Category Archives: Irish Whiskey

SuperValu Premium Irish Whiskey Selection

On Wednesday 11th October SuperValu – an Irish owned retail store, part of the Musgrave Group with 223 shops nationwide – officially launch their new Premium Irish Whiskey range at an event in Dublin.

Being unable to attend – I did pop down to my two local SuperValu stores to see what all the fuss was about.

I must say I got quite excited about the breadth & depth of the range of Irish Whiskey on offer. Especially as it encompasses many of the new entrants into the resurging Irish Whiskey scene – as well as a couple of exclusives.

All the big 3 distilleries – Bushmills, Cooley & Midleton – are well represented with their familiar flagship brands.

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Supervalu Whiskey Cabinet c/othewhiskeynut

A clutch of new entrants offerings are also on display – Dubliner, Glendalough, Hyde, Teeling & Writers Tears whiskeys. All of which are currently sourced from the big 3 distilleries above – until the distillate from their own stills is old enough to be called whiskey.

The exciting dimension comes into play with the inclusion of three new distilleries who are actually old enough to produce & market their own whiskey.

Pearse Lyons Distillery only opened the doors to their marvelous facility in the former St James Church in August 2017. But prior to that their current stills – Mighty Mollie & Little Lizzie – had been fired up in County Carlow laying down single malt distillate which is now included in the two blended offerings of Pearse Original & Pearse Distiller’s Choice Whiskey – both included in the SuperValu range.

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West Cork Dhá Chasca c/othewhiskeynut

West Cork Distillers have had a somewhat rocky relationship with the whiskeyratti – but have been busily laying down distillate, releasing a slew of tasty own label expressions as well as innovative 3rd party brands too. They are actually old enough to release their own whiskey – but have never shouted about it if they are. The 10 year old single malt would be too old to be their own stock – but the new West Cork Dhá Chasca – a non age statement double barreled single malt just could be.

It’s also a SuperValu exclusive.

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Musgrave Exclusive c/othewhiskeynut

How cool is that!

So I bought a bottle for later evaluation.

What is even cooler is the poster child for the resurgence of Irish Whiskey – Dingle Distillery – have also released a SuperValu exclusive.

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From the SuperValu Premium Whiskey booklet

Dingle single malt whiskey matured in both port casks & bourbon barrels has been married together to produce this limited edition release.

Sadly it wasn’t in either of the shops when I visited – but wouldn’t it be great to pick up the cream of new Irish whiskey whilst doing your weekly shopping?

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Paddy for sale c/othewhiskeynut

And if you’re really lucky – like I was – you might also bag some of the remaining stock of classic whiskey from the recent past!

If that doesn’t make you excited – you’re not excited by whiskey!

Sláinte.

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The Temple Bar Whiskey, 40% x 4

There has been an explosion of new Irish whiskeys in recent years. A trend that is likely to increase as the next generation of Irish whiskey distilleries begin to release their own produce.

Another phenomenon of the re-birth of the Irish whiskey scene is the growing number of whiskey bars releasing their own bottlings.

Local to myself in the Midlands, Hugh Lynch’s Bar in Tullamore & Sean’s Bar in Athlone have both released approachable & enjoyable blended Irish whiskey offerings under their own label – both produced for them by West Cork Distillers.

Generally these releases are only available in their bar of origin. Which makes a good excuse for a journey to sample them in their natural habitat – in the pub full of ceol agus craic. Always a bonus in my book!

However when passing through Dublin Airport a while ago I did notice a quartet of whiskeys under the Temple Bar logo.

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I’ll have the 12 please! c/othewhiskeynut

Not content with releasing the obligatory blended offering – Temple Bar have taken it a step further and are offering a trio of age statement single malts at 10, 12 & 15 years old.

I didn’t ascertain where they were sourced from – there are only a few choices at this age – but they were all what I’d call standard bourbon matured Irish whiskeys.

That’s not to say they weren’t good – all of them are far better than the blend offering a richer, smoother & more flavoursome experience for the discerning drinker.

There were subtle differences between all 3 – but for me the 12 year old proved to be the sweet spot.

