With the grand opening of the brothers Teeling’s new distillery in Newmarket square, I
ventured into the the new home of Dublin to see what lay ahead for the “Spirit of Dublin”.
The new home of Teeling is the first new distillery in the city of Dublin in over 125 years. But they aren’t just falling in line with the established distilling houses.
Teeling Whiskey are definitely portraying themselves as the young, hip maverick brand of the Irish whiskey industry. Going against the grain, they don’t seem to believe that everything has to contain the words “ex-bourbon, ex-oloroso sherry”. So its only natural to assume that the new home for the brothers Teeling won’t sing from the same hymn sheet as the big conglomerates that have dominated Irish whiskey for the last 50 years.
The new distillery sits in Newmarket Square in the heart of the Liberties in Dublin 8. The impressive building is adorned with their emblem of a phoenix rising from a pot still, symbolising the re-birth of the Teeling distillery. The first Teeling distillery in the Liberties was opened by the brothers’ ancestor, Walter Teeling in 1782 and the emblem seems a fitting homage. (Hopefully Tullamore DEW don’t mind sharing the image of a phoenix!)
The visitors centre itself boasts an impressive design of bare metal and virgin, unfinished wood. Everything seems fresh and unpolished which actually suits the brand identity to the ground in my opinion.
The entire feel of the distillery experience is very relaxed and casual. Staff are adorned in jeans and “Team Teeling” t-shirts and the tour itself is conversational and you don’t feel like you are being herded like cattle through the building. What the visitors centre offers is an entire tour of a working distillery, which is unlike any of the other alcohol based attractions in Dublin. As a visitor you learn about the history of Irish whiskey, the giants of the current industry before passing through an almost magical doorway that separates “Visitors Centre” from “Working Distillery”. From here you are in the heart of the Teeling distilling operation. The entire process from malting to maturation is explained by the knowledgable tour guides, using the actual hardware from the production process as visual aids. All of the theory culminating in the crown jewels, the three copper pot stills.
Named after Jack Teeling’s three daughters: Alison, Natalie and Rebecca. These three pot stills are the primary distillation facilities within the distillery. A unique feature within the Dublin city limits is the new make spirit can be seen flowing through the gleaming spirit safe between pots two and three.
It is here our tour guide explained to us that the brothers Teeling are only planning on distilling single malt and single pot still whiskey in their new home, eradicating the immediate need for a column still (or coffey still) in the distillery. The tour then concludes with a quick trip through maturation and then the Teeling tasting. Its an impressive facility and very enjoyable guided tour experience. Definitely one to put on the itinerary if you find yourself in the heart of Dublin.
Whilst the Teeling brand has found its home the final question remains “Has the spirit found its home?”. For those eagle eyed whiskey geeks out there, you may have been intrigued in the same three aspects of the tour as I was. Teeling are triple distilling, producing single pot still whiskey and don’t have a column still for their single grain.
Since the current Teeling portfolio and stock comes from their father’s previous venture “Cooley distillery”, this means that it is all double distilled and either single malt/malt blend or single grain whiskey. For me this throws up a whole heap of flags for the continuity of the brand portfolio that is making the Teeling brand famous, both at home and abroad. On the SPS side, I’m a huge fan of SPS and very happy to see another company deciding to produce the uniquely Irish spirit (50/50 malted, un-malted if you were wondering). My questions lie with the differences in the spirit between the second & third distillation processes and without a column still whether or not their ultra-popular single grain will continue to be produced within the Teeling portfolio once stocks run out. Obviously I’m not a master distiller and only being an optimistic onlooker into the Teeling business I wouldn’t have any real answers for these questions. So I decided to take my queries to someone who would.
I spoke to the master distiller/blender/maturation/general whiskey whizz Alex Chasko at a recent Irish Whiskey Society event. I asked him how he was going to maintain the quality and continuity between the old/new stock ensure the longevity of the brand. Now after dealing with a lot of different people from the Irish whiskey industry, the first thing that strikes you from Alex is he’s down to earth and really easy going. He listened to all of my questions about the differences in distillation and production methods and answered me very honestly. He’s not sure. He confirmed my suspicions that the spirit was going to be very different between the two different production methods. Alex explained that a heap of trial and error down the road will eventually enable him to recreate the current portfolio or even make it way better. He explained how he didn’t think it would be easy but seemed to relish the challenge ahead. It certainly wasn’t the answer I was expecting but he can’t be faulted for BS-ing either. Even though I didn’t come away with a definitive answer like I was expecting I’m not concerned, I’m very excited. The Teeling’s are definitely the imaginative mavericks of the industry are doing things well now and I can only imagine them getting better. This is a company I definitely like a lot and I’m going eagerly keep an eye out for a Dublin Single Pot Still expression in a few of years time!
And remember what the Teelings say: “Whiskey is for Winners!”