Saturday 8 September 2012

Make room on the shelves

2012 has teased a lot with the promise of new whiskeys but it looks like we actually have a race on our hands now to get spirit into barrels by year end.

Dingle Distillery originally planned to start distilling whiskey this month but that has been pushed back to December. The stills are on site so it's only a matter of time. Meanwhile, we will be able to able to sample their Dingle Organic Gin, which is almost ready to bottle.

Not too far away, the Dingle Brewing Company tells me they have laid their hands on some stills and hope to get them fired up before the end of the year. They already have a name for their whiskey: Shackleton's, which continues the explorer theme they established with their Tom Crean's beer. A gin is a distinct possibility too.

Midleton distillery (home of Jameson) took delivery of three new pot stills in early August, part of their ongoing €100m capacity expansion project.

There are two more stills on the ocean as I write, headed for the Carlow Brewing Company. They are newly-made by Vendome and, if I understood it right, one is a column still and one a pot still. This is a joint venture between the makers of O'Hara's and Alltech, a Kentucky-based brewing and distilling company (among other things).

Alltech already makes malt and bourbon (I tasted their Town Branch Bourbon at an Irish Whiskey Society meeting and liked it) which are going to make their way into the Irish market soon, I believe. They have just launched their Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale in Ireland. This is aged for 6 weeks in freshly-decanted bourbon barrels. I had a sample of it yesterday, alongside the unaged version. The cask adds the nose and body I normally miss when I try beer, being used to the more concentrated flavour of whiskey. I'll revisit it when I find a bottle for sale in Dublin.

As to what style of whiskey this trans-Atlantic venture will make, it seems to be up in the air for now. They will experiment when they get the stills plumbed in.

We are still expecting good things from the Teeling Whiskey Company and the Belfast Distillery Company's plans to open a new distillery in the former Crumlin Road Gaol are said to be progressing nicely.

The Tullamore Dew Visitor Centre reopened this week after a big renovation. Their new distillery in Tullamore remains in the pre-planning application stage but it's still a go.

That should give a flavour of the stories we are looking forward to over the next year. There are some other players I haven't even mentioned so I don't doubt we have a few surprises in store too.