Category Archives: Bourbon

Where are all the Irish Brands?

Out and about on my holidays in Southern France I did as many of the locals do and took a day trip into Spain for a spot of shopping, sightseeing, Spanish sausage & chips and a cold San Miguel.

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Pyrenees picture c/othewhiskeynut

The border is only about an hour away set in the stunning scenery of the Pyrenees mountain range.

Les is the first town you reach on the particular crossing I ventured on. What greets you on the outskirts of town is a car park full of French vehicles taking advantage of the cheaper tax regime on a variety of goods including fuel, tobacco and booze.

I eagerly browsed a couple of shops looking for some Spanish whisky – none were available.

There we’re some interesting American & Scottish offerings however.

How about some Buffalo Bill Bourbon?

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Buffalo Bill Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Or perhaps William Peel, Black Vulture & Sir Edward might please your palate?

These are only a few of the locally based brands that are widely obtainable in France or Spain – yet are rarely encountered in the country of origin.

Maybe you’d feel safer with more familiar brands like Jack Daniels, William Lawson’s or Ballantines.

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4.5ltr selection c/othewhiskeynut

Amidst all this liquid there was only one Irish representative – Jameson.

Where are all the new Irish Brands?

Where are all the locally branded & marketed French based Irish Whiskeys with fancy names like Green Dragon, Seamus Shaughnessey or even Shamrock Sile?

Now I realise this market is more about quantity rather than quality.

There are no pretentions to provenance and terroir is trodden underfoot with trollies laden with 4.5 litre bottles of your favourite whisky bound for a celebratory social occasion or party.

Yet even within this segment there are a variety of styles, tastes and prices.

I know Irish Whiskey is capable of producing a decent tipple at a bargain basement price – Irish Reserve 4 Year Old springs to mind – so why not here?

I have nothing against Jameson – but by my purely anecdotal browsings you’d be forgiven for being unaware of the explosive growth of Irish Whiskeys on the market.

Irish Whiskey is seriously under represented in this segment.

Apart from Jameson – it’s not even in the market.

I was a customer in that market. I bought a Scotch I hadn’t tried before. That’s a missed Irish opportunity.

How many more missed sales are there?

Slàinte.

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Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, 5.9%

There has been a profusion of barrel aged beers on the market lately.

I welcome this development.

It adds a new flavour profile to both the beer industry – as well as the returning beer barrels being used to flavour new whiskeys.

The Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale wouldn’t be the best example according to my tastes.

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Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale c/othewhiskeynut

The bourbon effect is somewhat muted – perhaps not long enough in the barrel? – and the fizz is more suitable for a lager rather than the heavy ale style I enjoy.

There is no mention of who collaborated to bring about this ale.

Alltech are the importers into Europe and although they posses both breweries and distilleries in Kentucky – they haven’t put their name on the product. Yet a trip to their website here does show it as one of their own.

I picked a bottle up in my local SuperValu.

Handy when doing the shopping.

The ale reminds me of an old song.

It just lacks the flavour punch I crave.

Sláinte.

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Blind Bourbon Tasting July 4th 2018

It seemed like a good idea.

An opportunity to taste without prejudice. To judge all equally without bias to distillery of origin or mash bill. To savour  & enjoy new tastes & styles in a manner echoing the ethos of the Declaration Of Independence written all those years ago.

Yet the Midlands masses were not moved and on the day there were more whiskey expressions on offer than punters to drink them.

Ah well. All the more for those that did attend.

I tried to put together a flight of whiskeys that represented as many different styles of American bourbon – to compare & contrast – within the limitations of what was readily available in Ireland.

To kick off with – a pair of entry level bourbons showed that even within the same category there were differences of taste & flavour.

To be labelled ‘bourbon’ under American rules means a minimum of 51% corn used in the mash bill. The mash bill is the ratio of grains used to make the whiskey – usually made up of the big 4; corn, wheat, rye & barley.

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Clarke’s 1866 Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

I twinned an Aldi own brand  Clarke’s 1866 Old Kentucky Straight Sour Mash Whiskey with a market leading Jack Daniel’s Old No.7 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey. Most preferred the Jack – although Clarke’s wasn’t far behind.

