Love will tear us apart

There is a feeling you get after the break up of a relationship and you pass you ex in the street and see that they have, in fact, gone to shit. It’s a strange mix of pity and schadenfreude that comes over the one who has moved on. I wonder if anyone from the Walsh Whiskey team felt that way when a provisional Royal Oak whiskey label was submitted to the American Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau (TTB), as spotted by whiskey sleuth Charlie Roche: 

Royal Oak is a beautiful distillery, and to see this label – which may only be a very early draft or just a placeholder – comes as something as a shock.

Or perhaps it doesn’t – perhaps the split between Bernard Walsh and the Italian drinks group Ilva Saronno was over this precise thing; whether to go high or go low; whether to keep that premium branding on a premium sourced product, ie, Writers Tears/The Irishman, or to put out an indigenous, young and potentially fiery whiskey under basic-ass branding. There are, obviously, plenty of spaces for all kinds of brands; the quality and quantity of output from Great Northern means that we will have an array of good quality whiskeys coming in often low quality branding. Not everyone wants something as elegant as Writers Tears, sometimes you just want a smashable dram that you can drink without any reverence. But The Busker? Aside from the label, isn’t the name a tad close to The Whistler?

Meanwhile, Walsh Whiskey continues to go from the strength to strength as a standalone brand, with the release of their latest collaboration with Dick Mack’s. 

Carlow & Dingle, Ireland – 15th May 2020: Walsh Whiskey has released the second in a series of collaborative experiments with the legendary Dick Mack’s Pub & Brewhouse in the seaside town of Dingle in County Kerry, Ireland. Writers’ Tears – Seaweed IPA Cask Finish is a truly exceptional creation that brings together an old Irish whiskey recipe of Single Pot Still and Single Malt whiskeys, finished in a unique cask infused with the flavour of an 8% IPA beer laced with a seaweed harvest from the nearby Atlantic Ocean.

Bernard Walsh started this ‘spiritual’ adventure in 2018, when Finn mentioned Dick Mack’s newest creation – a Seaweed IPA. A barrel used in the creation of several batches of Dick Mack’s Tóg Bog É Seaweed IPA was sent on the 298 kms/185 miles cross-country from Dingle in County Kerry to Walsh Whiskey in County Carlow. Tóg Bog É (pronounced Toag Guh Bug Ay) is a Gaelic expression meaning ‘Take it Easy’ which has come to identify Irish people’s traditional outlook towards how best to live life.

Dick Mack’s Tóg Bog É Seaweed IPA was brewed with no less than 5 kilos/ 11 pounds of kelp seaweed harvested from County Kerry’s nearby Ballybunion Beach.

On Saint Valentine’s Day 2019 the barrel was filled with the award-winning Writers’ Tears – Copper Pot, triple-distilled, premium blend of Single Pot Still and Single Malt whiskeys and laid down for 14 months to finish. It was bottled naturally, non-chill filtered, at high strength.

The single cask (numbered ‘Batch 56’) has now yielded 306, individually numbered, bottles of Cask Strength (56.3%) super-premium whiskey. The Recommended Retail Price of this unique expression is €82/ US$89/ £72, however many bottles have already been snapped up by members of The Irish Whiskey Society and frontline workers of the Dublin Fire Brigade Whiskey Club. This unique expression is already a collector’s item.

Notes re Writers’ Tears – Seaweed IPA Cask Finish:

  • Laid down on St Valentine’s Day 2019 for a 14 Months Finish
  • Natural Non-Chill Filtered
  • Bottled at Cask Strength (56.3%)
  • Barrel: Bourbon, Seasoned with Seaweed IPA (8% ABV) brewed at Dick Mack’s, Dingle in Ireland’s Kingdom of County Kerry
  • Colour: Golden mustard
  • Nose: Deep butterscotch, autumnal/mature bramble apple
  • Taste: Salted caramelised fruit sugar’s syrup, a touch of liquorice
  • Finish: Creamy mouth feel

A webcast to taste and discuss the creation of Writers’ Tears – Seaweed IPA Cask Finish, will be held on Facebook at 8pm (Irish Summer Time) on 27th May, 2020 between Writers’ Tears creator and Walsh Whiskey Founder, Bernard Walsh; Finn MacDonnell, Proprietor & Great-Grandson of Dick Mack himself; Serghios Florides, Publisher & Editor of Irish Whiskey Magazine and Peter White of the Dublin Fire Brigade Whiskey Club.

