How to say goodbye in Irish



I occasionally try to get my dad to join a club. It’d be good for you, I say, you should get out more. His reply is always the same: ‘I’m not a joiner’. Like Groucho Marx, he steadfastly refuses to join any club that would have him as a member. I’m a lot like him – I’m slow to get involved, to commit, to enthuse, which makes it all the more surprising that I took to whiskey with such reckless abandon. Someone recently asked me how one goes about getting ‘into’ whiskey, to which I replied ‘open a bottle and take a swig, get back to me if that doesn’t work’. I didn’t say that really, but the question did set me thinking about my tragic obsession with our national drink. Why whiskey? Why did I throw myself headlong into this, of all things? Why not sport, cars, stamp collecting, Pokemon – anything; why? And the answer is a Shauvian ‘why the hell not?’ But the big questions is ‘how’ – because behind every superfan is a newcomer who was scared to ask a question. So here’s how it happened for me.

Perseverance, persistence, severe thirst

I’d love to tell you I had some magical epiphany upon first tasting Ye Olde Pot Stille Whisky at the wake of some fenian son, but I didn’t – I just liked the idea of whiskey: It’s intrinsically Irish, interesting without being elitist, an everyman drink. So I just decided ‘this is something I could do’. So I started working my way through Paddy, Jameson and Powers, first with mixers and ice, then just ice, then straight. Like most humans with a functioning gullet, it burned the first few times I tried it straight  – but in a good way, like with a hot curry, or roaring the lyrics to The Fields Of Athenry. So I kept at it, and soon, the epiphany arrived. In Citizen Kane, there is a scene where the titular anti-hero destroys the room of his lover. Orson Welles strides about the room wreaking havoc on the contents. When the scene was finished, Welles walked off set, hands bleeding from the damage he had inflicted, and said to one of the crew ‘I felt it, I really felt it’. He had disappeared into character, abandoned the self. That was it for me and whiskey – at some point I crossed the line from wanting to like whiskey to genuinely loving it. So while you can’t force yourself to love something, you can certainly give yourself plenty of opportunity for it to happen. I used the same approach to trick my wife into falling for me – she dumped me twice when we were kids, but I knew if I was pig-headed enough she would eventually give in. And she did, with all the grim resignation of a cornered rodent. Hooray for love!

‘Internet friends’

Once I had gotten ‘into’ whiskey – ie, I could drink it without reacting like Edward Scissorhands – I was ready to share my new passion with the world. The Irish Whiskey Society is a great way to start exploring and expanding your palate. Their monthly meetings will provide you with some rare and pricey samples to tick off your list, without having to break the bank by sourcing them yourself. But since I have four kids (and, as previously stated, I am not a joiner), I don’t get to go to many of their events, as I rarely have the time, the money or the ability to stay awake past 8pm. And so to the internet, where fandoms go to thrive. The internet is a great resource for the budding enthusiast – there are any number of whisky blogs and sites that can teach you a lot. There are also some great YouTube channels – Ralfy Mitchell’s being one of the best, walking a fine line between whisky review, history lesson and witty polemic. An undertaker by trade, Ralfy’s talent lies not in his knowledge or his ability to communicate with confidence, but rather that he has that rare quality of being very likeable on camera. Fun fact: I once tried to make a whiskey review vlog, and upon completion it had all the fun atmosphere of an Isis beheading video.

Manic tweed preachers

So by now you’ve tried a few drams, you’ve got the knowledge and the experience and you want to share your passion with friends and family, so what do you do? You keep it to your damn self, that’s what you do, because much like religion and politics, people don’t generally want a 25-minute lecture on why their beliefs are wrong. This is partly because not many people give that much of a shit about what they eat and drink. Most of us take a fairly utilitarian approach to what we consume – does it taste ok, is it cheap, will it soothe my fretful mind? – these are the basics for us. Who cares that a chicken for the Sunday roast costs about the same as a Sunday paper – sher that’s just great value, nothing terrifying about it at all. So just like you don’t tell sleepy shoppers at the express checkout that their dinner is a Frankenfood nightmare, you likewise don’t tell the person next to you at the bar that vodka is a drink for people who don’t know what to drink. I can see it in people’s eyes when I start to drone on about whiskey – they rapidly lose the will to live, because not everyone gets it, or even wants to – and that’s ok, because I get it, you get it, we get it. So I try not to preach, or even correct people when they’re wrong, like the taxi driver last week who told me Paddy no longer exists and is somehow just known as Jameson now. A simple ‘how interesting’ through gritted teeth is all this situation requires, lest it descend into a scene from Collateral.   

