At the 2016 Irish Whiskey Awards Brian Nation – then Master Distiller for Midleton – announced rye had been planted in County Wexford to be used for whiskey distillation.
This gave me great cheers as rye historically was an integral ingredient in the mash-bill of Irish Whiskey.
Conveniently at that event a bottle of Ransom The Emerald – an American made whiskey using a mixed mash-bill based on an Irish Whiskey recipe containing rye – did the rounds.
What a delight it was to taste!
A few years ago the only rye influence available in Irish Whiskey came from the use of ex-rye casks.
PrizeFight Whiskey were one of the first & used this method to great effect.
Other Irish Whiskey like the wonderful Bart’s from Lough Ree, Foxes Bow & Blackwater’s Velvet Cap followed & all benefited – to my palate at least – from the additional flavour profile rye brings to the mix.
It’s only in the last year or so actual rye grain has made the mash-bill of a couple of Irish Whiskey.
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.
Paddy – to my tastes anyway – is my least favourite of the standard entry level trio of blends produced by Irish Distillers.
The other 2 being the flagship Jameson Original & Powers Gold Label. All of these blends contain pot still whiskey in their respective recipes which result in varying degrees of that signature spice flavour associated with single pot still.
I’ve still to sample all 3 blends back to back yet for the ultimate taste comparison though.
Despite Jameson & Powers coming in an increasing array of offerings – Paddy was left floundering with only one – that is if you exclude the honey & apple liqueurs available in other markets.
However in 2013 – to celebrate 100 years of the famous brand – this special single pot still bottling was released.
Packaged in a lovely wooden case – complete with a photo of the legendary Cork Distiller’s salesman Paddy Flaherty – after whom the brand was named – together with an attractively labelled bottle – the overall effect is very attractive.
The liquid inside is also very enticing!
The rich nose & taste of orchard fruits instantly won me over to the joys of this wonderful single pot still in some select whiskey bars where this limited edition bottle can still be found.
Limited being the key word here.
As at nearly 5 years done the line from the original release – the availability of this whiskey is becoming increasingly scarce & hard to find.
It’s falling into that category of whiskey people buy not to drink – which is a pity – but to collect.
I managed to get my hands on one of these beauties for less than 80 euro.
At that price it won’t be around for long. Especially as the Paddy brand has now been bought by American drinks company Sazerac.
I wonder what Paddy Flaherty would have made of that?
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!
Quite how Paddy’s Day came to be associated with drinking both in Ireland and abroad is a bit of a mystery. Suffice to say other countries national days also have this reputation – noticeably Scotland’s Burn’s Night which focuses on drinking whisky as well as eating haggis – which is a lovely combination if you haven’t already tried it.
Anyway, it’s wise to be Drink Aware on this day and point out there are many alternative exciting non-alcoholic events taking part around the world on Paddy’s Day to enjoy.
Not having booked on-line I got rather worried at the sea of tourists queuing up and taking pictures. My fears were confirmed as all the tours were booked out for the next few hours. The reception area, bar and shop were all very well decked out with two lovely whiskey bottle chandeliers dominating the scene but as I had other fish to fry, and the bar was not yet open,I left amidst a flock of Frenchmen topped with green hats, I only hoped they had advance tickets!
The recently opened Irish Whiskey Museum beckoned as my 2nd destination. It’s new clean lined decor and whisky memorabilia shop with adjoining bar and friendly staff impressed me. The guide informatively, enthusiastically and humorously led us through a potted history of Irish Whiskey with the aid of tastefully done set scenes and clever audio visual displays including actors in period costumes to bring the story alive. Interestingly one of the actors was Fr Jack of Father Ted fame, Frank Kelly. I didn’t recognize the others. A stunning display of old Irish whiskey bottles mirrored the rise, fall and subsequent current re-birth of the Irish whiskey industry before being led to the all important tasting session.
Not being tied to any manufacture allows the Irish Whiskey Museum to give a broad range of whiskeys for it’s customers to sample. The 4 offered on my tour are subject to change and may not represent future or past tours. This is very refreshing as it allows for new entrants into the market.
