Showing posts with label whisky. Show all posts
Showing posts with label whisky. Show all posts

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Wayward Irish Spirits Content On Shores Of Lough Leane. Cheers To The Liberator

Wayward Irish Spirits Content On Shores Of Lough Leane.

Cheers To The Liberator

We enter a locked door to a group of old farm buildings. Chinese characters over the door catch my eye. Maurice O’Connell, my host, tells me it means “House of Contentment”. But it is something of a joke played by one of his ancestors on his less travelled relations as House of Contentment is a euphemism for a brothel. Yet, as the visit continues I consider contentment as a pretty good word to sum up Maurice’s pursuits here. He is a whisky bonder and these old buildings are the bond with rows of maturing casks awaiting their freedom and their drinkers’ contentment.

Daniel O'Connell

And freedom too is associated so much with his family. Daniel O’Connell (1775 – 1847), The Liberator, is one of his ancestors. Daniel fought, with non-violent methods, for Catholic Emancipation. In the early 19th century he became such a thorn in the side of the ruling British that the then PM, Sir Robert Peel, described him as ‘that wayward Irishman’. Maurice decided to take ownership of the insult and so his whiskey company is called Wayward Irish Spirits and their first series is named The Liberator. 

The Liberator whiskeys are finished off here in this 300 year shed, so far in Port pipes, appropriate too in that Maurice’s wife, Francesca is Portuguese. He is very, and rightly, proud of these new releases but the jewel in the crown (if we can use that term in a place that gave the crown so much worry) is yet to come. His plan to have the Lakeview Estate Single Estate Pot Still is well under way. They grow their own barley on the Estate – laying down their first Single Estate Pot Still spirit in early 2019 and then start grain-to-glass distilling on the Estate in 2024. And we were shown some of the casks that have been quietly maturing for over 18 months.

Not always quietly. The lake and mountain setting gives the estate a special microclimate: the famously changeable weather provides lots of variation in barometric pressure, even on an hourly basis - that contributes to cask maturation which depends on these changes. Sometimes, you can feel the pressure if you put a hand on top of a cask. Perhaps the angels are impatient for their share.

They craft their whiskey at the family’s historic Lakeview Estate on the shores of Lough Leane, the largest of the Killarney lakes. The O’Connells, then rising in the political world and easing out of the smuggling, moved to this house in 1820. For centuries before it had been owned by the McCarthys (ancestors of Maurice on his maternal side).

Maurice and his 18-month Pot Still

Before that the O’Connell’s base was in Derrynane, a beautiful natural harbour, difficult to find from the sea and surrounded by mountains. This was an idyllic private kingdom at the edge of Europe, ruled by the O’Connells (from the late 17th century). This they used to advantage and built up a fleet of ships importing wines, spirits and fine silks from France and the Iberian peninsula. The Revenue could never quite penetrate that remote area to get their share. 

The tales still echo. When Maurice approached the Revenue about the new whiskey business and declared who he was, the officer, an amateur historian who knew all about the history of the O’Connells, laughed heartily at the irony of one of the famous family approaching the Revenue in a such an open way.

Maurice did everything right but no one could have foreseen that Covid19 would strike with devastating effect just weeks after the Liberator was launched. “With pubs and bars closed, it’s been a challenge for people to taste and get to know our Whiskeys so we’ll be releasing miniature versions and have also started a partnering program with hotels”.

The micro-distillery scheduled to
be in operation  here in 2024. The
Hilly Field, where the barley grows,
is in the background.


I was lucky enough to taste four samples from Killarney and have included Maurice's tasting commentary.

The Liberator Irish Malt Whiskey in Tawny Port Cask Finish, Batch 2, 45%

"The inaugural release was in March and is now almost sold out. This Batch 2 is now available and is another vatting of 2 Single Malts - 22% of 2006 Cooley Single Malt, matured in Bourbon casks. The rest is 2015 GND Single Malt, firstly in Bourbon and then finished in really fresh Tawny Port cask. To explain that this is pure Malt Whiskey and not a blend, some have called it a Double Malt - twice as good." Just 1,000 bottles, RRP €65.00, 46% abv.

