Standing outside the Whiskey Live Dublin event after the first session – shooting the breeze with a few fellow attendees – a gentleman passed by whistling away to himself. Only when he stopped to chat did we realise it was none other than Pat Cooney, founding father of the Boann Distillery in Drogheda, County Meath, and after whom their sourced range of single malt whiskeys are named!
It reminded me I never actually got round to sampling the 2 miniature malts I was given as part of my very enjoyable & informative tour of the distillery last summer!
At the time of my visit the Green Engineering stills were in situ and made a very impressive sight contrasting with the glass & wood of the statement building.
The pipework meanwhile hadn’t been connected – although I now believe it has – and I’m certainly looking forward to the start – or should that be re-start? – of distillation in Drogheda.
In the meantime – to bridge the gap – the current unnamed sourced range comprises of the 7 & 10 year old – my 2 samples – as well as a cask strength 7 year old. There are other expressions outside of Ireland too.
All are non chill filtered & presented naturally coloured at 46% – or a powerful 59% for the cask strength which certainly packs a punch.
The 7 year old – otherwise known as The Blue Note – comes over very subtle on the nose for me. A hit of alcohol faded to reveal gentle vanilla followed by a dry metallic sherry influence.
The 10 year old – otherwise known as How The Years Whistle By – provided a softer, smoother & more woody influence with it’s extra 3 years maturation.
The tasting continued in this vein. Both were crisp & clear expressions with orchard fruit notes merging into that dry prickly sensation I enjoy. Again the 10yo exhibited more warming vanilla & caramel from the bourbon cask maturation which elevated the flavours – cue for a song.
Both had suitably long finishes with enjoyable heat.
I found them rather safe standard bearers of bourbon cask matured, sherry finished Irish single malts exhibiting that delightful orchard fruit feeling with subtle sherry notes intertwined. A lot of people like them – awards have been won too – but I must admit to preferring something a bit more bolder & stronger flavoured. The softer sublime & more subtle – perhaps even more balanced notes – are a little lost on me.
What isn’t lost on me however is the quiet determination & hard work all the Cooney family have put into the Boann Distillery site. Behind the gleaming copper, glass & wood of the actual distillery is a large working brewery which produces some tasty beers & ciders under the Boyne Brewhouse & Cooney’s Irish Cider brand names.
There is also a very large modern bottling facility which was hard at work on the day I visited.
I also cannot fault the hospitality & warmth of the Cooney family members. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting them on a number of occasions. They all display a well deserved sense of pride & passion in what they are trying to achieve & build with this combined distillery & brewery project just off the main M1 motorway north of Dublin.
I congratulate their present achievements and wish them continued future success.
It also happens to be one of the most sought after whiskies in the world with prices going through the roof & distilleries cancelling sales of age statement malts to conserve stocks.
Which is all a bit of a conundrum for sticklers of whisky rules and regulations – as Japan has none.
Doesn’t seem to have damaged their reputation for making fine malts by my reckoning.
Anyway – I’m in this bar – The Rag Trader in Dublin if you need to know – and I’m looking for a whisky I’ve not tried before. Nikka All Malt – in a rather unusually designed bottle – catches my eye – so a glass is duly ordered.
Now the All Malt is a blend of 3 types of malt from the Nikka empire.
Miyagikyou distillery malt, Yoichi distillery malt – which tends to be peated, and Coffey malt – that is barley malt which has been distilled in a Coffey still. Makes for a lovely combination in my book.
I’ve had some Yoichi Single Malt in the past and enjoyed the smoky peat flavours. Coffey Malt also impressed me. Partly because of it’s unusual manufacture – but I found the taste quite appealing. So I was looking forward to this one.
Now at 40% it’s probably chill filtered and colouring has been added.
It starts quite slowly. Soft, rich toffees & smooth. Some fruity notes appear before a lovely malt biscuity peat takes over. It’s not over powering – just very pleasant ashy smoke that raises the enjoyment of this lovely little All Malt for me. On the finish there are some more fruity notes to round things off.
A pleasingly pleasant easy sipper.
If you haven’t tried Japanese whisky before this is a relatively affordable expression to start with. It may not have that ‘wow’ factor – but there is enough flavour satisfaction to keep it interesting and certainly for me – very enjoyable.
