Whisky News, March 2015
by Gavin D Smith
These are exciting times for whiskey-making in Ireland, and Irish Distillers has recently unveiled its latest addition to the Midleton single pot still range. Named Dair Ghaelach - Irish Gaelic for Irish oak - the whiskey undergoes traditional maturation in second and third-fill ex-Bourbon American oak barrels for between 15 and 22 years, before a unique 10-month-long period of finishing in virgin Irish oak hogsheads.
Sustainability is at the heart of Irish Distillers' collaboration with woodland owners, and the trees chosen by Master Blender Billy Leighton and Master of Maturation Kevin O'Gorman in association with professional foresters were located in Grinsell's Wood, on the Ballaghtobin Estate in County Kilkenny.
Ten 130-year-old trees were felled in April 2012, and each bottle of the first release of Midleton Dair Ghaelach can be traced back to one of those oaks. After felling, the trees were transported to the Maderbar sawmills in Baralla, north-west Spain, where the traditional quarter-sawing process was used to cut the trees into staves. Those staves were then transferred to the Antonio Páez Lobato cooperage in Jerez, where after drying for fifteen months they were transformed into 48 Irish oak hogsheads, and given a medium toast, before being shipped back to Ireland.
According to Master Blender Billy Leighton, "The process of maturing in native oak has enabled us to showcase our single pot still Irish whiskey style in a new and innovative way; the casks impart much more generous toasted wood, vanilla and caramel flavours than what we expect from American Bourbon and Spanish oak, which we hope whiskey lovers will appreciate and enjoy."
Dair Ghaelach is bottled at cask strength of between 58.1 and 58.5%abv without the use of chill- filtration, and will be available from next month. See April's Recent Releases for our assessment.
Teeling taking Liberties
Also in Ireland, production recently got under way at the new Teeling Whiskey Co's distillery in Dublin's Liberties district. The Teeling family was notable for establishing Cooley distillery, which they sold to Beam Suntory in 2011, but has roots in Dublin's whiskey-making community dating back to 1782.
The firm is run by brothers Stephen and Jack Teeling, who already offer single grain, single malt and 'small batch' whiskeys, distilled under licence, and the Liberties development is the first new Dublin distillery in over 125 years. It represents an investment of €10m, and boasts a capacity of half a million litres, which could be virtually doubled if required.
According to Stephen Teeling, "We are likely to experiment with old family pot still recipes, now that we control the mash, and maybe some single cask offerings. The bigger guys are doing a great job with recruitment into the category. What we want to do is create a ladder of different styles, tastes and price points to which these entry-level consumers will graduate."
For more information visit www.teelingwhiskey.com
Remaining in Ireland, Tullamore D.E.W has launched a campaign titled 'Busking Unbarred' in association with 'The Busking Project'
(www.thebuskingproject.com) to support and celebrate street music. According to a spokesperson for the William Grant-owned whiskey brand,
"Busking Unbarred will see free downloads of tracks by 10 talented buskers from across the UK and Ireland available to consumers purchasing Tullamore D.E.W. in bars across the UK.
"The buskers and their music are promoted on the Busking Unbarred website at www.Tullamoredew.com/busking and the busker whose track received the most downloads will be rewarded with time in a professional recording studio to create their next album."
Tullamore D.E.W. will also be bringing buskers and their music to a wider audience by staging a series of Busking Unbarred 'guerrilla' gigs in bars in London, Leeds and Edinburgh.
New Grouse Experiences
Members of staff at The Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret distillery in Perthshire have spent the winter creating a new line-up of visitor experiences, which were recently unveiled to the public.
According to Stuart Cassells, General Manager at the Experience, "More than ever, people are keen to understand where their food and drink comes from, and how it is made. We know that many of our visitors are
truly passionate about whisky, and keen to learn more about the process and, with our expertise, we have developed a range of tours that will suit all tastes and budgets. Whether you are looking for a unique
distillery tour, or a very special warehouse experience, or even the opportunity to work with our stillmen for a day, Glenturret is the only distillery in Scotland able to offer that truly authentic,
traditional whisky making experience." For a breakdown of tours options - ranging from £10 to £250 - see www.thefamousgrouseexperience.com
Milroy's of Soho, the oldest specialist whisky shop in London, has been re-launched in the ownership of Simo, formerly of the Coal Vaults. It remains a specialist whisky outlet, but with the addition of a 55-seater cocktail bar, named The Vault.
According to Simo, "I wanted to build the already established Milroy's brand, bringing it back to its former glory and making it a name synonymous with whisky once again. We also wanted to create a cocktail bar hidden away from the world where people can escape, relax and enjoy a good drink."
Upstairs in the shop there is a 12-seater whisky bar called Milroy's Bar, serving a selection of over 250 whiskies, and a whisky locker and key is offered to anyone who purchases a bottle costing over £200 so that it will be kept safe for future visits.
Milroy's of Soho sells its existing range of own-brand whisky, alongside a selection of independent bottles, some of which are exclusive to the store. Along with bottles there are handpicked casks on show, giving customers a chance to pour their own bottles, or make their own blends.
The retailer, located in Greek Street, was established in 1964 by Scottish-born brothers John and Wallace Milroy, who are credited with taking single malt whisky from Scotland and establishing it in London.
For further information see www.milroys.co.uk
The Macallan is accustomed to setting record-breaking prices for its rarest releases, and Guinness World Records has now acknowledged the Speyside single malt as 'the most expensive whisky sold at auction.'
The release in question is The Macallan M Imperiale six-litre Lalique decanter, one of four created, which sold at auction in Hong Kong for $628,000 in January of last year, breaking the previous record of $460,000 held by The Macallan in Lalique Cire Perdue. All net sale proceeds have been donated to local charities in Hong Kong.
The Macallan's David Cox says that "To achieve this record for a second time is an outstanding achievement for The Macallan and is testament to the appetite for such exceptional and special creations with our
long-standing partner, Lalique. M Imperiale is the largest decanter Lalique has ever made and the largest The Macallan has ever filled. It truly showcases the combined talents of one of the world's great
designers (Fabien Baron), the finest of crystal makers and makers of one the world's great spirits, The Macallan."
It seems that Professor David Thomson and his colleagues at the recently-revived Annandale distillery in south-west Scotland have been getting carried away by The Macallan's auction values, as the first
cask produced at the reconstructed distillery has been offered for sale with a price tag of £1 million.
Annandale is the only Scottish distillery ever to have put its first cask on the market, rather than keeping it safely under lock and key. Barrel number eight - the Chinese lucky number - is on sale for
£888,000, while the rest of 2014's production is being offered for £100,000.
According to David Thomson, "The price tag for the first cask is high, reflecting that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for someone to become a part of Scottish history and to own the Scottish whisky
industry's most valuable cask."