Despite the 1000 Years title – Malachy believes the term Whiskey was coined by King Henry II’s soldiers who invaded Ireland in the 12th Century – the 1st half of the book deals with a rather troubling invention – the Coffey Still – that continues to influence Irish Whiskey today.
The big question of how a world leading industry in it’s prime lost it’s title is answered very succinctly in this 1980 publication – blending.
The dominant 4 whiskey houses of Dublin – J Jameson, Wm Jameson, J Powers & G Roe – rejected the efficient distilling equipment of A Coffey with his patent still.
They also rejected the growing art of blending whereby a large amount of ‘silent spirit’ produced in those Coffey Stills are mixed with more flavoursome spirit obtained from traditional pot stills.
In doing so Irish Whiskey stagnated & collapsed for over 100 years.
When Malachy wrote his book there was only 1 surviving Irish Whiskey company – Irish Distillers – operating out of 2 distilleries – New Midleton & Old Bushmills.
What changed the demise was the final embracement of the Coffey Still in revising & marketing the Jameson, Powers & Paddy brands as blends to the world.
The category has gone from strength to strength ever since.
There are now up to 63 aspiring & established whiskey distilleries looking to invest, plan, build & market their own Irish Whiskey – creating a much more broad & diverse category.
It’s a fabulous time to witness the rebirth of Irish Whiskey – and give a nod of appreciation to A Coffey & his world changing still.
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.
The Old Jameson Distillery Dublin has made a great tourist attraction out of what was once one of Dublin city’s biggest trades – whiskey distilling – but that trade succumbed to a perfect storm of prohibition, blended whisky, civil war and the rise of Scotch to eventually close in 1971 when Jameson and Powers of Dublin – together with Paddys of Cork – retreated, regrouped and amalgamated into Irish Distillers where all production moved to Midleton in County Cork – bringing to an end whiskey distilling in Dublin. That is until the opening of the Teeling Distillery of only last month!
Midleton continues to produce a fine array of whiskey to this day as part of the Pernod Ricard Group – The Old Jameson Distillery showcases Jameson’s contribution to the parent group – and what a fine contribution it is!
Chosen as a Strategic Premium Brand – Jameson has seen phenomenal growth in sales in the last decade to become Ireland’s leading whiskey brand – outselling the next brand – Bushmills – by a factor of 10. Even Lady Ga Ga credited Jameson on her Born This Way album!
Jameson Original is the flagship blend – ironic in that the Irish distillers reluctance to move to blended whiskey with the arrival of Aeneas Coffey’s new continuous still was one of the factors in the demise of Irish Whiskey – is a perfectly fine balanced – triple distilled – smooth Irish Whiskey – but there are many other expressions which the Old Jameson Distillery opens you to.
Built in the historical Smithfield area of Dublin – the first thing you notice on entering are the 2 massive Jameson bottle chandeliers – a lovely feature – I just hope the maker didn’t drink all the content before assembling the pieces!
There is also a Hobby Horse – an early type of bicycle – as used by John Jameson in the late 1800’s – attached to the wall – sure where else would you park yer bike?
The second thing you notice are the queues. Be advised this is a very popular tour so book in advance online. I didn’t originally book so missed out until another trip up to Dublin enabled me to sail to the front of the queue to start the tour within minutes of stepping off the train with my pre-booked ticket.
As whiskey tours go Jameson guides you through the history, manufacturing , maturing and the all important tasting of the aqua vitae.
What I liked about the sampling was the choice of 3 brands from 3 whiskey making countries representing the different styles each place has traditionally used to produce their spirit.
First up was Jack Daniels – America’s No. 1 brand. I must admit I found this too sweet for my liking with very little finish. It’s a problem I have with most bourbon due to the corn used in the mash bill which imparts the sweetness – but rye bourbon has more bite so is much more up my street.
The Jameson delivered the familiar smooth tasty dram expected whilst the Johnnie Walker Black Label impressed me with the extra bite the smoky peat content delivered to the blend giving it just the edge to make it my best of the 3 on offer.
I don’t think Mr John Jameson would have been too disappointed as he was a Scotsman by birth – and being a canny Scot – he saw an opportunity in Irish Whiskey – much like Grant’s have done over 200 years later by buying up Tullamore DEW!
For an extra price – there is the opportunity to sample 4 of the Jameson Family Reserve Whiskeys. This is an excellent way to get to grips with other Jameson expressions which show a variety of ages, cask finishes and styles – all very fine drams making it hard to choose a winner.
Jameson Limited Reserve 18 year old – an excellent aged blend with sherry finished notes.
Jameson Gold Reserve – aged in new oak casks.
Jameson Select Reserve Black Barrel – aged in heavily charred bourbon barrels and
Jameson Distillery Reserve – aged in Oloroso Sherry casks.
It was very hard to choose a bottle as they were all fine drams but I eventually went for the Distillery Reserve – partly as I’m a sucker for distillery releases – partly for the rich, smooth sherry notes coming through on the nose and taste which I very much like – and partly for the price – it’s hard to pay double the cost for a bottle you find equally as good a lesser priced one.
Anyway – I do have a soft spot for a sherry bomb – as long as it’s done right – and the Distillery Reserve certainly is a fine example of that term – Cherry Bomb as sung by The Runaways has a different meaning!
What’s good about this extra tasting session are the fellow whiskey fans you meet whilst imbibing the excellent drams. It’s not long before tales, tips and whiskey stories ensue. Have you tried this yet? Have you tried that? Where is your next distillery visit? You should go there……..and so on. It also helps to have added input into the nuances of wood finishes, cask strengths, ages statements ….. all the things whiskey buffs chat about. I hope Alice from Australia enjoyed her further immersion into Irish Whiskey!
Sadly glasses empty, folks depart for further whiskey adventure and sustenance is required. Thankfully the 3rd Still Restaurant is only a short walk upstairs where you can enjoy a fabulous meal whilst soaking up the atmosphere – as well as the alcohol! Before heading off on your next whiskey quest.
You won’t go far wrong making The Old Jameson Distillery your next whiskey visit. Just remember to book in advance. Linger a while to savour the history, fine food, good company, great craic and above all – excellent whiskey!