Maybe if you were an 8th generation farmer growing barley on the fertile soils of West Cork near the historic Galley Head Lighthouse you’d look for a business opportunity that would add value to your crop.
Maybe you’d look for a business that could demonstrate a sense of pride in the beautiful landscape of the wild Atlantic coast you love, a sense of pride in the natural bio-diversity of the area you enjoy and perhaps a business that could stand proud for the next 8 generations of your family.
For that’s exactly what Michael Scully & all the team behind Clonakilty Distillery have been doing.
I had the privilege to visit the distillery site with founder Michael himself. Currently – February 2018 – it’s a glass fronted empty shell of concrete & steel. A landmark legacy building of the previous boom that was never fully utilised before the crash came. Now Clonakilty Distillery have started works to install 3 gleaming copper pot stills – from Barison in Italy – an additional gin still, associated mashtuns & fermenters as well as all the pipework of a working distillery – the building will be transformed into an iconic tourist attraction in an area already awash with visitors.
The artists drawings of the finished distillery – along with the next door restaurant/cafe showcasing the best culinary delights & locally produced fare that West Cork has to offer – certainly look fabulous.
The views from inside the actual building – overlooking the Clonakilty roofscape & hinterland – are also appealing. Even before the copper stills are in place!
A projected finish of late 2018 is proposed for this ambitious project.
This is more than just whiskey.
It’s being part of the wild landscape from where the ingredients are grown.
It’s being part of bustling Clonakilty with it’s tourists, trades people and locals.
It’s embedding these memories & feelings in your mind every time you raise a glass of Clonakilty Whiskey to enjoy.
So what about the whiskey?
The intention is to produce single pot still Irish whiskey – made from locally grown malted & unmalted barley – but that will take a few years. In the meantime a couple of sourced blends will be released – bearing the distinctive whales tail logo – to fly the flag for Clonakilty Distillery.
The real whales tails can be spotted locally from one of many whale watching boat-trips that ply the coastline during the season searching for Minke, Fin and the impressive Humpback Whale that occur annually.
You might even be lucky to spot one from the stunning Galley Head Lighthouse itself which you can stay in courtesy of the Landmark Trust here. A truly marvelous experience – even if I didn’t see any whales when I visited a few years ago.
The 2 expressions on show are based on a blend of 8 to 10 year old grain & malt ex-bourbon cask matured whiskeys which have been finished by Clonakilty Distillery in their nearby warehouse – I didn’t visit on this occasion – in either virgin american oak casks or port casks. Both are presented at 43.6%, non chill filtered and naturally coloured. Which is always a bonus in my book.
The Port Cask has already been released in Germany. It shows a lovely ruby red appearance & there are some reviews already here.
The Virgin Oak Cask is due for April release in a number of countries & has a far more lighter straw lemon colour about it. Happily I got the chance to sample some of this spirit.
The virgin oak accentuated the vanilla & warm caramel notes which were very forward before a more subdued woody element made it’s presence on a fragrant nose.
The taste is beautifully crisp, fresh & clear with a gently growing glow that warmed me up no end in the chilly February sunlight.
Like the embers of an open fire, the fruity flavours danced around on my palate before gently fading away.
This is not a shy whiskey.
It proudly shows it’s strengths in it’s make up.
It’s a fine drop indeed to launch such a wonderfully ambitious whiskey project on the Wild Atlantic Way.
I’d like to thank Michael Scully for generously taking time out of his busy schedule to show me round the distillery site.
A big shout out too to all the team at Clonakilty Distillery for future success in their whiskey adventures.