Factories, farms, garden sheds or industrial units in which whiskey is manufactured.
They come in all shapes & sizes.
And they are as attractive to whiskey fans as bees are to honey.
To see them, feel them, touch them & smell them.
To experience the characters & the stories that lie behind them.
And to engage with them in their natural environment whether it be surrounded by fields of barley swaying in the wind, salt laden breezes on the wild Atlantic coast or gently rolling green countryside. The environment that ultimately shapes & molds the whiskey into the wonderful array of tastes & smells of the spirit in your favourite glass.
To this end I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to try and put together a trip encapsulating all the new, planned & existing whiskey distilleries in Ireland in one big tour.
Logistically & timescale wise this proved to be a bit of a whiskey marathon spaced out over a week – so a game of 2 halves was suggested.
Hit The North is the inaugural first half covering the Irish distilleries north of an arbitrary line from Dublin to Galway.
Look out for my future posts covering how the trip went!
It’s always wise to visibly scan the whiskey shelves of any bar you go into to see what they actually have in stock – even if you are familiar with the premises.
I’d not been in the Tullamore Court Hotel for a few months and was very pleasantly surprised by the improved array of fine whiskey before me.
Not only was there a veritable wall of Tullamore DEW expressions lining the front bar, which befits the hotel only being a mere mile away from the new Tullamore Distillery – but also plenty of The Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Monkey Shoulder & Grant’s bottles all from the William Grant & Sons – owners of the distillery – portfolio.
How about a tasty trio of Tullamore DEW to test your tastebuds?
Clearly the hotel is a popular watering hole & welcome bed for the night to many overseas staff and visitors to the Tullamore Distillery.
Meanwhile the side bar had also broadened to showcase the large selection of Irish whiskeys currently available on the market today.
The trio that caught my eyes however were the very distinctive & attractively packaged Method and Madness range recently released by Irish Distillers to much acclaim.
Comprising of a single grain, single malt and a single pot still – these whiskeys have pushed the envelope in terms of style, cask selection & innovation for Irish whiskey.
This happened to be my 1st encounter with them – so I started at the beginning with the single grain release.
Presented at 46%, matured in ex-bourbon casks & finished in charred virgin oak, the nose immediately captivated me with warm rich vanilla notes associated with the bourbon casks but heightened with added depth from the virgin oak.
This followed through into a warm smooth snug of flavours in the mouth – very reminiscent of a good bourbon – which is hardly surprising as it is made from a high corn mash with some charred virgin oak cask maturation – albeit Spanish oak. There was a slight delay to savour these beautiful notes before a lovely warming, slightly spicy finish coated the palate and enveloped it like a cosy fireside hug.
There is no madness to this whiskey – it’s simply pushing the method of distilling & maturing the spirit to a higher level.
And in the words of Mr Belt & Wezol – I’m happy for Irish Distillers to Take Me Higher.
The single grain category bar has just been raised!
Writing a blog about the future of Irish Whiskey with a headline photo of a trio of Scottish Single Malts released by the supermarket chain Lidl may seem a little askew – but it highlights an issue pertinent to the current Irish Whiskey industry.
Imagine I’m a supermarket chain of similar standing.
I want some Irish Whiskey.
Perhaps a single pot still, a single malt & a single grain to show off what Ireland has to offer.
I have the branding ready to go.
I have the bottling plant primed.
I have the customers.
Can Irish Whiskey deliver – like yesterday – to capitalise on the Scottish release?
” Slane Castle has survived on Rock ‘n’ Roll and the inspiration for Slane Irish Whiskey came from the first rock concert we staged back in 1981 with Thin Lizzy.
Phil Lynott’s lyric – Whiskey In The Jar – struck me back then and a dream was born.
Throughout the thick and thin of the intervening years Phil’s song stayed with me, nourishing that dream.
Tonight I’m proud to say that dream has become a reality.
Slane Irish Whiskey is definitely in the jar!
Enjoy the music!
Enjoy the craic!
Enjoy Slane Irish Whiskey!”
And with that – Henry & Alex Conyngham released Slane Irish Whiskey – as well as announcing their distillery – to the accompaniment of local rock band Otherkin -who happen to be supporting Guns N Roses next week at the very same Slane Castle.
I must say – as whiskey launches go – this was pretty damn cool!
Otherkin pumping out their own tunes, along with selected classics from bands that have played Slane over the years.
Slane Irish Whiskey flowing either neat – in my case – or with fashionable cocktail suggestions.
And delightfully tasty tit-bits of food served up by the trusty Eastside Tavern crew where the launch was held.
An eclectic gathering of people came to witness this event including Phil Lynott’s mum Philomena fresh from unveiling a refurbished statue to her famous son & all enjoying the the bright sunny Dublin evening that was in it.
But what about the whiskey?
Well it’s obviously not from Slane Distillery itself – which is due to open it’s doors to the public in August.
Slane Irish Whiskey is a sourced blend of quality malt & grain spirits blended and matured together in 3 different types of casks under the watchful eye of Brown-Forman master distillers Chris Morris and Steve Hughes.
Like Otherkin – this is a young, fresh & gutsy whiskey that grabs your attention.
The soft smooth nose captures elements of both the virgin oak and oloroso casks used in a sweet sherry bouquet. There is a bit of depth to the taste with some wood notes & a welcome soft spice from the seasoned American casks too. This all develops into a friendly warmth that gently fades away.
