It’s not everyday you read a book so rooted in the historical & current fabric of affairs in the Midland’s of Ireland.
But then it’s not everyday a thoroughly researched & entertainingly presented publication charts the almost 200 year history of the Egans of Moate and Tullamore.
P & H Egans of Tullamore may have folded in the late 1960’s – but the legacy of their large commercial enterprises are evident to this day.
Their former Tullamore Brewery is now the Brewery Tap bar.
Their large headquarters, merchants shop & seed store is now the Bridge House Hotel.
Many artifacts, memorabilia & perhaps stories can still be found in these buildings – especially over a glass or two of Egan’s Irish Whiskey.
Descendants of this prominent business & political family have resurrected one of the enterprises that made them so famous – whiskey bonding, blending & selling.
I had a fabulous day celebrating the launch of Egan’s Centenary Irish Whiskey – along with many members of the Egan family – being shown round numerous historic buildings & making them come alive with tales & stories from the past.
The book adds so much colour, depth, complexity & character to a glass of Egan’s Irish Whiskey.
For my original Egan’s Centenary Whiskey blog click here.
It’s not very often you get to attend the launch of a whiskey in the Council Chambers of a local Town Hall.
But then this is no ordinary whiskey.
It’s a whiskey steeped with history, heritage & family.
A whiskey commemorating the 100th anniversary of the passing of Henry Egan.
Descendants of Henry gathered together outside his former house – now Tullamore Town Hall – not only to remember him – but also to revive the family tradition – Irish Whiskey.
The well respected Midland’s business of P&H Egan loomed large in Tullamore from the 1850’s right up to the 1960’s. Alongside whiskey blending, many other businesses were engaged in by generations of the family. A walk round the town showed the extent of the family’s influence with the current Bridge House Hotel being originally built as the main shop & head office for the Egan’s operations.
Offaly History do a blog detailing much information on the Egan family history in Tullamore here.
During the walk a bottle of Egan’s Whiskey was given to the owners of barge 42B. The very same barge P&H Egan’s had owned back in the day to transport goods to and from Dublin via the Grand Canal – the motorway of it’s day.
The highlight of the proceedings was undoubtedly the unveiling of Egan’s Centenary Irish Whiskey in the Brewery Tap Bar – also previously owned by P&H Egan’s as a brewery for their Ales.
The complete collection of Egan’s Whiskeys were laid out for an eager gathering of family & friends at the bar.
To start off the tasting, Egan’s Vintage Grain.
A gorgeously warm single grain presented at 46% & non chill filtered – as all Egan’s Whiskeys are – full of vanillas & caramel from the ex-bourbon cask maturation.
Egan’s Fortitude Single Malt.
Fully matured in PX Sherry casks this non age statement – NAS – offering didn’t excite my palate as much. There were more dark fruits present – and a lovely soft spicy dryness at the end – but it just missed the mark for me.
Egan’s 10 Year Old Single Malt.
Everyone at my table enjoyed this one!
Boasting a 47% ABV this single malt was easy on the palate yet bursting with fruity juiciness & gentle spices at the end.
Egan’s 15 Year Old Legacy Reserve.
A rare treat to encounter this lovely rich whiskey again. I particularly enjoyed the depth of character with dry oaky tannins, leathery & tobacco notes from the long maturation. It didn’t suit everyone though – as I found out by chatting to my fellow imbibers. A few of them happened to be Egan descendants themselves! Although not involved with the whiskey venturing Egan’s of the present day.
And then the glorious finale!
Egan’s Centenary Irish Whiskey – poured individually out of the first bottle ever to be opened by the Intrepid Spirits founder himself – with the elegantly displayed packaging showcased by the Egan’s First Lady of Whiskey too!
The nose was initially softer, cleaner almost – before the gentle subtleness of dark fruits opened up.
The taste was attractively warming. A smooth velvety mouthfeel with dark cherry fruitiness from the ex-cognac casks used to finish this blend.
A flourish of spice rounded off this fabulous whiskey.
A fitting whiskey to commemorate one of the founding Egan family members who built a successful business empire in the past.
A fitting whiskey to be enjoyed in the present.
