Aviators Whiskey Society and their “Surprise Guest”

Recently I was invited to attend a whiskey tasting evening out by the airport with the “Aviators Whiskey Society”.

The Aviators are a society established in October of last year for the employees of the airport duty free areas that had an interest in whiskey. The event I was invited to was promising a presentation from Michael Cunningham (A senior IDL sales manager) and a tasting of the Redbreast Mano a Lamh, “plus special guest”.

Quite frankly I had no idea what calibre of special guest would be appearing but the headline billing had me there already. What I didn’t expect was one of the best evenings of whiskey related entertainment and learning from just the promise of the new Redbreast. The society members were incredibly welcoming and quickly began setting up the room for the 40+ guests that had RSVP’d for their monthly meeting. The fears of being the only non- airport staff member being present were quickly eradicated as I was introduced to a woman who had travelled all the way from Mayo that day to attend the evening’s meeting. She had told the guests who were lodging in her B&B that it was bed and no board for the morning and to the road to Dublin she went. Apparently thinking that my long journey from Shankill to ALSAA was the longer of the journeys being made that night was quite naive.

Having arrived fashionably early due to some sporadic Dublin bus schedules I began probing the committee members about the previous meetings and from their beginnings in just October of last year they have had a hell of a run. The members don’t run the tastings themselves, they bring in the ambassadors from international brands such as Tullamore DEW, Beam Suntory, Teeling and of course IDL. This evening was not going to break the trend and Michael Cunningham was not going to be the only face appearing from IDL. Ger Garland, International Whiskey Ambassador for IDL arrived bearing gifts of not only the Redbreast but also Green Spot Chateau Leoville Barton and Midleton’s Dair Ghaelach hot off the press. As if an evening tasting and learning about the new innovative ranges from IDL wasn’t enough there was one more surprise in store from the Society Committee, Ger Buckley, Master Cooper from Midleton and a beautiful B1 (soon to be B2) bourbon barrel arrived to kick off the evening’s festivities.

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The history behind each of the new innovative releases was explained by all three members of the IDL staff one by one. Ger Buckley taking the reins on the Dair Ghaelach, a whiskey project that he has overseen for the last six years. He told us of all the trials and tribulations that were faced when trying to fell cooper grade oak in Ireland, while maintaining that the trees were sustainable. Dair Ghaelach is certainly one of the most anticipated releases in the IDL portfolio at the moment with every one of the 9 trees felled (10th was not cooper-able quality) creating 5-6 casks each that were numbered and fully traceable. This allows each bottle of whiskey to be traceable all the way back to the stump where the tree was felled. The plethora of information about the Dair Ghaelach creation and maturation was only boosted by the invitation I received to attend its official European launch this coming Tuesday so keep the eyes peeled for the round up on that mid next week!

IMG_5827Apart from the glasses of expensive whiskey being dispersed through the room, Ger used his time in front of the society to explain how his craft has been unchanged for generations. He was very fond of using the analogy that a Roman cooper would be able to walk into the room and continue the job he was doing, saving a moment for the metal bands instead of wooden ones from ancient Rome.
He proceeded to tell us how the tools of his craft haven’t changed in the last 9,000 years and he wasn’t shy showcasing his large coopers axe.

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But Ger wasn’t sated just explaining how his tools helped his trade, he was going to demonstrate to the room also. He proceeded to take apart the barrel hoop by hoop and stave by stave until the barrel was eventually shook in a bundle on the floor. He wasted no time in raising the barrel once again. With running commentary the raising of the barrel took approximately 5 minutes, this is where you can really see where the years of apprenticeship came in to use.

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Overall this was a phenomenal night. The range of whiskey on offer was top class. Getting to try the new Green Spot before its official release date was fantastic and witnessing Ger Buckley try it for the first time too was mind blowing. It was a poignant moment to be apart of watching one of the masters sampling the product that he had so closely supervised for so long. He loved it, I loved it and the rest of the room seemed to go mad about it. (Don’t worry full write up coming in the next few days too!)

I went into this event expecting to try Mano a Lamh and left thinking that the Redbreast was actually the tamest part of the night! A bonkers statement for a whiskey of such calibre to be dwarfed by the whiskeys that succeeded it along with the best live show I’ve ever witnessed.

