This is the 2nd in the 5 part series by Stuart Irvine telling us all about his trip to The Irish Whiskey Academy.
The following morning we were up early, fed a fine breakfast and transferred the short distance to Midleton Distillery where we met Máire, our overall host for our visit. Once we were warmly welcomed we met our Academy host and tutor Ciarán O’Donovan.
Without any further ado we were off on our Irish Whiskey Academy experience which began with a comprehensive tour of the old distillery site. As we walked around, taking in a sense of its history, we were shown that the location of the Irish Whiskey Academy straddles the area between the old distillery and the current production area – almost as if it is a “gateway between the old and new”.
We continued onto to more modern buildings with a glimpse inside the ultra impressive micro distillery, where it seems that the team at Midleton are getting a chance to play at being Willy Wonka when it comes to producing whiskey.
The micro distillery itself is made up of three beautiful stills and while no specific details were given away you certainly got a sense that the ethos is “if it can be done, then we are going to do it”.
From here we were shown around an impressive display of the history of coopering and maturation, and you can really see how much it means to everyone at Midleton distillery to understand this precious whiskey resource and the effect it bestows upon the liquid over many years of maturation. This led on perfectly to our next stop which was a small, but operational, warehouse containing 1000 casks of whiskey and, as with any whiskey warehouse, the smell was out of this world.
Before getting into the serious business of learning all about the Irish whiskey process we were introduced to Carol Quinn, the Midleton archivist, who, as I’m sure you can guess, showed us some treats from the Midleton archives.
This was were we got our first, true specific insight into Powers whiskey, or should I say it’s illustrious history. I was amazed as Carol talked us through the Powers history, telling us stories of how it was once a brand revered the world over from anywhere from France to South Africa to India.
We saw photos and artefacts that highlighted exactly how exclusive this brand once was.
Everything was thought of to showcase this brand, from an enormous, 30ft tall, handmade wooden round tower, that was built in and around the late 1800’s and was covered with bottles of Powers whiskey, to even the original Powers labels themselves that achieved their golden colour from ground down bronze, which was a very expensive process when this first began, also in the late 1800’s.
When hearing the history of this iconic brand it is clear to see why those at Midleton want to keep it’s name alive and, in turn, why it is now beginning to experience a renaissance as a brand that epitomises quality.
It was also a pleasure to hear the Bullitt team quiz Carol at length on anything that came to mind. Coming from a background that would encompass all form of spirits you could tell that they were certainly impressed with the unique story that Powers whiskey had to tell.
From the archives we returned to the Irish Whiskey Academy itself and began our tuition at the hands of our learned teacher Ciarán.
Here we were taken, at great length, through every facet of the Irish whiskey making process…
Keep your eyes peeled for the third instalment of this 5 part series.
Words by Stuart Irvine aka Whisky Belfast.