Ep. 84 - What Is The Best Irish Whiskey? It is Awards Season
ALLAN DWYER // Irish Whiskey Society of America
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It's that time of year again, when we start to think back on the best of the best from the past year. In today's episode, Allan Dwyer, president of the IWSA will go through the history of the organization from the early days, how he's seen Irish whiskey grow over the last decade, and then will fill us in on how we can vote for our favorite Irish whiskey of the year.
We'll also talk a bit about our experiences on the Irish whiskey trail and I've got a special offer for the holiday season for those wanting to grab a copy of my new book Whiskey Lore's Travel Guide to Experiencing Irish Whiskey. Slainte!
Listen to the full episode with the player above or find it on Spotify, Apple or your favorite podcast app under "Whiskey Lore: The Interviews." The full transcript and resources talked about in this episode are available on the tab(s) above.
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Welcome to Whiskey Lore, the interviews. I'm your host, Drew Hannush, the Amazon bestselling author of Whiskey LO's Travel Guide to Experiencing Kentucky Bourbon and also the Best selling Whiskey Lord's Travel Guide to Experiencing Irish Whiskey. And listen at the end of the show today because I have a special offer for you guys on that book, a personalized offer. So check that out. But right now we're gonna get into another discussion about Irish whiskey and we're gonna be talking about the first annual Irish Whiskey Society of America Awards that are known as the S and here to talk about it will be my guest, the President of the Society a Dwyer. And think of this my Bracketology, where this is somewhat of a People's Choice Award for, in this case, Irish whiskey. Alan, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me, I appreciate
It. Sure, sure. So let's talk a little bit and get people acquainted first of all with who you are and your background here and the association as well.
Yeah, so I'm president of the I W S A, as you said we started in 2010, so we've been around about a dozen years now. We started out with the, we're the chapter of the original society that started in Dublin back in 2009. So we cover the entire US and I was one of the founding members back in Boston back in 2010 when it kind of, few of us met in a pub that's no longer with us in Boston. It's now I think condos.
<laugh>. But we've survived. So I think back then we used to say ahead of the game because there were only four distilleries and only small handful of Irish whiskeys. So we were always trying to be creative and find new ways to put a spin on the few things that you could actually get here in the States. So lots changed in the last 12 years with the last five or so in particular, just the explosion of distilleries and whiskeys. So it gives us a lot more options of things we can do with our members and the s being one of them.
I can't imagine. So those early days we were probably talking Jameson, you had probably kras, Coben and Bush
Mills. Yeah, really the big, you had Jam Middleton, Bush Mills and Cooley Kill begging with the distillery. So you had your single malts from Bush Mills, you had your single pot stills from Middleton and then kind of Cooley came along. It was kind of the innovator trying to find their own little place. So they had a little bit of everything did things a little bit differently. But yeah, those first few years were limited I
Yeah, didn't stop us. It was still fun, but we were definitely kind of ahead of the game in terms compared to today.
Yeah, you had the double issue of at least these were big brands and pin over card, having their spread across the globe helped at least get their brands easily available. And then when Beam sent Tori took over Cooley, then that added assistance. But you were basically probably trying to promote just a few bottles and how do you entice people to come in and say, of course you're in Boston so you have plenty of Irish people around to get stoked about it. Yeah,
Yeah. Back then it was challenging. It was easy to get people to come out once but the challenge was repeat customers getting them to stay involved when like you said, you had Jameson and back then you had really only one single pot still here in the States and that was Red Breast and it was Red breast 12. So again, this goes back before you had the 15, 21, 20, all the different varieties of red breast you have now, you didn't have green spot wasn't available here. Yeah. So it, you know, look back and comparatively it was very much limited. And just to be fair in Boston we kind of have it good but a lot of the states still have somewhat limited availability of things because of the tough distribution and rules getting into all the states. For the foreign companies it's a lot easier for Beam and Pernow some of the big players to get their products in every state. But I think that's still the biggest challenge for a lot of the newer Irish whiskey makers.
So how have you seen the organization spreading out? So do you have satellite clubs across the US or
No? No, not at this point, but we do have members in I haven't done a count lately, but 35 to 40 states anyway. <affirmative> are represented. Some have bigger concentrations than others. But no, I think I might explore the satellite idea if we got a large enough contingent within a particular state or area. But at this point we're just still basing it out of Boston basically.
Yeah. So is it mostly a get together or is what
Are your actions? Well it's a combination of things. So I would say it keeps evolving <affirmative> and C was a big part of that, but started off with tastings I would say, and then evolved into using the Zoom tech type technology and so we could expand the tasting idea across the whole country. Covid kind of created a little bit of Zoom fatigue I think for some <laugh>, but that was kind of a way to expand the reach so that everybody could kind of participate. But I think the other things that we do are things like, so we did a bottling this year for example, to celebrate our anniversary. We have a cast at the Powers Court distillery, so members can visit that and down the road we'll be able to release that as a bottling from members. And we do virtual tastings throughout the year with the different distillers or whiskey providers that can get the whiskey in the hands of people. So we have a big trip planned for May of next year. So that'll coincide with Whiskey Live Dublin. So those are some of the highlights of what we do. It's all about trying to bring people together. I think that's why we started in the first place, get together and share a whiskey.