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Jack Old No. 7 c/othewhiskeynut

Considering one is twice the price of the other – it just goes to show you can get a decent pour of a fairly standard bourbon at an affordable cost if you’re prepared to shop around.

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FEW Rye c/othewhiskeynut

The next pour moved up a level both in terms of cost and flavour – FEW Rye Whiskey. All agreed this was a far more complex, definitely a different style and a far more satisfying whiskey. The spicy rye dominated the palate yet was balanced by the sweet corn element in the mash bill.

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Brothership Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

The rye presence continued into the Brothership Irish – American Whiskey. A collaboration between Connacht Distillery in Ballina and New Liberty Distillery in Philly. It’s a blend of 10 year old Irish Single Malt & a 10 year old American Rye. A lighter & smoother start than the previous pours – all picked out the Irish malt influence – yet joyfully morphed into a lovely drying peppery spice at the end. You can pick out the 2 different styles within the same glass and marvel at how they both compliment each other in the final mix. Fabulous.

I was very much looking forward to the next bourbon.

A representative at Hi-Spirits Ireland – a distribution company handling the Sazerac, Buffalo Trace portfolio – reached out to donate some liquid for the Blind Tasting. Much appreciated.

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Barton 1792 full collapse c/oCourier-Journal

The bottle in question also happened to hail from the Barton 1792 Distillery which recently suffered a rickhouse collapse causing much loss of bourbon & property. Although thankfully no injuries.

1792 Small Batch Bourbon.

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1792 Small Batch Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Again – much like the Brothership – this was a whiskey in 2 halves.

To begin with a rich, deep vanilla & burnt caramel coated the mouth leading you into a drier, cinnamon spice rye body which finished in a delightfully playful prickly heat. This ‘high rye’ bourbon pleased all present – although there was no clear overall winner on the night before the bottles were revealed. Beautiful bourbon indeed.

The final offering was more of a fun product.

Buffalo Trace White Dog Rye Mash.

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Buffalo Trace White Dog c/othewhiskeynut

This is the American equivalent of Irish Poitin. Raw un-aged whiskey.

At 62.5% this White Dog certainly packed a punch – yet was extremely palatable & very enjoyable. That familiar – slightly sour – new make nose, the oiliness on first tasting proceeding to a soft dry rye spice rounded the evening off with a bang.

Sláinte.

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My thanks to Sean’s Bar Athlone for hosting the event.

Thanks also to Hi-Spirits Ireland for the kind donation of some fabulous bottles.

If you are interested in sampling any of the above contact either Whiskey Nut –  westmeathwhiskeyworld@eircom.net – or Sean’s Bar itself – to arrange.

 

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Cider, 5.5%

Having reviewed a Jim Beam non whiskey product – it’s only fair – and in the interests of impartiality – that I feature a Jack Daniel’s non whiskey product too.

Well – I say non whiskey – as this cider is a blend of  ‘Crisp Apple Cider’ with some of Jack’s Tennessee Whiskey.

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It’s Jack – but not Bourbon! c/othewhiskeynut

I don’t mind a cider now and then – especially on a warm summers evening – but I must admit to preferring a dry style of cider – not too sweet either – so I approached this bottle with none too high expectations.

Both Jack & Jim allow their logo’s to be used on many a product. It’s a great way to promote the brand. But often that product bears no relevance or connection to the original bourbons which are the core expressions of those brands.

Jack’s Cider poured clean & fresh.

It was very pale in colour.  The nose was definitely cider. A bit of dry apple mixed in with enough of a hint of bourbon to give a lift to the experience.

The taste was satisfyingly refreshing. Not too sweet. That crisp dry apple coming through and combining gently with that sticky sweetness associated with a pour of Old No. 7.

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Smooth sippin’ c/othewhiskeynut

There’s no real complexity here. It’s a simple bourbon infused cider. But it does exactly what it says on the label & certainly appealed to me as a refreshing alternative to a whiskey on a balmy warm night.

Heck!

If this summer heatwave continues I might be tempted to indulge in a little more ‘smooth sippin’ courtesy of Jack!

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Jim Beam Bourbon Whiskey Potato Chips

You never know what you might find down the aisles of your local German discount store – like Jim Beam Crisps?

I just had to try them.

