Distilling Ireland – Eight whiskies to discover

The Dingle Distillery in southwest Ireland
The Dingle Distillery in southwest Ireland.

Irish whiskey is the drink that refused to die, despite being buffeted by the winds of history and pounded by the tides of fashion. Once a whisky colossus that easily outsold its Scottish counterpart, it descended into disfavour and near destruction, before undergoing a triumphant renaissance in the 21st century.

Dublin in the Victorian era was one of the great trading hubs of the British empire, its vast distillery complexes small towns within the city. The big four – John Jameson, William Jameson, John Power and George Roe – exemplified pre-independence Ireland’s domination of the global whisky scene, with nearly 30 distilleries dotted around the country.

Scroll down to see Richard Woodard’s selection of Irish whiskies to discover

Within a century, Dublin’s whiskey plants had been wiped out by a crippling mix of the rise of blended Scotch, political and macroeconomic factors, and an attitude of arrogant complacency on the part of its distillers. In 1976, the stills at Powers in John’s Lane fell silent, leaving the island of Ireland with only three operational whiskey distilleries: New Midleton in County Cork and, in Northern Ireland, Bushmills and Coleraine (which closed two years later).

Dublin revival

Inside Dublin’s Teeling distillery

Jack Teeling was born just as Dublin whiskey died, in 1976. Whiskey is a thread running through his family history, from 1782, when Walter Teeling established a small distillery in Marrowbone Lane, Dublin, to 1989 when Jack’s father John opened the Cooley distillery in a disused potato alcohol plant in County Louth, to the north of Dublin.

Cooley was no overnight success – it took more than a decade to turn a profit – but in time the Teelings’ thoughts turned to the revival of whiskey-making in Dublin. After Cooley was sold [to Beam Inc, as it was at the time], Teeling Whiskey was established on Haymarket in 2012 – but this was never going to be a slavish recreation of the city’s whiskey past.

‘I was very clear in my mind that I wanted to create a more modern and contemporary brand of Irish whiskey, while still celebrating our Dublin history,’ says Jack Teeling. ‘I felt we could embrace the energy and dynamism of the city and produce an Irish whiskey that represented what was happening in Dublin at the time.’

The result exemplifies the adventurous spirit that now suffuses the Irish whiskey scene. The stubborn refusal to change that nearly destroyed an entire industry has been swapped for originality and freedom of thought.

Teeling bottles blends, single malts, single grains, single pot still and peated whiskey – using an eclectic range of finishes from stout to wine casks from around the world. The approach would be scattergun if the liquid wasn’t so uniformly characterful. A prime example is Teeling’s Blackpitts peated single malt (Alc 46%, £48.90-£53.95 Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange, The Whisky World): no hairy-chested Islay beast, but an elegant, perfumed delight; the combination of peated malt, triple distillation and cask selection (ex-Sauternes wood plays a role) makes for a fresh take on peated whisky.

Spark of innovation

The Pearse Lyons distillery in Dublin’s historic Liberties area. Credit: Donal Murphy Photography

The Teelings are far from alone in reimagining what Irish whiskey can be. Dozens of distilleries have cropped up all over the country, and Dublin is home not only to Teeling, but also to Dublin Liberties, Pearse Lyons and a revived George Roe operation, Roe & Co.

The rugged Atlantic coast of Ireland’s southwest is about as far as you can get from Dublin without getting your feet wet. Here, on the edge of the harbourside town with which it shares its name, the Dingle Distillery has been open, like Teeling, since 2012.

Located in a former sawmill, this is a thoroughly modern operation that makes gin and vodka, as well as whiskey. The triple-distilled, core Dingle Single…

Source : https://www.decanter.com/spirits/distilling-ireland-eight-whiskies-to-discover-499155/

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