Boann Distillery

Boann is one of Ireland’s newer distilleries, nestled in the Boyne Valley just south of Drogheda. The distillery sits in a former car dealership making it possibly one of the most aesthetically pleasing distilleries in the country, with wall to ceiling glass surrounding the entire building showcasing the gleaming copper pot stills within.

Boann Distillery is the brainchild of the Cooney family, who are by no means newcomers to the Irish drinks industry. They have built an extensive portfolio of products across several drinks sectors over the years, and now they have turned their gaze to the creation of their own whiskey, gin, and beer in Co. Meath.
What I love about the Cooneys, is that they take the term “family business” to another level. Almost everyone within their organisation is family, from management to marketing to sales everybody is family in one way or another and they all seem more determined than each other to make Boann a big success.

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The Cooney family. Source: boanndistillery.ie

The pleasurable aesthetics of the distillery are also continued inside. Its not only the pot stills that are designed to be eye catching but the rest of the distillery floor has been designed to be a welcoming space to distillers and visitors alike. They’ve gone the extra mile to create a great looking distillery, which when opened is planned to host thousands of visitors a year. Distillery equipment can be quite cold and industrial but Boann have managed to make their distillery floor a warm and welcoming space, that looks over the colourful fields of rapeseed planted right outside the windows. For example, the mash converter and the mash tun are both clad in Irish oak which complement the exposed oak ceiling beams very well and the distillery floor must be the only one in the world that boasts Italian marble!

Looks don’t make a distillery, so whats the operation actually like? 
Simply put, its exciting but incomplete. The stills are the heart beat of any whisk(e)y distillery and as can be seen in the photo below the Boann stills are in place but their lyne arms (pipe bringing vapour from top of the still to the condenser) are waiting patiently to be attached. That’s it. That’s all that’s “incomplete”, now onto the “exciting” bits.

Distilleries take great pride in designing their stills, the shape of the stills and angle of the lyne arm are going to be major components in the type of whiskey that they produce.
So when the guys in Boann were designing their stills they decided that they wanted to take inspiration from the old Dublin distilleries that helped make Irish pot still whiskey so renowned. Thus they designed squat and bulbous pot stills, which you can see below, with descending lyne arms. Not only this but they have specially commissioned these stills to have nano-reflux inducers, increasing the copper contact within the stills to six times that of a traditional still. Using these stills the Cooney family are hoping to create hearty Irish pot still as well as a range of full bodied single malt whiskeys. I think it is great to see another distillery specifically design its set up to create quality pot still Irish whiskey. I personally can’t wait until these stills are fired up and we get the first look at the liquid future.

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As if the nano-technology stills, floor to ceiling windows and marble floors weren’t unique enough, the team at Boann have also decided to add another feather to their cap of doing things their own way by putting the maturation warehouse right beneath their feet! They’re going to be using the space right under the stills to mature the thousands of barrels of whiskey that they will produce every year! Adding to the visitors’ experience, the guests of Boann distillery will be able to journey into the bowels of the building and see, feel and most certainly smell the whiskey ageing in a menagerie of casks, such as bourbon, sherry, burgundy, marsala, Tokaj (wine from the Torkaj region in Hungary or Slovakia) and many more.

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Artist’s rendering of the maturation warehouse below the floors of Boann distillery.

What about the present I hear you ask?
Well presently they are in the process of releasing their own range of single malt whiskeys called “The Whistler”. The range will consist of a seven year old (a.k.a. the blue note), a ten year old and a seven year old cask strength. I had the privilege to try these new expressions, while in the distillery and here’s what I thought.

 

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The spirits are coming from another distillery but the guys in Boann have transferred them into oloroso sherry casks where they have spent the last two years maturing away. This makes for a seriously long sherry finish for current standards and it really shows through beautifully in the whiskey.
The Irish market at the moment is currently awash with independent brands but in my opinion “The Whistler” series is seriously one to look out for.
I will make special note of the 7 year old Blue Note, which was definitely my favourite and I would not be surprised to see it rack up some serious awards in the years to come.

