Whisky News, January 2012
by Gavin D Smith
When Irish eyes are Beaming
US-based Beam Inc has agreed the acquisition for $95 million of Ireland's last remaining independent distillery, namely Cooley, located at Dundalk, close to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Cooley was established in 1987 by John Teeling, and is best known for its Kilbeggan, Connemara, Tyrconnell and Greenore brands. The company currently sells around 250,000 cases per annum, divided among its own brands, private label products and bulk sales to third-party customers. Beam's whisk(e)y interests include not only Jim Beam Bourbon in the USA but Teacher's blended Scotch whisky and Ardmore and Laphroaig distilleries.
The acquisition injects yet more dynamism into the surging Irish whiskey sector, which saw growth of 11.5 per cent during 2010, while in the USA - the biggest market for the spirit - parallel growth was an impressive 20.8 per cent.
According to Matt Shattock, president and chief executive officer of Beam, "Cooley is one of only three sources for Irish whiskey, and the only independent player, so this transaction is a unique and compelling high-return opportunity to enter one of the industry's highest growth categories.
"We see the opportunity to leverage our combination of scale with agility to further build consumer demand for Cooley's award-winning brands, and to expand distribution off a relatively small base in key export markets for Irish whiskey across North America and Europe."
John Teeling, chairman and founder of Cooley distillery, adds that ""Beam understands whiskey. They have the culture, experience and global strength to enable the Cooley brands to reach their potential.
The renaissance in Irish whiskey, most evident in the United States, is now spreading across the world. Through Beam, our brands will be introduced to a host of consumers. I am certain the marriage between Cooley
and Beam will benefit all."
Remaining in Ireland, it seems likely that Tullamore Dew owners William Grant & Sons Ltd will build a new distillery to add to the existing complement of Irish whiskey-making facilities, with County Offaly appearing to be the favoured location.
This would have the effect of reconnecting the brand with the county where it was formerly distilled, and Grant's has recently announced a major redevelopment of the existing Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre, located within a bonded warehouse at the site of the old DE Williams distillery, which operated from 1829 until 1954.
When it re-opens this summer, the upgraded and enhanced Heritage Centre is expected to attract around 40,000 people per year to the venue on Tullamore's Bury Quay, next to the Grand Canal.
If all those Festive excesses have left you feeling the need for more exercise, then Glen Garioch distillery in Aberdeenshire may have the answer. The distillery has teamed up with Aberdeen's 'Merchant Quarter' to launch the first 'Whisky Walk.'
The Walk guides visitors around the historic Merchant Quarter's bars where they can enjoy a dram or two and learn about Scotland's national drink, while a dedicated bus will also carry enthusiasts from the city's Union Street to the Oldmeldrum distillery.
The Merchant Quarter spokesman Gary Atkinson says that "We have a long whisky history in the north-east and the Merchant Quarter bars wanted to celebrate that and so the Whisky Walk was born. With the Glen Garioch distillery on our doorstep it lets people experience an authentic working distillery and then enjoy the fruits of it on our Whisky Walk.
"The 12 bars taking part have more than 200 whiskies in stock and the enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff can help you select the dram to suit you. We hope the Whisky Walk will offer Aberdonians and visitors a little taste of Scotland and the Highland whisky region."
John Mullen, Glen Garioch brand manager, adds that "Glen Garioch is proud to be Aberdeen's local malt and the Whisky Walk is a perfect way for whisky newcomers and enthusiasts alike to experience the region's whisky history.
"Glen Garioch is one of the oldest remaining distilleries still in production and produces some of the finest single malts which are lauded the world over.
With the distillery just 17 miles from the city you can see whisky production in action before savouring the liquid in a tour of the Merchant Quarter bars making it a perfect day out."
Visit www.merchantquarter-aberdeen.com for more information.
Since last month Kentucky has boasted a new distillery, or at least brothers Steve and Paul Beam, distant cousins of Jim Beam, now have a Distilled Spirits Plant permit, and can press on with the development of
their Limestone Branch distillery.
Limestone Branch is situated not far from Maker's Mark distillery, in Lebanon, Marion County, and the Beam brothers become the seventh generation of Kentucky distillers in their particular family line. Also in the family tree is master distiller WW Dant, son of the legendary JW Dant who began distilling his sour mash whiskey in 1836.
Limestone's first product will be a corn whiskey, which revives the TJ Pottinger trade name used by a member of the Beam family more than a century ago. According to the Beam boys, "We are planning to craft rum, vodka, white dog (moonshine, corn licker) and of course put some spirit back for Bourbon."
The names Richwood Reserve Bourbon and Minor Case original sour mash whiskey are in place for when Limestone has spirit old enough to bottle in those categories, and the distillery's mission statement declares the intention to "…craft the finest spirit possible, using as much organic, locally produce grain as possible by traditional pot still methods."
For more details visit www.limestonebranch.com
With Burns' Night being widely celebrated on 25th of this month, Auchentoshan has launched an alternative to the usual events, namely 'Auchentoshan Presents...The William McGonagall Burns' Supper.'
The Auchentoshan team describes McGonagall, sometimes dubbed the world's worst poet, as Burns' "arch enemy," which is curious, since Burns died some 30 years before McGonagall was born. That aside, the idea of a William McGonagall Burns' Supper, with courses served in reverse order, sounds like fun, albeit bewildering fun.
According to a spokesperson for the triple-distilled Lowland single malt, "Auchentoshan has provided on-trade accounts with specially designed tools to host their own McGonagall Burns' supper, including recipes, posters, menu cards, tent cards, coasters and event tickets. As each dish is paired with an Auchentoshan expression, served in specially created, humorous Auchentoshan whisky glasses, each featuring a design of one of a variety of different shaped and sized moustaches."
If you prefer to wear a false moustache in the privacy of your own home then it is also possible to host your own 'Auchentoshan Presents… The William McGonagall Burns' Supper' by downloading a 'How To' guide and invitations, menu holders, and examples of McGonagall's poetry from the Auchentoshan website (www.auchentoshan.com).
Here at whisky-pages we are old hands at Burns' Suppers, this year hosting one in Luxembourg (never let it be said we are parochial, though we're not absolutely certain where Luxembourg is as yet). We can recall several such events where many of the participants were celebrating the life and works of Robert Burns so freely that they would not have noticed if the cranachan had been served before the haggis, neeps and tatties…