Tag Archives: Locke’s Whiskey

A Whiskey Cruise On The Shannon

The connections with whiskey and the mighty River Shannon go back a long way.

You could say the Shannon provided the route into Europe for whiskey around 500 to 600AD when Irish Monks brought back the art of distillation from it’s Middle Eastern birthplace.

The earliest written record of whiskey – or aqua vitae as the original clear distilled liquid was known as – is found in the Annals Of Clonmacnoise – that great seat of learning situated on a bend in the Shannon just South of Athlone – written in 1405.

In the Annuls it mentions a certain ‘Richard MacGrannell Chieftain of Moyntyrealas’ who died at Christmas from a ‘surfeit of aqua vitae’.

It seems Ireland’s – or the world’s – troubled relationship with alcohol is nothing new!

Whiskey distilleries sprung up all round the Midlands area of Ireland in the late 1700’s early 1800’s.  Athlone, Tullamore & Kilbeggan all had 2 whilst Birr managed 4! The proximity to a ready supply of power – the River Shannon & it’s tributaries – as well as waterborne transport of raw materials & produce and good farming ground were no doubt factors.

The recently held Shannon Festival in Athlone re-enacted those glory days with a delivery of kegs of porter & barrels of whiskey brought to the quayside door of Seans Bar by a pair of original Shannon Barges – 45M built in 1928 & 92E built in 1905 originally as Horse Boat 66.

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45M bringing home the whiskey! c/othewhiskeynut

Further whiskey related events were held by Midlands Whiskey Experiences in the town.

A Whiskey Tasting in The Malt House bar had the lovely Kilbeggan Single Grain paired with a milk chocolate made by  Kilbeggan Handmade Chocolate which went down a treat.

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A tasty trio in The Malt House c/othewhiskeynut

A Tullamore DEW 12 Year Old Special Reserve – triple casked, triple distilled & triple blended – was heightened by some dark chocolate.

The surprise of the day however was a Kilbeggan distilled 10 Year Old bourbon cask matured Single Malt drawn straight from the barrel by Global Brand Ambassador John Cashman himself as part of the Connoisseur Tour which is held occasionally. Fabulous stuff! Full of flavour with a powerful punch from the 58% ABV. A drop of water accentuated the richness within.

The highlight of the weekend however was a whiskey cruise on the Viking Boat up the Shannon itself.

The Vikings were regular marauders up the Shannon. Clonmacnoise was regularly a target and it’s suggested the Vikings used nearby Rindoon as a base on Lough Ree to conduct their raids from.

Our boat party meanwhile were more interested in some whiskey.

Egan’s Vintage Grain started the session off paired with more of that lovely chocolate. Egan’s is a family concern with deep roots in the Tullamore area. The Bridge House Hotel in the town was built for P&H Egan – and is proudly displayed on the bottle label – who did good business in the area finishing whiskey sourced from several distilleries to their own requirements. The current generation are resurrecting that tradition with tasty results.

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Egan’s Vintage Grain c/othewhiskeynut

Kilbeggan Whiskey is a lovely soft, slightly sweet easy drinking blend which contains a measure of malt from the boutique distillery at Kilbeggan – only a half hour away from Athlone.

Tullamore DEW were represented by their entry bottling – triple distilled, triple casked & triple blended – which was paired with a slice of green apple. This was a new experience for myself and I found it surprisingly enjoyable.

The final pour of the day was a personal favourite of mine – Locke’s 8 Year Old Single Malt. Named after the well respected distillery manager – John Locke – who ran the business for many years and after whom Locke’s Distillery was known as.

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Whiskey on the Viking Boat c/othewhiskeynut

This modern malt is now made at Cooley Distillery – the sister distillery to Kilbeggan – is double distilled & contains 10% peated malt. This adds a very pleasant soft smoke to the gentle oaky notes & leaves a wonderful dry mouthfeel at the end. Beautiful stuff.

With all this whiskey on board we rounded the cruise up with an impromptu ‘dance-off’ in a Father Ted caravan holiday style session to much hilarity & delight.

Spot prizes were awarded to the best performers – and it certainly was a performance at that!

If you’re looking for  a bit of whiskey history – some excellent whiskey & food pairings – as well as having a bit of craic too – a cruise up the Shannon with Midland Whiskey Experiences is a must.

And after sampling whiskey from the oldest continuously licenced distillery in the World – Kilbeggan 1757 – why not continue the fun with a drink in Sean’s Bar – the Oldest Pub In Ireland circa 900AD – just across the road!

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Connemara Turf Mor, 46%

Peat.

Or if you’re in Ireland,

Turf.

Decomposed vegetable matter that can be used as a fuel source to dry the malted barley commonly used in whiskey production. This imparts a smoky flavour to the spirit which generates much devotion amongst ‘peatheads’ – who go to great lengths to satisfy their cravings.

Luckily for me – I simply cycled down to my local distillery – Kilbeggan – to indulge my passion for peat.

There has been a distillery at Kilbeggan since 1757. It claims to be the oldest working distillery in the world operating out of the same site with a continuous licence from it’s inception.

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Wall plaque in The Pantry c/othewhiskeynut

Bushmills have  ‘alternative facts’ dating from 1608. The current distillery however wasn’t built until 1885 replacing an earlier one at a different site dating from 1784.

While it’s undoubtedly true Scotland is the biggest producing whisky nation in the world, they only gained that title in the early 1900’s. Before then Ireland was number 1. The earliest Scottish distillery still in production –  Glenturret – dates from 1775.

Kilbeggan – in advance of a new and welcome bill – also has a licence to allow the consumption & sale of alcohol on the premises. Cycling afforded me the luxury of being able to enjoy a few glasses. Allowing me to reacquaint myself with the Connemara 22 year old – as well as  trying out the recently re-released Turf Mor expression.

