A visit to the Irish Whiskey Academy 3/5

27th June 2017

This is the 3rd in the 5 part series by Stuart Irvine telling us all about his trip to The Irish Whiskey Academy.

To begin we looked at the raw materials used and how they are brought together in the brewing and fermentation process.  This included a chance to get back out on site and see for ourselves the huge storage areas where the grains are delivered to, along with a look inside the brewhouse and the “Barry Crockett” stillhouse.

Normally the “Barry Crockett” stillhouse would be off limits to any visitors but, as Midleton’s newer “Garden” stillhouse was undergoing some work to install new stills, we were granted a one off opportunity.  

Here we got a chance to see Midleton distillation happening before our eyes and it’s impressive to think that every bottle of Jameson, Powers, Redbreast, Midleton VR, and so on, that you see, on every shelf around the world, all originated from this stillhouse. 

This is of course due to the fact that any spirit distilled in the “Garden” stillhouse will take time to mature into whiskey that is ready to be included in one of these brands.

From here we were back to the Academy for an in depth discussion into pot distillation along with a chance to taste some very unique liquids. 

From memory, I believe it was explained that the normal tasting, at this stage of the Academy, would be made up from standard components of what may be Jameson but our host Ciaran went a little further to try and secure some components of what would be used to create those whiskeys we would see with the Powers label upon them.

If ever there was chance to really see what brings Powers Whiskey together then this was it.

For this tasting we were given a sample of the following:

New make Pot Still

New make Grain

10yo Pot Still distilled in 2006 and matured in a 1st fill bourbon cask

10yo Grain distilled in 2006 and matured in a 1st fill bourbon cask

10yo Pot Still distilled in 2006 and matured in a 1st fill sherry cask

8yo Pot Still distilled in 2008 and matured in a virgin oak cask

Not only did this give all involved a real insight into Powers whiskey but also how the different styles of whiskey and maturation can really change how the final bottle will turn out.  

As you can imagine, after that extensive tasting, we were treated to some much needed lunch before heading back to the classroom to learn about grain whiskey distillation and the maturation process, which covered all the (known) woods that are currently being used at the Midleton distillery.

With all the theory of Irish whiskey making covered it seemed about time to have some more samples and sure enough it was.  This time however we were heading downstairs to the tasting room to be taken through the Powers whiskey range itself.

This was now a chance to see how the components, that were tasted earlier, have been brought together to create the various styles of Powers that we now see in most bars.

For this tasting we had:

Powers Gold Label

Powers 12 year old

Powers Three Swallow

Powers Signature

Powers John’s Lane

For me, this was the first time I had ever had the chance to try the full range side by side and to say it was enjoyable would be an understatement.  Powers whiskey may have been overlooked for many a recent year but with this range of whiskeys behind them they can challenge any brand behind any bar.

Chatting to the team from Bullitt you could also see them developing a new found appreciation for the whiskey in front of them with each person having a very different and interesting view on the flavours they were finding within the spirit.

I daresay you may see a few new Powers cocktails coming very soon.

Now after the component tasting, and the Powers tasting, I’m sure you can guess what it was time for now….yes, that’s right, more whiskey, only this time it wasn’t in the classroom or in the opulent tasting room.

No, this time we were transported into the minor village that is made up by the Midleton warehouses and I’m not joking when I call it a minor village as there are around 45 warehouses on site storing a combined total of over 1.2 million casks of whiskey. Yes, you read that right… 

For this final experience of Day One we were taken into warehouse 39b and allowed to sample two whiskeys straight from the cask. 

For this tasting we were treated to:

Pot Still whiskey distilled in 1991 and matured in a 1st fill bourbon cask until 2005 when it was re-casked into another 1st fill bourbon cask.

Pot Still whiskey distilled in 1998 and matured in a 1st fill sherry cask

Words cannot express the excitement that is felt when, as a whiskey lover, you are allowed to remove and taste whiskey, straight from the cask, in the warehouse in which it has been maturing.  

I’ve experienced this on several different occasions and I can tell you it never gets old and all I can say is that if you ever get the chance to do this, anywhere in the world, jump at the opportunity.

That concluded our first day at the Irish Whiskey Academy and it was time to head back to Castlemartyr for a couple of hours rest before the evening ahead…

Keep your eyes peeled for the 4th instalment of this 5 part series.

Words by Stuart Irvine aka Whisky Belfast.