Well, at least they didn’t tell us it was hadngrafted:

Arrivederci, Royal Oak

Bernard and Rosemary Walsh back in the day.

Bernard Walsh always strikes me as a hail-fellow-well-met-kind-of-chap. He has built an incredible brand in Walsh Whiskey, and then went on to build an incredible distillery in Royal Oak in Carlow. This makes this news all the sadder, as watching any relationship fail – be it personal or professional or both – is never easy.

FILE PHOTO FROM 2013: Augusto Reina, CEO, Illva Saronno, Bernard Walsh, Founder of Walsh Whiskey Distillery, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, Rosemary Walsh. Picture by Fennells.

WALSH WHISKEY & ILLVA SARONNO AGREE TO DEMERGE JOINT-VENTURE

Whiskey brands and distillery businesses split with immediate effect and without redundancies.

The Directors of Walsh Whiskey Distillery have decided to split the business by separating out the existing drinks brands business, built on the Writers’ Tears and The Irishman premium and super-premium Irish whiskeys, from the distillery business at Royal Oak, in Ireland’s County Carlow.

Current sales, marketing and distilling objectives are being fully met, however the Irish and Italian Directors differ on how to develop the combined business into the future.  

This change will result in the Irish directors taking full control of the existing drinks brands business built on the Writers’ Tears and The Irishman brands that are among the most popular premium and super-premium Irish whiskeys in the world being sold in 50 countries worldwide. Consumers of Writers’ Tears and The Irishman portfolio of brands are assured of their uninterrupted availability. This business will continue to trade under the name Walsh Whiskey.

FROM 21-06-2016 – Walsh Whiskey Distillery at Royal Oak in County Carlow (Ireland) which was officially opened Tuesday 21 June. The €25 million distillery has an annual capacity of 650,000 cases of whiskey. It is unique amongst independent Irish distilleries in being able to distil all three styles of Irish whiskey – pot still, malt and grain.” Pictured at the opening were The founder of Walsh Whiskey Distillery, Bernard Walsh and 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. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Illva Saronno will take full ownership of the distillery, which is renamed “Royal Oak Distillery”. Illva’s objective is to further enhance Royal Oak as a centre of excellence in Irish whiskey making by continuously improving its technology and processes, producing all three styles, Malt, Pot and Grain under one roof, enhancing the visitor experience and achieving recognition as one of the best quality Irish whiskey producers in the market.

There is an in-depth piece on WhiskyCast that shows how hard this must be for the Walshes – they built this brand from the ground up, and, in 2013, finally achieved the dream of building a distillery. That said, what they walked away from is nothing in comparison to what they walked away with.

I’m not going to eulogise Writers Tears again, but I love that whiskey in every way – the bottle, the design, the name, the liquid, the concept. But it isn’t the only ace the Walshes now hold –  the whole parcel includes a range of 12 Irish whiskeys under the Writerṣ’ Tears and The Irishman brands, the Hot Irishman Irish coffee and The Irishman – Irish Cream liqueur. Walsh Whiskey has well established supply deals with powerhouse distilleries, a strong distribution network, and a bright future.

The Italians now have a beautiful distillery and a great team – but no brand, and no real identity. Bernard Walsh was the face of the distillery, and they will struggle to replace either him or the brands he created. Perhaps they will be happier building their own brand to their own spec, but the vacuum left by the severing of the relationship will not be easy to fill. It’s going to be an interesting few years in Royal Oak.

A challenger approaches

Writer’s Tears – great name, great look, great whiskey. And now, in a sure sign that Irish whiskey’s stock is rising, this excellent whiskey is now a sponsor of WhiskyCast. Here’s some press release:

The premium Irish whiskey, Writers’ Tears – Copper Pot, has agreed a brand partnership deal with the renowned WhiskyCast podcast produced by legendary whiskey aficionado, Mark Gillespie. Under the deal Writers’ Tears – Copper Pot will feature on the WhiskyCast.com web-site and in every WhiskyCast podcast for the next year. The podcast has an audience of over 41,000 whisky enthusiasts globally who combine to listen to the show over 1 million times in a year.

