Looking for a nice whiskey to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with? Consider one that itself celebrates the long Irish tradition of making whiskey: Powers John’s Lane Release, a 12-year-old, pot-still whiskey that harks to the days before the spirit category was dominated by blends.
The twin effects of American Prohibition and a split with the British beat up on Irish whiskey, eliminating much of its market and causing consolidation, which would lead to the predominance of blends. However, before the 1920s, Ireland flourished with pot-still whiskey. Powers, while now a blend, always carried the banner of pot-still with strong portions of that whiskey along the column-still grain product in the makeup of the blend. Now Powers proposes this pure pot-still product that, while a tribute to the whiskey of old, is also an excellent cigar pairing.
The John’s Lane refers to the old Powers distillery on that road in Dublin where Powers distilled from 1791 to 1975. With the consolidation of whiskey makers into Irish Distillers production was moved to Midleton Distillery. Powers is also the most popular whiskey in Ireland, even while Jameson, a sister whiskey, dominates elsewhere.
The John’s Lane Release is matured for 12 years, mainly in first-fill American Bourbon barrels, but a small portion has sat in Oloroso Sherry butts.
Powers John’s Lane Release (92 proof or 46 percent alcohol by volume, $69.99 for a 750 ml bottle)
APPEARANCE: Medium light almost Champagne color. A mix of thin, slow and fat, quick legs.
NOSE: Starts with delicate aromas of honey, berries and flowers and suddenly turns savory with olive oil, leather and caramel.
PALATE: Those last notes from the nose proceed immediately to the tongue and become sweet as the whiskey expands on the palate, bringing toffee, cocoa, caramel, pears, honey and vanilla in quite a complex flavor experience.
FINISH: Doesn’t end as complex as the palate effect, but certain aspects like honey and caramel hang on.
CIGAR PAIRING: Davidoff Colorado Claro Short Perfecto ($13.70, 5 inches by 50 ring, 88 points, April 2011 Cigar Aficionado) A well-crafted perfecto with a richly colored wrapper. The draw is a bit firm, though workable, showing brawny woody and spicy notes. The aftertaste is a bit metallic. The introduction of the whiskey brings out a savory and sweet core in the cigar, with a touch of nuts. The Davidoff drives the caramel side of the Powers, but also showcases a dried fruit aspect (apricot or nectarine), adding a new dimension.
Casa Fernandez Aganorsa Leaf Maduro ($9, 6 inches by 58 ring, 92 points in April 2013 Cigar Aficionado) A very hearty cigar with a light box-press. Filled with toast and nuts and complemented with sweet caramel, it represents a broad spectrum with which to pair. Under its influence, the Powers pops under its influence with sweet, candy-bar notes. The whiskey gives the Casa an even more enlarged breadth of palate. One plays against the other until its difficult to decide where each is playing the melody or harmony. A very good pairing.