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Issue 123 - A Phoenix Arising from the Peat

Whisky Magazine Issue 123
October 2014


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A Phoenix Arising from the Peat

Dave attends the opening of Tullamore D.E.W. new distillery

The likes of it had never been seen. As they craned their necks upwards on that morning of 10 May 1785, the Montgolfier rose over the town. A hot air balloon! In Tullamore! They watched as it headed, inexorably, fatally, towards the barracks chimney and crashed into it. The blazing balloon plummeted to the ground setting fire to a thatched house. Soon all of Patrick Street and Kilbride Street were destroyed. Tullamore, the locals proudly attest, was the scene of the world's first air disaster, though those of us with a classical bent would argue that the first was Icarus getting too close to the sun.

Tullamore rebuilt itself. The disaster resulted in the town being rebuilt and becoming an important centre for trade. Its coat of arms still bears the image of a phoenix. A burnished copper image of the same now greets visitors to the town's new distillery. It's a neat symbol not only of the return home of an iconic brand, but also of the fortunes of Irish whiskey.

When William Grant & Sons want to build a distillery, it does so quickly. It took only 18 months to transform the 58 acre greenfield site on the outskirts of Tullamore into a 1.8million litre capacity pot still distillery, with space for further expansion, and a grain plant.

“Of all the sites we looked at, this was undoubtedly the worst,” said John Quinn, Tullamore D. E. W's long-serving brand ambassador. It was, after all, a peat bog. 2,500 piles were put into the ground, 250,000 tons of peat were removed (...

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