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The Whistler single malt whiskey range.

The guys at Boann have serious drive to make the distillery a big success. I think that they’ve definitely got the ambition and the experience to make something good there! This is a project that I am particularly excited to see begin. So I’m definitely gonna keep an eye out for!

Sláinte

The Galway Whiskey Trail

Currently we are going through a second golden age for Irish whiskey. A few years ago there were only 4 distilleries on the island and next year we are expecting to see nearly 30 in operation. Irish whiskey is no longer playing to the stereotype of the “fighting Irish” or just a simple additive to make caffeine alcoholic. The Irish whiskey industry is forging a its place in the global marketplace. It’s synonymous with traditional craft, high quality, smooth and palatable whiskey and this reputation has seen the sector grow by double digits for the last few years.

We are currently seeing 600,000 visitors a year arriving whiskey tourism and that is forecasted to grow to 800,000 in the medium term according to the Irish Whiskey Association. Dublin is currently the Mecca for Irish whiskey tourism with the Old Jameson Distillery attracting the majority of spirits tourism in the country. Although, in Ireland itself, you would be forgiven in thinking that no-one outside of the industry has noticed a thing. It seems that whilst the industry is going through a renaissance Irish publicans aren’t catching on. City centre pubs still consider a bottle of Jameson original juxtaposed by a bottle of Paddy a “diverse” whiskey selection.

Although, one city that has been taking big steps to rectify that by facilitating whiskey tourists with knowledgable bar staff and decent menus is Galway city.

August 14th, marks the official launch of the “Galway Whiskey Trail”. The trail is a publican lead initiative to promote Galway’s ties with Irish whiskey through education of bar staff, improved bar menus and whiskey events all across Galway. 10 bars and 1 off-licence are directly tied with the trail and they have been busy training their staff on all facets of Irish whiskey for the last couple of months. Those associated with the trail are bolstering their whisk(e)y selections with choice brands from around the world. Don’t worry the big names of Irish whiskey aren’t hogging all the limelight of course. The craft distilleries, such as Glendalough and Hyde whiskey, are also getting their fair amount of shelf space giving the consumer great selection.

Stone plaque presented to each establishment on the trail
Stone plaque presented to each establishment on the trail

The launch is featuring events all across the city, culminating in the official opening of the trail by Master Distiller Brian Nation and Master Distiller Emeritus Barry Crockett. They are visiting every establishment on the trail to initiate each one individually. Each establishment will be presented with a stone plaque that identifies the establishment as a member of the trail.

Don’t be fooled in thinking that the trail is lined up to be a one hint wonder either. With a website about to be launched, it will be listing tastings, talks, pairing events, historical, cultural tie ups all throughout the year with each venue scheduled to host a minimum of two events per year. Advertising will also appear in the airports and hotels across the country, highlighting everything the trail has to offer. My big hope is that there will be a fair bit of invention to mark venues apart so that it won’t just be whatever roadshow rolls in from IDL or Beam Suntory and is claimed as an event. But I have big hopes that this ground up initiative takes flight and fares much better than the long outdated “Irish Whiskey Trail”. Hopefully, since this is a collaborative initiative, the publicans will encourage each other to ensure the trail a big success and draw in a fair percentage of those 800,000 tourists a year. I’ve been assured that several of the pubs have events in the pipeline and new kids on the block ‘An Pucan’ have already confirmed three events before the end of the year.

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Barry Crockett and Brian Nation induct An Pucan whiskey bar.

Already positive side effects can be seen within the city. Bars and restaurants that are not affiliated with the trail are strengthening their whiskey menus in anticipation of the tourism that the trail may bring the city. Its looking like Galway might be on track to be the next big thing in whiskey tourism.

So, I will wait with eager anticipation to see what Galway has to offer in the coming months. Perhaps the trail will become a template for future initiatives promoting Irish whiskey across the country. Who knows perhaps in time we will see a Belfast or midlands trail!? Or better yet, how about a Dublin version?

I’ve got my fingers crossed that this isn’t just a flash in the pan, but only time will tell.