Manufactured in Devon, England, these chips proudly proclaim to have no added colouring or artificial flavours. Often something many a whiskey brand cannot boast.

Obviously I had to pair them with a decent pour of bourbon – and sat back to enjoy the experience in the fabulous weather.

Well, the crisps do have a wonderfully savoury, meaty, BBQ-y thing going on. Without all the heat, mess & subsequent clean up of a real BBQ. I just didn’t detect any Jim Beam influence – other than the logo on the packet.

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Back label info c/othewhiskeynut

They did however compliment the sweet vanilla & caramel notes of the actual bourbon.

Quite a nice pairing indeed!

Both parties brought out & enhanced the flavours of each other to combine into an even better & enjoyable experience.

Savoury & sweet at it’s best.

My suggestion is to get yours soon before the bourbon tariffs kick in. Although I’m not sure that will affect the crisps that much.

Sláinte.

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Jack Daniels Single Barrel, 45%

Jack Daniels.

It doesn’t really need an introduction.

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Jack c/othewhiskeynut

The iconic biggest selling whiskey brand in America has plenty of fans.

I wouldn’t be one of them.

The caramel forward nose, rather robust mouth feel with mere hints of wood & spice, leaves me nonplussed.

After one – I wouldn’t be tempted for more.

But moving up the range a little does find me something I have gone back to on a number of occasions.

Jack Daniels Single Barrel is an altogether far more enjoyable experience.

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A big whiskey in a small bottle. c/othewhiskeynut

The caramel isn’t the only note in town.

There’s vanilla, wood and an engaging spiciness.

The robust character is still there – but at 45% it delivers a far more extensive array of flavours that dance off the palate. Cinnamon & nutmeg combine with sweet vanilla & oakiness.

These gently fade away leaving that wonderful dry mouth feel I enjoy.

So when I spotted this attractive miniature in The Old Stand recently – I was tempted for more.

And I’m glad I did.

Slàinte.

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Up in the Klouds – Drinking in NYC

Flying in from a town whose tallest building is the 12 story Sheraton Hotel – staying in a 9th floor hotel room held a certain appeal.

Sadly the views I expected were obscured by even larger skyscrapers that we couldn’t see the tops of despite craning our necks through the permanently closed bedroom window.

Welcome to New York!

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Empire State c/othewhiskeynut

I still harboured high hopes for the hotel’s 14th floor roof top bar – Vu Bar – quietly enjoying a few drinks with a panoramic view of downtown NY below.

A cold blustery windswept veranda overlooked by even taller buildings was the reality. Well – it was March – and the building that dominated all – including our bedroom window vista – was in fact the Empire State Building!

Homer Doh!

The bar had a lovely collection of whiskey to sample however & a friendly bartender in Emilio.

I started with Maker’s Mark 46. It’s a mainly corn based bourbon with some wheat & barley in the mash bill which imparts a relatively soft, smooth & sweet overall experience to the taste despite it’s 47% strength. It goes down very easily – but didn’t really do anything for me & my penchant for bolder flavours. It definitely is a better dram than the standard Maker’s Mark which I tasted earlier on in the day though.

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Knob Creek Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Knob Creek Small Batch took my fancy next.

Now that’s more like it!

The darker colouring & slight dry spice on the nose indicated a high rye content in this 50% bourbon which was much more agreeable to my tastes.

Emilio mentioned a sister bar on the opposite side of the street – so the next evening after a busy day sightseeing & an enjoyable tasty meal washed down by the amusingly named Kloud lager – which had a lovely malty flavour – in a local Korean restaurant – we headed up to the 17th floor Cloud Social bar.

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Korean Kloud Lager c/othewhiskeynut

The views were far more impressive from up here. It would certainly make for a cool place to hang out on a warm summers day – but with temperatures below zero & a light dusting of snow it was back into the bar area for some warming whiskeys after a few snaps.

Again I was pleasantly surprised by the array of whiskeys before me. One that took my eye was Lot 40.

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Lot 40 c/othewhiskeynut

Now I’d heard great things about this Canadian Rye so on spotting a bottle I just had to try it.

Oh dear.

Soft ,sweet, hardly any spice. A very smooth easy drinking bourbon style of whiskey.

Not what I was expecting at all from this 43% rye. What I experienced bore no resemblance to the reviews I read before or after – so I just don’t know.