Powers Gold Label Blend – I wasn’t expecting much from this entry level blended whiskey but was pleasantly surprised by it’s slightly spicy taste and warm finish. B+
Teeling Small Batch – All Teeling expressions are very good and this blended whiskey shows what a finishing cask can add to the mix. B+
Not surprisingly personal taste prevailed when asked to name the favorite tipple. A Spanish couple opted for the stronger and fuller flavoured Teeling, a German couple opted for the Irishman whilst I went for the unexpectedly good Powers.
Suitably warmed up it was on to my 3rd stop of the day in the famous Celtic Whiskey Shop. A true cornucopia of whiskey of all descriptions with a mouth watering display for the eyes to feast on. I could have spent hours going through every bottle possibly sampling it’s contents but thankfully for the staff (who would prefer buyers to browsers, although both are welcomed) and my health (I wouldn’t be able for so much Whiskey) I already had a bottle in mind. The shop, through it’s owner Ally Alpine, also runs The Celtic Whiskey Club which conducts whiskey tastings, mails out samples for on-line discussion and offers Whiskey Of The Week to members. Today was the chance for the Hyde 10 yo Single Malt to shine. With a sample taste I duly bought a bottle along with a miniature of which the shop has a fantastic selection. This is a great idea as for the price of one full sized bottle you can sample 6 or 7 of these handy 5cl bottles to try out first at your leisure.
As it had already gone 1pm my stomach was in need of more substantial fare. My prime objective and final port of call was the Irish Beer and Whiskey Fest in the RDS where I knew the Pieman would have their stall. On entering the hall I made a beeline for the wonderful Pieman who didn’t disappoint with a Chicken & Mushroom pie with added Teeling Whiskey for flavour. This was washed down with Porterhouse Red Ale, a delightful combination.
One of the lovely things about the festival are the communal tables and chairs dotted about the place for folks to sit, eat , drink and chat. During the course of my visit I met a South African truck driver now residing in Tullamore, a retired Dublin gent, a young American couple living in Germany and a gaggle of Dublin based Brazilians with a French woman in tow. Conversation flowed easily over what drinks were liked, tips on which beer to go for next and general chat all conducted in a colourful camaraderie of common consumption!
Lunch over I was now on the lookout for desert. The Irish Single Pot Still display provided it as well as making up for missing the Jameson tour earlier in the day.
Whilst browsing in the whiskey shop at the Loop in Dublin Airport last month I noticed a 4 pack miniature box of Irish Pot Still Whiskeys. As these are the very whiskeys which made Irish Whiskey number 1 back in the late 1800’s before the rise of Scotch, I was intrigued. Now I had my chance to try them out!
The staff very friendly made up the 4 samples and gave me a running commentary as I nosed then tasted each one. At this stage of the game my memory and tasting notes were a little muddled by the rich, complex and powerful flavours these whiskeys possess. Greenspot, Redbreast. Powers John Lane and Barry CrockettLegacy truly deserve the marketing campaign that is underway to rebuild the status these whiskeys once held. Again I chose the Powers expression for a full measure shot due to the rich body coupled with a spicy taste. I enjoyed the drink so much I missed the whiskey talk due to be delivered by John Teeling which was a bit of a shame.
I did however make an earlier informal chat with 3 passionate beer makers as part of the Meet The Brewers talk. Kinnegar of Donegal, Mountain Man of Cork and Black Donkey of Roscommon. All told anecdotes about small brewers trying to survive in the market place. I just can’t wait for Black Donkey’s brilliant new advertising idea to bear fruit!
Unfortunately I had a train to catch, so my last whiskeys were a taste off between the Pearse Lyon Reserve and the Town Branch Rye at the Alltech stand. The Rye won out with it’s stronger more robust taste and a generous enjoyable shot delayed my departure resulting in a dash with only minutes to spare.
I was tempted to open my Pig’s Nose miniature on the train but quit when I was ahead to opt for tea and crisps from the trolley service. I also erred on the side of caution and went for a Crafty Irish Red Ale which is part of the Rye River portfolio from Kilcock to accompany the evening meal.
That brought my very satisfying pre-Paddy’s Day celebrations to a happy end. I do hope you enjoy your day as much as I did mine.
I’ll be sober for the actual event – I’m the driver.