Coppa stills, dolla bills

So you like and possibly love whiskey – now to expand your collection. Specialist shops are great, going in having the bants with the staff, browsing the latest expressions – but they are expensive. Go online – it is a lot cheaper, even with P&P. I use Master Of Malt, mainly because I was on a whiskey junket with one of the chaps from the site and he seemed sound. MoM has a great blog, chat option, amazing selection and prices – but overall there is a great tone to the site; witty, fun and irreverent. They also do tasting sets – small samples of up to five different distilleries, often grouped by region; a fantastic way of educating yourself. There are plenty of other sites, but MoM is my favourite, and they also do Christmas crackers with whisky samples in them, which is great since I am the only one who drinks spirits in my house: ‘Hic, shut the hell up grandma, and pull this goddam cracker with me’.

Fill-up Glass, a pun on Philip Glass

So you build up a bit of a collection, maybe five to 15 bottles, and you want to enjoy them the right way, so you will need some glassware. The Glencairn is the industry standard for nosing (don’t call it sniffing, that’s what dogs do) and tasting (don’t call it drinking, that’s what boozehounds do), but Glencairns are five quid a pop. Your collection has already set you back 40-70 euro a bottle, so you are going to be looking for a cheaper option. This is where charity shops come in. I love them – okay, as soon as you walk in the door you find yourself paraphrasing the kid in The Sixth Sense by announcing ‘I smell dead people’ – but you know what dead people liked? Spirits. So there will be plenty of old whiskey tumblers, along with some branded whiskey glasses perfect for nosing, tasting, sipping and generally containing whiskey.

I use an old Carolans glass (above left) that cost me 50 cent, and if I’m just having a drink without being pretentious about it, I just use Tesco tumblers (above right) that are a fiver for a pack of four. No need for Waterford crystal – a simple vessel lets a decent whiskey shine, and is lighter in the hand for keyboard warriors like me who have atrophied Gollum arms.

How to be pretentious

So you have the kit, the hooch and the enthusiasm – it’s on to the skills. These aren’t really those elusive skills that require training, like parallel parking or removing a water meter – this is just learning to trust your instincts. When I started getting into whiskey and listening to people at tastings rattling on about what scents they were picking up, I felt like it was those magic eye posters from the 1990s all over again. A guy stands up and says ‘wow I am getting wet cement, a Nairobi sunset and the concept of ennui on the nose here, what are you getting?’ And all I was getting was slightly intoxicated. Tastings are all about confidence – in the beginning you will get whatever notes are suggested to you, because our sense of smell is incredibly easy to manipulate.

For fun, take your glass of whiskey, go into a quiet room and close your eyes. Inhale the scent – what do you get? Beyond the alcohol burn, beyond the vapours – what else is there? Take a sip – is it what the nose suggested, does it smell like it tastes, or vice versa – and what effect does it have in the mouth, apart from making you warm and drunk – is it mouth coating or astringent – or what? Once you swallow, how long does the flavour stay in your mouth? This is called the finish, and the longer it goes on the better; it should be like descending into a fractal, an endless spiral of hidden flavours and notes you hadn’t encountered already, falling through layers of sensation. Or it may taste like total shit, who knows – but at least you gave it your full attention. Mind you, telling your spouse and kids you are going into a quiet room with a glass of whiskey may lead to some sort of intervention, so just tell them it’s research. They won’t ask any more questions beyond that point because they will be terrified.


