Whisky Magazine Issue 3
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It is time for Irish whiskey to abolish the blamey and stand on its own three feet, says Jim Murray
It is nearing midnight. A glass of local whiskey sits by my laptop, the bottle half drained. Outside, the wind is howling; if I were daft enough to open the window, even supposing I could in the face of such ferocious winds, I'd be soaked by the salty spray of the Atlantic dashing itself against the the Antrim coast a few hundred yards away. It is a wild, magnificently perfect, whiskey-drinking night.
It was five years ago I first stayed at this hotel. I was researching a tasting guide to Irish whiskey. Since then Irish whiskey sales have shot through the roof. Five years ago Bushmills, just a couple of miles from here, was trundling along nicely but not even breaking sweat. Midleton over at Cork was likewise finding the pace as sleepy as the little town in which it was located while those young upstarts at Cooley weren't too sure whether to stick or bust on the whiskey they had already made, simply through lack of cash. In 1994 they decided not to distil at all.
A lot of poteen has flowed under the bridge since then and things have changed drastically. Bushmills is closer to realising its full potential; Midleton is not only working flat out but now in desperate need of expansion; Cooley has more firm orders now than at any time in its short history and in 1999 will be in production for the best part of the year.
The fact that the quality of virtually every brand (with one or two notable exceptions) has improved over those five years cannot just be a coincidence. And now ...