This delightfully enjoyable blend almost passed me by.
Released under John Teeling’s tenure at Kilbeggan Distillery – it now seems to have slipped from the current line up of new owners Beam/Suntory.
For the greater part of it’s history the distillery at Kilbeggan went by various names. Originally called Brusna Distillery in 1757 – after the river the waterwheel still turns from to this day – then Locke’s Distillery – after the Locke family who effectively ran the operation from 1843 until closure in 1958.
The distillery licence never expired during the following years. In turn this was acquired by John Teeling’s Cooley Distillery which opened in 1987 and resurrected the Locke’s brand – along with a few others.
Locke’s Distillery only ever produced pot still whiskey – which is perhaps one of many reasons for it’s demise – so ironically this miniature is a blended whiskey – using both grain & malt whiskeys combined together.
The Irish Whiskey Industry were rather late in embracing blended whiskey – over 130 years later than their Scottish counterparts – which also partly explains it’s collapse by the 1960’s.
So in it’s own way – Locke’s Blended Irish Whiskey was part of the revival. I’m glad to have stumbled on this miniature at The Old Stand in Mullingar.
The colour is light straw – but added caramel cannot be ruled out for this entry level blend.
A lovely soft malt greeted me on nosing. Sweet with just a little hint of turf.
The palate was soft, sweet & very smooth. Eminently approachable. Yet there is a slight suggestion of peat at the end to give it a bit of bite & character.
A decent afterglow wrapped up this extremely enjoyable drinking experience.
Well worth getting hold of if you come across a bottle.
They have a range of miniature bottles labelled up in county colours covering the entire Island of Ireland.
Meanwhile, I happened to be in Mullingar recently & picked up their Westmeath Irish Whiskey in the surprisingly well stocked off-licence of The Old Stand on Dominick Street – just round the corner from the railway station.
Not being one to leave a bottle unopened – I poured a glass.
There is no indication as to the source of the whiskey. Kilbeggan Distillery does produce malt in the county of Westmeath – mainly for inclusion in blends – but it didn’t strike me as one of theirs -although this young lad is definitely from Mullingar.
The colour was reassuringly straw like – even if added caramel is predominant in entry level blends.
The nose was rather spirity at first – but calmed down on subsequent tastings to reveal some standard vanilla & caramel notes.
A mild tasting with subtle fruits & more of that bourbon cask influence made it’s presence felt after a rather alcohol forward mouthfeel.
There was a bit of a burn at the end – but nothing too unpleasant. Just a straight forward no-nonsense entry level whiskey.
More novelty than nuanced.
My thanks to TOMODERA for posting his thoughts on other county whiskeys here.
The Irish Whiskey industry is experiencing an unprecedented rise in sales.
Irish Whiskey is the fastest growing spirits sector in the World – prompting a rush of new entrants, new distilleries, new players and above all else – new Irish Whiskey bottles & brands to sample.
Things have never been so good.
Yet reading an article entitled ‘The Trouble With Irish Whiskey’ here – it would seem the author is in a parallel universe.
Within the first few paragraphs he suggests Irish Whiskey adopt wholesale Scotch Whiskey Rules.
ARE YOU COMPLETELY BONKERS!!!!!!!!!!!
The whole point of Irish Whiskey is that it is NOT SCOTCH!
But no – this writer would throw away the rich creamy delights of single pot still Irish Whiskey with it’s delightful spicy notes as in the marvelous Dingle Single Pot Still.
Down the drain would go the earthy savouriness & rich history of poitins such as Galway’s Micil Poitin.
And the wonderful reintroduction of Irish Rye as experienced by lucky drinkers at the vibrant Whiskey Live Dublin who managed to sample the stunning single cask 6 year old rye pot still that Kilbeggan Distillery happened to have ‘under the counter’ would never see the light of day.
Because all these superb whiskeys are not allowed under Scotch rules!
The joy of whiskey – for me at least – is experiencing new tastes, new flavours and new styles. I’d also suggest a growing number of consumers deliberately seek out Irish Whiskey for that same reason – because it is NOT SCOTCH.