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Temple Bar 15yo Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

The combination of rich vanilla & caramel notes from the bourbon cask combined with some woody tannin notes from the oak barrel won me over.

Having a taster in the airport lounge before a long flight wouldn’t be the ideal spot to really savour these malts. That will have to wait for a visit to the actual Temple Bar in Dublin where a flight of all 4 whiskeys in the comfortable lounge area can be truly appreciated.

Maybe I’ll meet you there for one!

Sláinte.

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Walsh Whiskey Distillery, Royal Oak, Carlow.

Driving into the grounds of Walsh Whiskey Distillery you half expect the butler from Downton Abbey to meet you at the end of the long drive surrounded as it is by lush green pastures populated by lively horses, docile cattle and mature trees.

Instead a barrel of Walsh Whiskey awaits you!

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Welcome barrel c/othewhiskeynut

Followed shortly by an impressive looking purpose built whiskey distillery fronted by an idyllic duck pond – populated by real ducks! – bordered by green banks that would make an ideal spot for a bit of outdoor whiskey tasting.

Bernard and Rosemary Walsh have spent many years building up the Irishman brand to get to this. A complete grain to glass whiskey distillery built on the grounds of Holloden House estate in the County Carlow countryside a few miles out of Carlow town itself.

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Opening plaque c/othewhiskeynut

The distillery was opened in 2016 and has been in full-time production from that date making all 3 styles of Irish whiskey; single malt, single pot still and grain.

Our tour guide – Paddy – entertainingly took us through the very spacious & clean working distillery showing us the process by which the barley – from the nearby fields – ends up as the uisce beatha we all love in the glass before us.

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Inside the distillery c/othewhiskeynut

Walsh produce that whiskey using the traditional triple distilled method using malted & unmalted barley for the single pot still & malted barley for the single malt. They also have an impressively tall pair of stainless steel coffey stills through which they distill the corn based grain whiskey.

There are plans to build maturation warehouses on-site too – but at present this takes place off-site for now.

Unusually for such a large operation in a new build there is no computerisation of the process. Bernard insisted on the old methods whereby the distillers – there are 12 of them in total – have to nose or sample the new make every 20 minutes during production to ascertain when to switch from the heads, to the heart & finally to the tails for every batch. Certainly putting reliance on there sense of taste & smell.

Talking about taste – after the tour there is the obligatory tasting session in the fabulously appointed Still House Lounge overlooking the scenic duck pond as well as the historic Holloden House itself.

There are 3 tasting options;

The first offers the choice of either the Irishman Founder’s Reserve or Writers Tears Copper Pot blends. Interestingly both these blends contain a mix of single malts & single pot stills only , giving them a richer & slightly more oilier & softly spicy feel than other blended expressions.

The middle choice has you tasting the lovely Irishman Single Malt, the Irishman 12 Year Old & the Writers Tears Red Head Single Malts.

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Irishman 12 c/othewhiskeynut

Finally the premier choice offers cask strength heaven in the Irishman Cask Strength, Irishman 17 Year Old & Writers Tears Cask Strength expressions.

Fortunately for our group there were the newly released Founder’s Reserve Florio Marsala Cask Finish at 46% & the stunning Irishman 12 Year Old Florio Marsala Cask Strength at 56% expressions to sample. The cask strength certainly hit the right notes & is only a distillery release at present. Pity it was sold out on the day we visited as there would have been some eager buyers!

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Irishman 12 Marsala Cask c/othewhiskeynut

Currently all the whiskey in the Walsh Whiskey portfolio is sourced elsewhere from an undisclosed distillery with Bernard Walsh himself overseeing the blending, maturing & final bottling of the product. Most of the releases also contain added colouring – although the sherry finished offerings would be naturally darker & slightly sweeter from the marsala casks used.

The Walsh Whiskey Distillery is certainly an impressive building set in a stunning location with lovely scenery. The dedication & passion for whiskey making is evident – and I eagerly look forward to the proceeding years as the new make Walsh spirit quietly transforms itself within it’s maturing casks into Walsh Whiskey made with their own stills.

That’s something worth waiting for!

Sláinte.

