I can’t help feeling single grain whiskey is still trying to escape the slur Messers Jameson x2, Roe & Power attached to it back in 1879 labelling the category as ‘Silent Whisky’ in their anti-Coffey-Still publication ‘Truths About Whisky’.
For a long time Irish Whiskey was defined more by what it couldn’t be rather than by what it could.
When the whisky market was clearly shifting to blended whisky in the late 1800’s, Messrs J Jameson, W Jameson, J Power & G Roe brought out the ‘Truths About Whisky’ pamphlet which railed against this new confounded ‘silent spirit’ & thereby shunned the opportunities available.
Celebrity endorsed brands are making big waves across the globe right now – yet within the Irish Whiskey community there is almost universal rejection of Conor McGregor’s Proper Twelve Whiskey – despite it leaping to become the 4th most popular Irish Whiskey in the world.
Many also adhere to the myth that Irish Whiskey can’t be peated.
Which is a pity.
Peated whiskey displays a gorgeous smoky flavour which many customers seek out – customers like myself.
So when Kilbeggan Distillery recently added the Kilbeggan Black Lightly Peated Irish Whiskey to their range – I couldn’t wait to try it out.
The double distilled blend of malt & grain whiskey from Cooley Distillery in County Louth is presented in a no nonsense screwcap bottle at 40% ABV with added colouring.
It’s clearly positioned at the mass market peated blend category previously dominated by Scorch – and I fully welcome Irish Whiskey’s entry into this arena.
A subtle kiss of smoke rises from the honeyed blend.
Soft & easy palate.
Gently drying smokiness envelops the finish in a warm tingly embrace.
Now that the pubs are slowly opening after a long COVID shutdown – it’ll be great to reach for a lightly peated Irish Whiskey.
The iconic ‘Striding Man’ logo gracing bottles of Johnnie Walker Whisky is an apt inspiration for the title of this very highly researched & entertaining book by Nicholas Morgan.
Boldly striding across the centuries Johnnie Walker has witnessed many ups & downs as well as twists & turns within the whisky industry.
Originating in 1820 from a Kilmarnock grocers shop specializing in blending tea, Johnnie Walker went on to take full advantage of the Coffey Still to blend whisky.
By 1878 the business was expanding massively to cater for demand while both the Highland Malt & the big 4 Dublin Whisky Distilleries mounted a campaign to prevent ‘silent spirit’ being labelled as whisky.
By 1890 Scotch was outselling Irish – up until then the biggest & most reputable whisky sold worldwide – and has done so ever since.
The book chronicles that period of growth for Scotch – blended whisky in particular – as well as many other escapades the Striding Man encountered along the way
A Long Stride is a wonderful read for anyone wishing to grasp the historical complexities & choices made by previous generations that currently shape the whisky industry today.
It certainly makes me ponder how decisions being made now – often echoing those of the past – will shape the future.
Whatever tomorrow brings the Striding Man – & latterly Striding Woman – will certainly be found playing a key role.
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) recently relaxed the rules as to what kind of oak barrels can be used to mature or finish Scotch Whisky in.
This caused a few murmurings on the internet with some in favour – and others against – but it had me pondering on innovation & change in the wider whisky world.
Back in the 1830’s there was a major shift in how whisky was distilled. It centred round the patented design of Irishman Aeneas Coffey’s new still – the Coffey Still – that continues to be the mainstay of whisky production today.
The major whisky producing nation of the time – Ireland – refused to have anything to do with this new fangled machinery.
As the internet wasn’t around then – a book was written to say no to the Coffey Still.
Irish Whiskey was producing the market leading ‘traditional’ great tasting single pot still whisky at the time – why bother to change?
Meanwhile in Scotland, a growing band of mainly non distillery producers were experimenting with this innovative new ‘silent spirit’ to release a product called blended whisky.
Slowly but surely this ‘non traditional’ blended whisky caught on.
A combination of affordability, accessibility, easy tasting and clever marketing brought about a revolution in whisky fortunes and turned the underdog into the new master.
Blended whisky is the major player in worldwide whisky production today making up to 80% of sales.
Currently Irish Whiskey is one of the fastest growing segments in the whisky community. Relatively unhindered by tight regulations it is innovating like mad and releasing fabulous tasting whiskey.
Failure to innovate nearly 200 years ago almost brought Irish Whiskey to it’s knees. All the more marvelous to witness the phoenix like rebirth & stunning growth happening now.
The ever pragmatic SWA will have noticed this – and are responding accordingly.
Header photo Athrú Whiskey – athrú meaning change in Irish.