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Issue 70 - The Cooley effect

Whisky Magazine Issue 70
February 2008


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The Cooley effect

In the second of three features asking ‘what is Irish whiskey? 'Dave Broom gets caught up in Cooley

Now, mind your head!” Just as well he said that. The roof beams could have delivered a nasty crack to the skull as we wander further into the gloom, the sonorous voice of the guide almost drowned out by the burbling of the steam engine which is now giving it mighty licks.

We emerge, blinking slightly, from behind the inner workings of the water wheel into a moist Irish afternoon. The river glides sluggishly past water meadows green and dotted with flowers.

Lacy traceries of black mould are draped like mantillas over the whitewashed stone showing that there's alcohol in the air.

There's stories too, stories which encompass stolen cows, pig farming, industrial architecture, republican pubs, steam engines and water wheels. This isn't a tale, as you might have gathered, which is going to run in a straight line.

This is not surprising, as we're talking about Cooley for whom the convoluted and surprising has been the norm.

Take the three stills that Peter Mulryan and I are now looking at. They have the big-bellied, short-necked look of a trio of prosperous country squires whose girth is a signifier for their prosperity, or to be strictly accurate, former prosperity. These days they are cold and green with verdegris. They're the perfect example of the lost days of Irish whiskey and how this distillery, in narrow-streeted Kilbeggan was another of the victims of the cruellest run of luck, bad management and government interference ever to beset a whiskey industry.

That we are ...

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