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Coleraine Irish Whiskey, 40%, Brexit in a Bottle

As I sit tasting a whiskey, relishing it’s flavours & relaxing in the warmth of the brown spirit – my mind often wanders to the stories contained within the glass.

You could say it’s the ‘Message in a Bottle’ that often excites me.

Coleraine Distillery used to produce first class whiskey. Opened in the early 1800’s – Coleraine made triple distilled malts of distinction before struggling during the two world wars eventually coming under the ownership of nearby neighbour Bushmills. It was converted to a grain distillery in it’s latter years before falling victim to Irish Distillers rationalising plans in the 1970’s when grain production was moved to the New Midleton Distillery & Coleraine closed for good.

This is the Message in a Bottle.

So I took a sip.

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Comes with an E & House of Commons logo c/othewhiskeynut

The current incarnation of Coleraine is a budget priced blend trading off it’s past glory. The nose has that e150 caramel characteristic of an entry blend – the taste is rather muted but approachable – the finish is slightly harsh but not unwelcoming – overall no strong flavours, no surprises, but for the price point – it’s grand.

This is the Message in a Bottle.

So I took another sip.

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There is no distillery by the name of Coleraine anymore. c/othewhiskeynut

Brexit – for those that don’t know – is the name given to the process by which Britain will leave the European Union after the historic vote in 2016.

Northern Ireland is part of Britain – along with Scotland, England and Wales.

Depending on how the talks go – Northern Ireland will be out of the European Union (EU) by 2019.

As ‘Irish Whiskey’ is an EU definition – Regulation 110/2008 – I’d argue that definition no longer applies post Brexit. I cannot see how a non EU country will be allowed to label itself the same as an EU country.

This is the Message in a Bottle.

So I took another sip.

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Neck detail c/othewhiskeynut

Now initially this means whiskey collectors will have a field day. Just think – all the whiskey producers in Northern Ireland will no longer be able to label their produce as ‘Irish Whiskey’.

At present these producers are;

Bushmills,  Echlinville,  Quiet Man,  Boatyard  &  Rademon Distillery 

To the best of my knowledge they are all engaged in making, planning or building a whiskey distillery. After 2019 they will all be out of the EU – and if you click on the names you will be guided to their websites.

Do you think the 27 remaining member states will allow a non-member state to trade under an EU registered label?

I think you will get a resounding non, nein, nie, ne ………… and so on.

This is the Message in a Bottle.

So I continued to sip and ponder.

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Post Brexit is Bushmills non-Irish? c/othewhiskeynut

But it gets more complicated.

There is no grain distillery in Northern Ireland.

At one fell swoop all blends produced there will now become whiskey made in an EU country – Ireland – as well as a non EU country – Northern Ireland.

That will go down well with the Brussels bureaucrats!

It was beginning to wreck my head too!

This is the Message in a Bottle.

I needed another sip at this stage.

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Ring ring, Brexit calling! c/othewhiskeynut

But wait a minute. Doesn’t Bushmills export some of it’s liquid South for other bottlers & blenders to use?

Won’t that be subject to import taxes & customs control?

Won’t the resultant whiskey become a non EU product or a hybrid whiskey at least?

This is the Message in a Bottle.

And it was all getting a bit too much for me – and another song popped into my head.

What is the message in your bottle?

Sláinte.

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Paddy Centenary, Single Pot Still, 43%

Paddy – to my tastes anyway – is my least favourite of the standard entry level trio of blends produced by Irish Distillers.

The other 2 being the flagship Jameson Original & Powers Gold Label. All of these blends contain pot still whiskey in their respective recipes which result in varying degrees of that signature spice flavour associated with single pot still.

I’ve still to sample all 3 blends back to back yet for the ultimate taste comparison though.

Despite Jameson & Powers coming in an increasing array of offerings – Paddy was left floundering with only one – that is if you exclude the honey & apple liqueurs available in other markets.

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Paddy Collection c/oGoogle

However in 2013 – to celebrate 100 years of the famous brand – this special single pot still bottling was released.

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What’s inside the box? c/othewhiskeynut

Packaged in a lovely wooden case – complete with a photo of the legendary Cork Distiller’s salesman Paddy Flaherty – after whom the brand was named – together with an attractively labelled bottle – the overall effect is very attractive.