So finding different ways to do that, whatever way you can I guess.
So what was the moment when you said got that feeling like what this Irish whiskey industry is actually starting to show some signs of coming out of its shell?
Yeah, I would say, I don't, don't fact check me on my date, but <laugh> probably around 2012 within that plus or minus six month window of that timeframe is when everything really started to take off. I think you already mentioned one, but you had the acquisition by being of Cooley, which at the time was people weren't sure what to make of that because they didn't know if that was gonna be a good thing or a bad thing. It turned out to be arguably a good thing because it not only put the distiller in the hands of a global player but it also provided a lot of capital and stock for the Teals. And from that you got the Teling distillery and the Great Northern Distillery and John Tilling turned, took his business formula of supplying sourcing whiskey and from that mushroomed all these other whiskey providers.
So some of the new distilleries are sourcing from Great Northern, but a lot of the private bonders and bottlers are doing that as well. So it actually created a lot more providers of whiskey out of that. So that was a bit pretty big event when you look back, it also coincided with the first new distillery really at the time, which was Dingle came out and then you had down in Middleton they really started the push and of the single pot still style. So again, you know had, again within six months plus or minus of all these events, you had the release of the Powers John's Lane, which was the first new single pot still. So at the time you had red breasts and green spot and green spot, you could only get really in Dublin. So they came out with John's Lane. That was a huge success. And then pretty quickly in that same time vicinity Green Spot became available in the usa. So suddenly you had the still range hitting the states and then they followed that up pretty quickly with Yellow Spot and there it really started to take off with some of the newer distilleries and expansion. So that was really, if you wanted to pinpoint a year, I would argue it's right around that 2012 period when all those things were happening
And actually mean once I got back from Ireland I found myself craving pot still whiskey and I had not really, well I think it's probably the largest barrier for any non Irish whiskey drinker to figure out exactly what that is because the name is a little bit misleading in terms of what it is and I don't think people go, I love Red breast, but if you ask them what type of whiskey it was, they would just say it's Irish whiskey. They probably don't even know that it's a pot still whiskey the average person.
And at the time, I mean that became very popular at a time when there weren't other single pot still varieties really, if you go back a hundred, 200 years everything was single pot still in Ireland that was the style. So probably I guess didn't make sense to promote the style when there weren't really others within that style to compare to. But now I think they can do that. Red breast kind of stands on its own of course, but I think you get more of the emphasis on what it is cuz that is unique to Ireland. Most people aren't going to be familiar with it. So I think there's still a learning curve to drinkers even in people that are familiar with Irish whiskey and it because unless you go on a tour or really into the educational part of it, it's not gonna get it by looking at a bottle in the label. But the unmalted barley component that gives you that creamy and spice aspect in addition to the malted barley component that makes it unique.
Yeah, it's fun to see the messing with the rules a little bit too and trying to get still the rules changed after having them established back
To where it was. Yeah, exactly. Really where it was. So it, it's fairly restrictive right now but seems like that there's the groundswell to get that changed is underway. So in the next couple years, you know may see that the technical file be altered to include. Cause there have been a few releases in the last couple years that when they laid it down in the cast it was a single pot still and upon release they couldn't call it that anymore. But people that in the know that drink it kind of know what it is and
Technically can't call it that but
It's kind of the fun of it. I mean you talked about before we got on the interview that you were headed Tom and I got to taste one of the whiskeys that they were working on that isn't necessarily, unless the rules change gonna have to be labeled as something besides single pot still because it just doesn't or it doesn't fit the code. But in the end, I think for us as whiskey drinkers sometimes we maybe pay too much attention to the name on the label and should be putting a little more focus on what the taste is. And I mean I do this with Red Breast, that's a lot of people because that's what they know. They'll say, oh best Irish whiskey is red breast. And I go, well I just came back from Ireland and I had a lot of whiskeys that were younger than that that I am just floored by that. I think once they get over here people are going to just be amazed by the quality of the whiskey.
The next few years are gonna be really interesting because the last, let's say five years, you've had all the new distilleries being built and they're laying down, they're stuck, but there's only a handful that have actually released young whiskey at this point and a lot of it has been met very favorably, but over the next three to five years you're gonna have a whole nother, another 10 that'll start releasing probably plus the ones that already are a dingle are gonna have more, they're gonna actually have double digit potential age statement type stuff that they can release. So you're gonna see, and what'll be interesting is people that have been drinking Irish whiskey for a long time conditioned might not be the right word, but they're just used to drinking stuff from Middleton or single malt from Mills.
