By Richard Thomas
Originally a pot still whiskey, Tullamore Dew traces its origins to 1829 and the namesake Irish Midlands town of Tullamore. It was only when Daniel E. Williams took over the business in the late 19th Century that the distillery took off, and “Dew” is drawn from Williams’ initials.
Tullamore Dew suffered as whiskey-makers everywhere suffered during Prohibition, but they survived the 1930s and the shortages of the Second World War to rebound in the post-war era. Daniel Williams’ grandson, Edmund Williams, developed Irish Mist in the 1940s, and then moved into blended Irish whiskey. He was also a major figure in making Irish Coffee the drink it is today, and Tullamore Dew is the original whiskey intended for use in it. As a blended Irish whiskey, modern Tullamore Dew is a product of that post-war period.
The Tullamore distillery was closed in 1954, whiskey production moved to Cork and the New Midleton Distillery, and then the label was sold to Powers in the 1960s. As a result, Tullamore Dew became the neglected child of the distillery that made Jamesons, Paddy, and Powers. That was a not uncommon result from the consolidation and busy changing-of-hands in the Irish whiskey industry in the later half of the 20th Century. For many years, there were only two distilleries in the Republic of Ireland, and just one in Northern Ireland.
That incestuous picture began to change in 2007, when the Kilbeggan Distillery reopened. Now Irish whiskey-making is set to expand some more, and Tullamore Dew is at the heart of it. The label was bought by Grant’s in 2010, and although most of the current whiskey that goes into the Tullamore Dew blend is still made at New Midleton, Grant’s has announced their intention to build a new distillery in Tullamore, bringing Tullamore Dew home again.
Tullamore Dew comes in a modest, but easily identified package: a rounded, rectangular bottle with a fairly simple dark green label, topped by a metal screw cap. It is a blend of Irish grain, malt and pot still whiskey, and is bottled at 40% alcohol. Tullamore Dew has no aging statement.
This Irish whiskey has a honey gold look in the glass. On the nose, Tullamore Dew has a sweet, citrus smell mixed with grainy notes. Underneath are some woody, vanilla notes, but you might need to play with the aroma for a while to catch them. The whiskey is sweet, smooth and light on the palate. It has a malty flavor, with hints of woodiness and just a dash of that citrus that was so evident in the aroma. The finish is smooth, and so gently it departs by sneaking away without even so much as a “by your leave.”
Tullamore Dew’s entry-level whiskey is surprisingly complex for a whiskey in its class, and if I had to sum up its character in just a few words, those would be “buttery smooth.” Its qualities make it a natural choice for novice whiskey-lovers, or those who have little interest in smoky or spicy whiskey. In terms of fiction, Stieg Larsson made Tullamore Dew the whiskey of choice for his protagonist Lisbeth Salander, the literal girl with the dragon tattoo.
In the United States, Tullamore Dew is usually available for around $25. In Europe, it typically goes for about €23.
Tullamore Dew has won 21 awards and medals since 1999. In 2008, it picked up a gold at the International Wine and Spirits Competition, and a double gold from the World Spirits Competition.