Irish Whiskey Renaissance

Irish Whiskey

Stuart’s latest take on the global Irish Whiskey revival and the Mecca that is Galway.

While Irish Whiskey is undergoing an amazing global revival of popularity and sales, my own shocking experience is that the very people who are allowing this opportunity to pass them by are Restaurant and Pub owners back home in Ireland.

Last year I highlighted a great opportunity for the owners of Ireland’s premium restaurants to polish up the experience they offer their fine diners by putting as much care into developing an Irish Whiskey List as they do into their wine list. We even offered to assist in a pilot project with a grant of €250 in matched funds and free advice to the first Irish restaurant to create a premium Irish Whiskey List for their diners. Despite contacting the Irish Restaurant Association with our idea, the opportunity passed unclaimed.

My experience in bars and pubs here in Ireland has been little better. The general knowledge about Irish Whiskey brands types and customs amongst Irish bar staff is quite poor over all. In my regular travels all around Ireland, it’s quite obvious to me that the majority of bar staff in the pubs of Dublin and greater Ireland have very little knowledge or understanding of Irish whiskey. Often, they don’t know the difference between Scotch, Bourbon or Irish Whiskey. The default is to serve with ice and in a variety of glasses from wine glasses to tall boys to brandy glasses and even half pint glasses. I was used to this when I lived in Brussels last year, but in Dublin? It’s disappointing to say the least.

But there is hope and hope comes from the West!

Old Joyce Distillery BuildingsOver 200 years ago Galway was one of Ireland’s thriving whiskey hubs. But as road, rail and canal networks expanded from Dublin in early Victorian times, Galway whiskey distilleries suffered as the larger Dublin based and Scottish influenced distilleries expanded to the west and the south.

Looking at my copy of The Lost Distilleries of Ireland (See Link below) by Brian Townsend with foreward by John Clement Ryan, the 22 Galway based distilleries of the late 1700’s had been reduced to just two by 1822.

These were John Joyce and Catherine Haurty and both were closed by 1807. By 1823, a Patrick Joyce was running a distillery on Nun’s Island. He did well and peaked at 100,000 Gallons in 1833. However things went down hill after that and he was gone by 1840, possibly due to competition from Burke’s Quarter Barrel, Richard Lynch and Burton Persse, who had two distilleries (Newcastle and Newton Smith) which at their peak were producing over 120,000 gallons per year. By comparison, Allmans from my own home town of Bandon were producing 500,000 gallons a year at their peak.

Burton Persse’s son bought the old Joyce distillery buildings in 1840 and after using them for a few years as woollen mills, converted them back to what we now know as the Nun’s Island distillery. It continued such until the Great War with output of their “Galway Whiskey” peaking at around 400,000 gallons a year. As the new distillery took off, their existing smaller distilleries in Newcastle and Newton Smith were abandoned.

In the years before the Great War, the Dublin distilleries began making greater inroads into the west of Ireland and it was this increasing competition which finally closed Galway whiskey and the Nun’s Island distillery for good around 1915.

For many years, Galway has led innovation in Irish tourism and cuisine and now it appears as if the City of the Tribes is about to follow suit with innovation in Irish Whiskey Tourism.

Garavans in Shop Street is an iconic Galway Pub beloved by Irish literati such as Samuel Beckett. Under the leadership of Paul Garavan, it has also developed into one of Ireland’s leading Irish Whiskey bars with an incredible menu of Irish Whiskeys and tasting platters all served up by a super friendly staff of Irish Whiskey experts led by head barman Brian. Don’t leave the pub without asking for a copy of their book “Days and Nights in Garavans” which is full of great yarns from the pub’s rich history.

Galway Pub An Púcán on Forster Street has also taken up the Irish Whiskey challenge with a fine range of Irish Whiskey behind the bar and regular Irish whiskey tasting evenings and talks throughout the tourist season. Their latest and exciting news is the the launch of their own “An Pucan” expression of Teeling whiskey which I look forward to reviewing here in coming weeks. is proud to support the Galway Whiskey renaissance and will be working hand in hand with our Galway whiskey friends such as Garavans, An Pucan and the G Hotel to build a critical mass of Irish whiskey presence in Galway over the next few months though our new Irish Whiskey Tourism site

Now, would any Galway restaurant like to take up our whiskey menu sponsorship offer?

The post Irish Whiskey Renaissance appeared first on Irish Whiskey.

Stuart reviews the latest whiskey from his native West Cork and discovers links between a President, River Dance and Single Malt Irish Whiskey.

Douglas Hyde, the first President of Ireland was an unusual character. He grew up in French Park Co. Roscommon in the 1870’s where his father the local protestant rector moved his family after Douglas was born. Douglas’s father the Reverend Arthur Hyde came from the Hyde family of Castle Hyde near Fermoy in Cork. If the name sounds familiar, Castle Hyde is now beautifully restored as the home of the famous Irish American Dancer Michael Flatley of River Dance fame.

