John L Sullivan – The New Silent Whisky?

There has been a lot of hot air expended over a bottle of whiskey recently by the name of John L Sullivan.

John L Sullivan is a sourced whiskey brand. They – like many other sourced brands – get their whiskey from a reputable Irish whiskey distillery. They can then proceed to promote, brand, distribute and blend this whiskey in any way they see fit.

Just as many other companies do.

The particular expression that everyone is getting hot under the collar about is one where they have mixed the Irish whiskey with an American bourbon – also sourced from a reputable distillery in the USA – to create a hybrid type of blend.

Exhibit A c/

This hybrid whiskey has garnished rave reviews in some regions here.

And an outpouring of scorn in others.

A facebook thread in Ireland castigates this whiskey as ‘fake’ & ‘pseudo’. It likens the whiskey to the ‘gutrot’ produced by gangsters during prohibitions times which allegedly brought the Irish whiskey industry to it’s knees.

I just don’t buy that narrative.

I congratulate John L Sullivan for coming up with a new & exciting product that can offer an innovative new taste experience to customers – as well as opening up a new revenue stream for Irish whiskey.

The Irish whiskey industry has a long proud history and culture.

But part of that culture is resisting new means and methods of  making whiskey.

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Truths About Whisky c/oTeelings

In 1878 a book was published denouncing the new form of whisky being made by an invention called the Coffey Still.

That new whisky was called ‘silent whisky’ and we now know it as  grain whiskey.

Nowadays that ‘silent whisky’ is the main constituent in blended whiskey – which is the very backbone of the modern global whiskey industry making up to 90% of all sales worldwide.

Sections of the Scottish whisky industry took to this new product in the 1840’s to create market leading brands that are still popular today.

It took at least another 100 years for the Irish whiskey industry to fully engage with the new methods. None of the 4 large Dublin whiskey distilleries who commissioned the book exist today

What if this new hybrid whiskey becomes the next ‘silent whisky’ in terms of future sales?

Is the Irish whiskey industry of today going to inflict the first cut in it’s demise as it did in the past?

And as the old song goes, The First Cut Is The Deepest.

Or is this new style of whiskey going to be embraced?

Being a new style means there will be labelling issues, regulatory red-tape and legal gremlins to sort out.

Hopefully that is in process.

Whiskey is fluid.

It has constantly flowed, changing and evolving throughout it’s long existence.

History is not kind on those who wish to stop that flow.

Good Logo

My thanks to The Whiskey Jug for the header image.





5 thoughts on “John L Sullivan – The New Silent Whisky?”

  1. I’m with you on this in some ways but not in others. I don’t take issue with the blend at all . I am 100% in support of innovation in the category. There is currently a real fear of experimentation in Irish whiskey. In fact I’ve been told the word ‘Innovation’ is perceived as a threat at the Department of Ag. & Marine when it comes to Irish Whiskey. This is wrongheaded. Whiskey is evolving, it is supposed to evolve, it MUST evolve because we make it for human beings and their tastes have evolved too. Finishing whiskey in a slightly different kind of wine cask in NOT innovation, its cool and all but is not going to set the planet on fire. (something that everyone at the World Whiskey Forum agreed with recently.)

    This sort of stuff is real experimentation and its going to piss some people off and that is ok, first cut etc. My feeling with this release is that they are not coming from a ‘real’ place in terms of their mission or whiskey making philosophy. it just looks like they are trying to cash in on the OIRISHNESS and fakey heritage piece. I might be wrong.

    But shouldn’t the blend and their approach be enough to stand on its own two feet without shoehorning a famous Victorian Irish Boxer in there? Everyone seems to use that boxer as a metaphor these days….There are too many things being communicated with this bottle and so I don’t feel its authentic and I take umbridge with that. Lets respect tradition but embrace change. Innovate like we mean it but be transparent about it.


    1. My fear – which this bottle has highlighted – is that if the Irish whiskey industry doesn’t embrace change & innovation it will end up going down the same old road it did in the past.
      There was no need for that to happen then, and there isn’t now either.


    1. My understanding is the bottle is currently being relabelled as both ‘Irish’ and ‘Bourbon’ have legal definitions in various regions.
      I like the idea behind the blend – despite it’s presentation causing upset in many circles.
      Maybe a new definition & name is required?


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