When your country estate already pulls in a substantial amount of visitors to the stunningly ornate gardens with magnificent views of Sugarloaf Mountain behind.
When a 5 Star hotel graces your grounds along with 2 championship designed golf courses laid out in the beautiful Wicklow scenery.
Not to mention the history, tales and adventures contained within the walls of the grand 18th Century mansion of Powerscourt House itself.
What exactly would be the icing on the cake?
Well a single estate whiskey distillery wouldn’t go amiss now would it?
Discreetly built onto the old estate sawmill, Powerscourt Distillery is fully operational busily laying down casks of single malt Irish Whiskey to mature in it’s nearby warehouse.
The 3 resplendent copper pot stills – made by Forsyths – sit majestically in a modern clean & bright open plan space allowing visitors a close up look, feel & smell of the whole grain to glass process of whiskey making.
Noel Sweeney has brought his many distinguished years of knowledge as Master Distiller to Powerscourt overseeing the production of both single malt – as well as single pot still distillate – to this exciting distillery.
It will be a few years before Powerscourt Distillery’s own spirit is fully mature – but in the meantime a trio of whiskeys released under the Fercullen label – the old name for the lands Powersourt Estate sits on – are available.
Unusually in this instance Noel probably had a hand in distilling these sourced whiskeys from his days at Cooley & Kilbeggan Distilleries under a number of different owners.
Tours include a tasting of all 3 whiskeys in one of Powerscourt Distillery’s sumptuously laid out rooms.
The 10 Year Old Fercullen Single Grain Whiskey was offered first.
Now there aren’t that many single grains on the market – which is a pity – as this one shows up the light yet delicately balanced sweet & fruity flavours within a great single grain. Far from being silent there were notes of honey, citrus and a gentle woody spice too.
Very approachable & easy on the palate.
The attractively priced Fercullen Blend was a bit of a pleaser too.
It displayed a complex set of notes from soft fruitiness to darker oaky tannins within an extremely well balanced mix.
A blend you can happily sit back & savour.
The pride of place meanwhile went to the Fercullen 14 Year Old Single Malt.
Packing extra ABV at 46% – as opposed to the 40% of it’s siblings – the 14 Year Old had added depth & boosted character from the exclusively ex-bourbon cask maturation used in all 3 offerings.
When many a distillery relies on additional finishes to give the spirit a lift – Fercullen demonstrates the beauty of what to many is a simple standard of Irish Whiskey.
A very impressive range of whiskeys for a very impressive distillery.
It’s not very often you get to attend the launch of a whiskey in the Council Chambers of a local Town Hall.
But then this is no ordinary whiskey.
It’s a whiskey steeped with history, heritage & family.
A whiskey commemorating the 100th anniversary of the passing of Henry Egan.
Descendants of Henry gathered together outside his former house – now Tullamore Town Hall – not only to remember him – but also to revive the family tradition – Irish Whiskey.
The well respected Midland’s business of P&H Egan loomed large in Tullamore from the 1850’s right up to the 1960’s. Alongside whiskey blending, many other businesses were engaged in by generations of the family. A walk round the town showed the extent of the family’s influence with the current Bridge House Hotel being originally built as the main shop & head office for the Egan’s operations.
Offaly History do a blog detailing much information on the Egan family history in Tullamore here.
During the walk a bottle of Egan’s Whiskey was given to the owners of barge 42B. The very same barge P&H Egan’s had owned back in the day to transport goods to and from Dublin via the Grand Canal – the motorway of it’s day.
The highlight of the proceedings was undoubtedly the unveiling of Egan’s Centenary Irish Whiskey in the Brewery Tap Bar – also previously owned by P&H Egan’s as a brewery for their Ales.
The complete collection of Egan’s Whiskeys were laid out for an eager gathering of family & friends at the bar.
To start off the tasting, Egan’s Vintage Grain.
A gorgeously warm single grain presented at 46% & non chill filtered – as all Egan’s Whiskeys are – full of vanillas & caramel from the ex-bourbon cask maturation.
Egan’s Fortitude Single Malt.
Fully matured in PX Sherry casks this non age statement – NAS – offering didn’t excite my palate as much. There were more dark fruits present – and a lovely soft spicy dryness at the end – but it just missed the mark for me.
Egan’s 10 Year Old Single Malt.
Everyone at my table enjoyed this one!
Boasting a 47% ABV this single malt was easy on the palate yet bursting with fruity juiciness & gentle spices at the end.
Egan’s 15 Year Old Legacy Reserve.
