Teeling Whiskey Distillery

Visit #29, September 24, 2016

teeling-xiv

The last stop on our week-long Ireland distillery adventure was to The Liberties area of Dublin to visit the Teeling Whiskey Distillery.  Dublin was once home to over 30 distilleries, but the last one closed in the mid-70s. Teeling opened just recently in 2015 and is the first new distillery to open in Dublin in the last century.  Similar to some Tullamore D.E.W. branding, Teeling Whiskey uses a phoenix on its labels to represent the return of Irish whiskey to Dublin and to the Teeling family.

teeling-xvi

Our tour started with the history of whiskey in Dublin and in Ireland, its rise and fall and now resurgence across the country.  A video described the roller-coaster ride of Irish whiskey history and the construction of the new Teeling Distillery.  They sure did not hold back on the building of this modern distillery with a very nice gift shop, bar, tasting area and semi-museum of artifacts and timelines.  And the inner workings of the distillery were just as impressive.

teeling-i

Here are some notes from our tour of the “working” area of the distillery:

  • they use a wet mill – the water reduces the risk of explosion
  • 15,000 liter lauter tun used, holds 30 tons of grist at 60 degrees
  • 6 fermentation tanks – 2 wood (for looks) and 4 metal – 30,000 liters each
  • fermentation takes between 3 to 5 days
  • each of their stills has a name
    • Alison is the Wash Still – 15,000 liters – temp at 90 degrees
    • Natalie is the Intermediate Still – 10,000 liters – temp at 84 degrees
    • Rebecca is the Spirit Still – 9,000 liters – temp 78.2 degrees
  • stills come from Siena, Italy – each are 5 tons and valued over $1 million
  • aging is done outside of the city in Louth – too dangerous to mature whiskey in the city due to fire concerns
teeling-ii
Lauter Tun

teeling-iv

teeling-iiiteeling-vteeling-vi

Wooden washbacks in front of metal ones
Wooden washbacks in front of metal ones
teeling-x
Natalie, the Intermediate Still
teeling-viii
Rebecca, the Spirit Still
teeling-xi
Alison, the Wash Still

teeling-ix

teeling-xii
Description of the barrels and aging

Our tour ended with a premier tasting of the following:

  • Teeling Single Malt
  • Teeling Single Cask
  • and a distillery only Single Malt finished in Cabernet casks
The tasting
The tasting

Overall it was a good tour.  Unfortunately it was on a Saturday and the distilling floor was non-operational.  It’s always nice to be able to see the whiskey being made.  It was a very different experience from our other 5 distillery tours in Ireland earlier in the week.  Just being in Dublin made it more crowded and busy.  The tour was on a strict schedule and there was not much time to linger.  We also rushed through the tasting at the end which was less than ideal.  But this is part of being in a big city on a weekend too.  Teeling is becoming a very popular destination and I am glad we were able to see it now in its early stages.

Charles’ Notes:  I had very high expectations for this visit.  It was our last distillery visit during our week in Ireland which included Kilbeggan, Tullamore D.E.W., Jameson Midleton, Dingle, Walsh and Teeling.  But there was something off about the visit.  Our reservation was lost, even though it was guaranteed in advance with a credit card.  The tour felt rushed and the tasting too.  I had read so many great reviews about distillery visits here so maybe my expectations were too high.  Or it’s possible my earlier distillery visits during the week were competing with each other.  But whatever the reason, it seemed off.  I do think they have a good thing going there with lots of potential and I will definitely be back to make another visit on another Ireland distillery tour.  The bar was a very nice touch and the space was well planned out.  I am still a big Teeling fan!  It’s great to witness the new Irish whiskey renaissance.

teeling-xv

Walsh Whiskey Distillery

Visit #28, September 22, 2016

walsh-xv

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.walsh-ii

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.”walsh-xvii

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
walsh-iii
One of the sample bags of grain near the entrance to the working distillery

walsh-iv

walsh-ix

walsh-v
Woody Kane

walsh-vi

walsh-vii

walsh-viii

walsh-x

waslh-xi

walsh-xi

The continuous still
The continuous still
Our group
Our group

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 guide for the day, Woody Kane
Woody starting the tasting

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.walsh-xiv

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.

Matt, pretending it is 1755
Matt, pretending it is 1755

Dingle Distillery – A Whiskey Experience Day (In Pictures)

The highlight distillery visit of my recent Irish whiskey adventure in September was on the Dingle Peninsula on the west coast of Ireland.  The Dingle Distillery, in the town of Dingle, was launched in December of 2012 in the converted Fitzgerald sawmill.  I had arranged for a Whiskey Experience Day, a day of learning about distilling and spending time with some of the operators and managers of the distillery to truly understand their vision of Irish whiskey and the future of unique “frontier” Irish distilleries.  It was perfect timing as well as their new whiskey is set to be released at the end of November.