So now you're gonna have things that have a much different flavor profile potentially we'll see, but there's different notes, you can already see it with some of the ones that have released stuff that it's definitely unique and some people take to it and some people don't that the newer drinkers though don't know any better. Not like, oh it doesn't taste like Middleton so I don't like it. Yeah, they haven't had that yet. So to them it's just gonna be, this is good. So it, it'll be a real interesting time. I'm looking forward to it as some of these new guys are able to put their stuff out.
Have you seen that a bit in your own club when people are tasting it, they're kinda used to a traditional flavor and
Yeah, I think some people are it and everybody's different, but some people I think are looking for new because it'll be kind of like a lot of the stuff is sourced right now. So unless you are drinking a Middleton pot still or a bush mill single malt, a lot of that stuff you're drinking is actually sourced. So it is similar, it's the same base spirit maybe finished in different wine casts or things like that and there's a story in marketing behind it. So haven't had people say, can we do something that's not from Great Northern and that's nothing against them but just they want to have something. So I did a tasting over the summer and the theme was specifically things that aren't sourced. So it was all the new players. So, and that was fun just to see, so some of this stuff might only be three four year old whiskey, but you can get a sense of this is what's coming.
Buster's a good example of a distillery that is finally using its own JU or that is using its own juice and that they have tried to be 100% their own Jews for the Busker brand. So it's
A number of them. So yeah, Waterford's got their own stuff out, which people I think, and you can see that that's unique in that it's theirs, they've, they're really trying to do something different there. So that's I think been well received. But there are some others drum shambo Dingle that cannot lease release something over the last year. So they're coming.
And I think most of them people have been pretty favorable. Sometimes you hear, oh that's too young. But I think people still overall appreciate the fact that they're leasing something
And they're getting somewhere
To give you an idea of what's to come as long as you understand this is a young whiskey.
I was there some was that 2019, beginning of 2019 and I went to Dingle and they had their batch four out at that time and that was exactly my comment was, it's a little young but I see where this is going and I like where this is going. So I think people with a little imagination can get past the rough edges and say, yes, I can appreciate where you're going with this and I will check back in. The danger is that you release something that's not so great that people can't get past whatever the defect is in it and then they just don't ever come back again.
So I think that that's definitely the risk. I think a lot of them have tried to say, come with us and let's experience this together. So you've seen where some are releasing more or less the same thing each year. So you can say here it was three years, four years, five years and come experience the progression with us. So that's, it does require you to go along for the ride. And I think it depends on what your background is in terms of maybe your whiskey drinking experience if you have one. So if you're new to it, you probably don't have any preconceived ideas or notions. If you're a scotch drinker and you're trying any of this stuff, you probably think it's just way too young and doesn't stand up and things like that. Or particularly with some of the new stuff in the peak area. So you're seeing that slowly come back again, traditional Irish whiskey but if you're a a Laf Freid fan, you probably think none of this stuff stands up <laugh>. You know what I mean? But it's
It's not trying to be that they're not trying, I think you need to, it's a whole new generation of Irish whiskey drinkers in Ireland as well. So
I felt like I had to get past my scotch bias bias as well when I first went, because before I went to Ireland I said, boy I can't wait till they start coming out with single malts because that will show that they've arrived. Well that is a mindset of a scotch drinker coming to Ireland when after I left Ireland I went, boy the SCOs can't make pot, single pot still whiskey. And how sad for them because this is a great whiskey and it's going to be the thing that will likely set Ireland apart beyond the fact that, I mean there's just a lot of creativity going on there right now. No, and when you look at a place like our draw and the fact that with Silky that he is going to only do peed whiskeys, but that he's also trying to bring a mellower and more woodsy character to it rather than a medicinal character to it, then it really gives the whiskey drinker a chance to expand their pallet and go beyond. And maybe even, I've talked about this with another guest that maybe there's a day that we start walking into our local whiskey retailer and we just have a single malt section. It doesn't not split up by countries. And then we have a single pot still section and it's going to be mostly Irish, although we have Tella in the US that's making a single pot still. So maybe it evolves that way.
Yeah, it's definitely evolving and a lot of it is capturing the younger new drinker. I don't think they're trying to necessarily convert your diehard bourbon or scotch drinker over a certain age. They'd love it if you came along, but that's probably not the target at this point.
That's my job, <laugh> my job is to say, hey bourbon drinker, there is something else. Hey Scott's drinker, there is something else.
But that a lot of people, they have their brand so for every person that wants to try everything that's new, you know, have the people that are tried and true to their brand and that's fine. Yeah, whatever works for you, it's all good.
Exactly. So let's talk about the Irish Whiskey Society and these Izzy Awards. So how did this come about? Cuz this is first annual, so I hear.