Which translates as Kanpai – or Sláinte in Japanese.
Well I – and a host of others – eagerly awaited the Irish launch of this much anticipated whiskey in the fine surroundings of The Rag Trader bar in Dublin’s fair city.
The actual Dead Rabbit bar is in New York. It’s the creation of founders Sean & Jack from Northern Ireland. Despite being only a stones throw from the mighty Hudson River, when you enter, it’s like being transported back to a local watering hole by the banks of the River Shannon.
Awards have been won, there are queues to get in, there is some slick & clever marketing & it’s a very enjoyable experience drinking and dining inside the friendly establishment.
And then there’s the rabbit.
To celebrate their 5 years in business the Dead Rabbit have launched their own whiskey. Not surprisingly it’s a 5 year old sourced blend. This follows a long tradition of pubs & grocers releasing their own distinctive whiskeys which are a mixture of spirits from a variety of sources blended to their own requirements.
So does it match the hype?
In one word – yes!
Now there were plenty of cocktails around – but I’m an old fashioned – ahem – kind of guy – so neat Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey it was for me.
A lovely woody nose enticed me in. The virgin oak finish had worked it’s charms.
The palate began softly. Gentle fruity notes developed into more robust woody tannins with a lovely rich spice which tingled on the tongue as it slowly faded away.
Suitably robust yet soft & spicy all at the same time.
The Dead Rabbit’s done good.
Many thanks to Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey for the invite & use of the Rabbit image for the blog.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Now in it’s 5th year, the numbers attending are still growing. This reflects the increasing awareness and appreciation of craft beer, food and distilled spirits among the discerning drinking public.
Being my 3rd visit, I’m always amazed at the growing number of Irish Craft Beer breweries, cider makers & distilleries producing a bewildering array of fine tasting alcoholic beverage.
The other reason for attending the show this year was an opportunity to interview the Head Distiller of Dublin’s soon to be opened Pearse Lyons Distillery in the historic Liberties area.
Dr. Gearóid Cahill.
Whiskey Nut (WN) Is the timetable for the distillery opening going according to plan?
Gearóid Cahill (GC) We’re fairly confident in the proposed July opening. But we’re already a full year behind our original plans. At the start of the project the former St James’s Church wasn’t a listed building. A Protected Structure was subsequently applied to the site which we were happy to comply with but this understandably slowed down our schedule. Being a former church surrounded by a graveyard also meant that everytime we wanted to dig a trench for cabling or pipework human remains were unearthed. These had to be treated with respect. All of them were carefully catalogued, analysed for historical data and then reinterred at the graveyard. We have cooperated with the relevant authorities over these and many other issues which have arisen during the construction and done our utmost to comply with all the conditions.
WN Will there be a visitors centre?
GC There will be a visitors centre adjacent to the church inside which the actual distillery is situated. We want to take visitors into the working distillery to feel the heat, experience the noise and smell the aromas of a working distillery, as well as showing them the entire whiskey making process from grain to glass.
WN What style of Irish whiskey are you intending to produce?
GC Dr. Pearse Lyons, the Founder & President of Alltech has a vision and passion to produce a malted barley Irish whiskey in his home town of Dublin. I’m thrilled and equally passionate to be charged with making sure that vision becomes a reality.
WN I’m very excited by the return of rye as an ingredient in Irish whiskey manufacture. There is already a rye cask finished Irish whiskey on the market. Midleton have planted fields of rye near Enniscorthy and Kilbeggan/Cooley are currently maturing a rye single pot. Are there any plans for this style of whiskey at St James’s?
GC The design of the distillery and the dynamism of Alltech allow for a high degree of flexibility & innovation. We can produce beer at the distillery, over and above that required for distillation. We can access any type of grain we require through the Alltech agricultural division and we will be using the best casks from our Lexington distillery in Kentucky. Together with the relatively small size of the, what you can call a boutique distillery we are about to open, we can respond & react to any change in style or vision we wish in the coming years.
WN You come with a very impressive career both academically and practically mainly founded on brewing. Has distilling always been a dream for you?