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Connemara 22yo & Turf Mor c/othewhiskeynut

Now none of the Connemara range are actually produced at Kilbeggan. Cooley Distillery in County Louth is where that all happens – but Kilbeggan is one of the maturation sites. It also has a small boutique distillery whose spirit usually finds it’s way into some of the blended releases. There are plans afoot however to allow visitors the unique experience of  bottling their own Kilbeggan produced whiskey with a valinch as part of the historical distillery tour. A welcome addition.

The 22 year old has a softly peated nose. As befits it’s age the taste is smooth & complex. The peat is well balanced by many rich notes from the long years maturing in oak barrels. A very fine & well cultured whiskey. Bottled at 46%  & non chill-filtered.

Turf Mor is the bigger, badder & bolder younger sibling!

Youthful, exuberant & punchy. This heavily peated single malt delivers a healthy kick to the palate tempered by a soft sweetness. Much more my style.

It’s not as bold & overwhelming as the previous 58.2% incarnation – but a very welcome return of a heavy hitting peat from Ireland at 46% – albeit as a limited Travel Retail release & of course – at the distillery.

A bottle was duly purchased. Well worth the 70km cycle!

The entire Connemara range of peated single malts make a fine display in their new bright livery. Oh! Did I say they are all Irish double distilled peated single malts?

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Current Connemara range c/othewhiskeynut

The 2 youthful non-aged statements (NAS) contain some welcome fire & bite in contrast to the rather well-mannered & refined 12 & 22 year old elders.

All are available at the Kilbeggan Distillery – along with the Tyrconnell, Kilbeggan & Locke’s range of whiskeys too.

Kilbeggan is currently owned by the Beam/Suntory group. Due to increased demand it’s advised to book in advance for the guided tours. You are welcome to drop into the very friendly Whiskey Bar anytime during opening hours.

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Oh show me the way to the next whiskey bar c/othewhiskeynut

Full of wonderfully rich history & culture, some fabulous whiskeys, a cafe and a bar – what are you waiting for?

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Kilbeggan / Cooley Distillery part 2

Prior to the Beam/Suntory takeover of the Kilbeggan/Cooley distillery, it was the only independently owned distillery in Ireland. (This situation has altered again due to the many new entrants into the market). A number of brand names were dropped from the portfolio during the changing process which has led to exciting developments in the Irish Whiskey industry.

Locke's Single Malt Crock c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop
Locke’s Single Malt Crock c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop

The 1st notable omission from the current line-up is Locke’s Single Malt.This is a fine example of a smooth tasting pot still Irish whiskey. The fact that the Locke’s family ran the Kilbeggan distillery for over 100 years through the ups and downs of the whiskey trade and that there name was synonymous with a good dram – it seems a startling miss out. For further reading there is a very informative book – “Locke’s Distillery, A History.” by Andrew Bielenberg, produced for the 250th anniversary of the distillery. Well worth getting hold off. I got my copy at the Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society shop in Tullamore.

Locke's Distillery A History c/o Whiskey Nut
Locke’s Distillery A History c/o Whiskey Nut

The main beneficiaries of the sale to Beam were the Teeling family. Brothers Jack and Stephen wasted no time reinvesting their share in building the 1st new distillery to be opened in Dublin for 125 years. I’ve been lucky to have visited it already. It’s a grand building and will produce some very fine whiskeys indeed judging by the Teeling releases currently out there which are all presently spirit made at Kilbeggan/Cooley. There is a must see documentary called “The Whiskey Business” soon to be screened on Irish TV on June 5th which follows the boys making their dreams come true.

Teeling Single Malt c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop
Teeling Single Malt c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop

Father John is also building a grain distillery at Dundalk – no doubt to supply his sons (and others) with one of the main ingredients for blended whiskey.

There are a number of other clients who previously sourced their spirit at Kilbeggan/Cooley who have gone on to develop their own distilleries.

Slane Castle Whiskey c/o independent.ie
Slane Castle Whiskey c/o independent.ie

Slane Castle Whiskey is in Co. Meath and is part of an estate famous for holding outdoor rock concerts. The Foo Fighters play this year – if you fancy that!

Peter Lavery c/o belfastmediagroup.com
Peter Lavery c/o belfastmediagroup.com

Lottery winner Peter Lavery previously released the Titanic and Danny Boy whiskey brands. He is now behind the release of McConnell’s Irish Whiskey prior to the development of Crumlin Gaol in Belfast as a whiskey distillery.

Michael Collins Whiskey c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop
Michael Collins Whiskey c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop

Meanwhile – a whiskey I have tasted and enjoyed – Michael Collins – is taking a rather different approach. The Sidney Frank Importing Co is suing Beam for the cessation of it’s whiskey stocks!

There is also the rather unknown quantity of “own label” brands – supermarket chains for example -that would have got their spirit from Kilbeggan/Cooley. This is a major business – but often hard to get information on. The requirement is only to state which country produced the whiskey – not the distillery – but Kilbeggan/Cooley under Teeling supplied this lucrative market.

O'Reilly's Irish Whiskey c/o eluxo.pl
O’Reilly’s Irish Whiskey c/o eluxo.pl

One example is O’Reilly’s Irish Whiskey which is available in Tesco’s. It has the Cooley Business address on the back. It is still on the shelves at present so whether stocks have been secured post Beam – or pre Beam – I don’t know. I’ve aslo not tasted it. But it is an example of the many different labels a distilleries output can end up in!

The above are only a small sample of whiskeys manufactured at Kilbeggan/Cooley during the time John Teeling was at the helm – 1987 to 2012. Many are no more – but some may survive. I certainly enjoy hunting them down and experiencing the differing tastes and styles on display – marvelling that they were all produced at the same distillery!

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