Yeah, so this is our inaugural awards program. So the idea of awards type programs is certainly not new and there have been Irish Whiskey awards going on in Ireland for several years. They're very good. I've attended them a few times. So what's different about this is that it's like everything kind of that we do, our tagline is celebrating Irish whiskey in the usa. So we try to do everything with the USA and the American consumer in mind. So I think what's a little bit unique about the S and that's just a play on the I W S A. Okay so kind of like the Grammys and the Emmys. So what it is, it's looking at Irish whiskeys that are available in the usa. So there are certainly newer stuff and things that have not come over here yet that technically are not really eligible <affirmative>. So the idea was we've had this explosion from four to 40 plus distilleries over the last 5, 6, 7 years and plenty of other private labels and bonders and bottlers. So with everything that's happening it made sense to do it. Now I think if we had tried to do this five years ago it would've been a show but showdown between Milton and <laugh>.
So now we are able to expand and have a lot of different categories, a lot of different potential contestants or nominees. So the timing felt right and I think part of it goes back to we're just trying to bring everyone together so we can't always get together in person and share a whiskey, but we can do it through either virtual events or things like this. So part of the idea of this too was it's not about what I think it's put it out there, let everybody, right now we're in the nomination phase and we didn't limit it to I W S A members so we put it out there to the overall community so anybody can nominate and we're gonna let anybody vote.
So I guess the only restriction is, and can't really police it per se, but we're trying to restrict it to American or people residing in the us. You don't have to be a citizen per se, but so US based 21 year plus that way we're not getting the brand ambassadors in Ireland voting for their own product, that kinda
Thing. <laugh>, not that they would do that, they wouldn't do that.
So part of it is, I think you said up front try to let the people decide and cuz it's really about your favorite is how we framed it with the various categories that we have. So just starting with the four styles. So what's your favorite single grain, favorite single malt? Favorite single, still favorite blend? Then from there we can do now favorite peed expression, which there are plenty now to choose from. We've got favorite Irish cream, Leco favorite distillery favorite pub in the states, Irish. Then we kind of broke it down a little bit further to not limiting it to style, we did favorite everyday drinker, kind of did a price breakdown. So 30 cut off, $35 and under premium up to a hundred. And then super premium over a hundred to give everybody kind of a fair shot. So you weren't necessarily going up against Red Breast 27 or something like
So we've got 13 categories in all. So I think we tried to cover the full spectrum of what's out there and
I looked at the list and actually as I was cruising down through it, I was thinking there was a category and I was going, oh, a single malt. And I was like oh no limb of oti. And then I went down the list and then it was in another category. There we go. <laugh>. Yeah,
That was new. So the challenge was, and again it'll evolve, we'll figure it out, but you obviously can't list every single whiskey in every category. So we tried to again, US based, so what has distribution and is available here first and foremost, but if you weren't listed in every category, we tried to make sure everybody was at least listed once and we gave, again, we're in the nomination phase, everything has a write in component. So yeah, part of it was to list six or seven to give people an easy way so it didn't take you all day, it takes about two minutes to fill out the ballot, but if you felt strongly and Luva was your favorite single malt, you can easily just click that button and write it in. So we got plenty, we've gotten plenty of write ins, so that's been good too.
Yeah, well it stretches you too. And it also shows you what is available across the states cuz I think that's the I'm in a control state so we get what we get but then I go to Kentucky and I'm like, wow, look at all of this scotch and Irish whiskey I can afford. Yeah, <laugh>.
So some states definitely have much more allocation than others for Irish whiskey as well. So it kind of knew that was going to play a little bit of a role cuz California for example, gets quite a bit more than most actually I would say arguably they probably get a wider selection than most.
And some of the challenges, I do a thing called Bracketology every December through March and it's basically 128 nominated whiskeys put into brackets and then voted on all the way down to the winter. Red breast is almost always in the final four every time and it's like, oh man, if I could just get you guys to try something else. And that's part of the issue sometimes is that you will because everybody has access to it, it's gonna give it a slightly unfair advantage over everything else. But you hope that the true Irish whiskey fan is dabbling in more than just red breast.
And I'm optimistic about that based on the awards. So ceremonies that I've seen in Ireland the last couple years, the one that just finished a couple weeks ago Danville's won for Irish Whiskey of the Year. So I don't know if anyone has had it knows its quality stuff, but I don't know if anyone would've predicted that that was gonna take Home <laugh> the top prize. So that's a good sign that I think people are looking to branch out now. Maybe not so much here in the States yet, but it's a lag is what we found. And Red Breasts is tough, it's one of the best whiskeys in the world, so it's tough to beat. I mean when we do red breast at a tasting it's almost like one of the questions I always ask is, what was your favorite of the day? And it's hard to beat when you have red breast in the lineup is what we found. But that's why one of the categories we have is favorite new whiskey available this year. So that category will change every year. So next year it'll be all new, hopefully it'll be a bunch of new ones again, if I don't know, we'll figure it out. We have creative license, I suppose if we find that a particular whiskey's winning every single year, maybe we'll just retire it and put it in the Hall of fame and that way we can try to and expand people a little bit so it doesn't become boring.