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I’ll have an ‘E’ please Bob c/othewhiskeynut

The liquid inside is also very enticing!

The rich nose & taste of orchard fruits instantly won me over to the joys of this wonderful single pot still in some select whiskey bars where this limited edition bottle can still be found.

Limited being the key word here.

As at nearly 5 years done the line from the original release – the availability of this whiskey is becoming increasingly scarce & hard to find.

It’s falling into that category of whiskey people buy not to drink – which is a pity – but to collect.

I managed to get my hands on one of these beauties for less than 80 euro.

At that price it won’t be around for long. Especially as the Paddy brand has now been bought by American drinks company Sazerac.

I wonder what Paddy Flaherty would have made of that?

Sláinte.

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Jameson Caskmates, IPA Edition, 40%, Blend

You’ve gotta hand it to Irish Distillers – the largest producer of whiskey on the island of Ireland – for constantly coming up with new & innovative expressions for our delight & delectation.

The very successful Jameson Original blend is by far and away the biggest selling Irish whiskey in the world – but to be brutally honest – I find it rather bland & characterless.

The surprise hit of Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition gave the Original blend a welcome dose of character by it’s final maturation resting in casks that previously held stout from the Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork.

This has led to further collaboration with craft brewers around the world with limited releases of Jameson Caskmates in various regions to add more flavour & depth to the Original blend.

The latest incarnation of the Caskmates series takes it’s lead from the hirsute hipster’s darling drink of the craft beer scene – IPA.

You could say it’s bigger than Hip Hop!

IPA – or Indian Pale Ale to give it the original title – is a style of beer characterised by the varying degrees of bitterness provided by the inclusion of hops in the recipe. It currently fuels the growing interest in craft beer with an explosion of new tastes, new flavours & new styles.

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IPA Edition c/othewhiskeynut

Jameson has taken a leaf out of the craft beer scene to age their latest Caskmate in IPA casks – also from the nearby Franciscan Well Brewery – to provide new tastes, new flavours & new styles to the whiskey world.

So does it work?

Well – the back story and the flavours in the Stout Edition had me hooked so on hearing O’Briens had a limited run of 2000 for a trial period – I was first in line for a bottle!

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In O’Briens c/othewhiskeynut

But what does it taste like?

The dark colour struck me first – perhaps I was taking the IPA influence a bit too much in expecting a pale yellow offering!

On the nose it was relatively soft with a hint of citrus, quiet nice actually.

The taste came over crisp & dry. The bourbon maturation notes faded quickly to leave a pleasant dry lemony tart finish.

Novel & intriguingly enticing.

The overall experience was of a well balanced blend with subtle flavours throughout – perhaps just a bit too subtle for me.

But the hint of hops at the end together with a sprinkling of spice won me over.

You’d better ‘hop to it’ if yer after a bottle!

Sláinte.Good Logo

 

 

 

Pearse Lyons Distillery, The Liberties, Dublin

The Pearse Lyons Distillery officially opened it’s doors to the public on August 26th 2017.

I happened to be in Dublin myself that day – but as I (and a few other whiskey heads too) were busily judging the blended whiskey category for the upcoming Irish Whiskey Awards in another part of town – the alcohol took it’s toll on me and I was in no fit state for any distillery visit.

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Blind whiskey tasting in progress c/othewhiskeynut

Luckily for me the next week provided a further opportunity in the single grain, single pot still & cask strength category judging at which I paced myself rather better with adequate water & food intake.

So by 4pm I happily had the chance to be shown round the week old distillery by the friendly & informative guide – sorry – storyteller – Bernard.

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Now let’s go inside & have a whiskey! c/othewhiskeynut

The distillery is highly unusual in that it is housed in an old church – complete with graveyard dating from the 1100’s!

Bernard himself did a sterling job exploring some of the many stories that make up both the past, present and future of the current whiskey distillery.

The stories continued inside the distillery building that had the wonderfully gleaming copper pot stills placed in the old alter area surrounded with stunning stained glass windows.