GC I’ve worked for many years in the brewing industry and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. I love working for Alltech as the passion and enthusiasm Dr Pearse Lyons has for brewing & distilling is something I share. It’s that enthusiasm that drives our team to hold the Alltech Craft Brews And Food Fair every year to showcase the growing rise of craft beer, cider and spirit making in Ireland. A lot of our staff give freely of their time to help organise & run the event and we see it as showcasing the best that is out there. There is also a growing blurring of lines in the types & styles of beer now available. Just when does a heavily hopped dark porter stop being a porter & become an IPA? It’s a question I often have to adjudicate on being a judge at the show. Those blurred lines are also entering the whiskey market with stout aged whiskey, IPA aged whisky and other variations. This also feeds back into the growth of barrel aged beers. These are exciting times.
I’m very confident and comfortable in the field of brewing which is the first step in whiskey production. I’m also very comfortable with the science and technique of distilling. The whole process of maturation in wood is a much less understood area and still a bit of a mystery – although I’m getting much valuable advice & experience from the team over in Lexington.
WN There are some who say up to 70% of the flavour in a whiskey comes from the influence of wood maturation. Would you agree with that?
GC I wouldn’t go that high.It’s true wood plays a yet not totally understood role in the final flavour profile – but the spirit you put into the barrel in the first instance has to be of good quality. No matter how long you age a bad distillate it simply won’t become a stunning whiskey. Understanding the variables of wood maturation, temperature fluctuations, types of wood, charring levels and previous contents all play their part in the final whiskey. They will all become a major part of my – and my teams work – over the next few years.
WN When you get time to relax at home,
and at this a wry smile suggested this wasn’t a common experience
What would be your drink of choice?
GC Erm, well when I get the time, I like to sit down with a good bourbon, usually over ice. I enjoy a malted Irish too but I wouldn’t be a fan of a heavily peated Scotch.
At this point I finished my interview by thanking Gearóid for giving me the time out from his busy schedule for the talk and fired off a couple of photos for the blog.
During the small talk I discovered he’s originally from Collinstown in Westmeath!
Westmeath gains another notch in the wonderful world of whiskey!
And talking about Westmeath, why not finish with another of Westmeath’s finest – Joe Dolan – here singing a song titled Sister Mary. Chosen by me for Gearóid Cahill building the Pearse Lyons Distillery in a former church!
I wish all the team at Alltech future success with the Pearse Lyons Distillery – and eagerly await the opening.
Hopefully it won’t be too long before I can worship at the shrine of whiskey and celebrate the mystery of wood.
Dublin Whiskey Tours offer a variety of guided pub walks highlighting the history, culture and sampling the present day flavours of Irish whiskey expressions. Depending on which type of tour you choose, there are also some tasty food pairings too!
I happened to be the lucky winner of a prize draw from the excellent Irish Whiskey Magazine when I took out an annual subscription at last years Whiskey Live Dublin event. This gave myself & a fellow friend a day out in Dublin to sample some amazing Irish whiskey.
Dublin Whiskey Tours have a visually attractive & informative website through which up to 3 different types of whiskey tour can be easily booked and paid for.
My prize turned out to be the top level Deluxe Tour which includes tasting 5 premium Irish whiskeys accompanied with carefully selected food pairings in 2 of Dublin’s finest whiskey bars.
The starting point of our trip was the wonderful Dingle Whiskey Bar on Nassau St. I’ve happily selected a number of tasty whiskey treats from the extensive & varied range they proudly display in the groovy curved window on several occasions, so it’s charms are very welcome.
You,ll have to indulge me here, but everytime I mention Nassau St, a song pops into my head!
Our tour guide Justine shortly joined the 2 of us to begin the proceedings.
We were expecting a few others but as the festive season had just finished business was quiet. Tours are normally limited to 6 or 7 during busy periods to allow guests to chat, contribute & openly share their whiskey experiences
It wasn’t long before our first whiskey appeared before us.
Starting with one of the historical single pot still survivors of a time when whiskey distilleries didn’t bottle their own produce but instead sold it off in bulk to grocers & bonders to mature & bottle. Mitchell & Sons are the original creators of both Yellow Spot & Green Spot whiskey and are still going strong today! Sadly they are no longer able to store & mature their whiskey in the heart of Dublin so Irish Distillers – who supplied the original spirit – now do that at the Midleton Distillery carefully adhering to Mitchell & Son’s requirements.
