hungarian Oak Octave Casks. It is worth noting at this point that Zoltán is an individual who has chosen to share these historic whiskeys that he had laid down himself across the island over the last number of years, with fellow whiskey enthusiasts and collectors alike. Of the 117 bottles only 24 will be made available for public sale within the first few months of 2020. These are expected to be retailed exclusively in one of Dublin’s finest whiskey retailers (exact store to be announced later in January) and presented in a fantastic, bespoke presentation box, which also included a bonus mini of the finished whiskey for the new owner to enjoy without opening the full bottle!
So, the eagled eyed among you may be wondering why Zoltán will release a series of whiskeys that started with #1 and was immediately followed by #3, well as he says himself, it’s a long story. But he has let us know what we can expect from Zoltán’s Special #2!
Countering releases #1 & #3, which were Irish whiskey aged in Hungarian oak, batch #2 is actually a Hungarian whiskey that has been finished in Irish whiskey re-fill casks (with a healthy Hungarian oak maturation too)! Flipping the whiskey dynamic on its head. Once again, these whiskeys will be bottled from Zoltán’s private collection of casks and only 12 bottles will be made available to the general public. This is certainly one whiskey I know that a lot of people will be intrigued to try.
So, ahead of #2’s release what did we think of Zoltán’s Special #3 Brusna 12 year old malt whiskey? Well I thought this was an absolutely fantastic whiskey. An incredibly interesting take on some classic Westmeath malt. The more and more I dive into Zoltán’s creations the more I am sold on Hungarian Oak’s potential in Irish whiskey maturation. Zoltán was also generous enough to include a sample of the original 12 year old malt prior to it being finished in the Hungarian oak cask and the difference is quite staggering.
The full Potstilled tasting notes below:
Zoltán’s Special #3, 52.9% ABV, Non-Chill Filtered, Natural Colour.
Nose: toasted oak vanillans and wood sweetness jump out of the glass at the fore. They are quickly followed up by notes of honey, and a warm undertone of malted barley, which are tied together by a delicious bouquet of fruits; like apricot and under-ripe nectarine.
Palate: A very warm, yet not fiery cask strength palate. Strong wood tones come to the fore with a strong oak prickle on the tongue. This is followed by a dry maltiness from the grain couple with honey and a soft tangy zestiness. This has a surprisingly oily mouthfeel which gives the whiskey a great viscosity.
Finish: the finish is long, dry and mouth coating. Malt and wood prickle remain.
I was very impressed with this whiskey, and I was most notably impressed by the spirit’s great balance of flavour at cask strength. A very enjoyable drop.
I very much look forward to seeing what delights Zoltán unearths for the whiskey world in Ireland with his subsequent releases in the future.
The RRP is set to be €176.55 per bottle with an apparent discount for those who purchased Zoltán’s Special #1. An announcement will be made later in January as to the retailers where these bottles will be available.
Zoltán’s Special #2 expected to launch later this year.