Writers’ Tears – Copper Pot, a very rare blend of Single Pot Still and Single Malt triple-distilled Irish whiskeys, has created a range of adverts exclusively for WhiskyCast featuring six different stings. The stings include two themes: “What’s Rare is Wonderful” and “Do You Dare to be Creative?” Both themes highlight the unique nature of the Writers’ Tears – Copper Pot blend which features two styles of premium whiskey and no grain whiskey.

The partnership with WhiskyCast will support the continued growth of Writers’ Tears – Copper Pot which is now available in 20 countries and more than doubling its distribution in the United States to over 40 States in 2018. 

Bernard Walsh, Founder & Managing Director of Walsh Whiskey, producers of Writers’ Tears, said: “WhiskyCast is a wonderful platform for us to increase awareness of Writers’ Tears – Copper Pot to a highly knowledgeable and influential audience. WhiskyCast is not only a great podcast, it has a significant listenership of real whiskey enthusiasts who are very active in both their interest in and pursuit of premium whiskeys.” 

Christina Philburn, Managing Director of CaskStrength Media, producers of WhiskyCast said: “Our listeners are thrilled to have Writer’s Tears – Copper Pot on board with WhiskyCast. Irish whiskey continues to grow in global popularity, and Walsh Whiskey offers consumers well-crafted and thoughtfully cultivated Irish whiskeys. Writer’s Tears – Copper Pot allows us to bring an additional educational element to the podcast in the ‘Behind the Label’ segment.”

Produced by Walsh Whiskey, Writers’ Tears – Copper Pot is a unique blend of premium Irish whiskeys – Aged Single Pot Still and Single Malt whiskey. Distilled entirely from Pot Still and Malt, without Grain, Writers’ Tears – Copper Pot is triple distilled, non-peated and matured and aged in American Oak bourbon casks. The blending of the two whiskey styles became very popular in the 1800s, including amongst the large Irish literary community. Bernard Walsh of Walsh Whiskey resurrected this rare style in 2009 and Writers’ Tears – Copper Pot is now distributed to over 20 countries worldwide.

Press release ends. I don’t have much to add to this, so here are a load of photos of a Writer’s Tears launch that I meant to post ages ago:

And hey, while I’m clearing out the old press shots file, here are some lovely product images of what is a very lovely product:

While you’re here, why not donate to my Patreon so I can keep being a dick on the internet. Nah I’m kidding, I don’t need your charity – but I do need your clicks, so here’s some more rich Walsh Whiskey content:

A million photos from a whiskey society trip to the distillery.

A review of Writer’s Tears Red Head.

Pics and a blurb from their Italian job five years ago.

A longer write-up on Walsh Whiskey and their remarkable journey.

Bonus points: A typically excellent piece on Walsh Whiskey by David Havelin of LiquidIrish.com.

Red dawn

I’ve long been a fan of Writers Tears – even on a purely aesthetic level, I would sing its praises. Fortunate then that, beneath the surface, it is also a cracking whiskey. Walsh have recently released another expression in the family, and because every Irish family has at least one ginge in it, this one is titled Red Head.

This is billed as ‘a triple distilled single malt’ – so this is the point where I tap my nose, wink at you and mouth the word ‘Bushmills’. You furrow your brow, mis-lipread and think I mouthed ‘punch me’ and we end up in a tremendous donnybrook that makes the Táin Bó Cúailnge look like an especially weak episode of WWE Raw.

The official line is thus:

This exquisite, triple-distilled single malt is matured only in select handpicked Spanish sherry butts which have previously been seasoned with the finest Oloroso sherry. It is the influence of these scarce butts that give this expression of Writers Tears its signature rich, ruby hue and hence the moniker – ‘Red Head’. The expression is distilled without chill filtering as nature intended and at a distinctive 46% ABV.

So what of my slightly-pissed tasting notes:

A real sweetness on the nose, lots of rich caramel (the foodstuff, not the colouring) in there, a little bit of clove and cinnamon. Palate-wise – more spices than I expected, a lot of really nice heat from that extra bit of ABV, definitely feeling that orange peel note touted in the official tasting notes. The finish is not the 2001: A Space Odyssey-style epic the notes suggest, but it has more of the spice and less of the sweetness from the nose. For less than €50, and a NAS to boot, you cannot expect some multi-layered labyrinth of flavour. I prefer the standard Copper Pot expression, and would still recommend it over this, but this Red Head still has more soul than your average ginger