The Liberator Irish Whiskey, Small Batch, Double Port Finish.

"This is a delicious light blended whiskey with a high (42%) Malt content, comprising some 2006 Cooley Single Malt and 2015/16 Double and Triple Distilled GND Single Malt, initially in Bourbon but finished in a range of Tawny and Ruby Port Casks. The Grain is mostly 2015 GND but with some 2010 Cooley, all in Bourbon with some finished in Ruby Port. You'll find on the shelves this autumn. ABV is 45%, RRP €49.00."

 The Liberator Small Batch: Double Port Finish, Cask Strength

"We offered this Cask Strength version of our Small Batch in a recent online tasting and we were blown away by the response so decided to offer it as a small "Storehouse Special" release direct from our website - with some available in specialist Whiskey shops. The initial release is 140 numbered half bottles (350ml), 62.1% abv, RRP €55.00." Available September.

Lakeview Estate Hilly Field Pot Still Strength, Cask 5003 

"This is a work-in-progress from our 2018 Hilly Field barley crop. Harvested in August, small batch malted in Naas, then distilled to our 50/50 mashbill and specification by GND in March 2019. This spent 3 months in Bourbon before transferring to NEOC casks for the last 12 months. (NEOC are First Growth Bordeaux casks, hand shaved with the grain and retoasted). Casked at 62%, this sample was cut to 46% abv for tasting." Not available for sale. Patience!

Whiskey bonding? Maurice explains: Before the days of big brands, merchants and inn keepers would buy spirit from their local distillery and mature it in their own barrels to produce Whiskeys unique to their establishment. This was called Whiskey Bonding and we're at the forefront of the movement to restart this traditional business. 

One of the buildings on site has been earmarked to house their micro-distillery and then we’ll have something special from the fields of the estate, “grain to glass” as Maurice says, with huge anticipation and enthusiasm. Having returned here two years back after a long spell in the UK he is contented: “Never had so much fun.” 


Wayward Irish Spirits, Lakeview, Fossa, Killarney, Co. Kerry, V93 F7Y5, Ireland.


+353 89 422 8836 or +44 7956 317030

Sunday, April 2, 2017

My Favourite: Powers John's Lane Release. plus Cork Whiskey Festival details.

Powers John's Lane Release Whiskey
Cork Whiskey Festival.

From the uncountable volumes written about whiskey, this is the line I always remember: “It makes me sick when I am well, it makes me well when I am sick”. Something of a generalisation, no doubt, and some truth there too.

So, which whiskey - and with an “e”, I’m talking Irish here -  do you want as your cure, as your first choice, as your final choice?

Once upon a time, I thought Paddy was your man, your one and only man. But then I found many more including Powers, Bushmills, Hewitt’s, and Dunphy's, most of them that little bit gentler than Paddy.

But around the same time, it became clear that Irish whiskey was dying. Three white-as-a-sheet bodies got into bed in Midleton as death beckoned. Somehow the last-gasp trio survived. And, thanks to a French kiss, thrived. And, now whole and healthy, continue to thrive. Viva Irish Distillers.

So, now which whiskey would I prefer when an póg beatha is required. It’s got to be that reviving rush, that generous warming wave that reaches the parched shore, that rich and rare one, “droplets of pure pleasure” as one of our greatest bards put it, it’s got to be the magnificent Powers John’s Lane Release Single Pot Still.

Love my Jameson, in all its marvellous manifestations, my Redbreast in all its glorious hues and aromas, the various coloured “spots” of Powers but, when it’s a matter of life and death, John’s Lane’s your only man. Slainte! 

Widely available, including in Bradley's of Cork, and Very Highly Recommended.