Sláinte

Tullamore DEW ~ An interview with Ambassador Eimear Kelleher

I sat down for a virtual interview with Eimear Kelleher, international graduate brand ambassador for Tullamore DEW, to talk about how the brand is being received in the land of opportunity.

Tullamore DEW which was bought over by Scottish giants William Grant and Son’s in 2010 has had an exciting 12 months. The spirit made its historic return to its home town of Tullamore in county Offaly in September, more than 60 years since the original distillery closed its doors.

William Grant and Sons have spent €35million rebuilding the distillery in its home town. The distillery, with an annual capacity to produce 1.84 million litres, puts Tullamore DEW as one of the largest distilleries in Ireland and very soon we will get to witness what they’ve got up their sleeve rather than what they got from 3rd party sources.

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The new Tullamore DEW distillery

So I had a virtual sit down with Eimear to see how the U.S. were receiving some of Ireland’s finest and how the market for Irish whiskey was developing.

As a brand ambassador Eimear has first hand experience with both on and off trade to see how the Irish whiskey market is progressing. As she says herself, there is no typical day for a Tullamore DEW brand ambassador. Officially a brand ambassador’s role is to educate consumers, bartenders and distributors on the range that Tullamore DEW offers. One day she is meeting with a key account the next flying out-of-state to host a whiskey dinner, as she says no tow days are the same.

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A tasting in the Tullamore DEW distillery

So what exactly are the consumer trends in the U.S. at the moment?

Eimear explains how there are a lot of popular trends in the U.S. at the moment. From craft beer to small batch bourbon its an interesting place for alcohol right now. Irish whiskey as a market and subsequently Tullamore DEW are both continuously growing. Consumers appear to be fascinated by the whiskey’s heritage, what makes it unique and how versatile it is!

I asked Eimear if the brand finally having a distilling home has made the sales pitch that bit easier and I was interested to learn that it most certainly helps. Eimear explains how it helps to complete the brand image. The idea of bringing the brand back home really resonates with the consumers.

Personally I think this is following the current trends of craft sales. More often than not consumers of the younger generations are buying into the story of the brand’s before they ever try the liquid inside the bottle. I can most certainly see how having a definitive brand home completes the image for the brand, even if consumers wont be trying any distillate from this distillery for a couple of years yet.

With these new trends, is the U.S. moving away from shots culture?

Eimear doesn’t think that the U.S. shots culture will ever go away, or at least not for a while, but consumer interest in the back story and culture behind the product is definitely strong and increasing.

So how do you see the relationship between Tullamore DEW and Jameson?

“Jameson is obviously the big dog in the market,” she explains. “I mean, they are MASSIVE but Tullamore are definitely not going unnoticed. The increasing amount of Irish whiskey brands entering the market is a great thing for the category. While we may have to watch our backs here and there, we’re going from strength to strength as a brand. I mean, you can only stay on top for so long. We’re enjoying being the underdog… for now!”

Photo credit: thewhiskeywash.com
Photo credit: thewhiskeywash.com

So finally, with the success of Phoenix do you think consumers are finding age statements less important than they used to in the U.S.?

So Eimear has been telling me that people LOVE the Phoenix. They can’t get enough of it. Its story definitely captures consumer interest but the liquid alone is enough to hook people. She thinks for people who don’t really know about whiskey, age statements mean a lot. They’re of the assumption that older is better and this is definitely not always the case. She ads that she’d personally take Glenfiddich 15 over 18 any day of the week.

So it seems that Tullamore DEW and Irish whiskey in general is being well received across the pond! Consumer sentiment certainly is shifting in the craft direction across all of the drinks categories. Hopefully the growth for the Irish whiskey sector continues and new innovative releases like cider cask and Phoenix will keep the industry on its toes for the coming years. Big thank you to Eimear Kelleher (@TullamoreEims) for her time and participating in this unusual interview format. I hope to continue a series of these interviews with ambassadors to see how Irish whiskey is holding up the world over. Keep an eye out for those!