A few gems from the Emerald Isle

A few gems from the Emerald Isle

Irish Whisky Tasting – 27th March 2015

It’s always a great pleasure to do something a little different and it had been a while since we had done an Irish tasting so we gathered to try a few.

Irish whiskey – Spelt with an E – has a pedigree every bit as rich and interesting as Sctoch. Actually in the late 1800 Irish Whiskey was every bit as popular as Scotch – some say more so – but they are all Irish. The demise of the Irish sector was really down to Prohibition in the USA and the political situation with Britain and its empire in the 1920’s. By the 1970’s only Bushmills in County Antrim in Northern Ireland and Midleton In County Cork were the only two distillers left on the island – and worse still they were owned by The French.

When we started The Wee Dram in 1998 John Teeling had opened Cooley Distillery in County Louth. John went on to open the old Lockes Kilbeggan Distillery before selling to Jim Beam Brands.

Over the last few years there has been a renaissance in Irish Distilling, since the banking crash in 2008 it’s like the Irish have just woken up and discovered that they have this great product which they can sell to the world and make some money.

In 2008 – 4 million cases of Irish whiskey were consumed, in 2013 – up to 6.75m nearly 70% increase. Exports for 2013 were worth 350 million euros.

All over Ireland new distilleries are being planned and built – not to mention that whiskies which have been made for years have been found by marketing and are starting to be more widely seen.

The Line Up

New Irish Distilleries

Dingle Distillery – County Kerry

  • First ran in 2012 – whiskey will be available in 2018
  • Produces Gin and Vodka.
  • 3 copper Pot Stills – output 2 casks a day

Echlinville Distillery – County Down – Northern Ireland

  • Licensed in 2013
  • MD Shane Braniff Markets Dunville Whiskey which is from an undisclosed Distillery finished and blended at Echlinville.
  • They have plans to add another 2 stills this year
  • Had some limited edition bottlings

Portaferry Distillery – County Down

  • Planning permission granted May 2013
  • Micro Distillery 2 pot still, 100,000 litres a year
  • Were due to start building towards end of 2014

Alltech – Dublin and Carlow

  • This is an animal feed company from Kentucky
  • Run a Brewstillery in Carlow – I think that’s a brewery which also makes whiskey.
  • Have requested planning permission to convert an abandoned Dublin Church into a distillery.

Tullamore DistilleryTullamore Distillery

  • This brand is owned by William Grants of Glenfiddich
  • Is currently made at Midleton.
  • New serious distillery re built in the Town of Tullamore
  • 60 years since the original distillery closed.
  • Started producing again in 2014.
  • Triple distils – uses Malted and Unmalted barley and also some peated malt and grain whiskey for the blend.

Slane Castle Distillery – County Mearth

  • Situated on the banks of the River Boyne
  • Alex Mount Charles & his dad Henry Marquees Conyngham
  • Construction is underway opening 2015

Belfast Distillery

  • Belfast Distilling Company (BDC)
  • New small Distillery situated in the old Crumlin Road Goal A wing to be precise
  • Owner is Peter Levey an ex-bus driver who won the lottery
  • Brings back legal distilling to Belfast after 75 years.
  • Some old prisoners do say it’s not the first booze made here.

Walsh Whiskey Distillery – County Carlow

  • Plans have been passed for a 25m euro distillery
  • Due to begin production in 2016.

Jack & Stephen Teeling

Teeling Whiskey Distillery  – Dublin

  • Founded by Jack Teeling and his brother Stephen.
  • 10m Euro project
  • 3 Pot Stiils – Triple Distillation – 500,000 litres a year
  • Situated in The Liberties area of the city which was once the centre of distilling.
  • Walter Teeling an ancestor produced whiskey in the area in 1782.

Great Northern Distillery – Dundalk Co Louth

  • Founded by John Teeling – Jacks dad his company is Irish Whiskey Company (IWC)
  • Brought Diageo’s old Great Northern Brewery and converted it into a distillery.
  • Used to make Harp larger
  • Started distilling in July 2014 whiskey is expected by end of 2017.


