A visit to the Irish Whiskey Academy 4/5

18th July 2017

This is the 4th in the 5 part series by Stuart Irvine telling us all about his trip to The Irish Whiskey Academy.

After the excitement of removing whiskey straight from the cask, we had a surprise visitor at the Castlemartyr bar – Midleton’s “Master Blender” Billy Leighton. He took the time out of his busy schedule to come along to say hello and chat with us all. We then headed to Ballymaloe House for a delicious dinner and made our way back to Castlemartyr after to try some of the more unusual whiskeys behind the bar.

The following morning we returned to our classroom to be thrown straight into our blending exercise, a module of the Academy that had been talked about from the moment we found out about it.

We were paired off and sent to our blending stations where we had three very different whiskeys at our disposal.  All necessary tools were provided and off we went creating the next Powers whiskey.

The whiskeys provided for blending were as follows:

12yo Pot Still matured in a 1st fill sherry cask

8yo Grain matured in a virgin oak cask

5yo Pot Still matured in a 2nd fill bourbon cask

For this exercise I was paired up with Frankie, from Bullitt Hotel, and we set about creating two very different blends for sampling.

Naturally you got the chance to sample each component individually, but in the end we settled on a blend that was composed of 50% Grain, 30% Bourbon matured and 20% Sherry matured.

In honour of our time with Carol Quinn, in the Midleton archives, I named my blend “Round Tower”, and you can expect it at a store near you very soon (I wish).

That more or less concluded our time at the Irish Whiskey Academy and as “Enthusiasts” we were presented with a certificate of the course we had completed, named “The Powers Academy”, a bottle of Powers “John’s Lane” and an exclusive Irish Whiskey Academy book.

There was, of course, one last treat in store for all involved as we were led the short walk from the Academy to the on site cooperage for a display from Midleton’s fifth generation master cooper Ger Buckley and his apprentice Killian O’Mahony.

A display from Ger Buckley is without doubt an experience all in itself.  The skills that this man possesses take years to master, as does the knowledge needed to handle the historic tools at his disposal.

But what was abundantly clear, from our demonstration, is that, in the hands of Killian O’Mahony, Midleton’s barrels will be well looked after for years to come.

At this point we went back to the visitor centre to enjoy one last lunch, in the company of Ger and Killian, and afterwards we said our goodbyes to everyone, including our hosts Ciaran and Máire.

A quick look around the gift shop, where a few other bottles may have been purchased, and we were off on the long journey home.

The journey home was filled with excited chat about our whiskey experience at Midleton.

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

Words by Stuart Irvine aka Whisky Belfast.