10/10 would attend Aviator whiskey society again! Was unsure what to expect going in, now I’m left with no doubt in returning. What this club has achieved since just last October is phenomenal! Clearly the new big players on the block! Their next event is an American Whiskey special plus BBQ in ALSAA on the 4th of July! Check out http://www.aviatorswhiskeysociety.com/ for more details!

Dair Ghaelach – The New Big Investment?

Dair Ghaelach (which means “Irish oak” in Irish) is the new release from the Midleton pot still range. A premium pot still release that has been matured for 15-22 years in ex bourbon casks finished in virgin Irish oak for ten months.

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This is the first time in a very long time that Irish Oak has been used to finish Irish Whiskey so this is most certainly an interesting release. Ten oak trees were felled from Ballaghtobin Estate in Co. Kilkenny, from here the trees were numbered and sent to Spain to be quarter sawn into staves before being made into 48 unique Irish oak barrels. They are then medium toasted before being shipped back to Cork to be filled and rest until the premium spirit is ready. The distillate was tasted once a week, every week to ascertain whether or not the whiskey had reached its finishing point, after the ten month mark it had completed it’s journey. Bottled at cask strength and individually numbered by batch, bottle and more importantly tree they are now on sale for €260 in Ireland. Each tree having its own affect on the final taste of the whiskey so every release has its own characteristics. The general tones are well balanced, subtly flavoured with chocolate, caramel and toasted notes complementing the Irish oak tones very well.

There have been several exciting releases from IDL in recent years with their pot still Midleton range; Midleton Pearl, Midleton 30 and Barry Crockett legacy to name a few, but none have had the individualism that these individually numbered releases have in Dair Ghaelach.

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Having a complete collection of Midleton very rare back from the initial release in 1984 increases the total value than just the sum of its individual parts, boasting a juicy price tag of €50,000 on the second hand market. The word on the street is that IDL are pegging this new release as the next big investment. They are releasing this line tree by tree as not to flood the market all at once, apparently. Already they are seeing collectors rushing to purchase each new tree as it has been released in an apparent bid to compile a complete set. At a whopping €2,340 for the nine bottles (supposedly the tenth tree was used for parts where needed), it is true that very few will even be able to compile the full collection but will there be the high end desirability for this whiskey down the line? Midleton Very Rare investment has paid dividends after 30 years. This could be some long game investment that not every Joe bloggs could afford. Although, this seems to be a major talking point of the new release and perhaps these premonitions of increased desirability due to a complete set will come true, who knows for certain.

But with large distilleries all over Ireland and the word putting out limited releases on almost a monthly basis will the Dair Ghaelach stick it’s head above the parapet and become an icon like the Very Rare range before it? I’m cautiously doubtful, at its ultra-premium price point but that’s just the opinion of this man.

That said, this does not detract from the ingenuity that this represents coming from IDL. Adapting for the ever evolving Irish Whiskey market, showing the world that we can create premium, delicious whiskey that is not simply a combination of ex-bourbon and ex oloroso sherry casks we see so often. IDL are doing great things and I look forward to seeing the Dair Ghaelach fight for its place in the big leagues and perhaps see a close relative make its way from Midleton sometime soon if it does!

Whether or not sinking your wages into this new project from Midleton I am very excited to see for myself first hand what the new Irish oak finish evokes on the taste buds and also what other interesting ideas Ger Buckley and the other four masters in Midleton come up with in this new spirit of innovation (no pun intended).

So all that remains is to ask…. Do You think that all nine trees are worth collecting? Am I way off the ball here? Or perhaps you might fight my corner with me? Either way I’d love to hear opinions on the matter so comment and let me know!

Paddy Whiskey’s bizarre map of Ireland – The history

paddyMany of us a very familiar with Paddy Whiskey. An affordable and tasty blend from Irish Distillers that lends it’s name from its legendary salesman from Co. Cork Paddy Flaherty. Supposedly very generous with tasting samples but sold buckets of the stuff and ultimately was honoured with his name on the bottle and IDL certainly earned a good story!

