Wednesday 20 February 2008

Review: The Story of Irish Whiskey (CD)

A four-part series on Irish whiskey was broadcast on Irish radio in 2005. This is still available for purchase from the RTE website. Not much information is given there so I have listed the contents below.

As an introduction to Irish whiskey, I'd rate this series pretty highly. It quickly gets beyond the necessarily simplified tour guide version of the story of Irish whiskey by visiting all of the working distilleries on the island. We hear the voices of those directly responsible for production of spirit and learn about the many different ways the final product can be influenced, from the choice of raw material to the exact combination of casks used for aging.

All the big names from Irish whiskey are here. We have, for example, the master distillers from Midleton, Cooley and Bushmills; the founder of Cooley, John Teeling; and John Ryan of Irish Distillers who is a descendant of the famous whiskey titan, John Power.

There are some fascinating anecdotes along the way. For example, Connemara peated whiskey was apparently a stealth project concealed from the directors of Cooley by the production team until it had already matured for some years. It was a risky venture but it became a great success so no heads rolled.

The series was recorded before Irish Distillers sold Bushmills to Diageo so the links between Midleton and Bushmills are not so tight now, three years on. Also, the plan to restart the Kilbeggan distillery has progressed with one old still fired up again.

Aside from that, the information in this series is still current and would make a fine place to start for anyone developing an interest in Irish whiskey.

[Many thanks to Peter Dunne of Mitchell & Son wine merchants (sellers of the legendary Green Spot) for pointing me towards this series. I missed it when originally broadcast.]

Part 1: The Origins of Whiskey
Old Jameson Distillery - Niall Stewart
Lockes Distillery Museum - John Deegan & Pearse Corcoran
Kilbeggan and the distillery - Brian Quinn

Part 2: Midleton Distillery
The Golden Ages of Irish Whiskey - John Ryan
Distilling tradition - Barry Crockett
Old Midleton Distillery - David Byrne
New Distillery - Barry Crockett
Midleton tasting notes - Ally Alpine

Part 3: Bushmills Distillery & Green Spot
Location - Colum Egan
History of Bushmills Distillery - Sheelagh Croskery
Distillery Tour - Colum Egan
Blending - Billy Leighton
Green Spot - Peter Dunne
Bushmills and Green Spot tasting notes - Ally Alpine
Favourite Whiskey - Colum Egan

Part 4: Cooley Distillery
Beginings and Distilling processes - John Teeling
Cooley Distillery's Blender - Noel Sweeney
Cooperage in Kilbeggan - John Neely
Maturation Warehouses - Brian Quinn
Cooley tasting notes - Ally Alpine
The Future of Irish Whiskey - John Ryan and John Teeling