But the biggest clanger of the whole article is down to one statement.
‘accurately and clearly naming the distillery on bottles of Irish Single Malt Whiskey. Like they have to in Scotland.‘
Now for a piece that has headlines stating;
‘Creating an honest sector‘ and ‘Misinformation and inaccuracies‘
this is simply breath taking.
THERE IS NO SUCH RULE!!!!!!
Section 9 of the Scottish Whiskey Rules here deals with ‘Names of distilleries and distillers etc.’
I must have read it a dozen times looking for the ‘you must name the distillery’ rule – but to no avail.
I wrote to the Scottish Whiskey Association on the subject and got the following reply.
‘ Scotch Whisky Rules do not require the distillery name to be stated on labelling.’
Lecturing the Irish Whiskey industry on it’s misdemeanors based on a lie – or rather ‘Misinformation and inaccuracies‘ isn’t exactly a great start now is it?
There is an Irish word for such occasions which my father in law often used.
Look it up.
Because when you are experiencing the biggest boom Irish whiskey has witnessed for decades, creating an exhilarating buzz AND producing absolutely stunning new whiskey releases – the trouble with Irish Whiskey is letting such omadhauns have a platform in the first place.
Whiskey Live Dublin continues to grow every year. Not only in numbers attending this marvelous showcase of Irish Whiskey – but also the amount of exhibitors on display.
There are masterclasses held throughout the course of the day which provide access to the distillers, whiskey ambassadors, blenders & bottlers who are driving the current growth in Irish Whiskey. It was to one of those classes that I started my visit to this years show.
Alex Chasko – master distiller with Teeling Whiskey Co. – regaled us with the story behind the current Brabazon series of whiskeys – as well as introducing us to some choice single cask samples.
I was particularly taken by the 2001 Port Single Cask – especially in the newly released Tuath Irish Whiskey glass which was provided to visitors at the event.
After this highly enjoyable introduction – I joined the crowds in the main hall as I tried to sample my ‘hit list’ of whiskeys I’d either missed out on during the year – or were new releases appearing at the show for the first time.
The Glengarriff series from West Cork Distillers were on my list.
I was highly impressed by the Peat Charred Cask single malt. The influence of the peat was clearly evident on both the nose and taste – yet there was a lovely earthy savouriness element to the expression too. Beautiful!
Talking about peat – Echlinville had their Three Crowns Peated on display – very appealing to my tastes. But what surprised me was their yet to be released peated poitin – Bán Barreled & Buried at 47.2% – now that’s a tasty innovation.
Now I’d heard Kilbeggan were showcasing some of their ‘experimental’ casks – as well as the current range of freshly re-branded (and even re-recipied in some cases) favourites too – so naturally I was excited by a 6 year old Rye Pot Still!
Rich rye on the nose & taste followed with some creamy smoothness. Stunning!
Peter Mulryan’s Blackwater Distillery – which is currently under construction in Co. Waterford – chose to reveal their Retronaut 17 year old single malt at the show – a must try.
I can confirm the whiskey is every bit as bold & brassy as the elegantly designed label on the very attractive bottle.
At this stage in the proceedings – with a few samples onboard – chatting away with fellow attendees & stall holders began to divert me away from my ‘hit list’ as I was tempted into trying some surprising expressions.
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.
Day 2 of our Irish Whiskey Distilleries Tour dawned rather dull & grey as we continued our journey North to Bushmills Distillery.
Proclaiming to be the world’s oldest distillery with a license to distill from 1608 – living in Westmeath I know Kilbeggan Distillery is actually the oldest working distillery with a continuous license housed in the same building from 1757. The Bushmills Distillery we took the tour in today wasn’t built until 1784.
Regardless of the history, Bushmills is currently owned by Jose Cuervo and the distillery produces an excellent array of age statement single malts along with some pleasing blends. The highlight of hour long tour – which went through the history, manufacturing & maturing process as well as the all important tasting at the end – was undoubtedly entering the extremely hot working still room crammed tight with the stills full of soon to be fresh distillate! Demand is so great there are plans to double the capacity by building a new stillroom on the expansive site.
