By Richard Thomas
One of the clearest markers that the whiskey boom was a worldwide phenomenon was the surging growth of Irish whiskey, measured not just in cases of Jameson shipped but in the revival of Ireland’s very distillery scene. Whereas Irish whiskey-making began the century consolidated around a mere three distilleries, by 2013 one could ask if the country wasn’t poised for a major distillery building boom, and the next year the country abounded with whiskey-making projects great and small.
If the last couple of years were when it seemed big things might happen in Ireland, 2015 is when those things started happening. The opening of Tullamore Dew’s €35 million distillery in September 2014 started the ball rolling, with the momentum really carrying through with four events in 2015:
Teeling Whiskey Distillery Opened In Dublin
When I visited Dublin in November 2014, the city hosted three distillery projects: Alltech’s, Teeling’s and the Dublin Whiskey Company’s (TWC). Of the three, it was clear to me that Teeling Whiskey Company would be the first to open a distillery, and that they did in June 2015.
The Teeling name has been intertwined with Irish whiskey for decades through the Cooley Distillery, founded by John Teeling. His sons Jack and Stephen started their whiskey careers there before starting the TWC. The new distillery is equipped to make malt and pot still whiskey, so grain whiskey will be sourced and most of their spirit will be aged off-site. Even so, TWC has returned whiskey-making to Dublin and given the city a first-rate whiskey tourist attraction in the bargain.
Great Northern Distillery Went Operational
While his sons have been busy in Dublin, John Teeling set his eyes on the Great Northern Brewery, the former home of Harp Beer in Dundalk. In a move similar to his founding of the Cooley Distillery, Teeling bought the old brewery and converted it into a full-service distillery.
Great Northern Distillery went fully operational, producing new make from its pot and column stills, in September 2015. Now John Teeling is positioned to duplicate Cooley, making all three types of Irish whiskey (including peated malt) for both his own brands and as stock for sale to other parties.
Irish Distillers Moved To Revive Old Midleton
This story begins during the consolidation of the Irish whiskey industry during the 1970s slump that effected whiskey producers from Louisville to Orkney into one company, Irish Distillers. In 1975 they opened a new distillery in Cork County, New Midleton, which was to replace production then going on at Powers, Jameson and Old Midleton distilleries. For the next decade, New Midleton and Old Bushmills were the only two working distilleries in the Emerald Isle.
Old Midleton became a visitor center, but in September 2015 Irish Distillers announced they would restore the facility and reopen it as a micro-distillery.
Walsh Whiskey Got Its Copper
Walsh Whiskey, the bottlers behind The Irishman and Writer’s Tears, broke ground on their Carlow County distillery in September 2014. Just a hair over a year later, their construction project reached a major milestone when they received their Forsyth’s-built pot stills. Walsh Whiskey could be experimenting with their new make before 2015 is out.
Between September 2014 and September 2015, three large or medium-sized distilleries opened in Ireland, while a fourth received its major equipment and Ireland’s biggest whiskey-maker announced plans to build its own micro-distillery. The answer to whether Ireland is experiencing a distillery-building boom is a firm “yes.”