Moncrieff’s Pot On In Midleton. Cocktail of Whiskey, Food, Music, Nostalgia and Politics

Moncrieff’s Pot On In Midleton Distillery

Cocktail of Whiskey, Food, Music, Nostalgia and Politics
At home: Brian Nation (left) and
Peter Morehead, both of Midleton Distillery.
 Positive Ireland got an outing on the Moncrieff Show last Friday. The programme was broadcast from the Midleton Distillery and the Production Director there, Peter Morehead, had good news: “There is a huge renaissance in Irish Whiskey...25 years of solid growth.” Expansion continues at the East Cork plant which started life as a Woollen Mill, then became a Barrack before distilling started here in 1825.

Brian Nation, the Master Distiller, confirmed that Midleton has the “biggest operational pots in the world”. The size is not just for show: “Shape and size are very important to the development of whiskey.”

Enough of the history. We were here to sample two of the Redbreast Single Pot Still series, starting with the 12 year old. Twelve years, by the way, is the age of the youngest whiskey in the bottle. Peter likes it at this time of the year because of its “Christmas-y aromas and flavours”, some of which arise because it is matured in Sherry casks. Indeed, all casks from fortified wines areas - Sherry, Port, Madeira, Marsala - can be used by whiskey makers.

Brian was our guide on the 21 year old Redbreast. Again 21 years is the age of the youngest in the bottle, the oldest is 28. If it was in Sherry casks all the time, you wouldn't recognise it as whiskey, so it is in Sherry casks for the final three years only. It is a gorgeous drop with a very smooth mouthfeel. As Brian said: “There is a step-up in age and a step-up in complexity.”

Moncrieff (right) with Jerry Buttimer.
Delighted to see and hear Giana Ferguson of Gubbeen on the show. Giana, a blow-in to West Cork over forty years ago, has just had her book, also Gubbeen, published, said that travel, “a lot of rambling in Europe”, helped guide her towards a love of “the richness of food”.

Forty years back, she and some of her friends in West Cork were “known as the lunatic fringe”. These individuals, on the retreat in the 70s from Thatcher and the Cold War, were idealistic. Some put down roots there and “it worked for us with food”. Cheesemaking was Giana’s chosen field.

It wasn't easy but help was at hand. “There was an amazing degree of trial and error and a need for a serious core of knowledge in cheesemaking. We were lucky to have UCC - they opened their doors to the West Cork cheesemakers”.

Sean Moncrieff, a sympathetic interviewer (knows when to say quiet and when to butt in), asked her about sales and marketing. “I did the marketing by the seat of my pants,” she said. “I think the secret to marketing is telling the truth. Even then we needed good luck and that, with ‘synchronicity’, led to international sales. Now we have a micro economy down on the farm and it is trickling down to the village.”

Giana Ferguson of Gubbeen tells her story.
Alice Taylor is another West Cork based lady with a book on the shelves. This is called Do You Remember?

Sean asked her what did she remember about the run-up to Christmas in the good old days. Alice recalled going to the wood for holly (it had to have berries) and plucking the geese with her sisters. “I loved Christmas Eve..there was a wonderful sense of waiting … very peaceful.” A couple of good turnips came in handy: one to support the Christmas candle, the other to hold the tree. The tree was really just a branch as her father wasn't too keen on cutting down a whole tree saying a tree took thirty or forty years to grow and any fool could cut it down in five minutes.

The show had started with a interview with local Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer. Jerry was very impressive, especially on his being gay and his coming out. Referring to the upcoming referendum (May 2015) on same sex marriage he said “it is beyond politics” and “about the lives of our people”.

The show finished with the regular Movies and Booze slot, with both Sue Murphy (movies) and Martin Moran on hand. Earlier, live music was provided by Nicole Maguire. Talented Nicole has a new album called What You Really Mean but the song that she sang, with a Christmas touch, was Joni Mitchel’s classic The River. All part of a lively and engaging afternoon's entertainment.

Cheers Moncrieff!

** To know more about Single Pot Still Whiskey (you can even become a member of the Stillhouse) click here.
You'll find podcasts of the Moncrieff Show here .