A rare treat to encounter this lovely rich whiskey again. I particularly enjoyed the depth of character with dry oaky tannins, leathery & tobacco notes from the long maturation. It didn’t suit everyone though – as I found out by chatting to my fellow imbibers. A few of them happened to be Egan descendants themselves! Although not involved with the whiskey venturing Egan’s of the present day.
And then the glorious finale!
Egan’s Centenary Irish Whiskey – poured individually out of the first bottle ever to be opened by the Intrepid Spirits founder himself – with the elegantly displayed packaging showcased by the Egan’s First Lady of Whiskey too!
The nose was initially softer, cleaner almost – before the gentle subtleness of dark fruits opened up.
The taste was attractively warming. A smooth velvety mouthfeel with dark cherry fruitiness from the ex-cognac casks used to finish this blend.
A flourish of spice rounded off this fabulous whiskey.
A fitting whiskey to commemorate one of the founding Egan family members who built a successful business empire in the past.
A fitting whiskey to be enjoyed in the present.
And a fitting whiskey to toast future generations of Egan’s a long & prosperous involvement in the spirits trade.
As a large Belgian media conglomerate has just swallowed up a chunk of Irish news media – I thought it opportune to swallow some Belgian Whiskey.
Now Belgium is relatively new to the game of whisky distilling – but have a long history of distilling jenever – so it’s rather refreshing to see a bold ‘Aged 3 Years’ statement emblazoned across the front of this very attractively presented bottle of single malt.
Just as every Belgian Beer has it’s own glassware – it seems as if Belgian Whisky is no exception to this highly entertaining & endearing custom.
My interest was certainly piqued.
Vuur – for anyone who doesn’t know – is Flemish for fire – I had to look it up myself – which is explained by the peat content.
Belgium does actually have peat bogs. Mainly around the Haute Fagnes area – oddly near the highest point in Belgium at Signal De Botrange. I only know this as I happened to visit the place when on holiday a few years ago.
Belgian lightly peated malted barley was used in this whisky.
Extra ‘fire’ content is provided by the use of ex-Laphroaig quarter casks for maturation.
And a great job they do too!
There’s a joyful youthfulness about it.
A little bit bold – a tad brash – but full of flavour & appeal.
The peat influence is relatively quiet to begin with – a trifle soft – while the barley sweetness slowly gets consumed into a glowing ashy peat smokiness that gradually dries out the palate leaving a very satisfyingly long warm feeling on the finish.
A beautiful little number from Belgium!
I sourced my bottle via the wonderfully named Drankenwereld shop in Belgium itself here.
Sean’s Clonmacnoise Single Malt Irish Whiskey does this in bundles.
A short boat ride down the mighty River Shannon from just outside Sean’s Bar’s beer garden in Athlone – is the monastic settlement of Clonmacnoise
The art of distillation is often attributed to monks bringing back the knowledge from the middle east. The route they would have traveled into the heart of Ireland is the very same River Shannon.
The earliest written record of aqua vitae, or uisce beatha, or whiskey as we now know it – was written in the Annuls Of Clonmacnoise in 1405. It regales the story of an unfortunate local chieftain who died of a ‘surfeit of aqua vitae’ during festivities.
Meanwhile I was fortunate enough to receive an advance bottle of Clonmacnoise by Sean’s for appraisal – & more sensible drinking.
Now I’m a fan of pubs releasing their own whiskey brands. It harks back to the days when licensed premises would have had a barrel of whiskey propped up at the bar from which they would have dispensed the spirits inside.
The degree of individuality, diversity & tastes experienced when going from bar to bar would have been vast – and to a certain extent bars releasing their own brands today reflects that history.
Nowadays the whiskey is usually sourced from a number of distilleries and bottled for the bar.
Sean’s happens to have been sourced at West Cork Distillers (WCD) – and I must admit to being a fan of this slightly unconventional distillery founded by three friends who were mainly previously involved in the fishing industry.
So how did I find Clonmacnoise Whiskey?
Well the colour is a lovely dark amber. Suggestive of charred casks – which WCD do a lot of – or perhaps a sherry finish.
The nose is quite youthful & invigorating – with a warm & inviting depth to it. There’s some dark fruity notes & an intriguing soft hint of smoke.
It starts off light & easy. Very accessible & gently warming – but then it takes you on a journey – slowly developing layers of enjoyable flavours & complexity before a lovely dry spiciness with subtle hints of smoke finishes of this characterful little number.
Sean’s Clonmacnoise captures both the modern rebirth of Irish Whiskey with it’s youthful vitality & modern style – as well as remembering the long historic legacy of Irish Whiskey that has journeyed so far from it’s original birthplace.