It’s great to see an old historical Irish Whiskey building come back into use.
Tullamore DEW’s Old Bonded Warehouse has re-opened under new ownership – local businessman Alan Clancy & local PGA golfer Shane Lowry – with a new name – Old Warehouse.
The building has only been open to the public for a few weeks but a visit to sample the hospitality was in order.
Much remains the same from the outside – only the whiskey barrels sport their new branding.
The inside is oddly reminiscent of the former owners Tullamore DEW – who rightly moved the whiskey visitors experience to the actual working distillery a few miles down the road – with the bar area now moving to the back wall but happily showing an array of whiskey barrels as well as 3 copper pot stills in the 2nd floor dining area.
A nice little touch was the copper topped salt & pepper set which made me smile.
The top floor has yet to be developed into a sports bar & a large pizza oven is due to be fired up too. A late licence has also been applied for.
We enjoyed a late brunch in congenial & warm surroundings.
It took me back to an earlier meal in the building – 2016’s Irish Whiskey Awards!
All in all a fantastic venue and a welcome addition to the hospitality scene in Tullamore – along with the Midlands in general.
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.
The proposed Bacardi takeover of Teeling Whiskey Distillery in Dublin marks the future global growth of Irish Whiskey.
No longer seen as a minor backwater of whiskey – Ireland is now poised to become a threat to the dominance of Scotch in the world of whiskey.
The monies, marketing & reach this requires is beyond what a relatively small Irish Distillery can cope with & abilities only a multinational player can provide.
I welcome this latest development as an inevitable consequence of the growing demand & attractiveness of Irish Whiskey.
I also welcome this development as it provides added competition to the almost monopolistic like presence Jameson has previously played in the category.
Jameson – it must be noted – has been owned by French based multinational Pernod-Ricard since 1988 & often appears to be above any form of criticism within Irish Whiskey circles.
Teeling’s takeover follows in the footsteps of Paddy’s going to US based multinational Sazerac, Tullamore to Scottish based Grants, Kilbeggan to Beam & later Japanese conglomerate Suntory, with Roe already owned by giant Diageo & Bushmills by tequila company Jose Cuervo.
You either want Irish Whiskey to be a growing global player – or to be a small, elitist & pricey backwater for a select band of aficionados.
I’ve been making a concerted effort to reduce my number of bottles – hovering around 60 open with another 40 in waiting – & have taken to offering them as sample exchanges or gifts.
Cognisant also that whiskey can deteriorate if not stored properly I was taken aback at my hand scribbled date of ‘June ‘15’ on the box of this one!
Irish Whiskey – and indeed Tullamore DEW – was in a different place back then!
The number of whiskey distilleries releasing matured product in 2015 could be counted on the digits of one hand – now you’d need more than 3 pairs!
Tullamore DEW itself – after having been acquired by William Grants in 2010 – had only completed construction of it’s distillery in Tullamore in 2014.
Tullamore DEW’s success as a brand has been built entirely on sourced product – mainly from Midleton Distillery, although this 12yo Sherry Cask is reputed to be Bushmills distillate.
Today in 2022 clearly the new Tullamore Distillery’s output is mature enough to end up in it’s offerings – yet there’s been no fanfare to announce this.
Instead a seamless takeover from the previous Midleton incarnations to the new Tullamore offerings has prevailed – undoubtedly aided by the skill of the distillery team to create a perfect replica of the previous bottlings.
After all, when you’re the custodian of the 2nd most popular selling brand of Irish Whiskey in the World – why change a winning formula?
I pondered on all of these things while enjoying the last few – & thankfully very well preserved – drops of this 12yo Sherry Cask.
Tullamore Dew is in the spotlight for announcing the closure of their Visitors Centre at the Old Bonded Warehouse situated by the banks of the Grand Canal in the Midlands town of Tullamore.
What the headlines failed to say is they will be opening a new state of the art visitors attraction at their €35 million Tullamore Distillery built only 6 years ago on the town’s bypass.
In whiskey terms it’s a step forward.
Most fans wish to visit a working distillery where they can not only learn about whiskey – but they can also see, feel, hear and smell the actual process of making that whiskey.
The Old Bonded Warehouse served Tullamore DEW well during the years when there was no distilling in the town and the whiskey for the brand was sourced from elsewhere.
The original distillery – of which many reminders still exist around the town – ran from 1829 to 1954.
Irish Distillers took over the brand & built it up to become the 2nd biggest selling Irish Whiskey in the world.
William Grants in turn acquired the brand & brought back distilling to Tullamore after a 60 year absence.
Having a visitors centre separate from the distillery is fraught with contention & is a bit of an anomaly. There is still one left in Ireland – Jameson Visitors Experience in Dublin – but that’s for another day.
I’ve dug out my only bottle of Tully to celebrate this move – Tullamore DEW 12 Year Old Single Malt Sherry Cask – bought at the Old Bonded Warehouse itself.
I toast to the great leap forward Irish Whiskey & Tullamore DEW has taken in these last few years.
From being a sourced brand celebrated in a museum – to being a fully fledged distillery situated in it’s home town with a brand new attraction to showcase that distillery to it’s best.