As for the objectivity of taste: The notes you experience, the things you taste – they are you. They are the summary of your life experiences, because you can only reference your own memory bank, your own sense of taste and smell. I can’t use plantain as a reference, as I have never tasted it.  All the things I taste tell the story of my life – creme anglaise, pine smoke, creme brulee, fruit coulis, sauna wood, smoked reindeer – honestly, I have come up with some of the most deliriously middle class notes I have ever seen; high praise, given that this is whiskey we are talking about. So it is completely subjective: I did a blind tasting last year. On one of the whiskies I picked up a note that I hadn’t sensed in a long time. When I was a teenager I went out with this girl whose father had a thing for mothballs. He had them all over the house, to a point that he must have had a genuine concern that the actual Mothman was going to attack the house, rather than a concern his Farrah slacks might get nibbled by some gothic butterflies. As a result, his daughter always smelled like mothballs. So when I nosed this whisky (in The Whisky Shop in Dufftown) all I got was that – memories of her, long black hair and screaming matches, her throwing Manic Street Preachers CDs at me, that strange sense of loss that sometimes sneaks up on you: You know – mothballs. What you sense from that glass is all about your history – so don’t think that anyone is trying to tell you what to get on the nose when they say ‘apples!’ ‘honey heather!’ ‘a burning wheelie bin!’ – share who you are, your own experiences, your senses and your creativity. Or just make crazy shit up, really it doesn’t matter – just don’t feel threatened. Look at the tasting notes on SMWS bottlings; they make little – yet perfect – sense, because they are all about ideas, moments, and feelings as opposed to telling you exactly what something tastes like. 

Burden of spoof

One of the greatest confidence builders you can have as a whiskey newcomer is taking part in a blind tasting. I took part in one in Gordon and Macphail that had at least two world renowned whisky experts in attendance. We were asked to identify region, cask, age, and marks were out of 25 – the experts lost to a random Norwegian who got 14 points. So, despite the many souls claiming in their Twitter bio to be experts, really they are few who have that forensic sense of taste and smell – strip away the labels and not that many people will be able to tell you what they are drinking. On this note, I’m proud to say that I know almost nothing about whiskey, and if you ever see me putting ‘whiskey expert’ in my Twitter bio, you can shoot me in the head.  


One last thing – at some point in your journey you are going to start thinking about tweed. You will see people wearing it, and think you might look good in it too. My advice is to enjoy tweed responsibly. Use it in moderation, because nobody wants to be a ‘full-kit wanker’ when it comes to a material with the density of kevlar. There are few sadder sights than somebody succumbing to heatstroke at Feis Ile because they refused to take off their thick hessian bonnet or loosen their 12-tog waistcoat in 28 degree heat whilst drinking nothing but cask-strength smoke oil. 


As I pointed out in a previous post (one that I would casually describe as being part social diary, part suicide note), my dad has a lot to do with me getting into whiskey. He was a fan, so I figured it’d be cool if I was a fan. Over the last six weeks I’ve been living with him, rummaging through his whiskey collection to see if there are any rarities in there – the one in the pic up top being the only one of note. The reason I’m here with him instead of at home with my wife and kids is not that my marriage is dying, but that my father is. He’s 85, so it was only a matter of time before something struck, and so cancer has come calling. He had incredible health almost all his life, and he was starting to feel almost invincible. Up until a few weeks ago was fiercely independent. Now I am making his meals and holding his hand when he walks. He is like Oisín, home from Tír Na n’Óg, crashing to the earth and ageing 300 years at once. He is just finished radiotherapy, and there have been several occasions over the last month when I thought he was going to die in front of me. On Father’s Day he split a vein in his leg and lost about 500ml of blood. As he lay on the ground, blood spraying out of him with metronomic precision, I kept think ‘this is it, this is it he is dying and I can’t do anything to stop it’. And as he lost consciousness he turned to me and whispered ‘make sure you record The Sunday Game’.

The paramedics came, brought us into the emergency department, we got treated and came home for me to clean up what looked like a scene from Dexter. Then I made his lunch.

This is what we do: Kids become parents become kids. This is the cycle of life – human existence is just one long series of arrivals and departures. He keeps telling me he doesn’t know what he would do without me, and I keep thinking, what am I going to do without you?

Yesterday we had an appointment with the oncologist. She told him that this cancer is going to end his life. When she left the room, he said ‘I just wish I had indulged more, and just drank a lot more whiskey’. I told him not to worry, I’ll drink enough for both of us. So at night he has a glass of Guinness (or two) and I have a dram (or three) and we watch Nationwide. So this is where we are right now – somewhere in the middle of a long goodbye, raising a glass together, saying hail and farewell. And FYI – he made me promise to keep the glassware.