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The whiskey window c/othewhiskeynut

The pot stills themselves are a rather unusual design for Irish whiskey. To begin with there are only 2. Mighty Molly – the larger wash still and Little Lizzie – the spirit still – which along with the familiar bulbous pot also has a rectifying column on top.

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Mighty Mollie & Little Lizzie c/othewhiskeynut

Both were manufactured by Vendome in Louisville, Kentucky, where Pearse Lyons has his Town Branch Distillery. Interestingly, these stills were previously used in County Carlow to produce some of the whiskey that ended up in Pearse Whiskey blends –  which we got to taste later in the all important sampling – where all good distillery tours finish – in tasting the actual produce.

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The tasting trio c/othewhiskeynut

Pearse Irish Whiskey comes in 4 styles & flavours – all presented at 42%

There are 3 blends. Blends are whiskeys that contain both grain whiskey and malt whiskey.  2 of the Pearse blends contain malt that has been made using the stills now situated in the former church.

The Original started off our introduction to the Pearse family whiskeys.

Aged in bourbon barrels for 3 to 5 years this light whiskey came across crisp & clear to me – very enjoyable & approachable – even after the single pot stills I’d enjoyed earlier in the day.

The Distiller’s Choice is also a blend using slightly older malt & grain components with final maturation in sherry casks. This gives the whiskey a slightly sweeter taste which I must admit didn’t wow me as much as The Original.

The final offering was the Founder’s Choice. A 12 year old single malt from an un-named source. This also  had the fairly soft, light & approachable character of an Irish bourbon cask matured single malt.

By now I was chatting with fellow distillery tourists to find out which expressions they enjoyed. We did ask about the last bottle – the Cooper’s Select – and despite being on sale in the distillery – it wasn’t offered for tasting.

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Cooper’s Select c/othewhiskeynut

Would it be available in the nearby McCann’s Bar?

‘Probably’ came the reply.

A plan was hatched. My new whiskey buddies – a young American & an English couple would meet there after our distillery purchases.

Now McCann’s is currently hidden behind scaffolding & hoardings as the whole block is undergoing renovation as part of the Pearse Lyons Distillery project – I can’t wait to see the final result of the refurbishment to this fine old bar,

Inside were a large crowd of regulars enjoying the craic & watching the late afternoon sport on the telly. My new american friend was already enjoying a Guinness – well the brewery is just next door! – but I insisted on ordering some Cooper’s Choice.

Cooper’s Choice is an aged blend matured in bourbon barrels with final maturation in sherry casks. It’s also a sourced whiskey while Pearse Lyons own distillate is quietly resting in wooden barrels.

I really enjoyed this one. As did my friend who was now joined by the English couple.

Spotting the bar also stocked the output from Pearse’s Town Branch Distillery I couldn’t resist the Town Branch Rye.

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Town Branch Rye c/othewhiskeynut

At 50% it delivers that powerful peppery spice kick on both the nose & mouth that I simply can’t get enough of – big, bad, beautiful & bold. Lovely!

Meanwhile one of the chatty locals insisted we had some traditional Irish whiskey – so a glass of Paddy’s it was.

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Paddy Irish Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Oh dear.

Yes it was smooth & easy – but it lacked the full blown character & hit of the rye we just tried previously.

I could have stayed longer – but I had a train to catch – so made my way to the station with just enough time to grab an Iarnród Éireann cup of tea & sandwich to sober up.

Whiskey for me is a journey of discovery.

I discovered a lovely new Irish whiskey distillery along with some beautiful new expressions – and hopefully led others to discover more too.

My thanks to the Celtic Whiskey Club & Pearse Lyons Distillery for  a wonderful day out in Dublin.

Sláinte.

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Slane Distillery Launch Party

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.

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Entering the distillery c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Merrylegs? c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Brook Brown Barzon speaking with Henry & Alex Conyngham c/othewhiskeynut

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’.

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Lawson Whiting c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Slane Distillery staff c/othewhiskeynut

And with that – a toast was raised to the launch of Slane Distillery – the drinks flowed and the rock ‘n’ roll began!

