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

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! 

Old Pulteney 12 – A Review

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So I’ve strayed away from the Old Pulteney range ever since I smashed a bottle of the 21 year old on the floor, in the bar I used to manage in Vancouver, when loading in new inventory…. I know….. Thankfully though, I was doing a good enough job there not to get in any real trouble but I was never let forget about it.

So seeing this miniature on the shelves in Edinburgh on a recent trip I couldn’t resist to try some a re-live a funny story.

Colour: Straw gold.

Nose: crisp, fruit, light toasted notes, saltiness.

Palate: Saltiness and brime on forefront, light toasted oak, nuts and raisins.

Finish: lingering finish, salt, brime, oak and spices.

Score: 80/100.

I think that the story might rate higher in my books than this whisky. I paired it with some sea bass and it went down quite well and I think the saltiness and the sea side brime pairs to fish very well. On its own though, its not a bad whisky. Is it amazing? Not particularly. Supposedly the 17 and the 21 are fantastic so I look forward to trying and reviewing those when I build up some more disposable income

Macallan Gold – A Review

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So I have sold a tonne of Macallan gold but never actually tried it myself. Macallan’s 1824 series sees the Gold officially as the baby of the group. They brought back the sherry finish/maturation that made them famous after the awful reputation that the fine oak series awarded them.

The gold replaced the 10 year old on price point. Not officially a ten year old since Macallan have opted to denote the quality of this NAS range by colour.

Colour: Golden (as the name suggests)

Nose: Strong citrus and vanilla tones, light sherry, wood spice and a slight hint of nut buried deep.

Palate: light wood spice, sweet fruits, sherry and oak coming through and finally nuts and malt cover the palate.

Finish: Strong wood spice, nutty and fruit taste remains.

Score: 85/100

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by this low end NAS offering. Nice dram. Good flavour profile. Its got the burn of a young whiskey but that is to be expected with the replacement for the ten. Bottles retail here in Ireland for 63.99. Probably not going to buy a bottle for myself but definitely wouldn’t turn my nose up at a glass

Aberlour 10 – A Review

Very approachable, entry level dram. On special in the pub this weekend for the Ireland vs Scotland game. Couldn’t say no to a glass or two at knockdown prices! Aberlour-10-year-old-Malt

  • Colour: Rich gold.
  • Nose: Sweetness upfront, fruit, toffee and nuts.
  • Palate: Full bodied. Spice up front, caramel, sherry sweetness & thick malty taste.
  • Finish: Medium finish. Spice lasts. Oily with lingering honey sweetness.
  • Score: 82/100.

I was pretty impressed with this entry level dram. Not for its complexity but for its full range of flavours it offered. Very enjoyable. Would buy again. Feel the finish let it down a bit so would have scored higher in my books but still enjoyable experience

Why it’s time to buy Irish Whiskey!

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Whiskey fans in the US, it’s time to buy Irish Whiskey.

With the recently announced Quantitative Easing plan announced my Mario Dragi in the European Central Bank €60 billion euro in assets are going to be purchased by the ECB and National Central Banks, each month until September 2016.
A big side effect of QE is with all this virtual money printing going on in the EU the Euro is steadily devaluing against foreign currencies. If we look at the US$ versus the Euro we’re almost seeing parity for (almost) the first time since Bush junior took power!

Enough with the Economics I suppose! 
What does this mean for us whiskey enthusiasts out there?

In Europe (I am referring to the Euro Zone as Europe for the remainder of this article) it means that we’re gonna start buying a lot of home grown whiskeys (not always a bad thing but I miss good dram of Pappy).
In the US its time to buy European whiskeys! Irish of course being the best on offer…. but I could just be biased!

**I’m actively excluding the UK from this article since their higher exchange rate has made it a good time to buy anything European for a while and with such close political and trade ties their exchange rate isn’t as effected as somewhere like the United States.
With the strength of the Euro depleting the consumers of the US are going to get more bang for their buck with European products! Whiskey fans in the states should be noticing a difference both in store and online. If not right now in store, very soon. This should only become more noticeable as we slip into parity. Now I can’t speak for the sneaky shop keepers who might keep the prices up (shakes fist) but its always worth an ask with your local and see what its like states side! I’d love to know what ye find!

Irish whiskey has a lot to offer so if you are stateside Irish whiskey has a lot to offer and places like the Celtic whiskey shop are happy to ship to our US whiskey fans!

With the current boom in Irish whiskey I can only see this QE as a fantastic catalyst for growth for the entire industry. With it in its infancy this new found affordability could be the first rung on the ladder to Irish whiskey reclaiming it’s place on the top of the whiskey world! We can hope I suppose! A the very least this should allow distillers in Ireland drastically grow the piece of mind and share of market in a country that is looking for quality and affordability in it’s whiskey!
I know many whiskey fans from the states who can’t wait for the price drops to reach their watering holes and are already picking up hard to find european whiskeys online and getting them shipped! Yes it still works out cheaper on the whole! Might be worth checking out!

So enjoy and keep an eye on those ever changing exchange rates cause while they’re low now there’s definitely wiggle room for the Euro to fall further and those of you in Dollar land can rake in the savings us Euro heads have been reaping for years!

TL;DR: Euro is weak, time to buy European whiskey.

Abelour A’Bunadh – A Review

So with all the talk of Quarter Cask and A’bunadh convincing so many staunch anti-NAS fanatics I felt like I ought to give this at least a try! Had this dram in the lovely Albanch bar on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

Abelour A’bunadh – Batch 47. 60.7% Abv

Nose: ripe fruits, strong alcohol presence, raisins, candyshop sweetness, light honey comb.

Palate: Bright open with wood spice, warm, sweet sherry, demerara sugar, hints of marshmallow (Maeve’s input).

Finish: Sharp lingering spice, wood spice, sweetness, marshmallow again. Medium length.

Score: 82/100.

For a oloroso sherry casking I was pleasantly surprised that the taste wasn’t overpowering. Maybe in my mind the story behind A’bunadh was hyped up quite a bit but my opinions are I’d have it again, probably wouldn’t buy a bottle of it though myself.

TL:DR: A’bunadh was good. Nothing amazing. Over hyped.Abelour

Cadenhead’s Small Batch Little Mill – Review

Colour: Amber gold.

Nose (without water) : Toasted nuts, nugat, honey comb, hint of raisins.

Palate (w/o water): Delicate open, toasted wood, walnut, bourbon sweetness, light sherry influence,

Finish (w/o water): beautiful lingering of toasted wood, burnt sugar, slight lingering spice and finally some light sherry notes.

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Nose (with water): Sweet honeycomb, nut, toasted wood, raisin/sherry completely gone.

Palate (water): Spice and sherry influences gone, Candyshop sweetness remained.

Finish (water): light and short, toasted wood, burnt sugar.

Score: 92/100. 

Double distilled, toasted bourbon barrels with a quick finish in sherry casks. Delicious combination.

I tried this at a local bar that was suggested by the staff at Cadenhead’s. After trying it I went straight back to shop to try buy a bottle it was that good. I was extremely impressed with their Little Mill bottling and I was very disheartened to find out that they had no bottles of it left. They had one distillery bottle left in the shop, although the staff advised me the flavour profile was entirely different and it was quite frankly over price. Unfortunately since Little mill itself has been demolished they’re not going to have any more again.

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