On Saturday at 12 noon, we will travel five decades back in time to when whiskey was regularly transported from Ireland's Midlands distilleries to Dublin by canal. Using vintage vehicles, and of course Ned the Clydesdale, the cask will make its way from Kilbeggan Distillery to the Grand Canal at Ballycommon.
En route, the cask will be escorted by a fleet of vintage cycles and horseriders to prevent any bandits or brigands intercepting this historic whiskey before it reaches the safety of the Grand Canal.
At Ballycommon, at around 6pm, the cask will board a heritage barge crewed by veterans of the commercial canal era, who will escort it to Dublin, where it will be bottled later this year.
The Grand Canal is one of Ireland's premier waterways, but has been permitted to become rundown over the years. Were it not for the voluntary efforts of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, the canal might well be a long-forgotten memory today.
But some branches of the canal - including the one leading to Kilbeggan harbour - still lie dry, and hence Ned the horse and his vintage cart will be required to make that all-important first leg from Kilbeggan to the canal proper this Saturday, 29th August.
Half a century ago, all manner of goods were transported across Ireland by the Grand Canal, and many of those former canal boatmen are still alive today.
To honour them, and to mark the 50th anniversary of the canal being closed to commercial boats, the Irish Whiskey Society has joined forces with a series of voluntary bodies to transport whiskey via the canal to Dublin this weekend for the first time in this century.
This will entail moving the cask down the (still dry) Kilbeggan Line to Ballycommon as this year's 'Kilbeggan Challenge' on Saturday 29th August 2009.
There, it will meet with a fleet of vintage antique barges heading east, and will be loaded on to the former commercial canal boat 107B which will transport the cask to Dublin and on to a celebration with the former Canal Boatmen to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the commercial era on the canal.
We have a small website which explains all - http://www.grandcrew.iwai.ie
The whiskey from the cask will be bottled as Locke's "Grand Crew" whiskey and the intention is to present each of the surviving boatmen with a bottle at a reception later in the year.
But the first bottle of Locke's Grand Crew will be given on the day to the Annual Across Ireland Motorcycle Fun Run for their charity auction. This annual motorcycle charity challenge has raised millions of euro for children's charities and hundreds of bikers are expected to pass by Kilbeggan distillery on Saturday during their tenth annual across Ireland run.
This 'Grand Crew' bottling marks the first selection by the nascent Irish Whiskey Society, which was only founded in January this year.
More information about the society, which exists to promote the mature and sensible enjoyment of the spirit we in Ireland invented, can be found at http://www.irishwhiskeysociety.com.
All profits will go to the various voluntary organisations involved.
Pure Pot Head
There are two casks of Locke's 'Grand Crew' 9 year old single malt, single cask whiskeys involved.
Initially it was only one cask, but public interest has been so big that our second choice cask was also brought into play.
There's more details on the Irish Whiskey Society website about how the whiskey was chosen here:
http://forum.irishwhiskeysociety.com/vi ... f=21&t=148
I can state from personal experience that cask 696 is sumptuous with exotic fruit notes on the palate, whereas cask 700 is more rounded and fruity.
The first cask is more intriguing to my palate whereas the second is perhaps slightly more balanced.
They're both superlative whiskeys, it must be said.
JCSkinner wrote:The whiskey from the cask will be bottled as Locke's "Grand Crew" whiskey and the intention is to present each of the surviving boatmen with a bottle at a reception later in the year.
What a superb gesture! Enjoy the trip JC, and let us know how it went.
Pure Pot Still
At their Kilbeggan distillery they are now producing a triple distilled single malt. I have tasted the new spirit and it is an incredibly smooth single malt distillate and it is being matured in small puncheons so it should mature relatively quickly in the small casks.
I have read with interest some of your passionate posts on Midleton and between the friendly battles with other posters, you seem to have a pretty in depth knowledge of Midleton.
Cooley is a very different place and have in the last few years have begun to release some really interesting and high quality whiskies.