My point is this – what makes whiskey interesting to me is the people. Really, any fandom is about people; sure, there is something about your passions that are particular to you, but finding other people with the same passion is what keeps it alive. And it doesn’t matter if it’s on the internet, in the Celtic Whiskey Shop or on a trolley in an emergency department – people make it interesting. For me, whiskey is part of my inheritance. It is how I celebrate my dad and all he did for me. For you it will be something else, you just need to figure out what that is. And that is how you get into whiskey.

The Fountainhead

ISC 2016 1251

Christian Davis, Editor of Drinks International, Billy Leighton, Head Blender for Irish Distillers, Brian Nation, Head Distiller at Irish Distillers and Justin Smith, Publisher of Drinks International.

I’m not sure that many people in Midleton are aware that one of the world’s most significant distilleries lies just outside the town. It sits there on the skyline, silently creating and maintaining the bulk of the world supply of Irish whiskey.

Of course, the local lack of understanding isn’t helped by the fact that it still gives Bow Street as the address on the bottle – I once got into a heated argument with a family member from the big smoke who would not believe that they no longer make Jameson in Dublin. ‘But it says it on the bottle’ he kept telling me. But the distillery is here in east Cork, just over my left shoulder as I write this. It gives me an immense sense of pride to be from Midleton – effectively, the home of Irish whiskey for several decades. And, of course, there is always that local pride to see them celebrated on the world stage, which they have been once again:

Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard has been named Producer of the Year at this year’s prestigious International Spirits Challenge (ISC), topping the ‘World Whiskies’ group that not only encompasses the Irish Whiskey category but also all other world whiskies, showcasing the continued prowess of Ireland’s leading whiskey producer.

Irish Distillers picked up the accolade at an ISC award ceremony, held at the Honourable Artillery Company in Central London on July 6th.

Speaking at the event, Brian Nation, Irish Distillers Head Distiller, commented: “This prestigious award is testament to the dedication and commitment of the passionate craftspeople at the Midleton Distillery; past and present. It is a huge honour to be part of a team that is collectively recognised as producer of the year for all world whiskies, and a fantastic motivation to continue crafting our award-winning products with the utmost care and consistency.”

Now in its 21st year, the ISC is one of the world’s most influential competitions in promoting outstanding quality spirits. The competition is founded on a rigorous and independent judging process, and receives more than 1,300 entries from nearly 70 countries worldwide.

One of the things that industry people will tell you is that it isn’t the scale of the Midleton operation that is most impressive about it, but rather the versatility – as one master distiller in Scotland put it to me ‘it’s not how much they can create, it’s what they can do – that’s what is so remarkable’.

In short, Midleton distillery can make a lot of whiskey, but they can also make a lot of whiskeys – they can remix and rewrite to create a vast array of spirit styles long before they even start thinking about wood. A good example of this diversity is in the list of expressions that won medals at the ISC this year:

  •         Jameson Black Barrel (Gold)
  •         Jameson 18 Year Old (Gold)
  •         Jameson Bold (Gold)
  •         Jameson Round (Gold)
  •         Redbreast 12 Year Old (Gold)
  •         Yellow Spot (Gold)
  •         Powers John’s Lane Release (Gold)
  •         Jameson Original (Silver)
  •         Jameson Signature (Silver)
  •         Jameson Caskmates (Silver)
  •         Jameson Crested (Silver)
  •         Jameson Lively (Silver)
  •         Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength (Silver)
  •         Redbreast 15 Year Old (Silver)
  •         Redbreast 21 Year Old (Silver)
  •         Green Spot (Silver)

IDL recently rebranded a few of the above into a more unified style, something that reflects the changing times here: For years we had a few distilleries trying to look like several – and now there are several distilleries here it is time for the big producers to circle the wagons and place some of their brands under one flag.


As someone who loves the variety of IDL’s output, I’m not wild about the idea. I can see the logic behind it, but to see a cult classic like Crested 10, with its old fashioned styling and inaccurate name (it’s not ten years old) being rebranded into a sort of rugby jersey-looking yoke is just depressing. But if it was a case of rebrand or retire – which it possibly was, given Crested’s lack of profile – then I guess I can suck it up.  