To counteract my disappointment I went for a Knob Creek Rye.

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POW c/opinterest

The full on rich dry peppery spice bowled me over after my previous drink. In fact it was almost overwhelming after the soft sweetness of Lot 40 as my palate struggled to come to terms with that lovely rye punch I crave in this full on 50% whiskey.

If anything – I think the Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon – with it’s initial rich vanilla & caramel notes flowing through to a lovely balanced rye spice – came out tops for the 4 whiskeys I tried out up in the clouds of New York’s rooftop bars!

Sláinte.

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June 2017 Whisk(e)y Warrior Award

In a break from my normal posts, this blog has come about through a transatlantic alliance of the shared love of whiskey in both Ireland and America. I hand you over to the Whisk(e)ySmiths.

Welcome to the Whisk(e)y Warrior Award!

My name is Zac Smith and my wife LeAnne and I created the Whisk(e)y Warrior Award (WWA) to help make the whiskey community even tighter and more close knit. So many of you are making wonderful contributions to the world of whiskey and not asking for anything in return. We want to deliver a big thank you from all of us in the whiskey community.

On the first of every month, someone is awarded the prodigious title of Whisk(e)y Warrior. A question and answer interview is conducted with the valiant warrior, and then distributed to the world in a special Whisk(e)y Warrior Release.

What’s a Whisk(e)y Warrior?

A Whisk(e)y Warrior is someone who is passionate about whiskey. They devote their evenings and weekends to being active in the whiskey community. They’re the first person you think of when you hear “whiskey enthusiast.” They’re also the first one you turn to when you need recommendations, reviews, or have questions.

Would you like to say thank you to the Whisk(e)y Warriors in your life? Then click this link, Whisk(e)y Warrior Award, and nominate them! Further instructions and details are on the nomination page. Thank you for helping your whiskey community come closer together.

And now, we proudly present your Whisk(e)y Warrior.

She produces a nonstop supply of whiskey-food creations that will shatter your concept of delicious with a five-finger sucker punch of flavor. She’s a hardworking cohost of The Bourbon Daily podcast five days a week. She might barely break five feet tall, but she’s breaking stereotypes of what women can do and be. She is…

Chrissy Martin, Whisk(e)y Warrior!

Chrissy Martin June 2017 WW

Interview

Zac: Chrissy congratulations on winning the Whisk(e)y Warrior Award. You’re the first woman to win this title and that’s awesome! LeAnne and I hope, as this award continues, that there’ll be a long list of women Whisk(e)y Warriors. Before we get into all the whiskey specific questions, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Chrissy: I am a very proud Jersey girl currently living in Kansas. It’s kind of crazy to say still to this day. Never once did I think I’d grow up and be like, “I’m going to go live in Kansas!” But you know, I’m very proud of where I come from. I grew up in an Italian family. It’s very important to me the values of family and how food and drink revolves around our everyday life. And so that’s the core of what I am. My family and food. That’s the gist of it. I like to cook. I like to feed people. I will bring you into the home and let you drink some bourbon, and probably fill you up with some bread and pasta and whatever else I can.

Zac: Ok that brings a question to mind. In a typical Italian family, wine is very important. So at what point did Bourbon enter the scene?

Chrissy: Bourbon didn’t enter the scene for me [until later], because like everything revolved around a lot of wine, from what I remember as a kid. I remember some Bourbon, but growing up on the East coast in an Italian family, it was very much more wine heavy. So for me not until my twenties. I would go out and have drinks and stuff. And the bar tenders that I knew would be like, “Make it pink, make it sweet, and they’ll drink it.” And I couldn’t. I hated it. I hated the way I felt afterwards and I wanted something that just by itself tasted pretty good. And so my husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, introduced me to Makers. That was it from that point on. It was all Bourbon all the time and nothing else.

Zac: So at what point did you decide you wanted to be more than just a passive whiskey drinker? What motivated you to launch your website and become a whiskey sommelier?