Our group spent the whole day at the distillery, from 9:30 am until 5:00 pm that afternoon.  The distillery closed for tours that day which made our group of six quite excited and honored.  The host for the day was Michael Walsh, the Production Manager at the distillery.  Michael was an excellent host who explained everything we wanted to know about the distillery and walked us through their entire process of making their whiskey.  We also had “hands on” experiences throughout the process.  Dingle is run by 10 employees, 7 days a week.

Below are photos, videos and descriptions of our Whiskey Experience Day.

Initial Founding Fathers List
Initial Founding Fathers List – the first 500 “investors” of Dingle whiskey
The coarse grist that is used at Dingle
The coarse grist that is used at Dingle
Michael Walsh filling up the Mash Tun
Michael Walsh filling up the Mash Tun
Quite magical!
Quite magical!
An explanation of the mashing process, coffee slowly kicking in...
An explanation of the mashing process, coffee slowly kicking in… only 10:30am
Shutting down the fill of the Mash Tun
Shutting down the fill of the Mash Tun
The stills in the back with the Mash Tun in front and washbacks on the right
The stills in the back with the Mash Tun in front and washbacks on the right
Testing the potency of the fermentation process in the washback
Testing the alcohol levels of the fermentation process in the washback
Michael testing the levels
Michael testing the levels – the yeast is doing its thing
Nice copper stills, only the wash and intermediate stills were running on our day
Nice copper stills, only the wash and intermediate stills were running on our day
The spirit coming off of the wash still
The spirit coming off of the wash still
Matt working the spirit safe
Matt working the spirit safe
Michael explaining the spirit right off the still
Michael explaining the spirit right off the still
Checking the fermentation again
Checking the fermentation again
Barrel love
Barrel love
More barrels all housed on site right now
More barrels all housed on site right now
We got to sample straight from the barrel
We got to sample straight from the barrel
Michael climbing high to get us a dram
Michael climbing high to get us a dram
Samples
Samples
Bottling line
Bottling line
Special bottle of Cask No. 2 - no sample but fun to look at and dream
Special bottle of Cask No. 2 – no sample but fun to look at and dream
Great line of seasonal gins that we did sample
Great line of seasonal gins that we did sample

Here is also a YouTube video link to our day at the Dingle Distillery: Dingle Distillery Visit Day

Overall we had an incredible day with Michael Walsh and the crew at Dingle.  They will be remodeling their entire operation in the coming years so it was great to be there early on to see how they started.  And what fun to taste some of their new whiskey that is coming out in the next few weeks.  I look forward to returning and spending more time with the great folks at Dingle.  They are really headed in the right direction.

 

An Irish Whiskey Perspective

Recently I returned from an 8-night whiskey adventure through Ireland.  The goal of the trip was to understand the history of Irish whiskey, the process of pot and triple distillation, and the reason behind the buzz of new whiskies being released.  My familiarity of Irish whiskey was somewhat limited due to the lack of selection or “interest” in this category at our local drinking establishments in Upstate New York.  Over the last year I had purchased more Irish whiskey out of curiosity including the Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix and Green Spot and had tasted others including the Red Breast line.  But my true interest was getting to Ireland to see first-hand and learn from the source.

Jameson Midleton Distillery
Jameson Midleton Distillery

Over the last year I have visited over 20 distilleries in Scotland and the United States.  Each of these distilleries taught me something different which is why I continue to make plans to visit more.  In Ireland I visited 6 distilleries during my week-long trip.  They included the Kilbeggan Distillery, Tullamore D.E.W., the Jameson Midleton Distillery, the Dingle Distillery, the Walsh Distillery, and the Teeling Distillery.  It was in this order that I visited these distilleries and it worked going from the older traditional distilleries learning about the history of Irish whiskey to the newer ones with their fresh perspectives on the future of Ireland and its whiskey.

The old Kilbeggan water wheel
The old Kilbeggan water wheel

Here are some of my conclusions from this whiskey trip:

  • Irish whiskey is really trying to brand itself. At Tullamore D.E.W. we learned of the fire in the town of Tullamore in 1785 and of the phoenix of their Irish whiskey distillery rising out of the ashes in the early 19th century bringing the town back.  Teeling also uses a phoenix in their branding.  This theme could be seen at each distillery where there was a new hope for the future for Irish whiskey.  They accept some failures or circumstances in the past and are really looking to take off in the future.  The new Irish Whiskey Museum in Dublin had a great section describing the roller coaster ride of their whiskey history.