I had hoped to get this garbage written without mentioning millennials, but since this rebrand is most likely aimed squarely at them, I’m going to. The Makers’ and Deconstructed series are effectively a painting-by-numbers introduction to whiskey, taking drinkers on those first few tentative steps from blends down the rabbit hole to personalised Glencairns, tweed waistcoats and terrible puns on the word ‘dram’. Dramnation awaits you all!

But this re-positioning makes sense – given the huge boom in Irish whiskey, you want to bring as many people into the fold as possible, even if it is with a trio of whiskeys which sound like a tragic personal ad – ‘lively, round and bold’ – or another trio of whiskeys which sound like like something out of Roger Melly’s Profanisaurus (Blender’s Dog being a particular offender in this regard).

As for new expressions, who knows – but this interview with Master Distiller Brian Nation mentions Gan Eagla, which is the Irish language version of the Jameson family slogan, sine metu; without fear. It might as well mean ‘without age statement’ since that seems to be the industry trend – churn out as many NAS titles as your marketing team can dream up and keep charging premium rates for them.

But we live in hope: I’d love to see a Red Spot (they still have the trademark, there’s still a chance!), or more of the creativity that gave us Dair Ghaelach, or anything with a little bit more depth, and a few more years on it. I am very, very far from being any sort of whiskey expert, geek or even a proper blogger (30,000 posts on here, a couple of hundred on whiskey), but I’d like to see less NAS, and more quality, aged whiskeys coming from my hometown. I know they have it – when I look out the window all I can see is acres of warehouses, stacked to the rafters with barrels just waiting to be emptied down my gullet.

But until that glorious day, let’s just all agree that IDL are getting it mostly right as long as they don’t resurrect Kiskadee rum:


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Tiny acorns


The whiskey writer Fionnán O’Connor has a term he uses to describe the world of whiskey marketing – the ‘theatre of heritage’. It encapsulates the tragic machinations of marketing firms as they struggle to place their brand origins within ‘ye olde days of yore’, or pin Brand X to an ancient narrative or the name of someone ‘too dead to sue’ as Blackwater Distillery’s Peter Mulryan puts it. So when a whiskey brand has the courage to be in any way modern, it is a breath of fresh air. And so to one of my favourite Irish whiskeys, Writers Tears.  


Apart from the fact it has the greatest name in the spirit world, it has beautiful Orla Kiely-esque packaging and tall, elegant bottle that makes it a stand-out dram before you even open it. It is also a mix of pot still and malt, which gives it a depth that belies its official status as a blend. Genuinely, this is one of my ‘you gotta trys’ – something that I am not alone in, given that multi-award winning sci-fi author Spider Robinson did the same in 2015, saying: “I’ve tried most high-end Irish whiskeys, and always kept coming back to Bushmills 1608. But I just switched loyalties. I freely confess I was initially attracted by the name alone. I’d have bought my first bottle just to own the bottle, even if the contents had been undrinkable. But it’s not why I’m now already up to my sixth bottle—and at approximately CAN$65 per bottle! In my opinion, it tastes like what God drinks when He’s sitting at His typewriter.”

Padraig Hoare story Bernard and Rosemary Walsh of the Hot Irishman whiskey company, which won a Whiskey Olympics gold medal last week for the Irishman 70 blend.

Bernard and Rosemary Walsh.

I had the pleasure of meeting Bernard Walsh, the man behind Writers Tears, last year at the Jameson party here in Midleton. Bernard sources his whiskey here in east Cork, and while he has a long-term supply contract with Midleton, he has also just opened his own distillery in the wonderfully named Royal Oak in County Carlow. Here are the deets from a press release sent out on the day:

Whiskey distilling returned to County Carlow after an absence of over 200 year as husband and wife, Bernard & Rosemary Walsh, the founders of Walsh Whiskey Distillery officially opened their €25million Irish whiskey distillery by the banks of the River Barrow at Royal Oak, County Carlow. Royal Oak is now distilling Walsh Whiskey Distillery’s whiskeys, The Irishman and Writers Tears, which are already sold in 40 countries worldwide.