The Cork Whiskey Festival begins Monday April 3rd. Get the details of the week-long fest here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Great West Cork Distillery Tour. Beautiful Baltimore

Great West Cork Distillery Tour

Beautiful Baltimore. Bountiful Clonakilty. 

A terrific tour of the West Cork Distillery in Skibbereen was the highlight of the first part of our twenty four hours in West Cork. A twenty four hours that had some changes to the “plan”, a rather loose one admittedly.

First hiccup, if you could call it that, came on the way down when a phone call to Baltimore revealed that the two o’clock trip on the SeaSafari was off as the craft was out of the water for the afternoon and being cleaned up.

So then the Distillery tour, one o’clock start, was pencilled in. Got into Skibbereen in good time and called to a busy Apple Betty’s. Ordered a panini. That was a little slow in coming but it was gorgeous, a terrific filling of bacon, Cashel blue and a fantastic relish. Rushed it a bit and hot footed down the street to the Distillery.

John O'Connell (foreground) in the Distillery
Things didn't look good here as people were coming away rather than going in! Apparently, the Distillery weren't very happy with the time published in the "Taste of West Cork" brochure. Director John O’Connell explained they couldn't do the tour at one but would have “a good one” at three.

It worked out well, at least for us. We headed off in the sun (the weather forecast was not exactly spot-on either) to Baltimore, packed with people who seemed to know more than the forecasters. So packed, we didn't find a space in the car parks.

Off out the road we went to the Beacon and enjoyed marvellous views both on the way and during our walk up to the Baltimore landmark. Great views over the islands, Sherkin the nearest, and back to the little town. Later, we had a pause and a walk by the harbour. Hiccups yes but this day was going very well indeed.
The Beacon
So well, we nearly missed the tour or so we thought. But there was no rush as dozens and dozens of people arrived, the big numbers a surprise to John and his friendly staff. Still we were all settled, with a glass of their Drombeg, perhaps their most famous whiskey so far, and a good one too for this time of day as it is just twenty per cent abv.

John then took us on a walkabout of the distillery where the staff were still working. He took us through the process, from the malted barley coming in, and along the journey to the casks (they use sherry casks) and the bottling at the end.

Great informative stuff and more whiskey before we left, with tastings of their West Cork whiskey, the normal and the cask (57% abv!). If you like your whiskeys flavoured then Kennedy’s is the one for you. You may have it Spiced, Honied, Limed and Chillied! They also do a gin, poitin and a vodka here, under the Two Trees brand. And that’s not all.

The ferry, from Sherkin, just arrived in Baltimore
But that was it for us and we headed through the town and off to the Inchydoney Island for that evening’s magnificent nine course dinner “A Taste of West Cork”, all part of the week long food festival in the area. Read all about it here.

And there was yet more whiskey on arrival as we were pleasantly surprised with a glass of the lovely Irish Mist. Time then for a walk on the fantastic beaches here.

The Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa is a four star hotel on the Wild Atlantic Way but I must say that the facilties and service that we enjoyed there were closer to five star. Great place with great staff. The only hiccup perhaps was a delay at breakfast but I think that was down to the many customers that all came together at about ten o’clock on the Saturday. Hard to legislate for that!

At Apple Betty's
They support local produce here obviously and I enjoyed my Scrambled Egg and Ummera Smoked Salmon before we headed off to Clonakilty in the morning mist. It had dried up by the time we arrived and we wandered through the streets looking for the Lettercollum Project shop.

We found it and it was busy, selling salads, tarts, cheese, wine, nuts, seeds, breads and so much more, much of it based on produce from their walled garden in nearby Lettercollum. We went off with enough salad (mixed beans) and bread for two delicious lunches over the weekend.

And we also found Vic and his organic Dexter beef in the market. The main market is on Friday but you’ll find some stalls operating on Thursday and Saturday. I’ll soon have a separate post up about Vic and his tasty beef but for the latest check out his Facebook page

Our twenty fours in West Cork were up and it was time to head back to the city. But we’ll return. Again and again!