Wednesday 24 June 2009

Slane Castle whiskey

Slane Castle was in the news at the weekend, hosting its near-annual rock concert. That always garners a lot of publicity and this year the castle's owners have taken the opportunity to unveil a new venture into Irish whiskey.

Slane Castle whiskey is a blend made by Cooley, to be sold in ten states in the eastern US (though it can also be found in the Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dublin). It's priced above Jameson and I think this is the reason it is described on the label as a "premium blend".

I tried this whiskey last Friday at a dinner hosted by Cooley and the Celtic Whiskey Shop. It's clearly very young, too young to enjoy neat, but that's intentional. This is unashamedly a mixing whiskey and it will fill that role just fine.

According to The Sunday Business Post, there is a Slane Castle aged single malt in the pipeline. This post on the Irish Whiskey Society forum from the Sunday Mirror's whiskey correspondent has more exclusive detail on the positioning of the new brand and the motivation behind it.

While I hope the whiskey helps to keep the lights on at Slane Castle, the business seems like a long shot to me. Can anyone succeed against Jameson in the low-end blend category, especially with a more expensive product? Higher-end whiskeys don't fare much better. The obvious comparison is with Castle Brands, owners of Knappogue Castle whiskey. They have been selling fine, collectable single malts in the same eastern US market for the last decade but are still struggling to turn a profit (Irish whiskey is only one part of their business, however).