Officiating at the opening with the Walshs was Augusto Reina, Chief Executive of Illva Saronno SpA of Milan (owners of drinks brands Disaronno and Tia Maria) which has a 50% share in the Walsh Whiskey Distillery at Royal Oak.

Located on an 18th century estate comprising 40 acres of pastoral land, the distillery is the only independent Irish whiskey distillery producing all three styles of Irish whiskey – pot still, malt and grain from its two production lines using both pot stills and column stills.

At full tilt the Walsh Whiskey Distillery at Royal Oak has the capacity to produce 650,000 cases (two and a half million litres of pure alcohol (LPA’s) or 8 million bottles) of whiskey annually which is 9.7% of the total Irish whiskey exports in 2014.

The company actually commenced distilling on Easter Sunday this year and is laying down stocks for release from 2019 onwards after the minimum three year maturation process has been completed.

The new distillery puts Walsh Whiskey in control of its own destiny. The three key differences the distillery at Royal Oak makes to Walsh Whiskey are:

  1.       Increased Supply to Markets: The considerable production capacity will enable the company to increase supply to the 40 markets where The Irishman and Writers Tears are already sold – especially the core markets of the United States, Canada and Europe (including Russia).
  2.       Target New Markets in Asia: The company is already leveraging its partner Illva Saronnos’ established relationships in the Asian markets which hold great potential for Irish whiskey. Illva Saronno has major operations in India and China as well as an extensive distribution network. Countries targeted, other than India and China, include Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.
  3.       Increase the Range of Irish Whiskey Expressions Through Greater Innovation: The keys to whiskey’s character and taste are the oak barrels used to mature them and what they have previously contained. Walsh Whiskey Distillery at Royal Oak has sourced a great variety of barrels and butts from its own and its partner Illva Saronnos’ international contacts to create every taste and hue possible for whiskey drinkers to experience.

These include bourbon barrels from Kentucky (USA); sherry butts from Jerez (Spain); Rum barrels from Saint Lucia (Caribbean) and Marsala wine casks from Illva Saronno’s own Florio Marsala Winery in Sicily (Italy).

Walsh Whiskey Distillery will allocate up to 15% of its annual production to contract sales and has recently sealed its first deal with Altia (a leading wine and spirits company in the Nordic and Baltic countries).

There was a strong attendance by the company’s international distribution partners with representatives from 22 of the 40 countries across 4 continents that already distribute The Irishman and Writers Tears. The countries represented were Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Malta, Northern Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom & the United States of America. There were also some interested observers in the form of drinks industry executives from India and Australia.

The distillery at Royal Oak will also include two maturation houses with capacity for 60,000 barrels. Work on these buildings will commence in 2017.

The distillery, which is also designed as a visitor experience, will be open to the public from this July. The tours will also incorporate the 18th century Holloden House (c.1755) in a few years when renovations are complete. A total of 75,000 ‘whiskey tourists’ are expected to visit annually by 2021.

The operations at Royal Oak will create a total of 55 permanent and part-time jobs in the Carlow area, over 5 years. The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, through Enterprise Ireland, is supporting the project.

The founder of Walsh Whiskey Distillery, Mr Bernard Walsh said: “After 17 years in business, the opening of our own distillery is both the fulfilment of Rosemary and my own dreams and a game changing moment for the company. We are now in control of our destiny and have the capacity, variety and relationships to play our part in the continued revival of Irish whiskey which is one of this country’s great traditions.”

He added: “That we can do this in a place like Royal Oak which is blessed with an abundance of the best natural ingredients as well as being a place of beauty and tranquillity is idyllic. We look forward to sharing our whiskeys and Royal Oak with the world.”

Mr Augusto Reina, Chief Executive of Illva Saronnno, Walsh Whiskey’s strategic partner said: “Illva Saronno is enthusiastic about the opening of Royal Oak and proud of the partnership with Walsh Whiskey Distillery. We look forward to continuing our support in the coming years through our know-how and expertise in the global spirits’ market.”

Michael Cantwell, Divisional Manager for the Food and Drink sectors at Enterprise Ireland said: “Enterprise Ireland is pleased to have supported this project at Walsh Whiskey Distillery. We have worked very closely with the team throughout the development of the project and welcome the employment that will be created at a local and regional level”

The distillery comprises 4,000 cubic metres of concrete, 60 kilometres s of cabling, 400 tonnes of structural steel and 30 tonnes of copper and steel whiskey distilling equipment.

