August 24th may have been the proposed date for the opening of Slane Distillery – but the practicalities of fitting a modern working whiskey distillery into the protected structures of Slane Castle’s former stable sheds – along with an attractive visitors centre & cosy whiskey bars – often means there are delays – so the Launch Party went ahead as planned in advance of the opening in September.
Fortuitously, an invitation to the Launch Party happily saw me entering under the arches of the stable clock into a large attractive quadrangle surrounded by the almost complete distillery on one side – and a lovely tasting bar set into the former stable bays themselves on the other.
The horse theme continued with the lovely life-size installation of a running horse made out of used whiskey barrels set in the attractive walled garden grounds.
The modern distillery – capable of producing all 4 types of Irish whiskey, single grain, single malt, single pot still & blended – is the latest venture by the Conyngham family to secure the future of Slane Castle which has been in their hands since 1703.
This long lineage – along with rock ‘n’ roll tales of Slane Castle gigs – was explored by the opening speech of Lord Mountcharles – or Henry to his friends – who recalls his joy as a young boy watching the horses being saddled up for a ride in the very quadrangle we now stood – and the new found joy of watching us all enjoy a glass of Slane Whiskey after the first seeds were planted of establishing a whiskey distillery back in 1981 with Thin Lizzy’s headline appearance at the first Slane Castle concert singing their classic ‘Whiskey In The Jar’.
Brooke Brown Barzun – part of the Brown family dynasty that still controls drinks giant Brown-Forman to this day – followed on these historic themes with her personal involvement in seeing the Slane Whiskey project come to fruition.
Lawson Whiting from Brown-Forman spoke about the excitement & joy of being able to see that original dream by Lord Mountcharles become a reality in creating the wonderful Slane Distillery we see today. He also thanked the hard work of Alex Conyngham in establishing thousands of accounts across Europe & America for the current Slane Whiskey bottling, which in true american speak was described as ‘awsome’.
Alex himself rounded of the speeches by thanking all those that had been involved in the project- from the recently hired distillery staff in their smart new livery, the myriad of builders, designers, engineers & electricians who constructed the distillery, the county planners, officials & office staff who assisted over the mountain of red-tape associated with building a distillery in a listed building on the River Boyne Special Area of Conservation, and many others too, but lastly his loving wife & children for his long absences from home to build the future of Slane Distillery.
And with that – a toast was raised to the launch of Slane Distillery – the drinks flowed and the rock ‘n’ roll began!
I used the opportunity to wander round the site firing off a few shots of the cooperage display area, chatting to a few fellow attendees & indulging in a drink of neat Slane Irish Whiskey after forgoing the trendy cocktails offered.
I liked the touch of including LP records of bands that had played in Slane over the years being offered for sale in the well stocked distillery shop – & had another drink.
I bumped into & chatted to old acquaintances & new friends as I continued to asses the quality of the Slane Irish Whiskey blend.
It wasn’t until our rather merry little band of now very happy Dublin bound launch attendees chatted away on the bus home did it dawn on me how inebriated I’d become on an empty stomach!
Luckily for me – the others seemed to be in a similar situation – & what little supplies we had left were quickly consumed along with increasingly animated banter.
I did put forward the proposition that the marvelous marketeer’s dream of the long historic back story of Slane Castle together with the more recent rock ‘n’ roll status of Slane concerts coupled with a similarly aged whiskey heritage of Jack Daniel’s fame & rock connections was such a marriage made in heaven that what was actually in the bottle was mere icing on the cake.
‘Aha’ said another, ‘yer not shy about putting it away however.’
Which indeed I wasn’t.
Testament – if any is required – that behind all the hype, Slane Irish Whiskey is an enjoyable easy to drink blended whiskey with just the right amount of character that stands on it’s own merits – even if I was beginning to have difficulty in that department at this point.
I should point out that Brown-Forman & myself would advocate a policy of responsible drinking.
Apart from a sorehead & a dry mouth in the morning, there were no ill effects a substantial breakfast could’t fix.
Apologies to anyone on the very enjoyable evening I may have accosted with my increasingly incoherent ramblings.
I wish all involved with Slane Distillery future success.