And a fitting whiskey to toast future generations of Egan’s a long & prosperous involvement in the spirits trade.
Egan’s Whiskey are a 6th generation whiskey company based in the Irish Midlands town of Tullamore.
Back in their heyday of the late 1800’s Egan’s were a very successful business. The Head Office reflected the grandeur of the time – and still stands today as the Bridge House Hotel.
One of P&H Egan’s many businesses was purchasing whiskey by the barrel & finishing or maturing it to their own specifications. Then bottling, branding, distributing & selling it under their own name.
The Brewery Tap in Tullamore still has P&H Egan mirrors prominently displayed in the snug of this popular hostelry.
The current Egan family generation have recently re-entered this market with a range of sourced malts and single grain whiskey.
I happened to get an invite to a vertical tasting of their products back in the summer.
Both the Vintage Grain and 10 Year Old Single Malt I’ve covered before – and if you click on the links you will be guided to my findings.
The highlight of this particular tasting however was the Egan’s 15 Year Old Legacy Release Single Malt as introduced to us by Alison, Brand Ambassador for Intrepid Spirits who are handling the whiskey.
Aged exclusively in ex bourbon barrels – the Legacy Reserve is a marriage of several individual cask chosen by Egan family members.
It’s bottled at that magic number – 46% – which usually denotes no chill filtering.
The nose opened up with rich vanilla & caramel complimented by some deeper oaky notes from the years in american oak.
Beautifully smooth on the palate – I found the tannic flavours balanced well with the sweet vanilla – even developing into old leather notes.
Others at the tasting wondered whether there had been any sherry influence as they were picking up some fresh fruity notes too – but no – bourbon cask maturation was the sole influencer.
A complex medley of flavours danced around with a hint of prickly spice on the satisfying long finish.
Very attractively packaged in a rectangular bottle complete with plush wooden box containing Egan’s back story in a handy booklet – this is aimed at a premium market.
The liquid inside lived up to it’s lavish presentation.
National Heritage Week in Ireland for 2016 runs from the 20th to 28th August.
It’s a celebration of the rich cultural, natural, creative, architectural and industrial heritage of the island of Ireland which takes the form of a range of events organised locally throughout the country.
My contribution to Heritage Week was to lead a Tullamore Town Whiskey Walk.
But what’s whiskey got to do with heritage? you may ask.
Well – in The Annuls of Clonmacnoise from 1405 there is a reference to a certain chieftain who imbibed a bit too much “aqua vitae” and subsequently died.
Quite clearly Ireland’s relationship to aqua vitae or uisce beatha or whiskey as we now know it has – for better or worse – a long cultural heritage.
Tullamore’s connection with whiskey dates back to at least the 1700’s.
An unfortunate collision with a chimney – believed to be a distillery chimney – led to the world’s first air disaster when a hot air balloon set fire to the town in 1785!
There are still Phoenix emblems on lamp posts on Colmcille St to remember the rebirth of the town after this catastrophe – along with a Tullamore DEW expression of the same name which can either be taken to note the fire – or the beginning of whiskey distilling in Tullamore after a 50 year hiatus when William Grant & Sons opened the new Tullamore Distillery on the outskirts of the town in 2014.
St Patrick St in the centre of town was largely destroyed in the fire. There were a few buildings that survived. One of these buildings is the Tullamore DEW managers office which still proudly displays the name of it’s most famous manager – Daniel E Williams who coined the “Give Everyman His DEW” advertising tag.
Directly opposite are the original distillery entrance gates which bear the name B Daly Company Ltd Tullamore Distillery – Bernard Daly being a previous manager to Daniel Williams.
The gates abut a public house by the name of Bob Smyths. This was formerly a mill house owned by Michael Molloy who happened to be the founder of Tullamore Distillery in 1829. It should come as no surprise the mill was incorporated into the distillery whose main works were just behind. We decided to raise a glass to Tullamore Distillery at this juncture of the walk.
Much of Tullamore’s wealth was generated on the back of the drinks industry. In the early 1800’s there happened to be 2 distilleries, 2 breweries and extensive malting houses in the town. The 3 biggest employers during this period were Tullamore DEW itself, P&H Egans general merchants wine & spirit bonders and Tarleton maltsters.
