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Issue 29 - The King of Cooley

Whisky Magazine Issue 29
March 2003


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The King of Cooley

Dr John Teeling is teetotal, he runs on caffeine, and he's making waves in the world of Irish whiskey. Peter Mulryan talks to the man behind the company

Depending on which part of the whiskey industry you work in, time is either your friend or your enemy. To a master blender, it's a decade before some whiskeys start to get interesting, on the other hand, if you're an investor, 10 or even 15 years is a hell of a wait for a return.

“There's no business like it in the world,” says Dr John Teeling, chairman and founder of Cooley Distillery. “For three years you do nothing but spend money and you can't sell anything. If I knew then what I know now … ”

He laughs, empties a paper cup and glances at his watch. His flight to Dublin leaves in 10 minutes, time for one more diet coke.

I've met John Teeling now on numerous occasions and I'm convinced he runs on caffeine. When he's not guest lecturing at Cork University, he's playing international over-40s rugby, drilling for oil, digging for gold and, of course, running Ireland's only independent distillery, situated on the Cooley peninsula in County Louth.

Oh, and he's a teetotaller.

“No other business like it … ”

He's back, picking up the conversation exactly where he left off.

“You see, in my innocence I thought we could bottle the stuff after exactly three years and a day!” He laughs again.

The year is 1992, the location John Locke's picture-postcard distillery in Kilbeggan in the Irish midlands. These are the oldest distillery buildings on the island, and although no whiskey has been made here since the 1950s, this is where Cooley matures its stock.

The ...

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