Changing of the Old Guard.
This week we’re showcasing Ireland’s most prolific indie bottlers. One theme in common that drives the personalities behind this burgeoning industry? That Do-It-Yourself attitude. Entrepreneurial, well-travelled, with proven track records in the spirits world; Ireland’s indie bottlers are forging their own path and grabbing the bulls by the horn. With innovation comes risk, especially in an industry dominated by just a few large players. Challenging traditional perceptions and palates is their modus operandi and they make no apologies for shaking up the old status quo. Let us introduce you to the movers and shakers.
With 20 years of experience under her belt, industry vet Louise McGuane is leading the charge in whiskey bonding and blending. Working from her family farm (and now rackhouse), Louise and her small team take care of over 100 casks, organising them in ‘blocks’ based on their flavour profile. Each cask is assessed individually, and only when the time is right, blended and bottled. Stock ranges in many styles from multiple distilleries in Ireland, providing a wide selection to draw from. In operation just 6 years, Chapelgate Bonders have released no less than 40+ distinct batches and bottlings, each one quickly being snapped up by ardent collectors.
When they’re not supplying the world with Irish Whiskey through their import company Irish Craft Beverages, these guys are hard at work on their own brand. Founders Donal, Liam and Shane launched Two Stacks in 2020 and have been tantalising and testing taste buds with their bold cask strength bottlings ever since. Two Stacks are hitting all the important indie markers; unique blends, higher ABV and transparent labeling. Handle with care however: their Blender’s Cut series comes in at a bold 63.5%. That makes it the strongest Irish Whiskey range ever released.
Nestled at the foothills of the Mourne mountains, owner operator and former architect Breandán O’Carthaigh has been quietly distilling poitín, gin, and Ireland’s first rum while laying down his future whiskey stock. Brendan is a vocal proponent of regime change with the Irish Whiskey GI, a document that defines what whiskey is under the eyes of EU law. Specifications on the mash bill, he believes, are too restrictive and misrepresent what mash bills were historically distilled in Ireland. While waiting for his ‘non-GI’ whiskey to mature, try out his small batch cask releases…if you can find any.
What began as a desire to create a classy Irish vodka led to some of the most intriguing whiskies to ever hit the Irish scene. Formerly of LVMH, founder Patrick Shelley swiftly crossed the spirits spectrum with a gin, Ornabrak and later Currach whiskey. Very different kinds of drinks, with an epicurean spirit applied to each.
When it comes to single malt Currach Whiskey is their latest innovation, and a world’s first. This fine spirit is distilled at West Cork. distillery and then matured in a totally unique way: seaweed charred cask finish! We can barely imagine how that works but the process is probably pretty pungent. We think the resulting whiskey will be the sort of thing adventurous booze connoisseurs can get excited about. Or any lovers of sushi and ramen – they will relish the umami influence! Keenly awaiting what’s next in store from one of Ireland’s most innovative bottlers.
Established way back in 1999 by Bernard and Rosemary Walsh. Their first foray into the whiskey world began with a coffee liqueur, the Hot Irishman. In 2008 they launched Ireland’s first ever cask strength whiskey; The Irishman. Going ‘against the grain’ the Walsh’s opted for a unique blend of just malt and pot still distillates, omitting the more economical grain based distillate. Deemed the “champagne of whiskey”, The Irishman has grown into a wide range over the years, and is a firm favourite amongst aficionados. From there came the Writer’s Tears range, focusing on single malt and single pot still expressions. Topping it all off, they established their own distillery which manually distilled all styles of whiskey. They have since divested from it and now focus all their energy on their own independent bottlings. Good luck to them!
We also have some of the Walsh’s products available in store, have a look here.
Who Dares Wins
These Irish distillers really make us proud. Each iteration is more innovative and creative than the last. These guys apply themselves to the art of making Irish whiskey using scientific theory, historical recipes, industry experience and their passion for the land around them. It gives a whole depth of meaning to the word ‘craft’; a meaning that is perhaps become a little lost these days.
We hope you manage to try some of their creations and if you do, feel free to let us know what you think!