The heritage of the past shapes the present.
Tullamore DEW is still a world recognised whiskey brand and the original 1897 Old Bonded Warehouse attracts many visitors now it’s a very enjoyable whiskey tourist attraction.
P&H Egans – who originally built the fine Bridge House which still stands today – have a recently released 10 year old single malt bearing the Bridge House on the front of the label. Descendants of the original family are behind the new revived brand and artwork from their forefathers can be seen in The Brewery Tap pub – which happens to be the site of one of the former breweries.
Tarleton seem to be gone but the fertile soils of the Midlands still produce barley for the malting industry to this day. Many of the shops and apartments at the bottom of Harbour St are housed in the old warehouses and malting floors of that former malting industry giant.
Whiskey is still a presence in Tullamore today. It may not employ as many people as in the past but the legacy lives on.
One of several whiskey bars in town – as arbitrarily defined by a previous blog here – has it’s own bottling! We enjoyed a glass of the yet to be launched Hugh Lynch’s Irish Whiskey in the pub that commissioned it. What better way to end the walk.
So why don’t you give Tullamore a visit?
The combination of the old original buildings with their rich history – the new whiskey expressions with their exciting flavours – an exciting re-birth of whiskey distilling quietly maturing in oak barrels at the modern Tullamore Distillery – neatly encapsulates the past – present and yet to be written whiskey heritage of Tullamore.
The Brewery Tap is one of those pubs that I’ve passed by on numerous occasions – mainly during my day job as a truck driver – but never managed to actually get inside – until now.
Situated opposite the busy O’Connor Square area in the heart of Tullamore town The Brewery Tap is only a stone’s throw from The Bridge Centre shopping complex and the popular Bridge House Hotel – both premises built on or around the old Tullamore Distillery which closed it’s doors in 1954.
Remnants of the distillery can still be seen on nearby Patrick Street where the manager, Daniel E Williams – whose initials formed the DEW element – sat in his office which still proudly displays his name today on one side of the street overlooking the elaborate and well cared for iron gates which formed part of the entrance to the original distillery on the other.
It should come as no surprise then that The Brewery Tap strongly features the entire Tullamore DEW range of tasty whiskeys inside it’s warm and welcoming interior.
Having missed the opportunity to try out the 14 Year Old Single Malt when I last visited The Old Bonded Warehouse – itself only a 5 minute walk away – I wasn’t going to let this chance go by – and in memory of the recently departed George Martin – a Beatles track.
Now on the blind tasting I did some time ago a few Tullamore DEW expressions stood out from the crowd. Both The Phoenix and Cider Cask releases scored very well so when I first gently nosed the 14 to be greeted by some wonderful aromas I knew I was in for a treat.
The silky smooth dram tantalised my taste buds with it’s warm sweetness combined in a delicate balance of the bourbon – port – oloroso and madeira barrels used for maturation.
Triple distilled – quadruple matured – quintuple the taste!
To paraphrase an advertising slogan for my own experience in drinking this lovely whiskey.
This may be my best Tullamore DEW yet!
Other whiskeys on offer at The Brewery Tap included the Egan’s Single Malt. Judging from the amount of P&H Egan advertising materiel adorning the walls of the bar there’s plenty of scope for the new company to expand their drinks portfolio. Ales – ginger beer and liqueurs all featured in the ads from yesteryears. I just wonder what they all tasted like in their heyday?
Outside of lunchtimes The Brewery Tap only serves crisps and nuts. There is a regular itinerary of musical evenings and other lively events both mid-week and at the weekend. It’s also rumoured that many of the Tullamore DEW executives pop in for some down time to enjoy the fruits of their own labours – and who can blame them?
With a warm glowing fire – friendly staff – comfortable seats and cushioned benches as well as whiskey aplenty – who wouldn’t enjoy the atmosphere in such a fine establishment.
I just hope my next visit won’t be as long in coming as my first!
Tullamore DEW is another one of those iconic Irish Whiskey Brands that are well represented across the globe. On my last trip to Germany it was everywhere – and from sampling some German whisky I can see why the light, smooth triple distilled dram goes down well there. It is a pleasantly approachable blend appreciated neat – or mixed – according to your taste.