As this was the first distillery we visited that had their shop open a bottle of the 12 Year Old Distillery Reserve made it into the bag. A pleasant mainly sherry cask matured triple distilled malt presented at 40%
Oddly enough Bushmills malt is not peated unlike it’s nearest working distillery – Laphroaig on Islay – which is only a short sea crossing of 30 miles away or so. On a good day you can see the hills of Scotland from the nearby Giant’s Causeway coast. There is a new ferry service taking you on the short crossing if you wish called High Sea Spirits – now that would be an adventure!
As our car isn’t amphibious we took the road instead to Derry where Niche Drinks are building their Quiet Man Distillery in the former military barracks of Ebrington Square. We were kindly met by Ciaran Mulgrew – the managing director of Niche Drinks – who proudly showed us round the building site explaining how a modern & stylish distillery with an attractive visitors centre could be built within the old listed building and yet still retain it’s history & integrity. He also told some wonderful stories of how cross party alliances which straddled the former divided city came together to get the project off the ground. Very impressive.
What is also impressive is the award winning bar & restaurant that is Walled City Brewery handily adjacent to the distillery. Happily we had booked a tasty meal here & despite stocking Quiet Man whiskey – the allure of some tasty craft beer proved too much for some! Wonderful.
The sun came out as we made our way down to Sliabh Liag Distillery. Situated just inland from the impressive sea cliffs that it takes it’s name from. The actual distillery site hasn’t yet even started – but we were enthusiastically shown round by the highly informative & engaging founder James Doherty.
He comes with a wealth of experience from his years in the drinks industry & his stories of that career mirrored the seanachai traditions of Donegal – so we repaired to the local John The Miners Bar in Carrick where a glass of the Silkie blend awaited us. This sourced whiskey’s name recalls old stories of seals taking on human forms when ashore to befriend lonely menfolk – it certainly befriended us with it’s soft yet slightly spicy notes.
We could have stayed for longer – but a long drive through the stunning coastal scenery to our hotel for the night in Sligo beckoned.
A nightcap in Thomas Connolly’s Bar rounded off our extremely entertaining day covering the whiskey distilleries across the top of Ireland.
Dram of the day?
There wasn’t one to top the stories we heard from our day on the road & in the bar that evening!
After disembarking at Galway Docks from successfully launching The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey the entertainment continued into the wee small hours. We were whisked away to one of the founding members of The Galway Whiskey Trail‘s bars – Sonny Molloy’s.
Drinks soon flowed – wines for the non-whiskey drinking brigade – cocktails for the more youthful contingent – and yet more whiskey for myself.
Being in Sonny’s surrounded by a stunning display of whiskeys allowed me to further explore the wonderful world of peated Irish whiskey.
Peated Irish whiskey.
It’s not a category everyone seems to be aware of – let alone be familiar with.
Connemara is the most well known example of this style. A Beam/Suntory brand from the Cooley Distillery in County Louth. It’s a fairly light tasting peated whiskey in its original non-age statement (NAS) single malt bottling but is also available as a 12 year old, a stunning 22 year old, a cask strength and if you look for it – a Turf Mor expression too.
A few years ago I tasted the 22 year old at it’s launch during the 2014 Irish Whiskey Awards held in Kilbeggan Distillery. I’m afraid to say peat wasn’t my strong point at that time so it was lost on me – but I have since developed a palate for peat and should go back to re-taste it again.
Contrary to Iain Banks eminently enjoyable whisky book ‘Raw Spirit’ who likens peated whisky to Marmite in that you either love it – or hate it – I think the charms of peat have slowly grown on me.
Sonny’s also stock some lovely discontinued peated Irish whiskey.
Michael Collins 10 Year Old Single Malt is a lighty peated expression also from Cooley before the Beam takeover in 2011. Originally destined for the American market by Sidney Frank Importing Company lawsuits ensued after the loss of supply but luckily this brand may re-surface as part of the Sazerac portfolio. I certainly await it’s return – although I can still enjoy the odd dram now and then of the original in decent whiskey bars around Ireland.