Yeah, I like that idea because I've actually been thinking about retiring red breast and I mean Laf Freud was the other one every, you know, put laf cast strength in and it always is gonna end up in the top eight at least. And just depending on pallets, whether they're s smokey or not smoky, when the rubber hits the road, it's always fun too cuz I put world whiskeys in one bracket on one side and then I put the American whiskeys on the other side. So that last matchup is always a bourbon against the Irish or against the Scotch and it's like I haven't had that dual through the entire brackets, so kind kind of helps.
Yeah, no they're fun. So I'm looking forward to seeing how this all plays out. So we've got a few days left in the nomination process and then we'll put the top three, we'll be part of the final ballot that goes out in the next couple weeks and that'll run for about a month. And then we'll announce the winners after the new year. And then once, if you don't get into the nomination phase, certainly we're gonna look for everybody to come back and do it again for the actual vote. So it's your chance to say and let the debating begin about what <laugh> your favorite Irish whiskey is. So hopefully there will be some good debate and discussion about it. So we'll look once it's done, then we can obviously tt, I hate to use the word winners, but the favorites,
Or you could say winners, you could call 'em double, triple, quadruple gold, whatever you want <laugh>. Yeah, no, it's your contest. You can go as far as Right,
Right. Yeah, well it's like, you know, hate to be that old thing. Oh they're all winners just, it's just nice to be nominated. It'll be fun cuz it's curious to see what people like and then how it evolves maybe year to year. Yeah, so we'll be reposting the final ballot with the top three nominees in each category and with a new link back to our email@example.com. And then from there we'll just do the typical social media posts and things like that touting what the results were.
Yeah, so there is still an organization in Dublin, correct?
Yes. And they have a couple of additional chapters that have opened the last couple years as one in Dingle for example. Now.
Yeah. Do you keep close ties with them? You kind of have the same organizational structure or?
We operate a little bit differently just because one of the things we learned, I think early on when we first started, it was only about a year after the Dublin chapter and we modeled ourselves in a similar fashion which worked for a couple years. But I think what we found was with some of the limitations of what was available here and a bigger aspect was one our size of the country and then the fact that the rules here are so different. So for example, in Dublin they could do a monthly tasting and they were turning people away and they had all of the big players there that could provide them whiskey, provide them a venue, whereas here we didn't have any of that. You had limited supply, you couldn't, in order to serve whiskey, you had to serve food and you had just all kinds of rules and regulations. And what we found pretty quickly was with our various travels back and forth to Ireland, we had better Irish whiskey inventory than most pubs
In stores. So it's kind of like how many times can you do a tasting in a pub when they only have ours, Patty's bush Mills kind of thing. And it gets a little dicey when it's like, well can we bring in our own bottles? So what we learned was trying to model after the same type of way they do it in Dublin. It's a great idea but it doesn't work as well here.
Yeah, I was gonna say, after I went to Belfast, I was say as the best birthday present I've ever had in my life, I go to Belfast and their McConnell's was doing a unveiling of their sherry finish and afterwards there was a meeting at the Belfast Whiskey Club and they're like, oh, come on up. And so now we're sitting above the Duke of York and doing tastings of all, I mean just bringing out these great bottles. We did, I think it was Aroso finished Red breast that was 16 years old that was a $300 bottle of whiskey and we were doing tastings on that. And then Brendan from Colo shows up and we're chatting whiskey and not telling him what we've rated his whiskey or his, so I left there going, this was so great, I'd love to do this. And then I went, wait, I live in Greenville, South Carolina. I don't know if I can, I'm definitely probably not gonna have any Irish distillers coming by for our tastings. And you
Definitely get spoiled if you're in doublet or be Yeah. Cause between the pubs and the players are all around. Yeah. So we evolved and took it national as opposed to a more local focus and expanded and then tried to utilize the idea of virtual and then have the players that could bring whiskey and distribute to the states. And that's expanding as well. But that way we could, it's great to do chats podcast, whatever the different forms, but it's better if you can have a whiskey <laugh> while you're doing it. So you can talk whiskey all day long and it, there's plenty that do it, certainly it's great but a lot of times I use the thing people only want to hear me talk for so long and then it's like, okay, can we have a whiskey? Yeah, we're pretty creative I think in terms of trying to come up with different ways.
So we've done tastings where the distillery is able to provide whiskey and have it shipped over <affirmative> and then there are events that we do where it's kind of bring your own. So we just did one a week ago to celebrate the Powers brand and because that one's pretty widely available that was a bring your own powers and that way we can get together and people had a lot of different expressions. So we had kind of the core range, but there were people that had the retired signature the 12 year reserve, some of the single cask expressions. So it was pretty well represented with the group that participated. So that was great. So we can do things like that for the ones that are pretty wide. So some of the same thing with, we did one a year ago with SL Castle <affirmative> and again the idea there was because they have the affiliation with Brown Foreman, they're widely available so you can do a tasting on that because that 2020 to $25 range and widely available. So let's pick up a bottle and we had the brand ambassador on and we could do that. So we try to work around, unfortunately we are still all paying a little bit for the prohibition
Yes, we are not
As easy and flexible as we'd probably like it to be. But you make
I know that oh two, well, here in the south we, in fact, it was funny, I was just talking about a friend of mine the other day that I lived up in Asheville, North Carolina and that we used to come down to Greenville to buy beer and this in our younger days, we would wanna buy one of those little mini kegs. And so we would get, we'd go to the store on a Sunday in this mall where we knew they had the mini kegs and then we get in, it's all chained up and we're like, ah, it's Sunday Blue Laws.
