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We begin our tour in the graveyard of the former church of St. James, now home to the Pearse Lyons Distillery. Here in the Golden Triangle in the heart of The Liberties we end with a sip of the golden Pearse Five-Year-Old Single Malt, the design and packaging inspired by the former church, now restored and with a unique blue glass spire. In addition, there is also a genuine old pub, McCann’s, on site and some of the tours end there for a drink.
The late Pearse Lyons on video frame
When you have finished the tour, having heard how Deirdre and Pearse Lyons took over the rump of the old church and the overgrown graveyard (where up to 100,000 had been buried over the centuries) and transformed it, you realise that this is much more than just a business venture, more than a distillery.
We are here for the whiskey of course and our tour allows us quite a tasting, beginning with The Original. This has been raised in US barrels (from the Lyons Town Branch distillery in Lexington) and the vanilla shows. It is a lovely whiskey, citrus and smoke on the nose, sweet, light and a little smoky as you sip.
Our patient guide at this stage is James and he has all the answers telling us that our next whiskey, the Distiller’s Choice is a 3 to 9 year old blend of no less than seven Irish whiskies, 6 sourced by Mr Lyons plus their own malt whiskey (ex ale barrel, Lyons also have a brewery Alltech).
The Lyons distillery is quite new (though they had set up their equipment in Carlow for a few years before opening here in St Jame’s), hence the sourcing. The blend is perfect, again a touch of fruit (including citrus) on the nose, smooth and sweet and very satisfying indeed.
James was quite enthusiastic about the third whiskey, the Founder’s Choice, a 12 year old single malt. Again fruity on the nose with herbal notes too, sweet, oaky, herbal and spicy on the silky palate and finish. No wonder it is James’s favourite!
Number four is the Cooper’s Select, 42% like all the previous drinks. This a blend of 80% Single Malt and 20% Grain and has spent four years in Sherry cask. Dried fruit and coffee on the nose and that rich combination continues on the palate. This is an after-dinner drink and a very nice one too! But if you fancy it, you’d better act quickly as they won’t be producing this exact drink again.James: “When it’s gone, it’s gone”.
Yeast at work
The future is represented in more ways than one in our final Pearse tasting, the Single Malt. Its bottle shape is different to the previous four and will be standard for Pearse whiskey in the future. The standard within is exceptional. This by the way is all their own malt, raised in first and second fill Bourbon casks.
“It is the first five-year age statement Irish whiskey to appear from a new distillery in the whole of Ireland in more than 25 years. Presented in 4,000 individually numbered bottles, this limited release 5-Year-Old Single Malt was produced on two small-batch copper pot stills, and aged in bourbon casks.”
It is sweet, oaky, peppery. Stillyoung, yet full of promise, all very encouraging indeed. And it was also a bottle that I bought before I left!
James, with the Single Malt
Had an enjoyable taste of their Ha’penny Dublin Dry Gin, a small-batch, pot distilled gin featuring 13 expertly selected botanicals including Geranium, Dandelion, Lavender and Blackberry – all of which would have been growing in the nearby Phoenix Park in Victorian times when the bridge was built. The Ha’penny series also features a whiskey.
The counter where we tasted is set up in the church under a stained glass representation of a cooper at work. The stained glass windows are amazing; one commemorates the area’s connection with the Camino to Santiago di Compostela, another depicts how Irish Whiskey is made; the fourth shows the natural ingredients grown for “uisce beatha”. Amazing how the warm amber light from the windows fills up the distillery interior, reflecting on the copper stills and the Caen stone pillars.
Outside though, the work is continuing and will continue for a long while to come, as our excellent tour guide Bernard told us. Many a story has emerged from the graveyard and no doubt more to come, all exciting much interest locally and further afield.
The headstones shed light on the trades that The Liberties welcomed in the past. Tradesmen and women who worked as coopers, distillers, linen merchants, shoemakers, bakers, bishops and soldiers have all found a resting place here at St. James’ Church alongside many members of the Lyons family.
The graveyard is next door to Guinness property and one of the more prominent graves, right up by the wall of the church, belongs to Sir Haldane Porter, an assistant managing director of Guinness at his death in 1944.
