On my recent trip to Tullamore with the Irish Whiskey Society we took the time to visit Ireland’s oldest licensed and quite picturesque distillery Kilbeggan, which is also home to the world’s oldest working pot still. This still which came originally from Tullamore was made in the early 1800s.
This distillery sits in the idyllic village of Kilbeggan with the waters of the Brosna river running through it, giving it an extra chilled vibe. Unlike many of the new and refurbished distilleries, it holds a unique personality by the simple fact that it remains somewhat how it was left when they ceased making whiskey here. Then Cooley bought it and started crafting small batches in the distillery, as well as using the unusual bonded warehouse for maturing some of their lovely whiskey. The soul is still very much intact in most of the buildings that house the museum and the equipment that was used.
We were taken on tour by Carol who guided us around the higgle piggle layout. Upstairs, down again, up again as well as stepping between machinery and finally over to their warehouse. The tour, whether you have a guide or take a self-guided tour, is quite informative about the history of whiskey and about how the way they make whiskey hasn’t changed. There is a quiet romance to it all.
As there is a working distillery here too, you can see the process and smell the delicious notes that really excite the senses. You may also bump into the distiller like we did, a bit of a hero to us, a man not so taken to whiskey which might be a surprise but then two of the previous owners never took a sip of this liquid gold either.
We were very lucky this particular day, for after we met the distiller we had the unique opportunity to have our tasting guided by John Cashman, Global Whiskey Ambassador, a man with a passion and a skip in his step. Some people just love and take pride in their work.
John guided us through a tasting of the Kilbeggan, the 8yr Kilbeggan (formely Greenore) and the Connemara. Being a group of whiskey nuts, John shared some samples they are working on for a possible whiskey series. What can I say? Well, I’m super excited and yes I did take notes but I’m not sure they will use the code names on the bottles.
Needless to say, getting a history of Irish whiskey mixed in with how whiskey is actually made was great and well worth the trip. They have a tasting room if you wish to try a few, as well as a wee pub and what looked like a restaurant with good food (we had just had lunch in Tullamore, shhhhh).
From their ‘creaking timber water wheel’ to the array of stills, you will certainly be kept visually and well as verbally engaged or, as their site says, “This is no “visitor center”; it’s an experience you’ll never forget!”
Check here for more info on the Irish Whiskey Society. It really is a great way to taste rare, unique whiskies from all over the world and meet the people behind the brands whilst learning a little. No knowledge is required whatsoever, only a true interest.
Suzi is passionate about wine, beer and whiskey too, not forgetting a love of food and travel. She has been a part of this industry for a little over 10 years. She has worked on level 4 in WSET during this time and regularly hosts tastings and staff training in these sectors. She has recently started a blog on all wine, beer and spirit related beverages. You can follow her blog at suzisgrapecrush or follow Suzi on Twitter