Do it. So it's not like that now you can actually go to Total Wine on a Sunday here now and get alcohol. So it's improved some, but it's taken us some time.
Yeah, things changed a lot. I mean, 10 years ago you could barely get things that was limited inventory. And then even the stuff that exists, like you said, you couldn't get it on a Sunday, but now there are hundreds of different Irish whiskeys and even C, one of the things I think that came out of that was everybody kind of expanded into the online space, particularly in Ireland, to get their product over here when they were closed for the better part of couple years. So now a lot of people I talk to when you ask them where do they get their Irish whiskey, particularly if you're in a state maybe in the south that's a control state, they order everything from Ireland,
And a lot of them have done, they really stepped up, they were kind of a life saver during C when you couldn't go anywhere and do anything here either for a long time you know, or certainly couldn't really travel to Ireland. So the next best thing was just to put all those, that financial allocation to shipping. So it's like, okay, we'll just order whiskey from
There's two hotel, there's two hotel night stays. Exactly. <laugh>
Use your frequent flyer miles a different way. Yeah.
So that's true. What the hard part is getting outta that habit because I have found that coming out of C I've been still buying bottles of whiskey much the same way that I was buying them then when it was the only store that was open <laugh>. Right.
Yeah, no it definitely yeah, those credit card bills were an eye opener at the end of the year, that first year for sure. But yeah, can add up if you're not careful. <laugh>.
So how many of the distilleries have you been over to see so far?
Oh, good question. I
Have you been kind of regions?
Probably, yeah, I've been, well I've been to quite a few. I'm trying to think of the ones I have not been to. So I've been to Ale Island, Irish American to Cannot working. I've been to, not a distillery, but I've been to JJ Corey.
So I was there Dingle the new Colarney operation I've been to
That place is that place is gonna be crazy. <laugh>. Yeah. With all that's going,
Kerry County, Carey's gonna be booming. They've got a few others that are coming too. But then going to Middleton of course.
Did you get to Waterford?
No. So a few that I have not been to that are kind of on the list Waterford would one, I have not been to Blacks
And Blacks, yeah. And blacks right now. I tried to go and I never heard from anybody while I was over there. I think they just gotten their permits to start building. Okay. So there's nothing there.
I think the ones I have not been to have been a combination of covid kind of slowed me down or they haven't been open for tours yet. So I think only working up. So I've been to Royal Oak but I think in between Bush Mills and Dublin, there's a number that have opened up over the last few years that I would like to get to. Hint,
You've probably been to Slain then
And we're gonna be going back there in May as part of our Trip Club trip.
No. So I think the ones that are, and I'm probably gonna do that my next trip to Dublin in the spring where I'm gonna go early and go to Belfast and see some of the those So Powers Court, certainly we have a cas so that we have a society cas at Powers court. So that'll be part of our trip as well. That's a beautiful site. So I think the ones, there's some that are a little bit twar and Kill bag, of course those have been around, but some of the ones in Dongo need to get back to. So I've kind of been there, but they were really on the early going and even in the last two or three years, there have been some that have just kind of opened or they weren't open for visitors really, unless you were, I mean, sometimes you can make a phone call and they'll let you know. So I've been to a couple, I've been to several before they actually started or they were still constructing as I think you have. Yeah. Which is nice too. It's kind of cool to be able to see it before and after and then to go back. So yeah, it's fun. But I'm kind of glad I haven't been to all of them. That gives you an excuse to go back.
Check 'em out. Right.
It's so funny because after I swear the day that I sent this to print, I interviewed James Doherty of a draw and we were chatting back and forth and then after we did the interview he said said yeah and what about Watts Distillery? And I went, oh well that's another one that's coming back. It was in dairy and it's a historic distillery and they're bringing that back. I put in stuff like even though there's the distillery hasn't really necessarily been a hundred percent designed out, but the idea being that, and sometime in the next three years likely ground will be broken and he'll be doing something with the brand. And the idea of this is the fun part, I get to go back three years from now and rewrite the book. I'm
Gonna say that's your second edition. Third edition. Yeah. So
<laugh>. Exactly. And then we had what Titanic and that's coming along and McConnell's is now finally starting to put their
Together. That's good to hear cuz they're great people there. Yeah, starting to then
I didn't see, the places I didn't go were like I didn't meet with JJ Corey, I didn't meet with two Stacks hide any of the ones that were blunders modelers and modelers I didn't really get the chance to visit with, which is a shame. But that again gives me something to do the next time I go back.
