New wine-cask finished Irish whiskey features pinot noir from B.C.

Quails’ Gate becomes the first Canadian winery to collaborate with Green Spot Irish Whiskey, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day

Photo courtesy of Green Spot Irish whiskey

What do Irish whiskey and Pinot Noir wine from the Okanagan have in common? Until this week, not much, aside from both being aged in oak barrels. Regardless of if you’re a whiskey enthusiast, oenophile, local business supporter, or just want to pick-up a bottle of Irish whiskey for St. Patrick’s Day, there’s a new wine-cask finished whiskey now available that offers something for everyone; until it’s gone, that is.

Irish Distillers, the makers of Green Spot Irish Whiskey (as well as Jameson, Redbreast, and more), and West Kelowna-based Quails’ Gate winery recently collaborated for the first time to release Green Spot Quails’ Gate which is a single pot still whiskey finished in pinot noir casks.

Not to be confused with whiskeys distilled in pot stills, of which there are many, single pot still whiskeys are made exclusively in Ireland at a single distillery and use a combination of both malted and unmalted barley (and up to five percent other grains). The unmalted barley tends to add spiciness, a creamy texture, and heightened cereal notes to the overall character of the whiskey.

In particular, Green Spot is triple distilled then aged for approximately seven to ten years in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, resulting in green apple, vanilla, toffee, and nutty notes. The new release is then finished for an additional 16 months in Quails’ Gate’s Pinot Noir casks, adding another layer of sophistication to the whiskey.

Deirdre O’Carroll, Blender at Irish Distillers is thrilled about this new release, noting that “maturing Green Spot Irish Whiskey in the Pinot Noir casks from Quails’ Gate adds a fascinating and delectable assortment of rich red berries from the red wine seasoning that perfectly balances Green Spot’s orchard fruits and toasted wood finish for a flavoursome, complex expression.”

Green Spot Quails’ Gate is the third release in Irish Distillers Wine Geese Series, which  celebrates Ireland’s contribution to the wine world via collaborations with wineries of Irish heritage. The first two editions, the Green Spot Château Leoville Barton and Green Spot Chateau Montelena are permanent expressions in the Green Spot range, however, the Green Spot Quails’ Gate is a one-time release.

Quails’ Gate winery is owned by the Stewart family, who possess a longstanding history in the Okanagan. Richard Stewart Sr. first immigrated from Kildare, Ireland to Coldstream in Vernon in 1908. After working for a few years alongside his brother at Gellatly Nut Farm, they left to start Stewart Brothers Nursery.

Stewart eventually sold his shares of the nursery in the 1950’s and purchased land in West Kelowna with an intention to grow seedless Diamond table grapes. By mistake, Chasselas (a Swiss white wine varietal) were planted instead.

Embracing this happy accident, the Stewart family spent more than three decades growing and selling numerous grape varietals to wineries in the area until finally deciding to open their own farm gate winery in 1989. Today, the estate winery is known for their award-winning Family Reserve Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well as a few niche varietals like the Old Vine Marechal Foch.

Available for purchase in British Columbia as of last Wednesday, there were only approximately six hundred bottles of Green Spot Quails’ Gate distributed to select private liquor stores including JAKs, Angry Otter, and Everything Wine total. Retailing for approximately $99 before tax and bottle deposit, if you miss out acquiring one (or more) of these 700 ml bottles this month, there will be another limited release available in June.

—by Reece Sims

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