Visit #28, September 22, 2016
On a rare “blue-sky” day towards the end of September in County Carlow, Ireland, we visited the newly-opened Walsh Whiskey Distillery. Set on a beautiful estate, home to a mansion that dates back to 1755, Walsh Whiskey Distillery is a prime example of the “new” Irish whiskey producers that are quickly popping up across the country during this Irish whiskey renaissance. Only opened in June, 2016, to the public, the distillery is the latest installment by the Walsh family that started to produce The Irishman back in 2007 through the Irish Distillers.
Located near the River Barrow, the distillery is set in the barley basket of Ireland on a property with 200-year old oak trees. With an natural aquifer 70 meters underground, the distillery sources many of the ingredients necessary to make whiskey locally. This farm concept is important the Walsh family where the owner in the introductory tour video states that the purpose of the distillery is to “get back to what it is about.”
Our high-spirited tour guide for the day was Woody Kane. He met us in the tasting room and guided us through the distillery, step by step. Here are some notes from our tour about the “manual” distillery and its process of making whiskey:
- After the intro video we started with a refresher on the grains that are used by the Walsh Distillery including maize from France
- Grain stored in 60 ton silos / 30 tons a week are used
- Hammer mill and roller mill used to grind the grain
- Mashing is a 3-hour process – 140 degrees for 40 minutes, the heat is released and dropped down to 64-65 degrees for another 40 minutes
- 3 tons per mash, 10,500 liters of water
- They have a cooker that can do 4-5 mashes (this was unfamiliar to me)
- 72 hour fermentation process in 14 washbacks in total producing an 8% ABV wash
- They have a continuous column still which is 22 meters high which runs close to 24 hours a day, the spirit has a very high ABV of new make and the spirit is taken up around 75% high off the still
- The pot stills include a 15,000 liter wash still, a 7,500 liter intermediate still and a 10,000 liter spirit still
- The pot ale tank water is given to the farmers for pig meal
- Barrels used for aging include Bourbon, Sherry & Marsala
Overall, we had a great tour and Woody answered all of our questions. It was great to be able to go through all of the different working stages of the distillery. The workers on site were also very kind with answering questions. Being so new I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it seemed like they had planned out the visitor experience very well.
Our tour ended with a tasting back at the tasting bar near the entrance. We tasted the following whiskies:
- The Founder’s Reserve – 70% single malt & 30% pot still
- Writer’s Tears – Redhead – no age statement, sherry-barreled, single malt
- The Irishman 17 year old – first-filled sherry butt, single cask, single malt
We ended up purchasing a Writer’s Tears and Irishman 17 to be used at a future Saratoga Whiskey Club tasting back in the States. Woody was a great host in the limited time that we had and we appreciated the tour and visit.
Charles’ Notes: We had just spent the entire previous day doing a Whiskey Experience Day at the Dingle Distillery on the Dingle Peninsula. This included hands-on activities and a full day of whiskey knowledge. So I wasn’t sure how excited the group would be to go to another distillery the day after such an experience. But it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise where we learned a lot about another distillery vision with a unique, different story. It was quite amazing to see the scale of the Walsh Distillery. Still shiny new, the distillery was obviously built for a lot of growth with a long-term plan. I remember Woody mentioning that they had a 200-year plan. It was nice to see year One of the distillery being opened. We were also very pleased with the product during the tasting. In fact, the Irishman 17 that we brought back home with us was a very solid whiskey at the tasting that we held with our club. I do look forward to returning to the Walsh Whiskey Distillery at some point in the near to future to check in with them and see what’s next.