Here’s to the next 200 years of whiskey distilling in Tullamore!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Not only in the physical distance it has to travel to reach outside markets – but also in terms of taste, flavour and style.
Fortunately for me an invitation to a wedding in Melbourne (a Tullamore lad & a Melbourne lassie no less) allowed me the opportunity to sample a few of these marvelous malts.
The option of bringing home some of these usually quite expensive bottlings wasn’t really on the cards – so a venue that had a large selection of the local distillate was in order.
Bad Frankie – off Smith St in the bohemian suburb of Fitzroy in Melbourne – was recommended to me by the very helpful Pilgrim Bar. It didn’t disappoint.
The 86 tram does pass by – but another young couple kindly drove us there. A Melbourne lad & an Athlonian lassie who happened to be a next door neighbour & whose wedding we had attended back in Ireland. It’s a small world!
Bad Frankie is a popular spot. On the night we visited we only just managed to get a table. The atmosphere was very friendly & inviting. Bad Frankie specializes in Australian food, Australian Gin & the main reason it attracted me – Australian Whisky. Lots of it!
Handily for me they did a tasting platter of any 5 whiskies of your choice for 40 dollars. (Prices in July 2016) Seb – the owner – & his staff were very attentive and allowed me to pick the ones I wanted.
I narrowed it down to 7 bottles initially. Despite doing my homework before I came to Oz there were still distilleries I hadn’t heard off! Yet here they were – all tempting me.
The final 5 that won my attention on the night were brought to my table. The samples poured and the back story to each bottle in terms of style, flavour, distillery & even the distillation method were explained by the knowledgeable staff.
A varied round of Bad Frankie jaffles were also served up. I went for the ‘Bangers & Mash’. Basically it’s a sealed toasted sandwich filled with a fabulous concoction of tasty fillings. It certainly made a great whisky food pairing!
With a name like Limeburners I couldn’t let this one pass me by. Western Australia’s first single malt whisky distillery had me hooked! A lovely rich fruity number that only confirmed my prediliction to port finishes.
Yes – that’s right – peated rye. The world’s first. Not only that. It uses rye grown on the distiller’s – Peter Bignell – farm as well as Tasmanian peat to give a truly unique taste. There is a gorgeous soft smoke with the merest hint of rye spice too. Fabulous!
I must admit the above selection truly stunned me. The quality & diversity of Australian whisky is simply amazing. I love it – just like these Aussie rockers!
I should also point out that these bottles were available when I visited. Many Australian distilleries release small batches or single runs in limited numbers. What is available now is probably very different. One thing that will not be different is the fabulous taste offered by the new releases – whether they are new expressions from the above distilleries or new expressions from new distilleries that hadn’t appeared when I was down under.
As is true in many countries – the range of whiskies available in the home market is usually far larger than that on sale outside that country.
If you really want to taste Australian whisky – you have to go there.
And Bad Frankie for me at least – is the prime spot to do that tasting.
There is an outpouring of new Irish Whiskey releases marking the growing interest in the category both by consumers – as well as companies trying to enter the market.
Egan’s are slightly unusual in that they are a company re-entering the market after a long absence.
Back in the mid 1800’s – when Irish Whiskey would have been the world’s most popular – P & H Egan built up a sizeable business in their home town of Tullamore importing wines, maturing & bottling whiskey, malting & general groceries – which you can read about here.
Former generations of the present day Egan family – who have released this bottle in question – were a well respected & prosperous company in the Midlands of Ireland. They added to the architecture of the town by building the fine Bridge House Hotel as their head office. The building now proudly adorns their latest offerings.
Whilst many of Tullamore’s bars proudly display Egan’s products of the past.
Following on in the family tradition, the 21st Century Egans also do not distill their own whiskey – they source it from third parties – but they do wrap it in a visually attractive label that proudly displays their heritage & connections to Tullamore.
This Vintage Grain offering is a single grain presented at a powerful 46% with no chill filtering. Always a bonus in my book.
Now single grain may need a bit of an explanation. ‘Single’ implies it comes from one distillery. Not as many assume made from one type of grain. Different types of grain may be used – usually barley, corn, wheat or rye – but they all must be distilled in a continuous, or commonly called, Coffey Still.
The resultant distillate is usually of a higher strength with less taste & flavour of the batch distilled malt whiskey and consequently spends more time in wooden barrels to impart those lovely aromas that are released upon nosing & tasting the whiskey.
Vintage Grain is matured in ex-bourbon barrels for between 6 to 8 years to impart those lovely vanilla & soft caramel notes associated with this type of ageing.
Both the nose and initial tasting is fresh, clean & clear, which suggests no added caramel to my palate – another bonus for me.
The smooth vanilla notes slowly morph into a soft peppery spice which gently fades to a wonderfully warm finish.
This is a worthy addition to the growing Irish single grain category which definitely benefits from it’s higher strength and more natural presentation.
Couple that taste with the wonderfully rich historical back story of the Egan family and you have a winning combination.
I certainly raise a glass to the present day Egan family and wish them future success in re-establishing their name in the proud annuls of Irish Whiskey’s ongoing story.
I’d like to thank Killian & Jonathan Egan for the generous sample provided for the purposes of this review.