There has been a positive explosion of Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey on the market.
It’s marvelous to witness the revival of this historic style of whiskey.
Originally created as a tax dodge – malted barley attracted duty, unmalted did not – so distillers used unmalted barley in the mix to avoid the burden and created a well loved flavour profile in the process.
Distilled & matured at the old Kilbeggan Distillery itself – which has maintained a continuous licence since 1757. This whiskey marks another milestone in the long – and often chequered – history of this esteemed distillery.
Living – as I do – only half an hour away, I popped down to purchase a bottle.
This is on the more soft, caramelly sweet, subtle & safe side of single pot still.
It didn’t reach out and grab me.
A delicate creaminess at the start – a small percentage of oats are used in the mix – gave way to a smooth honeyed middle – followed by a lovely dry prickly spice on the finale.
It’ll probably please many.
Just lacked a certain pzazz & flair for my palate.
The last day of the Irish Whiskey Distilleries Tour started off a bit groggy as we made our way East along the M6 motorway to the oldest working whiskey distillery in the world – Kilbeggan Distillery.
Kilbeggan happens to be my local distillery so I have some attachment to it. Like a lot of Irish distilleries it has had a colourful past which you may wish to explore – but we took the Apprentice Tour with our cheerful guide Rebecca to explain all that to us.
Now owned by Beam/Suntory the distillery houses the old water wheel, working steam engine, micro distillery as well as maturing stocks in a nearby warehouse on the banks of the River Brosna. It makes for a very pretty attraction.
The core brands are the self named Kilbeggan, Tyrconnell, Locke’s & Connemara peated whiskey – just to break the myth that only Scotch is peated. Most are actually distilled in the sister Cooley Distillery with Kilbeggan’s small output ending up as part of the blends.
I wasn’t expecting any surprises on the tour having taken it before a few times – but when it came to the tasting, the Kilbeggan Single Grain looked distinctly different.
Not only has it been re-labelled – it’s had a re-make!
Now boasting some sherry finish influence & boosted to a 43% ABV. From the small sample I tasted I’d give it the thumbs up.
Tyrconnell also had a new label – although we were assured the single malt within is to the same recipe.
Kilbeggan happens to have a bar on the premises where the tastings are conducted – but it is also open to the public. Distillery exclusives can always be picked up here even if you don’t do the tour – which is handy – but as it was a Sunday when we visited the bar didn’t open until noon. So we pressed on.
Dublin was our last port of call. Specifically the Liberties area of the city which is fast becoming a mecca for the whiskey industry it once was in the past.
Teeling Distillery on Newmarket Square is leading this revival having opened in 2015. The founders Jack & Stephen Teeling – the sons of the aforementioned John Teeling who just happened to be visiting on the day we called! – are now carving out their own way in the whiskey world.
Teeling is currently the only working distillery in Dublin. The tour immerses you in the rich history, sights, sounds & smells of the vibrant whiskey making process together with some tasty samples of all that hard work in the trendy Bang Bang bar on the second floor. It’s fast becoming a must see attraction & advanced booking is advised to avoid disappointment.
In head distiller Alex Chasko, Teeling have a very innovative person who has released a wide range of award winning whiskeys under the Teeling brand. As yet they are all sourced from other distilleries – but the Spirit Of Dublin Poitin is interesting as the spice from the malted & unmalted mash-bill comes through on the triple distilled spirit. A company to look out for.
The last three distilleries are all in varying degrees of completion. All are in the historic Liberties area within 5 minutes of Teeling.
The Dublin Liberties Distillery is only a short walk to the rear of Teeling Distillery. In the safe hands of master distiller Darryl McNally – who spent many years in Diageo’s Bushmills learning his craft – they have released the Dubliner Irish Whiskey range along with the Oak Devil & Cooper Ally expressions. Building works are now in progress at the site.