The oldest person buried here is Florence Walltropp, 105 years old at her death. They also found five leaded coffins, always a sign of a contagious disease; these five are of one family believed to have decimated by the 1832 cholera outbreak in Dublin.
And the Golden Triangle? At one time, close to 40 distilleries were in operation in Dublin, nestled in a one mile radius around here, better known as the “Golden Triangle.”
Cooper at work
The four big distillery players at the time were George Roe and Company, John Power and Son, William Jameson and Company and John Jameson and Son. Today, the Pearse Lyons Distillery is playing a leading role as the Golden Triangle in the heart of The Liberties makes a remarkable revival.
A visit here is Very Highly Recommended. For the whiskey yes but it is, after all, much more than a distillery. Read more here.
* Pearse Lyons greets all visitors during an introductory video to the tour but sadly the great man died last year. He will be missed for a long time and will be remembered whenever a person from the Liberties, or indeed a visitor on his or her way to the distillery, spots the distinctive blue spire.
Something amazingly clean about this, the crispness of the fruit (apple, citrus), the toast of the oak, a waft of pepper, and the clove notes, all there from the start to the lingering finish. Spice and citrus also feature in the aromas and the malt too of course. Nothing overly complex here, just pleasant clean lines, not unlike the lines of the stained glass windows in the Church of St James in Dublin, the home of the Pearse Lyons Distillery.*
It has been wholly produced and aged in Ireland. Using Irish malted barley and their own special yeast strain, the whiskey spirit was produced on the unique pair of copper pot stills imported from Kentucky and aged in bourbon casks from their distillery in Lexington Kentucky.
The unique design of the unusual small-batch copper stills is credited with giving the whiskey a special character. The wash still, christened ‘Mighty Molly’, includes a “neck and ball” configuration which assists in refining the spirit character in the first step of distillation. The spirit still, ‘Little Lizzie’, features four rectification plates that further purify and refine the spirit collected, harnessing the fullness, complexity and refinement of flavour of a double-distilled Irish Whiskey.
A Malt Whiskey, by the way, is made solely from malted barley in copper pot stills. A single malt is the product of a single distillery.
Conor Ryan, Global Whiskey Ambassador at the Pearse Lyons Distillery spoke at the recent launch: “As with the other whiskeys produced at the Pearse Lyons Distillery, the Pearse 5-year-old Single-Malt features no additional colourings, so the colour you see has been purely produced in the natural barrel ageing process. The maturation process has an enormous influence on the flavour profile of the end product whiskey with the length of time, quality and previous use of the barrel being the crucial components. We are lucky to have a fantastic supply of fresh used ex bourbon casks which we source from our sister distillery in Kentucky which contributes vanilla, toasted wood, fruity and spicy notes to the final product.”
The bottle design has been inspired by St James Church, the home of the Pearse Lyons Distillery. The centrepiece of the label features the octagonal spire, the view seen when looking up from inside the distillery and the colour scheme reflects the copper stills which were used to produce the whiskey. Each of the limited-edition bottles has been individually numbered and the first bottle will be positioned in pride of place at the Pearse Lyons Distillery in the Liberties.
* Based on 5cl sample.
Tullamore D.E.W. Trilogy Irish Whiskey, 40%, €65.00 during distillery tour.
I enjoyed this one when I tasted it during a summer visit to the distillery, well the visitor centre, in Tullamore and enjoyed it even better when I poured from the bottle the other night.
The amber draws you in, as do the aromas of tropical fruit and sweet spice. On the palate it is rich and mellow, soft and full bodied, very approachable (more so with a few, a very few, drops of water) and there is a long and richly satisfying finish. One for the short list!
The Trilogy name refers in part at least to the fact that three different types of cask have been used. It was matured in Sherry and Bourbon and finished off in Rum casks. The deeper colour comes from the wood as well.
But where did the basic whiskey itself come from? The distillery operated between 1829 and the early 1950s and was revived by William Grant in 2010 so not their own whiskey obviously. I’ve read it came from Midleton and Bushmills. Three types of whiskey too, pot still, malt and grain, each triple distilled, the combination also a trilogy.
We’ll let the distillery have the final word - note the three generations: “Our 15 Year Old Trilogy is the very pinnacle of our craft. Across three generations of Williams, the three unique crafts of distillation, blending and maturation in finest oak were honed.”