This raises Slane Irish Whiskey up a notch or 2 in my book as the spirit exudes a bit more punch & flavour than standard blends. It would perform very well alongside Jameson’s Crested, Bushmills Black Bush as well as Diageo’s Roe & Co if you’re familiar with these brands.
The bottle is also attractively designed in muscular black with contrasting white & red labeling together with the raised Slane motif on the sides.
If this is a sign of things to come from Slane Distillery I can’t wait for their own offerings of single malts & single pot stills from their 3 copper stills in the years to follow.
Slane Irish Whiskey and Slane Castle Distillery – to borrow a line from Queen who also played Slane.
1) This is the first spirit to be released from a new Dublin whiskey distillery for over a century.
That in itself makes this recently released poitin worthy of a punt – which is exactly what I did. But on tasting the spirit – I got a lovely surprise.
2) Spirit Of Dublin is a single pot still Poitin.
Once I worked my way through that initial oily, slightly rotten fruit smell of new make whiskey – I experienced a very welcome single pot still signature spice warming up my palate and making me smile.
Made with a mix of malted barley and unmalted barley – this is a uniquely Irish style originating from an early tax avoidance scheme where unmalted barely attracted no duty.
The unexpected result is a fabulous soft spice together with a slightly richer mouthfeel on tasting – which Spirit Of Dublin clearly possesses.
If it taste this good straight from the stills – what will it be like straight from the barrel after it’s matured for long enough to be called a whiskey?
Perhaps I’ll have to book another flight a few years hence to find out!
Every now and then a whiskey comes along that kind of takes you by the hand & leads you in to a taste sensation that just enraptures you.
Powers 1817 Release is one of those whiskeys.
On the nose it’s wonderfully rich yet smooth.
Gorgeously rich in depth on tasting with the characteristic Powers pot still spice toned down to a delightful tingle.
With a finish that just goes on and on and on.
At only 10 years old & matured solely in bourbon casks, there must be some much older single pot still malts in here to give the whiskey such gravitas.
Powers 1817 Release is a special bottling for the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) to mark their 200th Bicentenary. The LVA are the trade association representing Dublin pubs.
If you want to sample Powers 1817 you’ll have to visit one of those Dublin pubs – like I was fortunately able to do for a tasting with the highly informative Powers Ambassador Michael Carr at The Brian Boru in Phibsborough.
Michael expertly guided us through the lovely Powers Gold Label blend – a mixture of single pot still & grain whiskey giving a lovely spice kick on the finish – which I must admit to being my ‘go-to’ blend.
The superb Powers John’s Lane Release – a bourbon matured & sherry finished single pot still 12 year old which I thought couldn’t be surpassed.
Until I tasted the 1817 release.
My thanks to Michael for the tasting & Rebecca for arranging the event.
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.
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.
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.
Walking into the downstairs bar of The Dead Rabbit in New York was like stepping back across the Atlantic and entering a well stocked Irish whiskey bar on the Emerald Isle itself.
In fact there was so much Irish whiskey lining the shelves it would put many a respectable bar in Ireland to shame!
The wall hangings, drinks mirrors & assorted jumble of paraphernalia together with the dark wood finish were also a very familiar attribute in many an Irish bar – along with no food!
As Mrs Whiskey & myself had come in for a spot of grub we were directed up stairs to the middle bar which does serve food – only to find it temporarily closed being midway between the lunchtime menu & evening service – and so ended up on the top floor via a narrow staircase.
The bar here was a slightly smaller affair – yet still well stocked – with a comfortable bench along the back wall complete with high tables & chairs for casual diners & imbibers to sit back and enjoy the fair.
Being an Irish bar – I had to go for an Irish whiskey. Now Dead Rabbit do a selection of whiskey flights – but not including the specific whiskeys I was looking for – so I settled for a glass of Kinahan’s 10 year old single malt along with a burger & chips.
Kinahan’s are one of those sourced brands that are generally not available in Ireland. Mainly found in the American market – they were on my radar to try out. Coming in a blend and a 10 year old single malt they have a back story which you may choose to believe – or not – I found it entertaining.
The soft, smooth, charred ex-bourbon cask maturation taste sat well with my previous drinks yet developed into a clearer, more finely tuned fruity note together with a faint spice on the finish. A pretty fine example of an Irish barley single malt in contrast to the mixed corn, wheat, barley & rye american bourbon mash bills. It perfectly accompanied my rather large burger.
For afters I decided to go native.
A very attractively designed bottle of Angels Envy took my eye.
Hailing from Louisville Distilling in Kentucky with a corn, barley & rye mash bill – the expression I had is aged for up to 6 years & unusually – for American bourbon anyway – finished in ruby port casks.
The rye spice I love was very subdued by both the rich port influence as well as the high corn with added barley mixed mash. It did have depth & a complex nuance – but not that instant POW I was looking for. One to savour over I think.
Suitably sated – we ventured out for the South Ferry subway. Dead Rabbit is only a short walk from the very attractive Battery Park area where clear views of The Statue Of Liberty & Ellis Island can be enjoyed – along with the obligatory boat trips. As the temperatures were plummeting below zero we left the chance to embrace ourselves in the cultural & historic tales of Irish emigration for another day.
Dead Rabbit may not have been around when those early immigrants first arrived in America – but it’s a very welcome bolthole for the modern day traveller. Just be sure to get there early. We easily got a table when we arrived around 4ish – but later patrons had to wait for a while as the venue was packed out by the time we left.