One distillery whose building work is almost complete is the Pearse Lyons Distillery on Thomas Street. Pearse is the Dublin born founder of Alltech who has the money to indulge his dream of opening his own whiskey distillery – in a former church no less! The plan is to release an Irish single malt. Alltech already have the Town Branch Distillery in Lexington KY who have released a range of bourbon, single malt & rye whiskeys for your pleasure. I must admit to having a soft spot for the Town Branch Rye.
Also on Thomas Street Diageo themselves – after an absence of a few years post their Bushmills sale to Cuervo – are back in the Irish whiskey scene with plans to redevelop the old Guinness Power Station. I happily got invited to their launch night a while ago & enjoyed the Roe & Co blend released in advance of the distillery being built.
Talking about Roe & Co – who remembers George Roe & Co? At the time one of the largest & most popular whiskey distilleries in the world based in the heart of Dublin. He wrote a book railng against the rise of ‘silent spirit’ as produced by the newly invented Coffey Still.
I wonder what he would have made of the modern whiskey industry – built as it is on the back of that ‘silent spirit’ in the manufacturing of what we now call blended whiskey. Especially when his name is being used for one of those blended whiskeys.
Sorry to say George Roe’s fortune declined in the early 1900’s as blended whiskey rose & the distillery is no more.
All that is left is the old windmill.
A testament to the foibles, follies, fortunes & mis-fortunes of whiskey making.
An apt way to end our Irish Whiskey Distilleries Tour.
My second visit to the Teeling Whiskey Distillery happened to take place on Valentine’s Day.
Herself had decided we’d stay with old friends in Dublin and all 4 of us would go out for a joint meal together on the 13th. It was further decreed the ‘ladies’ would visit the National Botanical Gardens on the 14th – allowing the ‘men’ to visit the now fully opened award winning distillery located in Newmarket Square in the historic Liberties area of Dublin.
Now my first visit to this fine establishment included a guided tour by none other than the master distiller Alex Chasko who exuded much glee at soon being able to produce the first distillate for many a year within the city confines.
As the building wasn’t yet complete the dress of choice was hi-vis vests and hard hats – complete with the sounds of powered tools and much shouting.
As a paying customer this time round – it would be very interesting to compare my experiences.
Gone were the scaffolding – cranes -hoardings and ant like workers busily adding the final touches.
In was a nice clean facade aided by the cycle park outside the main entrance which enhanced the view. Instead of dirty workers there was a gathering of visitors who were as much excited by the short heavy hail shower that greeted our arrival as the golden liquid inside.
Instead of Alex – Conor – one of the friendly and helpful Teeling branded staff was to be our guide today.
The ground floor contained a large cafe area serving delicious hot and cold foods along with teas – coffees and soft drinks for the kids. There were sofas and chairs to lounge in with large windows looking out into the square where many folks came to visit the neighbouring farmers market and food stalls which are a regular event.
Having been tagged at reception for the type of tasting experience you wished at the end of the tour – guests then entered a photographic display area along with whiskey memorabilia and associated artefacts whilst waiting for the tour to begin.
As is customary – a short video introduces the visitor to Irish Whiskey and Teeling Whiskey Distillery in particular before we are led into the main event – the working distillery itself!
The first thing that struck me upon entering the working distillery was the strong smell – and heat – of the malt in the mash tun. Such a warming and welcoming entrance to the building site I previously enjoyed.
The attention to detail was evident with the inclusion of a strategically based light above the inspection window to allow visitors – and staff – to see inside the large vessel.
The trio of copper stills had been cleaned up and were not only shining – but had been given names too!
And most importantly of all – the spirit safe had a steady flow of new spirit during the entire duration of our visit.
Conor gently informed us of the whole whiskey making process – from the delivery of malted and unmalted barley – to the mash tun and copper stills – to the spirit safe and on to the maturation period.
