Whisky Magazine Issue 81
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Iorwerth Griffiths talks to Ireland's first female master blender.
Bushmills Distillery was first registered in 1784 but it likes to trace its history back further to 1608. Although there is no evidence that the present-day distillery existed in 1608, an exclusive licence to distil was given to a Sir Thomas Phillips to make aqua vitae in a large area that contains the village of Bushmills.
Bushmills is rightly proud of its long history, but does that make it backwardlooking?
Certainly not, and such a view is quickly dispelled on meeting master blender Helen Mulholland, the only woman in the Irish whiskey industry to hold such a high profile role.
Helen hails from Portstewart which is less than 10 miles from the distillery and is therefore very much a local.
She trained as a food technologist and first worked at Bushmills on an industrial placement. Although this was a brief encounter it made its mark, “once you come through the gates at Bushmills and see all the whitewashed buildings, you really don't want to leave.” But she had to leave, to finish her training and to take up her first lab job at Coca Cola Bottlers.
However, she was not away for too long and soon secured a return to the place that had made such an impression by becoming a lab technician at Bushmills.
The only other time she has been away since was for a year to complete her masters degree with the thesis looking at whiskey maturation in wood. There followed a number of managerial posts on the quality and compliance side but things were about to change.
In 2005 Dia...