One thing that has never sat right with me in all my years of selling Paddy in bars either at home or abroad was the fact that the four provinces of Ireland are clearly outlined in the wrong colours. It’s a question I’ve asked many a whiskey enthusiast and many a IDL employee and I’ve come up short every time.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Irish provincial colours: Leinster are green, Munster red, Connacht are blue/white and Ulster are yellow/orange. (Don’t be fooled by the provincial rugby teams that seemed to randomly pick their colours themselves) Paddy’s current bottling proudly displays a yellow Leinster, a blue Munster, a red Connacht and a green Ulster. All provincial colours in all the wrong provinces! So I started to do some digging and see what I could uncover about the interesting choice in colour scheme. With my own digging and ultimately the help of Carol Quinn the archivist in Midleton House down in the old distillery we came up with the following:
The original colours in the 1860’s were: 
Leinster – Orange,
Munster – Brown,

Connacht – White

Ulster – Green.

In the 1880’s:

For a short time Connacht became a red polka dot on a white background.

The label featured several minor changes in the next twenty years.

Finally in 1900:

The label became what it is today!

Under this time the brand was owned by Cork Distillers. It seems that the provincial colours may have been coincidentally used on this relabelling after the 1800’s, I personally feel that this oversight would have at least occurred to somebody then. Surely having the provinces the right colour would be a further feather in its “genuine” Irish whiskey hat but whatever the finial reasoning the label has stayed in its skewed state for the last 115 years (a hell of long time for a label to remain essentially unchanged!).

So it seems that, right now, there is no definitive answer as to whether or not the colours are initially skewed just to annoy finicky whiskey drinkers like me or if it was a genuine mistake!

I still think that this inconclusive research is still worthy of seeing the light of day, even negative answers are still answers! Hopefully this will help anyone who’s like me and has an interest into this kinda thing! Plus It’s been a trivia fact that I’ve liked bringing up with customers and it’s always a good talking point! More knowledge = more tips 😉

If any of ye enthusiasts out there have any more info of ideas I’d love to hear it!

TL;DR: Paddy Whiskey’s label is wrong and nobody knows why.

Whiskey Wankers: Irish Whiskey

So we held our monthly tasting session last night so I’m going to post a quick round up and review of the bottles as well on a separate post. The theme of the evening was Irish whiskey, both pot still and single malt.

IMG_5389The Whiskey Wankers is a group of students from the east coast of Ireland that get together once a month to try some seriously good whiskey. We chose the name based on a not for profit whiskey group that I bartended for in Vancouver called “The Whisky Wisemen” seriously cool guys. Pursuing better knowledge of whiskey while raising money for charity. Check them out http://www.whiskywisemen.com/ . When I returned to Ireland I wanted to continue what a cool idea that was. We thought of stealing the name for ourselves but we realised that a group of twenty something year old students would sound like absolute wankers with a name like that. So we cut out the middle man and here we are today!

The buy in: set amount each month. 40 beans. Cheaper than a night out in Dublin. (fact) WAAAAY more fun than a night out in Dublin. (subjective fact).

I, with the best knowledge in the group, choose the theme of the meetings, set the line up, collect the money, buy the bottles and set up the tasting. I let them know the theme in advance but not the particular bottles. This stops people trying to cheat with the tasting notes (look better in front of the girls a.k.a. “whiskey wenches”…. they didn’t like being called “wankettes”).

SO ramble over…

We began our pot still journey with the infamous Mitchell & Son’s Green and Yellow spot. We continued our journey with one of my favourite pot stills, Redbreast 12 year old and completed the evening with Connemara single malt out of Cooley.

We had a mix of newbies and long time whiskey fans last night and I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised that the outright favourite was Connemara. I thought the pot still spice and its fruity flavours would win over the attendees but as they say like everything with whiskey “it depends”.

My main goal of the evening was to develop the groups awareness of the distinct Irish distilling method and show them exactly what Ireland had to offer. We’re nothing but a group of students in our twenties looking to try something different.

In the end I think it worked quite well. I began with a blind tasting, testing the groups nose and palate without the aids one gets from knowing their drink. Went down quite well and I certainly think that if I employ this method again I have learnt a lot about what I should have put in and things I can leave out. So we all learned a bit!

Over all we got to nerd out on different cask types and discuss different aspects of the production process which was cool. Everyone got very merry. The bottles this morning are hurting as much as our heads.

We laughed, we learned and drank some seriously good whiskey.
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Tl:DR: Group of wankers met up and drank really nice irish whiskey.