The peated Irish whiskey that really tantalises my tastebuds however is Inishowen. It’s your standard entry level blend of young grain spirit mixed with peaty malt bottled at 40%. Cooley are responsible again for this delightfully smooth youthful yet fully peated whiskey.
I’d go so far to say this whiskey out performs the big Scottish guns of Johnnie Walker, Famous Grouse, Haig and Teachers et al – no sharp edges here with Inishowen. Just a wonderful aroma and taste of peat together with a lovely sweet refreshing grain finish. Pity it’s discontinued – as I love it’s simple charms – much like the youthful exuberance of my musical interlude.
In my merry state – I laid down 2 challenges.
1 – If any standard Scottish blend can match Inishowen I’d love to try it – I haven’t come across one yet.
2 – When will an Irish distillery release a blend to match Inishowen?
Now I know Teeling are already laying down peated distillate and Nephin Whiskey are planning a peated single malt – so I may not have to wait too long – but a plain ordinary everyday peated blend is what I’m looking for – not a premium product.
With my challenge set – I cheerily left what was developing into an Irish bloggers lovefest – rejoined Mrs Whiskey who had bonded with the wine drinking fraternity – and bid our farewells for the evening before things got messy.
I raise a glass of The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey as a toast of appreciation for the wonderful launch party
The journey began last year when I first became aware of World Whisky Day and thought – ‘Now I should do something for that day’. This led to me scrambling around finding a printer open on Friday night to laminate my hastily prepared posters – writing out a basic script for the day and posting some last minute social media posts.
My choice of venue happened during the course of the year. Doing blogs on Whiskey Bars meant I eventually found some much closer to home than I had previously known. Couple this with an award winning whiskey visitors attraction in the shape of Tullarmore DEW Visitors Centre – some whiskey art – architecture and history and the die was set.
2pm on World Whisky Day found me at Bury Quay anxiously waiting for people to turn up.
We were greeted warmly by Shane who invited us in to a complimentary showing of the Tullamore DEW introductory video in the auditorium along with a glass of Tullamore DEW Original to get the day started!
Suitably warmed up despite the rather showery weather outside we made the short walk along the Grand Canal – which reached Tullamore in 1798 and aided the economic success of the brewing and distilling industry of the town – to our first whiskey bar of the day – Hugh Lynch’s.
A hard to find discontinued expression was chosen as drink of choice in this bar to demonstrate the fact good whiskey bars operate almost as whiskey libraries in that they stock many a bottle both old – new and potentially exclusive.
Tullamore DEW’s Black 43 went down well with the gathered clan of whiskey friends. It also demonstrated what an additional 11 months in sherry cask can add to a whiskey.
Onwards into town we went. Pausing to view the remnants of the original B. Daly 1829 distillery along with the wonderfully restored gates and Master Distillers Offices across the road.
Bob Smyths pub sits handily beside the Tullamore Distillery gates. It was once owned by Michael Molloy – who established the distillery – so despite not being a whiskey bar – we popped in for a glass of Paddy to acknowledge the brands sale to Sazerac.
Our next stop proved rather more contentious. Back in 1910 the large brewing, malting, bottling and general wholesellers of P&H Egan built what is now The Bridge House Hotel. Descendants of that family released Egan’s Irish Whiskey a few years ago but sadly it isn’t yet stocked at the bar.
We handed a short plea to the management of the hotel to please remedy this situation so Egan’s Irish Whiskey can be enjoyed in it’s true home. By a democratic vote the whiskey walk participants unanimously agreed to bypass this venue in favour of somewhere that did serve Egan’s.
Thankfully we didn’t have to walk far as one bar that does have Egan’s Irish Whiskey is the lovely Brewery Tap on Bridge Street where landlord Paul offered us a discount on the day to enjoy a glass of the lovely rich 10 year old single malt and toast to the future success of the Egan family.
One inquisitive member of the party suggested Egan’s was just a similar bottling to Tyrconnell – also a single malt – so a glass duly arrived for a taste comparison.