The ones we tasted:

The Whiskeys

Teeling Single Grain – 46%

  • This is one of the new Distilleries – a couple of great guys Jack and Stephan Teeling their Dad John Teeling started Cooley Distillery.
  • The Teeling Whiskey Company was founded by Jack in 2012, his brother Stephan joined in 2013.
  • In January 2014 Jack announced a 10 million euro prodject to build a new distillery in Dublin, in an area of town called “The Liberties” once a centre for distilling and where Walter Teeling an ancestor of Jack’s had a distillery in the 18th century.
  • The new distillery is the first to be built in Dublin for 125 years – they started building in August – the stills are there I’m not sure if they have started distilling yet, last I heard was Tuesday.
  • They are going to be a traditional triple distilling plant with an Intermediate still, just like Auchentoshan.
  • Anyway this whiskey is now my new favourite Irish whiskey and grain whiskey.  It won gold at SFWSC. It was made on the Coffey still at Cooley which has a lot of copper which I think makes a big difference.


Kilbeggan – 40%

  • This is a blend named after the town of Kilbeggan where Lockes Distillery is situated. This distillery, although being mothballed for a few decades has had a licence since 1757.
  • The blend was from Cooley distillery although some of the whiskey could now come from Kilbeggan.
  • Although now owned by Beam Suntory, Cooley was founded by John Teeling 1987, the site had previously been used in the 1920’s to make Ethanol to use as fuel.
  • At the time it was the only independent Irish distiller.
  • Later Jack and Stephen joined their father before selling to Jim Beam a couple of years ago. The sale to Beam has allowed the company to grow particularly in the US.
  • John Teeling’s whiskey company is called The Irish Whisky Company (IWC). He has recently (well 2013) brought Diageo’s old Great Northern Brewery in Dundalk, Co Louth and is converting it into a distillery – It’s where they used to make Harp Lager.

Teeling Blended Rum Finish – 40%

  • OK I’ll admit it out of the 3 Teeling releases I couldn’t decide which to do so we’ve got all 3.
  • This is a great blend which has been finished in Rum casks.

Tyrconnell Single Malt – 40%

  • Another Cooley whisky this time single malt.
  • In the first 15 years of the 20th Century Tyrconnell was the world’s bestselling single malt. Ok at the time most Scotch sold around the world was blended.
  • The Watt family who were original owners of Derry Distillery and produced Tyrconnell were big race horse owners – I’m not sure if the whiskey was named after a famous winner or the horse was named after the whiskey.
  • This is typical Irish Malt – it’s not triple distilled but is distilled very slowly so has the same reflux effect – lighter sweeter more perfect.

Serious Sampling

Teeling Single Malt – 46%

  • This won World’s Best Irish Whiskey just last week.
  • I’m sure this is whiskey from the family collection made at Cooley during Jacks time there.

Powers John Lane – 12y/o-Pure Pot Still – 46%

  • In the 1960’s and 70’s Irish whiskey was struggling, so the remaining brands got together and all were made at Midleton Distillery in County Cork. Thus brands such as Jameson, Paddy, Tullamore Dew, and Powers were all made at the same large distillery.
  • At Midleton they use both malted and unmalted barley when making Pot Still whiskey. This was done to avoid the malt tax which was repealed in 1851.
  • This type of whiskey, called Pure Pot Still – is a bit more mouth coating and waxy. The extra body is the backbone of many of the famous Irish blends.
  • This Powers John Lane is a Pure Pot Still – 12 years old which is a good age for Irish – the warmer weather of Cork helping to mature the whiskey faster.
  • Named after John Powers John’s Lane Distillery, founded in 1791.
  • It’s only been around for about 4 – 5 years.


Redbreast – 12y/o – Pure Pot Still – 40%

  • This used to be my favourite Irish until last Tuesday when I decided that the Teeling Grain was better.
  • This whiskey has been around a long time – it was produced by Jamesons at their Bow Street for Gilbys.
  • When the fashion was to make lighter whiskey in the 60’s Redbreast was not updated – probably because it was made for someone else.
  • It’s only in the last few years that it’s been more widely available, we’ve always had it of cause but Perno Richard Marketing only discovered it in 2009.