And a lot of those two the ones that I haven't been physically to the distillery I've usually met them at Whiskey Live. Right. So that's a great event where everyone gets together. So it's really nice. So I was there in June, it was great to have that back again after a couple year, just to be able to see everybody and you know, talk about how things have changed with the Irish whiskey. So I think the one coming up, if my count is right would be the 10th because we lost a couple years with Covid there. So I think technically the one coming up is the 10th Whiskey Live Dublin. But the first one was in the Mansion house <affirmative>. And they were, I don't know, a dozen exhibitors. The old thing we always bring up is Bush Mills wasn't even there
So it was great event too, don't get me wrong, but the one that they just held in June had 110 exhibitors.
So it's just amazing how it's taken off. So that just shows you in a 10 less than a 10 year period how much it's changed. Where now they have, it went from a session to now it's four sessions. And even if they don't let you go to all of them, but even if you could still can't get to all
So it's a challenge now you really have to map out and strategize to who you want to talk to and meet cuz you know, start talking to people and you lose track of time and then before it, it's like, oh, I didn't get to those six
So like you said, it keeps your reason to go back.
Exactly. Well Belfast Whiskey Week, I was looking at the agenda for them and it's like seven days of just nothing but distilleries. And it's like, wow. I mean, I did my trip in three and a half weeks and you're basically condensing it all down into a week <laugh> with no driving. So that makes it a little bit easier, but Right still. Yeah. Well fantastic. So you're about to head back actually.
Yes. So this is family trip and we lost the 2020 week that we had. So this is kind of the makeup week. So luckily we didn't lose it, but we kind of use it. So <laugh>, we used our 22 week earlier in the summer and decided what haven't been during the holiday season and go back and check out the Christmas markets on the Galway and Colarney. Both have Christmas markets, so that'll be fun to do and we'll sneak in some distilleries and things while we're at it
<laugh>. Yeah, nice. The challenge is making sure that all that are coming along with you are also into the idea of going to distilleries <laugh>. Yeah.
But it's fun, especially at this point too, because a lot of times they're new and so they're either just starting out or you're hearing the origin story or you're seeing it being built while you're there. So it's not like you're just going to another tour hearing the history of Irish whiskey again.
So yeah, this was a hard explanation. You'll understand this. I'm guessing you're a Boston Red Sox fan?
Okay. So I'm a Detroit Tigers fan. So in the spring I love going down to spring training and when I go to spring training, I always go early. I go the first week of March, second week of March. You don't get to see the stars playing as much, but you still get to see them play an inning or two. But the reason I go early is because these guys have had the whole winter off, they've kind of been jonesing to get back to playing baseball again and they haven't been in touch with the fans for a while. So they are more welcoming and it's a freshness and a renewal that you feel from that. I'm explaining this to an Irish whiskey distiller over there about my experience with spring training. And he is, yeah, like, okay, it's like preseason is what we're doing, but the whole idea I said is that you wanna go there when everybody's excited to see you. And that is what Ireland and the whiskey industry feels like right now. It's like everybody loves seeing you come in the door because it's all fresh and new.
Yep. Yeah, yeah. And they're getting feedback cuz they're in, I don't wanna say figuring it out, but in a lot of ways they're trying new things. Like you said, they're being very creative with the whiskey making. I think some of them are trying to be creative with the distillery experiences. So a lot of them are pretty cool, some of the things that they're doing.
And if you get their little 360 book that shows you the distilleries, I think there's only 12 or maybe 16 on there and there's a whole lot more. And so that shows you again, how quick, I mean I've been working on a book for Tennessee and Tennessee is very much going through the same thing. It's in 2010, there were only three distilleries, and then all of a sudden now there's over 40. So that just explosion. But you see them kind of finding their sea legs, so to speak where their neighbor, Kentucky is really well established. They've had a Kentucky bourbon trail forever, and Ireland kind of has that same thing. It's like, well there hasn't really been a need for an Irish whiskey trail but Scotland has had one for quite some time. So it's interesting to see how they, it's
Definitely a catch. They're definitely playing ketchup from where they worked. I mean, it dominated the world at one point before Scotch was scotch, but they definitely have the momentum now. But it's interesting because that's been part of it, especially with our society here trying to, people said, oh, well you, you're competing with the scotch drinker. And I said, well, yeah, but not as much. It's also bourbon is taking off and not just bourbon. You've got all these new craft distillers doing American single malts and other things. So you're arguably as popular, if not the growth, even more so than Irish whiskey over the last several years. So it's like you're competing for shelf space for that and people can only consume so much. It's hard enough you're, you're not gonna maybe convert the scotch drinker, but then you've got all the new American whiskey drinkers too that it's kind of like, oh, you want me to drink Irish too? So a good time if you're a whiskey drinker. It's kind of like two tequila is what we use as a little bit of a metaphor analogy, I guess if you go back 20 years, you know had basically Jose Cuervo and Petro
And now if you go to any liquor store, there's hundreds of different tequilas and the stories and craft family owned and some really great stuff. And I think back then it was Quavo was for shooting, and if you wanted to, you wanted something premium, you did Patron, right? That was the story of tequila two decades ago, <laugh>. So I think there's a, but now look where it is. So I think you can kind of look to that and say, okay, that's not quite, but Irish whiskey started off with Pero putting all their resources into Jameson and it kind of became the young bar drink of choice. And eventually it'll probably expand. You've got much more choices now and those people will eventually kind of graduate, so to speak, into trying other things. So you know, could see it in another 10 years when all these distilleries are mature that it could be very much like what that is. So that's kind of what I tell people when they're getting into it, trying to figure out what's going on or what's been going on. It's kind of like, yeah, that's in the early stages still. Yeah,
Kind of a way to look at it.
