Whisky Magazine Issue 96
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Dave Broom reflects on the changing fortunes of the Irish whiskey market
I took advantage of a quiet moment in the schedule and took a quick wander around the briefly tourist-free interior of the Old Midleton distillery, a place which never fails to summon up a mix of sadness, pleasure and awe. The sheer scale of the endeavour is thrilling even now, its vast rooms and high ceilings, a statement in stone of the confidence of the Irish distilling industry in the 19th century. Yet, the canpit is cold, the old washbacks have gone, the stills, these huge-belied behemoths of burnished copper, lie silent. I rubbed the surface of the pair of spirit stills looking up at their strange flat tops and snaking swan necks and, not for the first time in this room, thought “what if?”
The story of the decline of Irish whiskey has been well documented, but often at the expense of an appreciation of its glory days. Yes, DCL's Willie Ross minuted that it was now “an irrelevance” after he had closed down the last of the distilleries which could have rivalled Scotch, but we tend to overlook another comment from the same man years earlier who, when asked why Irish whiskey was so popular, commented that it was because it was “more consistent” that Scotch. Ross's motivation in other words came from a realisation that his rivals in Ireland had cracked the issue of making a whiskey which the consumer wanted to drink. That whiskey was Single Pot Still. Irish whiskey's fortunes and reputation was built on the back of a triple-distilled, unsmoked whiskey made fro...