    The Teeling phoenix
    The Teeling phoenix
  • When visiting the Kilbeggan, Tullamore D.E.W. and Jameson Midleton distilleries, the tours were mostly about the history and past. They all included a detailed process of the stages of creating their whiskies, but they used props or antiquated equipment to show each stage.  There was very little “working” distillery viewing.  In fact, the Tullamore D.E.W. experience was in their old bonded warehouse which was converted into a visitor’s center.  You can visit the actual distillery if you do their high-end day tour, but most visitors are not able to see this.  This was different from many of the distilleries in Scotland or the United States that I had visited.  There is something exciting about seeing the stills in action and the washbacks full of bubbling yeast.  Kilbeggan and Jameson Midleton did have some stills that you could see where they did experimental distilling, but they were not the main working stills.

    Kilbeggan washbacks
    Kilbeggan washbacks
  • “Sourcing” of whiskey in Ireland reminds me of the challenges that some U.S. distilleries face when they are not transparent of where their whiskey comes from. I understand that the Cooley and Midleton distilleries supply many of the newer brands of Irish whiskey, especially the ones that have whiskies labeled over 5 years old.  I remember how big of an issue that became in the United States when this “sourcing” was not clear.  We didn’t visit West Cork Distillers or Hyde, but I would have liked to understand more about their whiskey production.  I understand how difficult it is to start a distillery and the reality of having to wait as your whiskey ages, but if you are coming out with a 10-year old whiskey, it would be nice to know where and by whom it was distilled.

    The "working" distillery at Jameson Midleton.
    The “working” distillery at Jameson Midleton.
  • Triple distillation is truly Irish. If there was one common theme among all of the distilleries we visited, it was triple distillation.  It almost seemed sacrilegious if whiskey was double distilled.  Sorry to the rest of the world… But it does give the Irish a unique way of labeling it “Irish”.

    Wash, Intermediate & Spirit stills at Teeling Distillery
    Wash, Intermediate & Spirit stills at Teeling Distillery
  • There is no love lost with the Scots. The Coffey still was a good example of this.  Invented by the Irish, it was determined that the whiskey distilled by the Coffey still was bland and tasteless.  Mr. Coffey then took his continuous still to Scotland where it was used to produce a lot of whiskey which eventually hurt the Irish through competition.  The other thing that we constantly heard was that “all” Scottish whisky uses peat.  It almost got to the point where I just smiled and laughed inside when I heard this.  But this is the image that they are trying to get across: Scotch is smoky, Irish is smooth and easy to drink.  To each his own…
    The old Coffey stills at Kilbeggan
    The old Coffey stills at Kilbeggan

    The new continuous stills at the Walsh Distillery
    The new continuous stills at the Walsh Distillery
  • It seemed that they all knew each other. It was amazing to see the connections and/or relationships among the distilleries, especially the newer ones.  Maybe this is due to the fact that this new era of Irish whiskey is just starting, or that they all worked together at some point in the past.

    At the Shelbourne Whiskey Bar in Cork
    At the Shelbourne Whiskey Bar in Cork
  • A lot of money is being invested in the new Irish whiskey distilleries. It was amazing to see the new Walsh and Teeling distilleries.  They were the most polished distilleries I had ever seen!  The Walsh distillery was interesting in that they said that this was the beginning of a 120+ year history.  They were looking generations out.  The Tullamore D.E.W. experience was also high tech with videos, lots of different lighting and effects, and a nice tasting room.  We saw Dingle’s plans for the future as well, and they are going to redo their whole visitor experience with a new remodel.

    At the Walsh Distillery
    At the Walsh Distillery
  • The highlight of the trip was the day we spent at the Dingle distillery. Being able to spend an entire day “working” with the crew was unforgettable.  Not only did we get to see and work their process, but we were able to discuss their vision for the future and the industry in general.  They were gracious hosts and I can’t wait to go back to Dingle.

    The Dingle Distillery
    The Dingle Distillery

Overall, it was an incredible trip and I came back with a new appreciation and knowledge for Irish whiskey.  I look forward to returning in a few years to revisit some that I visited and many of the new ones that are just starting.  Here are some interesting bottles that I picked up that we will use for our next tasting with the Saratoga Whiskey Club (www.saratogawhiskeyclub.com).20161002_112345

If you are interested in any of our future trips around the world visiting distilleries, make sure to check out: http://mytraveldirections.com/whiskey-tours/