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Issue 38 - Smooth operators

Whisky Magazine Issue 38
April 2004


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Smooth operators

The Midleton distillery in Cork is the engine room of Irish Distillers and it's like no other distillery on earth. Dominic Roskrow reports

Talk about whisky from islands off the west coast of Scotland and you tend to think Islay, Skye, Mull and Jura.

The biggest western isle of them all is starting to make some serious waves when it comes to the art of distilling.

And perhaps it's time for those that have previously dismissed Irish whiskey as bland, unexciting, limited and staid should take a fresh look at what is happening at Midleton in County Cork.

The distillery – or more accurately distilleries – is at the heart of Ireland's whiskey production, and after years of living in the shadow of its Scottish cousins, there is a growing feeling that the time is right for a coming of age.

All of which is ironic when you consider that Ireland's whiskey story stretches back as far, or further, than Scotland's. It was well-established wherever whisk(e)y was drunk, it enjoyed a dominance in the spirit world, and queens and lords drank its spirits and the likes of Sir Walter Raleigh wrote about it.

But the story of Irish whiskey is a story of hurdles that it spectacularly and disastrously failed to negotiate. And the story of modern Irish whiskey
only starts properly in the late ‘60s and is just seriously impacting now.

“We've got a lot of catching up to do,” admits Midleton chief blender Barry Walsh.

“We have lived in the shadow of Scotland and in the past we did not react to changes as fast as the Scots did.

“But on the other hand we've come an awful long way in recent years, and we're starting to ...

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