One thing I hadn’t previously thought about was that after the 1875 Liberties Whiskey Fire – the maturation of whiskey was banned from within the city and so to this day – all whiskey – including that made in Teeling’s – has to be transported out of Dublin to complete the minimum 3 years in a barrel before being able to call itself whiskey.
Teeling matures many of it’s expressions for a lot longer than that minimum requirement.
In fact at present – with the exception of Teeling Poitin – all Teeling expressions were distilled at the Cooley Distillery but have been matured to their own style by the master blender Alex Chasko.
We had the opportunity to taste some of these marvellous creations at the Bang Bang Bar after our tour.
I’d opted for the Teeling Master Class tasting – sure why else would you visit the distillery than to try out the best they had to offer?
My trio consisted of;
Teeling Single Malt
Part of the standard Teeling Trinity made up of the Small Batch and Single Grain releases – Single Malt is a lovely smooth yet sweet offering which belies it’s 46% non chill filtered strength.
Teeling 15 Year Old Revival
A recent offering matured and finished in rum casks. A far more fuller bodied expression with a hefty dose of rum throughout the nose and taste. I thoroughly enjoyed this dram.
Teeling 23 Year Old Sherry Cask
A beautifully dark liquid with distinctive sherry nose. The whiskey slips down so smoothly you’re unaware of it’s 52.5% ABV until a rich – softly spicy tingle reminds you of it’s true strength on the long and satisfying finish. A masterpiece!
This dram is definitely Louder – cue Kid Karate! An equally new – as Teeling – young upcoming band from Dublin.
This superb 23 yo expression is only available at the distillery which features the novel and exciting experience of bottling your own whiskey.
I was mindful the ‘ladies’ would be meeting us shortly in the cafe downstairs so a purchase of this magnitude for myself probably would’t be wise given the day that’s in it. An 11 yo crystal malt sherry cask is also offered for filling which is again a distillery exclusive.
Along with the usual array of branded clothes – glasses and bottles available to purchase in the roomy shop area there were a fine collection of books pertaining to both whiskey and Dublin too. I spotted Jim Murray’s 2016 Whisky Bible and after all the fuss made about his winning dram – I couldn’t resist buying a copy.
It pleased me very much that to date – Jim hadn’t yet rated the fabulous 23 yo Teeling – nor for that matter the fabulous Eschenbrenner Spessart Amber I’d purchased in Berlin!
I may be short of the 4000 plus samples he’s tasted but at least I’ve had a few he hasn’t!
I don’t know if Jim has visited Teeling’s yet. He won’t be disappointed when he does – and neither will you.
The staff are very friendly and informative. The food is great. The building has modern clean lines and the whiskeys are divine!
A working distillery in the heart of Dublin. There hasn’t been one for over 40 years.
Having had the privilege of already visiting the new Teeling Distillery before it was opened, sampling some of their excellent whiskeys and meeting some of the key players, Mondays are now Teelings Days to sit down with a dram of the best and enjoy The Whiskey Business documentary on TV3.
There is a view again facility available – but I’m not sure if it can be accessed outside of Ireland.
Give it a try – Teeling whiskeys are very good indeed!
Trying to track down which actual distillery they are eluding to proved a little more difficult. Contenders are The Phoenix Park Distillery which some have opening in 1900, but others in 1878, and The Dublin City Distillery of Great Brunswick Street which was formed in 1890, but it’s unclear if the distillery was situated at this spot or elsewhere, as the company was allied to a failing Banagher Distillery and the venture collapsed by 1905.
1890 wasn’t a great time to invest in whiskey as the boom years of the 1860’s to 1880’s were showing signs of faltering. The growing rise of blended whiskey, world war, independence, civil war, prohibition and economic isolation all led to the collapse of Irish Whiskey from being the Worlds Finest, to a mere footnote. By 1966 only 2 distilleries remained in Dublin, Powers and Jameson but with the formation of Irish Distillers and the merging of production to Midleton by the 1970’s there were none – Dublin ceased to be the Whiskey Capital of the World.