Highlights for me personally from Cooley are the Tyrconnell 15 Single Cask, Connemara Cask Strength and Tyrconnel Madeira Finish.
Everyday Cooleys such as Locke's 8yo, Greenore 8yo, Tyrconnell are worth exploring.
The have two copper pot stills in Riverstown, one for the low wines and one for the final distillation.
The grain they are producing is very well received world wide and as you may know they have to date released batches of 6,8,10 & 15yo. One of the explanations for the quality of their grain whiskey is that part of their column still in Riverstown is copper.
In Kilbeggan they take the wort from Riverstown and distill in twice in small fat pot stills (500L & 600L ?). They have plans to do the entire process in Kilbeggan in the future. The first still is an original still from Tullamore and is over 150 years old afaik which was refurbished by Forsyths of Scotland and the second was made by Forsyths to a similar specification.
Cooley mature 98% of their output in ex Bourbon casks from Heaven Hill Distillery in the US.
Cooley for me is a welcome addition to the Irish whiskey world, and after tumultous beginnings they are now becoming recognised around the world as a distillery of note. I think their is more to come from Cooley.
Remember as a small independent distillery they are incredibly flexible and adaptable and can produce many intereating styles.
I like the story surrounding the Pot Stills in Kilbeggan. That is really wonderful to hear. I didn't know that Cooley triple distilled at all which I appreciate is a recent development. I was under the mistaken impression that they had one restored still in Kilbeggan which they used in some final stage process applied to components brought over from Riverstown.
I visited the museum there years ago which was a really terrific little place Is that actually where they now have these working stills. Awesome!
If they ever do make a Pure Pot Still whether triple distilled or just double distilled, I wonder what they would call it! Time to research some old forgotten names I think.
Pure Pot Head
With regard to recent developments in Kilbeggan, they had no operational still there prior to March 2007, and this year they fired up the second still so in whiskey terms all very recent developments.
They will be launching a 1Mth, 1Y & 2Y spirit sample in special packs very shortly and if you tasted spirit straight from the still before (a narrow cut in time of course) this would be an interesting challenge to see from your tastebuds what this 'new' whiskey might become with further maturation. We could expect something after 5 years which would bring us to 2012 at the earliest! Or they might do a Bruichladdich and spring something on the market...
One of the perks of being a member of the Irish WHiskey Society is that we get the opertunity to purchase one of these excellent single casks.
The Tyrconnell is not bad either but is better at 46% so look out for the single cask or aged Tyrconnells. And as Brgreat5 says the Tyrconnell Maderia 10yo is superb. But there are also a port finish and a shery finish which have also got great reviews.
The COoley malt is a light malt which is naturally quite smooth and the distillery charachteristics are Pear & Apple.
We are lucky to have cooley in the mix as with out them the Irish WHiskey scene would be very dull. IDL have really inproved of late with a great cohesive range but really need to focus on their price points in Ireland. Bushmills came out with a great selection of single cask releases a while back but these seem to be few and far between but it is Cooley who are really making life interesting for the Irish Whiskey enthusiast with some many single cask releases.
IF the other 2 could follow suit in just a small way then we might get somewhere.
I'm intrigued by Cooley. I'd like to know exactly all the the whiskeys they produce including their own brands and the others they do. They're very interesting but to be honest, most of their whiskeys are out of the price band of your regular "everyday" whiskeys if comparing to the other Irish ones (aside from the Kilbeggan of course). I hope they can become more competative in Ireland in the future.
I recently saw a bottle of Locke's 8yr, Michael Collins (single malt) ,Tyrconnell and Connemara in a local pub near me so I'll be heading there a bit more often to get a taste of three former whiskeys - I've tried the latter and didn't like. I do wish the best of luck to the Cooley camp though. They're up against two giants and they're steadily making a mark for themselves. Shame there isn't some govt. help available to help compete with the behemoths.
Hope to see more Cooleys in more pubs though
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