Chrissy: You know it probably started about four and a half years ago. Especially with my husband’s job we’ve moved around so much. And for me I wanted something, that whether it was a passion project or whatever it could turn out to be, I wanted something that I could take with me and actually have a little piece everywhere I went. That’s really what started it. Because I wanted something of my own. Of course along the way I started collecting Bourbon and I was going a little bit more hard core into Bourbon events. I would travel to Kentucky all the time and go to Bourbon festivals, Bourbon dinners, meet with the master distillers and from that point I just got hooked. How welcoming the community itself was and that right there blossomed everything. And I was like, “What more can I do with this?” Then I found the whiskey school and tons of opportunities come from there.

Zac: I have to say, what you are doing with food and Bourbon is phenomenal. If people want to know about food and Bourbon, then you are the resource to go to.

Chrissy: Aw thank you. It’s one of those things I get a lot of mixed reviews about it. Especially when I first started people thought I was absolutely nuts. A lot of questions were like, “Are you really going to take a bottle of Pappy’s twenty-three and cook with it?” Yeah, one hundred percent! As long as it works with whatever recipe I’m going with. It’s just like if you were to cook with wine. That’s what I learned from growing up with my Gram. You cook with what you drink and you don’t vary from that. If you want to cook Chicken Marsala, then you go and buy Marsala wine. It’s just as simple as that. People just think about the fact that the alcohol is going to cook out, and not remembering or thinking about the flavor that it has a chance to leave behind.

Zac: Speaking of your Gram, do you have a specific memory that you cherish from being with your grandmother?

Chrissy: Gosh, there’s so many. The one that I remember [is that] we would sing together a lot. She would have me use the back porch and that was my stage. I would sing On the Good Ship Lollipop and that is one that I remember. I had to have been about two or three years old so that’s one of my earliest memories. It’s one of my favorites.

Zac: Do you remember how old you were the first time you cooked a full dinner by yourself?

Chrissy: I would say I was probably about nine years old.

Zac: Wow that’s awesome.

Chrissy: My other two sisters didn’t get as much as what I got with Gram, [but] that’s because I wanted to be in the kitchen with her. We would watch Julia Child together and would mimic her. You’d have an old crooner in the background because we’d listen to Rosemary Clooney and Frank Sinatra. So like, when I am in the kitchen and I’m creating a recipe for the blog or if I’ve got people coming over, that’s the kind of stuff I put on to get myself in the right mindset. The sounds and the smells are all connected to your memory and it’s just the best feeling to bring those all back.

Zac: Thanks for sharing those personal memories with us. Now looking to the future, what are some things you hope to accomplish in regard to whiskey?

Chrissy: I’m loving to see how involved women are becoming more and more in the whiskey and Bourbon business. So for me, I hope that I can help. My goal is to continue doing what I’m doing – cooking, working with The Bourbon Daily, and writing – but also to help open doors so that it’s ok for females to come in and feel ok about being serious about whiskey. It’s not just a guy’s drink anymore.

Zac: I agree and I hope you get to help open those doors. What’s the biggest thing you’d like to see change in the whiskey industry?

Chrissy: I would love to see more women master distillers and more women coming forward and changing the game. I love seeing how more and more men are becoming more accepting. There’s much more acceptance for women now than there ever has been and I love it. I love seeing it and I would love to continue to see more of that.

Zac: I’d love to see more of that too. This probably doesn’t need asked but, are you Team Scotch or Team Bourbon?

Chrissy: Team Bourbon.

Zac: I figured. So what’s something you appreciate about Team Scotch?

Chrissy: I really appreciate the nuances of Scotch. The depth of which Scotch has, you know kind of like Bourbon.

Zac: Very good. So where can we find you and your content?

Chrissy: On Instagram I’m @alildabofbourbon, and my blog is alildabofbourbon.com.

Zac: Chrissy, from everyone in the whiskey community, thank you for all the contributions you’ve made! We eagerly look forward to seeing what the future holds for you and we hope you continue to open doors for women in whiskey.

End of interview

We’d like to give a HUGE thank you to the Whiskey Nut for running the Whisk(e)y Warrior Award this month. If you enjoyed the interview and would like to see more, please let the Whiskey Nut know!

The next award will be released July 1st. We’ll see you then, and remember to nominate your favorite Whisk(e)y Warriors by clicking here!

– Zac Smith

 

Sláinte

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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.

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Exhibit A c/oJohnLWhiskey.com

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.

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My thanks to The Whiskey Jug for the header image.