Hyde Irish Whiskey – The Background

Coming from the protestant tradition in Ireland, it was highly unusual that Douglas would develop an interest in the Irish language which was still a vibrant and working language in the West of Ireland. But when Douglas as a child met and socialised with the locally born French Park children, his skill at picking up the local Roscommon dialect of the Irish language was an early indication of his future academic success in Trinity College Dublin as a distinguished Gaelic scholar, academic, linguist and Irish language revivalist.

Following the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922 after the War of Independence, Douglas Hyde was one of the first university academics to be elected to the Irish Parliament’s Upper House or Senate in 1925.

The ratification of the first Irish Constitution in 1937 called for the election of an Irish President and Senator Douglas Hyde who was seen as a person of both academic and cultural substance, was elected unopposed as an agreed candidate to represent a pluralist, non-sectarian modern Ireland.

How do I know so much about Douglas Hyde? Well my own late and much loved younger brother Douglas or Doug, who grew up with me in West Cork, was named after the first President as our own wider family also shared an unusual and mixed up Catholic Loyalist – Protestant Nationalist background in pre independence Ireland. As Stuart Redmond McNamara, I was named after Protestant Nationalist Charles Stewart Parnell and the Irish Home Rule Champion John Redmond. And yes, I know I spell my name Stuart, but that’s another story!

So when Conor Hyde, the MD of Hyde Whiskey contacted me a few weeks ago to tell me about his new Hyde Whiskey Label operating from my childhood home in West Cork, I looked skywards and said, Doug, You would have loved this one!

Hyde Irish Whiskey Review 2015 - Hyde Irish Whiskey Bottle -Stuart McNamara ReviewHyde Irish Whiskey 10 year old President’s Cask Limited Reserve Single Malt Review

Hyde Whiskey is a new Irish whiskey venture and is not to be confused with any other whiskey companies in West Cork. In common with most new Irish Whiskey Start Ups, their initial release is based on a high quality offering that Hyde have worked their magic on from an established distillery. In this case, Hyde have sourced a ten year old single malt from the Cooley stable matured in first fill flame charred Kentucky Bourbon Casks and finished in vintage sherry casks for an extra mellow sweetness.

This is a business model also used by many of the other new and emerging Irish whiskey companies including Teeling and Walsh Whiskey. As Irish whiskey takes 3 to 5 years and more to mature after distillation, the first whiskeys produced by these new kids on the block are often innovative and exciting customisations of quality whiskeys from Midleton, Cooley and Bushmills. If they eventually build their own distillery, Hyde reckon that it would be about 5 years more before whiskey from their own stills will be ready for release.

Hyde Irish Whiskey Review

Hyde Whiskey Review - Irish WhiskeyConor Hyde was kind enough to send me a bottle of their 10 year old President’s Cask Limited Reserve Single Malt to review. It’s an unpeated double distilled single malt which has been finished for six months in Oloroso Spanish Oak Sherry Casks. This President’s Cask release is a limited edition of just 5,000 bottles with each bottle individually numbered. Bottled at a higher than normal 46% ABV, it is also non chill filtered leaving it packed with a robust malty flavour.

Nose:On the nose, the virgin oak from the first fill bourbon barrels is dominant after ten years of maturation. There is also some fruit as one would expect from the sherry influence which reminds me of dark Irish Fruitfield Marmalade. The nose is shorter than I would have expected.
Taste:Tasting, the initial impression is malt heavy with a warm and full mouth fill. Again, the oak is quite pronounced along with some bitter-sweet dried fruits and orchard fruits, burnt oak notes and black pepper spiciness. Surprisingly smooth on the tongue for a double distilled whiskey at 46%! The addition of a splash of water yields an exceptionally smooth and mellow ball of malt to swirl in the hand.
Finish:The finish is long and is dominated by burnt oak and pepper with a hint of bitter chocolate in the background.
The Oloroso Sherry Cask finish has definitely added some real magic to this ten year old malt. An interesting experiment might be to follow the Irish Distillers Green SpotYellow Spot model and see what a 12 or 15 year old variant with an additional 2 to 5 years of Sherry or other influence could produce!

Behind Hyde Whiskey!

But enough about the whiskey. What about the People behind the Whiskey? I have long thought that the future of international Irish whiskey marketing lies in differentiating ourselves from run of the mill Scotch or Bourbon with innovative new products such as Hyde. We should also tell great personal stories about the whiskey and the people who make it! As you can see from all of the above, Hyde Whiskey have a story and a half to tell and they are just starting on their journey.

Interviewing someone like Conor Hyde is a pleasure. He is modest, professional, passionate and disarmingly open when talking about Hyde Whiskey. As you can see from the artwork in this review, the branding of this initial Hyde Whiskey release is of very high quality with finely balanced references to his own Hyde family, Presidential Links, Irish History and West Cork connections.

I think that we are seeing the return of quality Irish whiskey to West Cork with the birth of an exciting new Irish Whiskey Label. My brother Doug would have been their biggest fan!

The post Hyde Irish Whiskey Review appeared first on Irish Whiskey.

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