Environmental Considerations

Walsh Whiskey Distillery has prioritised environmental responsibility in the design of its operations including:

  •         By product from the production process (draff and pot ale) is recycled back into the farming industry as animal feed.
  •         Cooling water from the distillation process is recycled back to the River Barrow.
  •         The entire facility is heated using its own energy generated by the whiskey production processes. This heat supply will also eventually heat Holloden House, which dates back to c.1755, when it is fully restored in a few years time.
  •         The building materials used are sympathetic to the environs. The buildings are roofed in slate roof in keeping with Holloden House, copper fittings are applied, the warehouses will be clad in green and creeper plants trained up the walls and the roadways are sunken to limit visibility in what is a pastoral rural setting
  •         Royal Oak is home to seven species of oak tree and Bernard Walsh has commenced plans to develop an oak arboretum by planting more species under the guidance of consultant horticulturalist, Daphne Levinge Shackleton.  Three young oaks (Turkey Oak and English Oak) were recently planted in from of the distillery to replace trees lost to storms in recent years.
  •         A stone wall restoration program will also be implemented.



If Bernard Walsh had wished to mine the past for a brand narrative, Holloden House – above in the background – has an illustrious history:


It was previously the home of Colonel Philip Doyne Vigors, an explorer of some note. His papers went to auction in 2012, and the accompanying bio reads thus:

Philip Doyne Vigors (1825-1903) was a younger son in an Irish Ascendency family who joined the army in 1846 and was stationed in Sydney, New South Wales, from 1849 to 1858. He was an intellectually curious man and his light military duties left him with plenty of opportunities to pursue his interests in natural history and aboriginal cultures. His family had a strong scientific background – his uncle Nicholas Aylward Vigors was one of the founders of the Zoological Society of London – and his writings leave the reader in no doubt that Vigors was inspired by his excitement at the extraordinary landscapes of the Pacific region, and at his exposure to different cultures. During his time in Australia Vigors wrote extensively about his experiences and findings, and put together extensive collections of seeds, minerals, shells, animal specimens, and cultural artefacts.

He also travelled on penal ships, landing on at least one occasion in Hobart in Tasmania (then Van Diemens Land) – now a modern whisky Mecca and home to Old Hobart, among others. As for his later life, in December 1880 he was Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army and stationed in Washington DC, then he was named Vice President of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. He died at Holloden on 30 December 1903. The last descendants left Holloden many years ago, and after a lot of neglect it really is great to see its restoration included in Brendan’s plans. This was how it looked when they launched their plans in 2013:

BUSINESS 16102013 No repro fee Walsh Whiskey Distillery Unveils 25million euro Expansion Programme to Build Share of Global Irish Whiskey Market Major Italian drinks company Illva Saronno Holding S.p.A. invests in Walsh Whiskey Distillery Ltd - an established producer of super-premium and ultra-premium Irish whiskey brands based in Carlow. New world-class distillery and visitor centre to create 55 jobs in Royal Oak, County Carlow as well as 40 temporary construction jobs with support from Dept of Jobs through Enterprise Ireland The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD today welcomed the announcement that independent, family-owned Walsh Whiskey Distillery will make a significant 25million euro expansion programme for its critically acclaimed, award winning, super-premium and ultra-premium Irish whiskey brands – The Irishman and Writer Tears.  Walsh Whiskey Distillery’s expansion plans have attracted significant development funding from the Italian drinks giant, Illva Saronno Holding S.p.A., which is owned and run by the Reina family in Saronno near Milan.   Pictured is Bernard Walsh, Founder of Walsh Whiskey Distillery. Picture by Shane O'Neill / Fennells.

There is some video from the interior of the building in this from the launch:

I would imagine Bernard Walsh has been waiting for this moment for a long time – after years of bottling the products of other distillers, he can now start to really experiment with his output, and hopefully expand on an already very solid core range. And for once, this writer can safely say he hopes to enjoy a lot more Tears in future.

And if you think that outro is the worst thing you’ve read, consider the fact that I just wrote a blog post about an event I wasn’t even at.