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Party time! c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Well, I did have one cocktail. c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Whiskey & vinyl c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Did I mention I prefer it neat? c/othewhiskeynut

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.

Sláinte

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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.

Sean’s Bar, Athlone, & His Whiskey

It’s always nice after being away for a short while to come home to an unexpected surprise. Especially when that surprise involves a new Irish whiskey!

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An unexpected surprise! c/othewhiskeynut

Sean’s Bar in Athlone is firmly on the tourist trail.

As the oldest bar in Ireland – and possibly the world depending on your sources – mainly due to the old wattle & wicker wall contained within the bar’s structure –  it has a steady stream of tourists, revellers & locals entering it’s doors.

Being one of my local bars it’s simply a short walk across the mighty River Shannon for me to enjoy the dimly lit snug like main bar as well as the extensive outside back bar which are often both crowded on a weekend.

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Sean’s whiskey bar c/othewhiskeynut

Sean’s never had an extensive whiskey range – the usual suspects were to be had; Jameson, Bushmills, Tullamore, Connemara & the Pogues for example – but recently that has all changed.

Sean’s Bar Blended Whiskey has just been released & is available exclusively in the bar either by the glass or the full bottle if you desire.

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Sean’s Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

I popped down on a damp Sunday afternoon to try it out.

Now I wasn’t expecting much from an entry level standard blend.

It has that caramalised nose feel and initially the taste is rather soft & mildly sweet. Very approachable & easy however.

What raises this whiskey slightly above the rest for me is a welcome warming spiciness on the finish – very reminiscent of a Powers Gold Blend.

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The back. c/othewhiskeynut

Produced by West Cork Distillers on a limited run. Packaged in an attractive label with a bit of history on the back. It’s a good excuse as any to give Sean’s a visit!

Get in touch if you do – I might just join you for one!

Sláinte

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Project Vault, Moyvore, Westmeath.

I got fierce excited  about a 138 million euro proposal to develop a whiskey maturation & filling facility near the village of Moyvore – only a half hour from my home in Westmeath.

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c/oWestmeathIndependent

It’s the less ‘sexy’ side of the whiskey industry whose main attractions are the actual distilleries with their gleaming copper pot stills.

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A Teeling pot still c/othewhiskeynut

Whiskey maturation warehouses are simply that – warehouses  – but they do smell nice with all that wood & slow release of whiskey to the angel’s share!

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Tullamore Warehouse c/othewhiskeynut

Project Vault plans to offer a service to Irish whiskey distilleries whereby the clear new make spirit is transferred to Moyvore – probably by road tanker – carefully filled into wooden casks and then put on the shelves for the minimum 3 years period to slowly take in all the tastes, flavours & colours of the wood before it becomes that fabulous brown spirit I love – whiskey.

Most of the new whiskey distilleries that are currently being built have no storage facilities on site.

The current Dublin distilleries of Teeling, Pearse Lyons, Diageo & Dublin Liberties have no choice. Ever since the infamous 1875 Liberties whiskey fire – no whiskey has been allowed to mature within the confines of Dublin City.

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Diageo’s distillery site c/othewhiskeynut

The established distilleries of Bushmills & Midleton are currently expanding their storage capacity on lands adjacent to or nearby their present sites.

Westmeath’s own Kilbeggan Distillery – along with it’s sister Cooley Distillery in Co. Louth – now owned by US giant Brown-Forman is also running out of space due to the increased demand for Irish whiskey throughout the world.

It’s this demand and welcome worldwide growth in Irish whiskey sales that local businessman Alan Wright is trying to satisfy in developing this much needed facility in his home county of Westmeath.

A public meeting to discuss the proposal was recently held in the St Oliver’s Community Centre in Moyvore itself. Excited to hear what the full plans were – I went along.

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Project Vault presentation c/othewhiskeynut

Cars were strung along the R392 road as the community hall was filled by over 100 local residents. On the top table were Alan Wright himself flanked by Robert Allen – a structural/civil engineer with 35 years experience who works with Allen Barber Ltd engineers who have been commissioned to design & build the facility – and Dr George Smith – an eminent ecologist with Blackthorn Ecology who will be overseeing the environmental  impact of the development & it’s ongoing lifespan.

