Powers was once the largest Irish whiskey brand in the world and Irish Distillers are currently in the process of revitalising Powers for a new global expansion of the brand.
In recent years we have seen the brand redesigned as a, primarily, single pot still brand family. 2011/12 saw the introduction of the Powers Signature Release and the multi-award winning 12-year-old John’s Lane single pot still whiskeys. Irish Distillers are currently attempting to bring the brand back to its roots and emulate the whiskey that made Powers so popular in the early 20th century.
For months there have been rumours that the big developments were coming from Powers. Although, few had anticipated that this would result in two pot still releases in just a matter of months. First we saw the Powers “Aviation Release” to celebrate Dublin Airport’s 75th anniversary and now the mysterious Powers Three Swallows.
Currently the Three Swallows release is proving to be a bit of an enigma. Having quietly appeared on trade in recent weeks the information on the product is scarce. The Powers Whiskey social media accounts and singlepotstill.com bare no information that a new Powers whiskey has been released at all. The Internet is so devoid of information that detailed Google searches don’t produce a single photograph or iota of information pertaining to the new product. (I managed to source one photograph from twitter in the end)
Thankfully contacting Irish Distillers directly proved more fruitful than Boolean Google searches. They have released some information to me about the new release and after trimming away the excess marketing fat these are the factual details about the whiskey itself that remained.
From the Horse’s Mouth
Three Swallows release will officially be launched in October of this year.
It is a new and permanent member of the Powers family.
It is a 40% non-chill filtered Single Pot Still whiskey.
Features all singular characteristics of traditional Pot Still whiskey – robust, spicy and power.
Primarily aged in ex-Bourbon barrels with a small amount of the distillate matured in Oloroso Sherry barrels.
The bottle itself has a very identifiable blue label that is reminiscent of the Powers Fox and Geese staff release for the plant’s 50th birthday earlier this year.
Although, what really stands out about the three swallows release for me isn’t the colour of the label but just how similar the production details are to that of its big brother the 12-year-old John’s Lane.
Both are matured in ex-Bourbon barrels with a small amount of the distillate matured in Oloroso Sherry to balance the whiskey. John’s Lane uses 2nd and 3rd fill barrels to impart distillate forward flavours that makes it so distinct. Whilst the Three Swallows release doesn’t specifically state that it is matured in 2nd and 3rd fill barrels I don’t believe that the marketers in Irish Distillers would have omitted the marketing buzz words that are “1st fill barrels” for the release of a new product like this.
Thus this leads me to have a sneaking suspicion that we may be witnessing the birth of the non-age-statement replacement of John’s Lane.
Perhaps a pre-emptive release to build a market following before slowly and quietly removing the age statement whiskey from the market and/or their expansion plans. In a way this approach could make logistical sense. Mass brand expansion could be hindered if Midleton do not have the aged stock to keep John’s Lane in production throughout the expansion campaign. There would be no point in expanding if they didn’t have the stock to fill the demand.
Perhaps I might sound like I am reaching. Although let us not forget this exactly the reason that the world was introduced to Jameson Black Barrel. It was introduced whilst the mature stock for the Jameson 12 year old special reserve was declining steadily. The Jameson of choice the world over is migrating from the sherried 12 year-old to the ultra versatile Black Barrel. I foresee the 12 disappearing by the end of the year and Black Barrel taking its place without much acknowledgement from the company. It certainly is proving to be a much smoother transition than Jameson’s sister company, The Glenlivet, experienced replacing their ultra popular 12 with the Founders Reserve. They saw large market backlash against the replacement of a very popular aged whisky with a NAS counterpart. Jameson have come up with an ingenious way of quietly swapping out their age statements, so is it such a stretch for Powers to take a leaf out of their sister’s book?
Personally, I hope that we are not seeing the end of the era for a great whiskey like John’s Lane. Perhaps Three Swallows has an entirely different agenda ahead of it set out in the global plan for the brand. I suppose that only time will tell if my hypothesis proves to be correct and at this stage with this little information it is just a hypothesis.
Either way I am very glad that Midleton are smashing their way through their pledge to release ‘two new pot still whiskeys a year”. The Three Swallows marks the 5th pot still whiskey release of this calendar year and I for one, am not complaining. I look forward to tasting it once I have actually found a bottle.
If you do have an interest in reading the marketing spiel that accompanied the facts outlined above, I have inserted them below. I will endeavour to post full tasting notes after I actually find a bottle. Unfortunately no tasting notes were provided in the IDL packet I was sent.
Speaking with Barry Crockett “Master Distiller Emeritus”, he recounted his time working at The Powers Distillery in John’s Lane in 1974. Barry worked under the legendary Production Director of Powers Clem Ryan. Barry stressed that at Powers the importance of Tradition and Quality was of supreme importance. Only the best quality of Barley was ever used. A very fine grind of Malted & un-malted Barley was used in the distillery at Johns Lane and this contributed to the style of Whiskey created there. Johns Lane was a very innovative place and this tradition & commitment to quality has been carried on with this new Single Pot Still expression.
Powers began to use two or three swallows to signify age, quality and purity of their Pot Still Whiskey to consumers. Ultimately the Three Swallow brand was launched as Powers signature pure pot still whiskey. Over time all Powers’ whiskey came to bear these three iconic swallows and still do to this day.
Three Swallow features all the singular characteristics of traditional Irish Pot Still Whiskey – robust, spicy and powerful. It is matured primarily in American Bourbon barrels where these characteristics are amplified and complemented with strong wood character. Marrying with a small sherry aged component gives Powers Three Swallow balance and a bit of finesse.
Powers Three Swallow is the 21st century embodiment of the traditional pure Pot Still Whiskey style which made Powers famous all over the world.