Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sharing a Dram – John Quinn & Tullamore D.E.W

Tullamore D.E.W & John Quinn
Ireland is a country where its people are know for their love of whisk(e)y. Yet its has always amazed me that you could count the number of the countries distilleries on one hand. Add one more to that handful. On the 27th June 2014, I had the opportunity to interview John Quinn Global, Brand Ambassador for Tullamore D.E.W. At the time we spoke word was the brand was to have its own new distillery due to open in the coming months. That is BIG news in the Irish distilling front yet we have heard nearly no chatter about it locally. Many things will come of this equaling assumed changes in flavour profile (in time as production fully shifts from the current location, New Midleton Distillery), more new unique or experimental expressions, and a significant ramp up in production to name but a few. A curious fact many may not realise is that the site of most of Tullamore D.E.W’s current production, the New Midleton Distillery, is owed by Pernod Ricard, while the brand Tullamore D.E.W is owed by William Grant & Son’s.

An overloaded table of whisky and the nostalgia of the location.
What is exciting about recognising Tullamore D.E.W’s new distillery is what else is going on with the Irish whisk(e)y scene. In this ever expanding whisk(e)y bubble the positive side is that it is allowing distillery after new distillery to either reopen, be reinvented, or appear out of seamless thin air. Not a week goes past when we are no hearing of a new distillery somewhere in the world opening. It is a good thing. But what also comes of it is styles and brands somewhat veiled by their own historical presence on store shelves starting to change things up a little. The true players that have been in it for the long haul start to creep back into our interests expression by expression. Irish whisk(e)y used to be big. Real big. Bigger than scotch before the United states era of Prohibition and it would seem it is making a come back again now. OK so you should know this already. Yet, for all these Irish brands arriving on Australian shelves, many do not realise they are all coming from 1 of 4 distilleries and have a long history of production. Note that several Irish distilleries are on the rise but many have yet to be able to significantly age their spirt to be called whisk(e)y. Exciting times to come.

With John's arrival an intimate dinner staged in the Potting Shed's Lock In room at The Grounds of Alexandria. This is an outstanding location and I highly recommend you make the trip over for a lunch of dinner. On arrival I was amazed at the table setting. It was seriously near to over flow with whisky glasses prepped for tippling. Not 5, not 6, but 8 glasses filled our tasting mats so this was no simple tasting. While enjoying a cocktail named 'The Moondance', I had the opportunity to take in our full surroundings. In the low light deathly shadows were cast across the glassware, as souls of dead animals peered down on us from mounted locations on walls worn brick Vintage brink n brac laced the surrounding tables and cabinets lined with old bottles filled with god knows what (it certainly was not drinkable) gave a sense of historical nostalgia.

John is a easy going lad and you got this sense from the moment he shook your hand. Clearly a confident excitable speaker John began the evening by announcing that this was not to be a sales sales pitch in anyway. Simply speaking he wanted the evening to be a night to discuss and enjoy whisk(e)y surrounded with those of equal mind.

Many whiskies on our mats were in fact samples drawn directly straight from the casks for the evenings enjoyment.

1. Tullamore D.E.W Original 40% ABV: citrus and pineapples with vanilla woods.

2. 71% ABV grain: grapes, molasses and corn. Delivered a real punch.

3. 61% ABV Malt: Generated a intense profile of raspberries and boiled sweets.

4. Pot Still 60% ABV: Intense butterscotch overtones followed by cream, and chocolate. If there was ever a whisky to counter Baileys Irish Cream this would be it.

5. Make your own: I added blended about 60% malt, 20% grain and 20% Pot Still. A really unpleasant attempt at blending. Never use these ratios!

6. Tullamore D.E.W 10yo 40% ABV: Fruit Punch and leather.

7. Tullamore D.E.W 12yo Special Reserve 55% ABV: Smooth silky caramel creams.

8. Tullamore D.E.W Phoenix 55% ABV: Dark chocolate and nuts, rasins, toffee creams, vanilla oaks.

Through the tasting we were served a wide selection of entree sized meals ranging from quail breast to scollops to a rich black pudding. Towards the end John asked us to make up our own blend using the cask drawn whiskies provided. My blend was downright disgusting but delivered a fun exercise in appreciation of the whisky blending craft.

Look a punching bag... John starting taking a few swings at it.
After forcing John to take a few swings at the punching bag we than had a quiet seat to chat. In speaking with John I had queried him specifically on boutique to small batch distilleries in Ireland. John had said there was literally none to mention at the time. Maybe the current distilleries just do such a good job there is no incentive for smaller operations to set up shop. Who knows but it is a curious fact micro distilleries do not yet have a place (yet). Also a fun fact and something to be laughed upon is that John had spent a good deal of time in Australia through the 80's and was the man responsible for introducing the West Coast Cooler. Yes that cooler wine our parents stocked the party fridges with. I thought he was joking at first but the way he had said it was so sincere. “Your probably too young to remember but I was responsible for West Coast Cooler. It was very successful in the 80’s…”. I almost fell off my chair with laughter and promptly told him it was a big hit with my mother and that it is starting to make a come back again in Australia with new branding. John also made comment about how I kept calling the whisky and distillery 'Tully' instead of Tullamore D.E.W. I had to say it is just what we do here in Australia and it is more an endearing term more than anything else.

It was truly a great night and thank you William Grant & Son’s, Weber Shandwick, and of course John Quinn for sharing a dram. Hopefully we will see John back in Australia again soon and he won't be leaving it another 20+ years to return.

The Baron

D.T.W.C. was invited as a guest this event. All views and opinions are our own unless otherwise stated.