The malted & unmalted barely used for a single pot still whiskey imparts a richer, oilier mouthfeel which is evident in Yellow Spot. A rich fruity taste from the sherry casks and ex-bourbon cask maturation definitely make this expression a flag bearer for Irish whiskey and sets a high standard for the rest of our tasting tour!
Knappogue Castle 16 Year Old arrived shortly after. This is also a sherry finished ex-bourbon cask matured whisky but in this instance a single malt. Justine informed us it is distilled in Bushmills Distillery for Castle Brands – an American based drinks company whose founding father owned the actual Knappogue Castle near Quinn in Co Mayo.
Using only malted barley this single malt had a lighter cleaner feel than the Yellow Spot. I found it also lacked a bit of punch by the 40% chill-filtered presentation. We did have a little chat with the friendly bar staff who informed us despite experimenting with 46% non-chilled filtered expressions regular Knappogue Castle drinkers were somewhat put off by the cloudy appearance of fatty acids when water or ice is added to the drink.
This is not a problem I encounter as I generally take my whiskey neat, but would have preferred a higher strength variant for the added flavour & punch I felt was lacking.
Our time at Dingle Whiskey Bar concluded so still chatting away, we walked through the now busy Dublin streets a short distance to The Rag Trader on Drury St. The bar’s name comes from the historical importance of the textile trade to this area of Dublin and remnants of that industry are found in some of the fixtures & fittings within the bar.
Only opened in 2016, The Rag Trader was new to both myself and my whiskey companion who lives in Dublin.
On entering we were greeted by a quaint old fashioned fireplace complete with glowing fire – a gas fed faux fire to comply with clean air laws – which immediately had us remembering the old 1950’s style living rooms of our grandparents. I’ve used it as the heading photo at the top of the blog. A whiskey and a fire – luxury!
Our next whisky also had some fire!
Well not really fire. Beautifully pungent peat smoke on the nose follows through to a softly mellow balanced quiet ambers of a peat fire on tasting. Connemara whiskey from the Kilbeggan Distilling Co breaks all the mythical rules of Irish whiskey.
It’s very much peated.
It’s double distilled and
It’s very drinkable indeed!
It certainly holds it’s own when compared to the peated trio of Talisker, Laphroaig and Jura I enjoyed on a visit to Derry the previous weekend.
A welcome tasting tray of Irish crackers, Irish cheese from nearby Sheridans & some chocolates from Cocoa Atelier accompanied Bushmills flagship malt – the 21 Year Old. Full of complex flavours from the long maturation in a combination of ex bourbon, sherry & wine casks I initially found the 40% offering a little watery to begin with before the elegant finely balanced & delicate taste came through. Maybe the finely balanced soft flavours are just not my style as many a more extreme yet younger whiskey often grabs me.
We saved the chocolates for the final tasting.
And boy what a tasting it was!
The Redbreast 21 Year Old combination of a richer, bolder spirit as found in the single pot still production along with the 46% strength bottling ensured more pronounced notes of fresh fruits combined with a gentle spice finish which delightfully tingled on the tongue. The soft slight bitterness of the chocolates only enhanced this experience.
This effectively rounded up our Dublin Whiskey Tour on a high point – which after starting with the stunning Yellow Spot I didn’t think was possible.
We spent a very enjoyable & informative time with our host Justine. Exchanged whiskey tales from her time at Jameson Bow St Experience – along with many other non-whiskey anecdotes. Been talked through some excellent Irish whiskey expressions paired with lovely artisan food pairings as well as being introduced to the wonderful surroundings of 2 warm & friendly whiskey bars.
Despite this tour being a freebie, I think it’s good value if I’d paid.
The joy of whiskey is as much about the personal experience of drinking it as it is about sharing that joy with fellow drinkers in convivial discussion and a friendly & warm setting.
Dublin Whiskey Tours certainly provide the tasty whiskey,
The enjoyable company,
And the fabulous surroundings.
What more could you ask for?
My thanks to Irish Whiskey Magazine for picking me out of the hat in the prize draw, and to Dublin Whiskey Tours for my day out in Dublin.