Another unanimous decision was reached. Tyrconnell is a smoother slightly more tasty whiskey than Egan’s. It must be stated however that both these expressions were far superiour to the blends we’d been having up to this point.
Back out on the streets our numbers began to diminish due to time constraints. A visit to the whiskey sculpture Pot Stills in Market Square was abandoned. Commissioned by Tullamore Town Council in recognition of the role the distilling trade had in prospering the town. The 3 pots were sculptor Eileen MacDonagh’s interpretation of the gleaming copper stills that currently produce the distillate which goes on to make whiskey in the new Tullamore Distillery on the outskirts of town as well as those at Kilbeggan Distillery only a 10 minute drive from here.
Market Square is also the site of a short-lived distillery built by Mr Manley which closed early in the 1800’s. However there are many fine building which previously housed the large malting trade Tullamore was famous for. Malt left Tullamore by barge to supply many a famous brewery and distillery in Dublin. These malt stores are now apartments’ shops and offices but you can imagine the hive of industry that once frequented the canal harbour in times gone.
Our last port of call was Kelly’s Bar just down the road from the Visitors Centre where we began. Kelly’s have a wide and varied range of fine whiskeys on offer so various expressions were tasted by several fellow whiskey walkers and opinions exchanged as to the merits – or lack off depending to individual taste – of the drams tried.
Our sole Scotch of the day – in recognition that Tullamore DEW is now owned by a Scottish firm – came via a 16 year old Lagavulin. Very tasty it was too.
Eugene the landlord had actually got this whisky in for one of his regular customers. Now that’s an example of a fine whiskey bar!
My thanks go out to all the fellow whiskey walkers who joined me in celebrating World Whisky Day. The publicans, bar staff and the Tullamore DEW Visitors Centre crew who made today a reality in giving generously of their time – and some whiskey too!
Thanks also to the Tullamore Tribune who publicised the event and sent down a reporter to take pictures and report on the days proceedings.
Unlike The Brewery Tap – I’ve actually visited Kelly’s before for a few drinks – but as it was in my pre-whiskey days – I can’t remember what I was on.
The ‘piece de resistance’ in Kelly’s Bar is the wall of whiskey – well all 2 of them really!
The first is a very impressive wooden shelf display behind the bar showcasing a fine range of whiskeys for sale – whilst the other is a room divider proudly emblazoned Uisce Beata with barrel tops highlighting various Irish Distilleries both past and present.
I’m afraid to say that despite the wide choice on offer – I partook of nothing stronger than a hot cup of tea during my visit to this welcoming and homely establishment as I was on driving duty. But I did scan my photos later and spotted a few tasty drams I wouldn’t mind trying out!
As is almost a default position – and my cue for a musical interlude –
Any self respecting bar in Tullamore cannot get by without a large selection of DEW expressions. Kelly’s certainly doesn’t disappoint in that department. The obligatory Egan’s also featured along with Kilbeggan from the nearby distillery of the same name. Just a short trip up the N52 if you want to visit. Midleton – Bushmill and Irishman releases were available too along with a decent array of Scotch and bourbon – although I didn’t spot any rye – my preferred option from the USA
All this was wrapped up in a friendly bar adorned with whiskey paraphernalia – old photographs, mirrors, empty cartons and bottles in the public bar – as well as hundreds of beer tankards attached to the ceiling beams in the lounge area.
Talking about beer – I was pleased to see a trio of craft beers from the Boyne Valley Brewery on show. Aine O’Hara is not only the head brewer at this new facility – she is also the master distiller too! I’ll look forward to tasting some Boann Distillery Whiskey in the next few years!
Kelly’s Bar is situated beside the Grand Canal only a short walk from the Tullamore DEW Visitors Centre. The canal aided the whiskey distilling trade in 1820’s Tullamore when barley, peat and coal was shipped in to the 2 working distilleries – with the whiskey produced going out to Dublin or Limerick for onward distribution.
The canal makes a very pleasant walk in fine weather. Perhaps best undertook before you indulge a little in Kelly’s!