It can be daunting. The whole reason why I have people ask me, what's the next thing you're gonna get into after whiskey? And I'm like, there's so much going on in whiskey right now that I don't feel a need to branch out to something. I mean, just the other day I had Jack Daniels American single malt and it was like, wow, this is a sherry bomb. I didn't expect this out of an American whiskey or well, Dunville was a great example for me. I'm tasting basically 18 to 21 year old Cooley whiskey that had a very, I mean, I tasted the 21 versus the 21, which is one of my favorite distilleries. And I'm like, I actually like this better <laugh>, which floored me because I said, you know what they, they've treated those casks a little better I think which shocked me. It was like, wow, there's still a lot of flavor in this whiskey. It's not overcome by the wood. So yeah,
Yeah, it's gonna force arguably everybody to step up their game probably because, I hate to say it this way, but it's a generational thing and the drinkers will kind of die out. So you've gotta constantly, and not necessarily reinvent yourself, but remark it to a new group, right? Yeah. And you've got all these Irish makers now that are really pushing the envelope with all the different finishes and everything, and Scotch has some limitations on what they can do. So it'll be interesting to see how they respond over the next 10 years or if they need to, but you know, still have all the American makers doing their own thing too. So it is a good time to be into it.
If somebody wants to find out more information about the society, how do they go about doing that?
Yeah, so easy. Irish Whiskey USA is kind of the thing to remember. So Irish whiskey usa.com is our website at Irish Whiskey USA is all of our social media platforms and we're on all of them. We have a YouTube channel, which has our event videos and things like that on there. But if you go to the website, you can sign up. One of the things I think unique about the way we've structured things is that our membership is Lifetime
So not charging a monthly subscription price. So it's a little bit different. So it's a one time fee and you're a lifetime member and that fee gets you kind of a welcome membership package with to Irish whiskey drinking glass and a few other items.
I brought mine along just to, oh,
There you go,
Say I pour planning on my part. I should have had one handy to
Show, but so branded glasses and then once you're a member then you have access to our member store. We have monthly newsletter, the events that you have, so it kind of gets you in the club. So we're not gonna charge you to continue to be in the club, but it does give you access to our events, trips, things like that. The bottlings that we did, the bottling. So it's, it's an exclusive club without being snobby to put it. Yeah, it doesn't require, it's not like you need as long as you are of drinking age and wanna be part of it, we welcome everybody nice, but a lot of it is just spreading the word. Again, I go back to our tagline, celebrating Irish whiskey in the usa. So it's all about educating without being too educating
<laugh>, giving some life to it. Yeah. Well, I will look you guys up and I follow you on Instagram already, so I will keep my eyeballs on what you're doing. I hope you have a great trip while you're over there. And thanks for spreading the word about the awards, but if
You miss out on the nominations, you certainly can take part in the voting. All right. Which is really what in the end is gonna be what gets in out. But I appreciate you taking time, having me on, and I look forward to being able to dive into your book
So we'll put the word out on that. Cause I was reading about your exploits during the summer months then.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Well it gives you something to read while you're sitting on the plane, <laugh>. Yeah,
No, exactly. So that's
Prep yourself. You can look at my list of whiskeys that I tried to throw in at the end to say, let me throw in all the other brand names that I can think of. And it's like every time I threw another one in, it was like another one would pop up and I'd go, how many Irish whiskeys are there? <laugh>?
Yeah, I was gonna say one of your biggest challenges is probably trying to come up with a timing to release the thing, because if every day you wait something else is happening. So
But Exactly. Well, we'll have fun watching it grow, for sure. Yeah, definitely. All right, Alan, well thank you so much for taking the time today. I appreciate you coming on.
All right, well have a good night. Thank you, you
Too. If you'd like to take part in the voting for this year's s, or if you'd like to join the Irish Whiskey Society of America, make sure to head to irish whiskey usa.com and the all new whiskey lore travel guide to experiencing Irish whiskey is selling hotcakes on Amazon. And for those of you that live in the United States and would like to get a signed copy of the book, well, I've got a 1999 deal with free shipping for a limited time this holiday season. Just head to whiskey lo.com/signed. That's S I G N E D. I'm your Rose Drew Hanish. Thanks for listening and until next time, cheers and Lan of a Whiskey lords of Production at Travel Fuels Life, llc.