Monday 17 November 2008

Tullamore Dew and Cooley

John Hansell recently alluded to a new relationship between Cooley distillery and Tullamore Dew. There is a bit more to this amazing story, however. Since the cat is out the bag, I'll add what I know...

Tullamore Dew is the number two Irish whiskey internationally. The brand is owned by C&C but manufactured by Irish Distillers (IDL), owners of the number one Irish whiskey, Jameson. A few years ago, C&C hired Barry Walsh, recently retired master blender from IDL to create some new whiskeys with Cooley.

The result of that collaboration was some ten year old "finished" single malts (ie the whiskey spent the last few months of its maturation in a different type of cask). But C&C changed its mind and abandoned the project before it went to market.

Cooley went ahead and released the whiskeys as Tyrconnell and we know them as the 10yo port, sherry and madeira finishes. Wonderful whiskeys they are too.

Since then, C&C has reconsidered and is now going ahead with their new malts. As I say, we have seen these whiskeys already but John Hansell mentions a plain 10yo malt which would be new.

I have to believe this has something to do with C&C's recent troubles. They sold off their soft drink and snack food interests and placed a big bet on cider that didn't pan out. The CEO fell on his sword recently after a poor financial year.

All through the cider adventure, Tullamore Dew was a solid performer and it doesn't surprise me that it's now getting renewed attention. While undoubtedly a successful brand, it has long been a commodity whiskey and no attempt has been made to exploit its famous and venerable name at the higher end.

While the new whiskeys won't share any DNA with the standard Tullamore Dew, it must be a risk relying on your biggest competitor to make your product so diversifying suppliers makes sense.

I hope the Cooley project works out. The original Tullamore Dew distillery closed 50 years ago and cannot be revived. The large copper pot stills, however, were picked up by Cooley and are now standing idle at the historic Kilbeggan distillery. Cooley doesn't have the resources to fire them up. C&C, on the other hand, has a healthy cash flow from its whiskey sales... C'mon guys, brew up some original Tullamore Dew!