I must confess to bumping into Dr Smith on a number of occasions. The most recent being engaged on an environmental BioBlitz on the beautiful Clare Island where despite the frenzied wildlife finding activities, time was found to enjoy a few whiskeys in the fabulous Sailors Bar!

A short video introduced the project to us.

It laid out the rise of Irish whiskey & the need for more maturation sites. The process by which the site at Moyvore was chosen over & above about a dozen other sites around Ireland. – It should be noted here that to be labelled as Irish Whiskey the spirit has to be both distilled AND matured on the Island of Ireland. – The various land surveys, ecological surveys, transport links & other health & safety requirements that had to be met before even the first sod of turf could be turned on the site. How the developers wanted to work with the local community in allaying any fears or worries about the project & how they wished to consult over any issues that could arise during any phase of the plan.

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Artists impression of Phase 1 c/oProjectVault

I considered the presentation a rather thorough explanation as to what was planned, what had been done to date & what would be done in the future to ensure the safe operation of the site for both the workers within, the wider community around and the bio-diversity of the habitat too.

From the outset it became clear the mood was decidedly negative.

Speaker after speaker after speaker voiced their fears about how the development was a threat to the community. Issues were raised over the risk of fire & explosion, increased traffic problems, the threat of black fungus & even a potential terrorist target!

The top table calmly & clearly attempted to explain the actions they had instituted to allay theses issues. Mr Allen said that the safety requirements in the building far exceeded those of the recent American explosion & that a large water storage tank on site to feed a water sprinkling system would extinguish any potential fire within thirty minutes.

The mere mention of a large water storage tank in turn prompted fears of flooding.

Dr Smith outlined they were aware of the black fungus – or angel’s share fungus – which is a particular type of fungus common to distillery sites which creates dis-colouration on nearby vegetation & buildings. There wasn’t much actual research on this species – and certainly I think the whiskey industry ought to do more – but that a planned 100 to 150 metre zone within the site would be planted with a ring of trees to prevent any outbreak from reaching close neighbours.

None of the comments seemed to appease the angry & clearly passionate opposition.

I was taken aback!

No one seemed to think of the increased opportunities for jobs created by such a venture especially given that nearby Longford has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

No one seemed to see the potential tourist development given the nearby Center Parcs site as well as the 40,000 people that visited the Kilbeggan Distillery – that would certainly be a boost to McCawley’s, the only pub & shop in the town!

No one seemed to comment on the growing spend of the Irish whiskey industry both directly & indirectly into the Irish economy of up to 45 million per annum . Maybe some of that money could be used to improve the local roads.

When one of the commentators mentioned there would be no jobs for locals I just had to butt in.

‘I live only a half hour away & I’m a fully qualified haz-chem driver & I’d love to drive a tanker of whiskey up and down the local roads.

Irish whiskey is a growing & well respected product throughout the world. Having such a facility in Moyvore would put it on the world map & lead to a growing tourist industry.

I’m fully in favour of the development.’

Or words to that effect.

Unexpectedly I received a round of applause – almost as loud as that garnished by opponents to the scheme. At the end of the day I was the only person from the floor to voice a positive attitude to the development.

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Local road signs c/othewhiskeynut

Clearly Project Vault have a hard job to do to convince a divided community of the merits of such a development within their midst. The meeting was certainly an eye-opener to me of all the hard work that often goes on unseen to build the infrastructure that produces the liquid I so enjoy.

I hope Project Vault gets the go ahead.

Irish Whiskey used to be number 1 in the world in terms of sales & quality up to the early 1900’s.

It has the potential to win back that title in the future.

Moyvore is an essential part of that future and I wish all those involved future success.

Sláinte.

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I should point out I’m an independent blogger passionate about all things whiskey.

All views are my own and I am not connected in any way to the proposers of this plan nor the whiskey industry in general.

The residents of Moyvore have voiced legitimate concerns that I feel can be addressed by the Project Vault team in whom I credit a degree of trust & faith that they can deliver a state of the art facility that is safe, clean and efficient both for the needs of the whiskey industry and the nearby communities.