The Teeling Whiskey Distillery (TWD) opening is therefore an historic and monumental occasion signifying the growing rebirth in Irish Whiskey.
I’m going to add a piece of music at this point – borrowed from a Teeling promo video – you can listen as you read. Everything about Teeling is Louder – Louder aroma – Louder taste and I’ll sing their praises – Louder!
TWD is situated in the former whiskey heartland of the Liberties and it’s not hard to miss the scaffolding, cranes, hard hats and hi-vis vests that currently (April 2014) obscure the view of the Kilkenny Marble and zinc sheeting facade that will be the visitors centre and pot still manufacturing distillery for Teeling.
Alex Chasko kindly took time out to show a bunch of Celtic Whiskey Club fans around his prized new facility. The front half of the building will hold the reception area, cafe, shop, tasting area and bars spread over 2 spacious floors.
The back part of the building houses the business end – the actual distillery – where the basic ingredients of barley, water and heat are combined in such a way to produce the raw spirit that is then aged in a variety of barrels to give us the marvelous drink that is whiskey.
A mezzanine walkway guides the visitor round an impressive array of wooden washbacks, shiny copper pot stills, complicated stainless steel pipework all infused with lovely aromas. The passion Alex has for his craft of distilling clearly shone through as he emphasised the finely controlled pot still heating system installed, the extra feints collector added to improve total control of the finished product – all experience gained whilst working at Cooley. In fact – most of Teelings main players learned their trade at Cooley so this distillery already has many years of knowledge that is being put to good use in the design of this facility.
Normally – visitors would proceed to the tasting area – crafted to look like the inside of a whiskey barrel at TWD – but as the workmen were still busily adding the finishing touches Alex led up to a balcony and out to the welcoming sunshine for a very informative Q&A session helped along with a superb rum finished single bottled in 1999 and a 2004 burgundy finished single. Alex is going to be a very busy man indeed for the next few years. Not only does he have to oversee the opening, running and operation of the new distillery, he has to manage the old stocks secured from Cooley as well as marrying the new stock from TWD to continue the excellent range currently on offer and produce some new exciting expressions from the Dublin plant. I think he can’t wait to get stuck in! The innovative culture that Cooley created in launching new styles of Irish Whiskey to the market clearly forms a large part of the Teeling ethos.Based on their track record so far – and where they intend to go – the future of Irish Whiskey is very bright indeed with Teeling!
So – onto the current range.
Teeling Small BatchA blended whiskey using grain (there will be no grain spirit produced at TWD – it’s envisaged that element will come from John Teeling’s new grain distillery venture The Great Northern Distillery at Dundalk) and malt, finished in rum casks to produce a full bodied taste. As far as I can tell – this is the 1st rum finished blend of Irish Whiskey on the market and very nice it is too. B+
Teeling Single GrainSingle Grainis a relatively rare beast for both Ireland and Scotland, but Teeling have pulled off a superb example of this style by finishing this expression in wine casks. It adds a lovely smooth and creamy taste to the dram. There’s no surprise this whiskey has won awards. B+
Teeling Single MaltWow! I never got round to actually tasting this before as I just assumed (correctly) all Teeling expressions were great – but I didn’t realise just how great! Again – finishing in a variety of barrels adds so much aroma, taste and flavours to this dram it’s simply stunning! A+
These are the standard expressions – I haven’t tried the premium range of 21, 26 and 30 year olds – nor the Poitin – but I’m pretty sure they’ll all be stunning too.
Here’s hoping that Alex – and all the crew at TWD – continue to uphold the excellent releases mainly based on spirit laid down at Cooley/Kilbeggan. I certainly feel confident they will add yet more new and exciting releases to their portfolio when the spirit from Dublin matures.
If you haven’t tried a Teeling yet – now is the time – they are all a cut above the rest.
The future of Irish Whiskey is clear, the future is Teeling.