Formerly made in the Irish Midland town of Tullamore – where there was a booming whiskey industry in the 19th Century. The 1837 Ordnance Survey map lists no fewer than 2 distilleries along with 3 breweries – as well as the associated maltings. However – by the 1950’s only Tullamore DEW survived – and it too succumbed to economic pressure to close – along with many others in the Midlands by 1954.
Unlike it’s close neighbour Kilbeggan – which was turned into a piggery after it closed at one stage but now holds one of the original pot stills used at Tullamore – the Tullamore DEW brand continued to be produced at other distilleries – mainly the Midleton New Distillery. The brand changed hands a few times – eventually ending up being bought by the Scottish William Grant & Sons in 2010.
Grants – one of a few family owned drinks business in Scotland and worthy of a blog all of their own – brought about the rebirth of distilling in Tullamore by investing over 35 million in building a new plant on the N52 bypass so after a 60 year hiatus – whiskey can now flow again in Tullamore.
Interestingly – in Dundalk – at the northern extremity of the N52 – John Teeling is currently building his Great Northern Distillery!
Anyway – a trip to the Tullamore Visitors Centre on Bury Quay is a marvelous experience. Built in the former bonded warehouse it now contains a fabulous restaurant – worthy of a meal regardless whether you do the tour or not – the ubiquitous shop – as well as many original artefacts, photos and whiskey material collected from the rich history of distilling in the Midlands.
For those that want to delve into that history a little more need only to walk up the attractive canal a few steps to the Offaly Historical Society shop where many an article, book or pamphlet has been written on the whiskey trade – as well many other subjects relating to County Offaly and the Midlands.
Tullamore town literally drips with whiskey heritage. If the former distillery head office on Patrick Street – derelict maltings at the back of the Bridge Shopping Centre at Water Lane – Distillery Lane itself leave you thirsty – then call in at The Brewery Tap pub which graces the “Give every man his DEW” sign outside and Tullamore’s finest whiskey expressions inside – where you can relax with a dram browsing a whiskey book bought from the nearby Midlands Books.
And talking of a dram – at the end of the informative tour in the visitors centre a dram – or 3 in this case – is exactly what you get!
On the day of my visit my fellow guests and I were guided through the following expressions;
The flag bearing Tullamore DEW Original blend. A light, smooth blend which sets the benchmark for other Irish blends.
The Tullamore DEW Phoenix. The name can be both attributed to the rise in fortunes of whiskey in Tullamore due to the new distillery building – or – according to some sources – the 1st aviation disaster in the world occurring in the town in 1785! The whiskey packs a punch at 55% ABV so a little water may be required.
The Tullamore DEW Old Bonded Warehouse was my favourite. Smooth fine tasting with a nice body to it. The fact that it can only be acquired at the visitors centre is also a draw – so I got 2 – one for myself and the other for my Dad on Father’s Day!
There are other releases; a 10 year old Single Malt, a 12 year old Special Reserve are listed on the website – but the 12 year old sherry finish single malt is not – despite being sold at the visitors centre as well as Dublin Airport. Is it because it was made at Bushmills? – and therefore not part of the “in crowd”. It seems to be popular in Germany – so I’ll let Horst tell you all about it as I’ve just got back from a whisky trip there.
The new expression yet to prove it’s mettle is the Tullamore Dew Cider Cask. Only available at Dublin Airport for a limited period I have yet to sample a dram. It isn’t currently on sale at the visitors centre. Said to be the 1st whiskey aged in cider casks in Ireland – this is a bold experiment in taste, style and content – I certainly admire Tullamore for releasing it. Whether it’s any good or not will have to wait and see – but the feedback I’m getting is positive.
Grants – the new Tullamore owners – have been innovative and bold distillers in their time. Cider Cask may have something to do with the new owners. It isn’t as yet spirit from the New Distillery – that will be a few years yet – but could be “premiumisation” of Midleton stocks secured in the sales deal – or simply keeping the brand in the market.
Whatever the reason – Tullamore DEW whiskey has a bright future.
The expressions are good.
The Visitors centre is great and as we say in Ireland,