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! 

New Green Spot on the horizon

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So summer is in the air and as is a brand new release from Irish Distillers and Mitchell and Sons! Green Spot finished in Bordeaux wine casks! Supposedly chosen due to their long history with the Irish, the Chateau Leoville Barton! 

(check out the background info on Barton here http://www.donnybrookfair.ie/files/pdf/history_of_barton_guestier.pdf)

The launch of this new Green Spot will be approx. June 2/3rd this year in Bordeaux. Extremely exciting for fans of Irish whiskey not only because of the new flavours that will be presented with the traditional pot still spices but the fact that IDL generally don’t release special finish bottlings, rather preferring to release entirely new lines instead. This in itself will make for some exciting news, keeping an eye to see if IDL have opened their doors to new innovations, something which will hopefully become abundant as this Irish whiskey renaissance matures. 

The word on the street is that this is targeted at the U.S. market but it has already been spotted in catelogues for the French market so hopefully we will see these lining our shelves in Europe mid June as well. 

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I don’t know about you but I am extremely excited to see exactly what this tastes like myself but for now I will have to make due with just the tasting notes! 

Nose: French oak, crispy woodland notes which lend themselves to the spicy pot still character. The wine seasoning brings a delicate touch of floral perfume and ripe berries such as raspberries and strawberries, they are in addition to the orchard fruits of the traditional green spot flavours.

Palate: the familiar mouth coating effect is a very satisfying balance of oak and spices. Some vanilla sweetness works in harmony with the dry wine influence, while the fresh orchard fruits and French oak combine effortlessly with the barley grains to complete the complexity.

Finish: the rich French oak character is slow to fade leaving the wine and spices of France and Ireland with the last word.

Irish Times Bushmills Blunder

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So today I found myself flicking through the Irish Times business section and I was greeted with a quick caption article (see picture above) about how, drinks giant, Diageo had just purchased Bushmills distillery in Northern Ireland for £200million. A bargain basement price considering that they just sold, the same, Bushmills distillery to tequila giants Jose Cuervo at the beginning of the new year for a reported £400million plus majority stake in a mid range tequila brand.

If this article were true Diageo would have just pulled off the world’s quickest £200million profit making scheme the drinks industry may have ever seen!

After some minor digging into the background of this peculiar story I realised that this is in-fact a direct copy and paste article from April 25th 2005. An article published in the Irish Times after the acquisition of Bushmills by Diageo from Pernod Ricard/Irish Distillers.

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Further browsing revealed, what appears to be, the intended article for today’s print edition of the Times, posted on their website claiming that Jose Cuervo are now selling $500million in bonds to finance their recent purchase of this famous Irish whiskey distillery.

Congrats to whatever night editor managed to throw together a lovely half article about Bushmills some…. ten years late to the party.

I’m starting to to think I should read the times more often!

Redbreast 15 – Review

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So with the announcement of Whisky Magazine’s World Whiskey Awards I thought I would put up my review of the World’s best pot still Redbreast 15 year old.

Now as I’m sure you’ve gathered from my previous posts and the title of this blog I am a huge pot still fan and I am absolutely delighted that Redbreast 15 took the crown at this year’s awards!

Colour: Golden yellow with a slight hint of red.

Nose: Warm, spice fruit cake, caramel, toffee saltiness, assortment of fruit and honey sweetness.

Palate: large open, full bodied, strong spice, honey sweetness, salty & oily body and slight hints of toasted oak.

Finish: Long finish. Saltiness remained, beautiful toasted oak.

Score: 95/100.

Definitely a step up from it’s younger brother, to be honest I wouldn’t have even said they were related if I hadn’t seen the packaging. That said I haven’t tried the 12 CS strength yet, which I hear gives this expression a run for its money. All in all, this is by far my favourite pot still whiskey out there and I haven’t a doubt in my mind why it won best pot still. It was originally released as a once off edition but was made a full time expression in IDL’s brilliant pot still range. I personally am appreciative of the special hand selections that the small run 12 CS, 15 and 21 get to ensure that they are the best the current casks have to offer.

I would put this in the top two best whiskeys I’ve tasted to this point in my existence, maybe that’ll change some day but for now I’m ensuring I’m never left without a bottle of 15.

TL;DR: Redbreast 15 is dram good!