Wednesday 11 January 2012

Irish whiskey shorts

Let's try something fresh for 2012. There are lots of scraps of news and info about Irish whiskey that I think are interesting but that might never make it into a longer article. Instead of sitting on them - or worse, forgetting them - I'm just going to push them out there, in a big heap. With the optimism of all new year resolutions, this will happen regularly. Like clockwork! Here, then, is some stuff I noticed recently.

Around the blogs

A reflection on the year in whiskey would have seen off 2011 nicely but I never got around to it. Luckily, another blogger was not so slack and banged out his own review. From Boston, home of the Irish Whiskey Society America, this is Rich Nagle's summing up of 2011.

From the man known only as Irish Whiskey Chaser, came this very practical discussion of glassware. Choose your glass carefully and you won't waste a single aroma molecule of that expensive hooch. It's a bit late to mention it now, but seeing IWC's Christmas shopping guide has got me thinking about Powers John's Lane. Hang on a minute...

... and we're back, with a Powers, in a rather magnificent glass that I'm sure Mr Chaser would approve of.

From Twitter

Cooley sold over 250 bottles of its new Poitín in December in just two outlets (the Celtic Whiskey Shop and Dublin airport). So tweeted John Cashman. Impressive! Novelty must be a factor here. Poitín is a fabled drink in Ireland but not much drunk these days so we have to figure out all over again how to drink it, or even if we like it. I want to know how many people buy a second bottle, to see if the category has any legs.

I now know...

... that Redbreast 12yo is 77% first fill bourbon and 23% first fill sherry casks. That snippet is from Tim F's description of the launch of Irish Distillers (IDL) single pot still collection earlier in the year. It's worth reading all of it (including part 2) but those percentages leapt out at me. For some reason, IDL is as cagey about its recipes as Coca Cola. I'm not sure why because, even if you know the makeup of a whiskey, you can't recreate it without the same stills, casks, warehouses, etc. So they might as well be open about it. Whiskey nuts love that kind of detail.

... Redbreast and IDLs other "specialist" whiskeys are bottled at The House of Donohoe in Waterford City. That comes from IDL's own Single Pot Still site which had a very festive picture before Christmas of a Robin Redbreast beside its namesake whiskey, taken at said bottling facility.

... that there will be six new pot stills at Midleton after the distillery expansion. I'm very curious about this. They currently have four pot stills and intend to produce exactly the same spirit on the new line (essentially doubling capacity for Jameson production), so what are the other two pot stills for? If you know, please drop me a line or comment below.

Other news

It was reported in December that William Grant (the new owners of Tullamore Dew) have been making serious enquiries in Tullamore about setting up a new distillery. I've always thought that would make sense. They have a bottling plant in Clonmel already but there is no particular reason to site the distillery nearby. IDL distils in Cork and bottles in Dublin and Antrim (and Waterford, I now know) so separating these functions can't be a big deal.

I hope it happens. The big question is the pots. The original stills from the old Tullamore Dew distillery are now at Cooley's (ie Beam's) Kilbeggan distillery. I doubt they are for sale, since they are the same pattern as the long lost Kilbeggan originals. But Grants could have them remade to the same size and shape. If Beam fire up the Kilbeggan stills, could there be two distilleries making spirit in identical stills? We'll see.

I'd like to finish with a song

This Powers John's Lane is going down a treat. How about we spin up a few tracks? Something Polish, I think, for no particular reason. Here's Poland's entry from the 1995 Eurovision Song Contest. It deserves to be remembered.

And if that piques your interest, here's what the Poles were listening to behind the iron curtain (many thanks to Dr John Kearns for the recommendations):