Back in 1954, the distillery for Tullamore D.E.W. Irish whiskey shuttered its doors in midland Ireland’s town of Tullamore. Production didn’t cease, but rather shifted to the famed Midleton Distillery, home of many other Irish whiskies. When the family-run independent distilling organization William Grant & Sons purchased the brand in 2010, they knew it deserved its own home—in its origin city. Some €35 million later, the new state-of-the-art Tullamore D.E.W. pot still and malt distillery opened yesterday on a sprawling 58 acre site, awash with green grass and surrounded by forests of evergreens. And so, production commenced in a new home for one of Ireland’s most popular global products.
The facility represents a marriage of the brand’s 185-year-old history and an increasing demand for product. While the copper stills are sparkling and new, each is a replica of the original models used to produce the spirit. In fact, all technological advances incorporated into the new location are designed to preserve the taste the brand has become known for, as the latest computer technology simply oversees balance and consistency (first and foremost) across what will become over 1.84 million liters—equivalent to 1.5 million cases—annually.
Tullamore D.E.W.’s Master Blender Brian Kinsman—the nose behind the consistency and the imagination behind product development—offered plenty of insight into the value of a new distillery, from the ability to master consistency to the opportunity to explore the next great flavor profile for their roster. Balance is what’s most important to Kinsman, “We’ve built this facility to make the spirit quality we need in order to produce the best Tullamore D.E.W., but over the next few months we are going to have to spend a lot of time on each stage making sure everything is just right. By December, we can say ‘This is how we will run the distillery.'”
Longevity, he tells CH, is the end game. “All the new distillate, some of it will be kept for 10, 12, 20 or 30 years. So we need to be doing the right thing today. It’s quality control, but with an eye for what we’ll need to use it for: interesting things that we think someday someone will want to buy.” He further notes that there was a great impetus for having their own distillery for true exploration in flavor—outside the limitations of producing in someone else’s location.
Sometimes the chemical analysis says it’s a pass, but sense tells us it’s a fail. Sometimes sense tells us it’s a fail but the chemical analysis says it’s a pass. Sense always wins.
Despite all advances though, Kinsman makes something very clear: “We do a lot of analysis on the whiskey before bottling. Sometimes the chemical analysis says it’s a pass, but sense tells us it’s a fail. Sometimes sense tells us it’s a fail but the chemical analysis says it’s a pass. Sense always wins,” he shares. As for their offerings, Tullamore D.E.W.’s core expressions are the only in Ireland to be triple distilled, triple blends. The latter means that most of their core expressions are combinations of three types of whiskey: a very fruity malt whiskey, a sweet and oaky grain whiskey, and the spice of pot still whiskey. (Each of which has been aged for at least four years in either an American oak bourbon cask or a Spanish Sherry cask.) He explains the process behind blending as “thinking of each flavor as a spike, when you want to build a ball. You place them opposite one another and then you fill in the gaps and build on that.”
Tullamore D.E.W. produces six expressions: four core offerings, one available only in their Bonded Warehouse visitors’ center and one limited release accompanying the distillery launch. Of their four widely available offerings, bothTullamore D.E.W. Original and Tullamore D.E.W. 12-Year-Old Special Reserve most closely embody the true spirit of traditional Irish blended whiskey—spicy with citrus notes, complex yet smooth. Last year’s warm, rich release Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix, one of our eight favorite fall expressions of 2013, clocks in at a much higher proof, but doesn’t sacrifice any of the complexity. The fourth, the Tullamore D.E.W. 10-Year-Old Single Malt, foregoes the other two base spirits and impresses with a remarkable four cask aging process.
Irish whiskey is not Scotch. Ireland’s offerings are generally lighter, leafier and fruitier, with greater notes of green apple and cream. As worldwide interest in Irish whiskey continues to revitalize, Tullamore D.E.W. has invested in their longterm future with an eye for production, innovation and quality. That’s something whiskey drinkers can raise a glass to all around the globe.
Images by David Graver