Saturday, 24 November 2012

The future of Tullamore Dew - Part 1

There are three kinds of whiskey in the classic Tullamore Dew blend: malt, pot still and grain. Tullamore Dew doesn't have its own distillery so all of these components are supplied under contract by Irish Distillers (IDL).
When the new owners of the Tullamore Dew brand, William Grant, announced earlier this year that they would bring distilling back in-house, the press release mentioned only pot still and malt distillation. It wasn't clear if the brand would remain dependent on IDL's Midleton plant for its grain whiskey supply.

I've been wading through the recently lodged planning application for the new Tullamore Dew distillery. It's a hefty read that bounces around from boreholes to bats to the Bronze Age. But it also reveals some of William Grant's intentions as far as the whiskey is concerned.

There will, we now know, be a column still for making grain spirit, but not until the second phase of the build, to be completed in 2021.

Phase 1, to be operational by July 2014, will see pot stills alone producing 1.84 million litres of pot still / malt alcohol annually, enough for 1.5m cases of whiskey (when combined with grain whiskey from Midleton).

Phase 2a, commencing construction in 2019, will double this capacity to 3m cases.

Phase 2b, complete in 2021, will add the grain distillation for a total output of 11.94 million litres of alcohol (Mla). Because the increased production simply displaces the Midleton grain supply, output will remain at 3m cases annually.

(I think we can infer something interesting at this point. We know that Tullamore Dew contains pot still, malt and grain whiskeys but we don't know in what ratio. From the Phase 3 figures, we see that 3m cases of whiskey requires 3.68 Mla pot/malt and 8.26 Mla grain. Almost all of that whiskey will be the basic blend so I make the proportion of grain to pot/malt in that blend 69% to 31%.)

For comparison, the Midleton distillery currently produces 33.5Mla per annum and is undergoing expansion to a final capacity of 64Mla. That's still well over 5 times the capacity of Tullamore at full flow.

There are some other, obvious, questions regarding what kind of whiskey we are likely to see from the new distillery. For example, will they attempt to recreate the current flavour profile of Tullamore Dew?

There is no answer to this in the planning documents but the intention to hew to the same basic blend of malt, pot still and grain whiskeys is pretty clear. I assume they will want to keep the current age profile of 4-7 years also, for cost reasons. I hope, within these constraints, that they produce the best whiskey possible, rather than trying to reproduce the flavour of Midleton's output.

The other question we all have is: once Tullamore Dew has full control over its own production, what exciting new whiskeys will we see? There is good news on this score. From the planning submission:
Irish whiskey is becoming more sophisticated due to new premium range entrants such as single Malt and Pure Pot Still. It is William Grant & Sons' intention to enter both of these premium segments in a meaningful way.
Glasses up!

See also:
The future of Tullamore Dew - Part 2