The Irish Whiskey Society
I am delighted to Welcome “Guest Blogger” Cathal Fleming to Irish Whiskey .Com to share his experiences as a member of The Irish Whiskey Society. I should say at this stage I am a proud member myself, albeit a passive one, because of professional work and travel commitments. All words and images have been provided by Cathal.
Cathal recently joined the committee for the Irish Whiskey Society (IWS), where he is responsible for their web and social media content.
Please note, as a Guest Blogger, Cathal’s views don’t necessarily reflect the views of the wider IWS Committee, IrishWhiskey.Com or the Irish Whiskey Society. He is guest blogging today to share his experience as an IWS member, rather than representing the committee in an official capacity. His article has not been edited by me in any way.
If you would like to be a Guest Blogger on IrishWhiskey.com, the Irish Whiskey Trail, Dublin Whiskey Trail or Irish Whiskey Way websites, contact myself (Stuart) through the secure Site Contact Forms with your ideas.
Over to Cathal!
The Irish Whiskey Society
The first meeting of the Irish Whiskey Society (IWS) took place in Bowe’s Pub, Dublin on January 29th, 2009. In the short ten years that followed, we’ve grown to over 250 members, laid down 7 of our own casks, bottled 8 of our own bespoke whiskeys and organised over 100 tastings and excursions for our members. Last November, we held our 10th Anniversary Gala Dinner at Clontarf Castle.
We’re based in Dublin and typically organise monthly tastings in Wynn’s Hotel on Abbey Street. Our Dingle Chapter meet regularly in Dick Mack’s or one of the towns’ many pubs.
I believe there is something special about Irish whiskey, in its many expressions. Frustratingly, what was once the world’s most celebrated spirit is now playing second fiddle to it’s Scottish brother.. and it’s American, Canadian and Japanese cousins! If you’re reading this you’re well aware that Irish Whiskey is experiencing a renaissance and is rightfully making a comeback to the world spirit stage.
The IWS operates under a few basic principles:
- To enjoy whiskey and drink responsibly
- To preserve the history and heritage of Irish whiskey
- To promote awareness, appreciation and enjoyment of Irish (and other) whiskies
- To always operate in an independent manner, free from commercial preference, influence or gain.
I joined the Society last year. Interested in the history and the story of whiskey, but unaccustomed to it’s taste, I found the liquid itself to be quite intimidating. Was I supposed to have it with ice? Ned, the sage who inhabits my local, swore his drop tasted like “chocolate fire” but I could only taste the fire. So I joined the Society, with the intention of tasting as many varieties and variations as I could – to learn what it was a liked and didn’t like, and to try to train my palate to pick up the same tastes and nuances as Ned.
Over the course of the next few months I met some lovely people, was immersed in brilliant conversation and, most importantly, experienced some incredible whiskeys – from new-make spirit from Dublin’s Teeling and Pearse-Lyons distilleries, to Bushmills cask samples, to the 32-year old Redbreast Dreamcask. Presenters at our tastings have the wonderful habit of bringing along warehouse samples, often taken straight from the barrel that morning. As a member, it’s amazing to experience these whiskeys – most people won’t ever be lucky enough to – but I have to say, in some cases ignorance is bliss. For example, at a recent tasting we sampled a 22-year-old, Madeira finished Bushmills – it was such a beautiful drop I don’t think I, or anyone who was there on the night, will be happy until it’s released to market!
The Redbreast night sparked interesting debate between members, asked to choose between the 32-year-old “Dreamcask” and the 25-year-old “Friend at Hand”. If I remember correctly the latter won – by a hair. Both incredible drops, and to experience them both on the same night, along with a multitude of others, is precisely why I joined the Society.
A personal highlight for me was, a few days before the release of their first Pot Still, the brilliant Alex Chasko led us on a tour through the Teeling Distillery in Dublin’s Liberties. On the night we sampled the new release Pot Still, samples from the first 100 bottles along with various poitins and whiskeys. At the end of the night Alex generously signed bottles of the pot still and we left, a smug select group who’d gotten their hands on Dublin’s first Pot Still in 50 years, 2 days before the general public would get the opportunity to taste it!
On another stand-out night, couple of us travelled to a tasting organised by the Dingle Chapter last month, hosted in Foley’s Bar, overlooking the beautiful Inch Strand. Hosted by the insanely knowledgeable and eloquent Fionnan O’Connor (author of A Glass Apart) and Willie Murphy (walking whiskey encyclopedia), we spent the night celebrating Irish Pot Still, tasting the newly released Red Spot, our own Society bottling (a 17-year-old Midleton single cask) and rare finds like the Jameson 15 Limited Edition and Redbreast Mano a Lámh.
Looking at our social media channels (give us a follow on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter) tells me that our audience is a 70/30 split men to women. What’s really surprised and delighted me is that 41% of our followers are 25-34 years old, with a further 32% between 35-44. As well as introducing people to the wonders of Irish whiskey, I’d personally like to see us help to break the stereotype of whiskey being an “aul lads’” drink. There’s nothing wrong with a glass of Paddy and a pint of plain, but with experimentation and creativity booming in the industry, and provenance and storytelling coming to the fore, I want to see people from all walks of life enjoying the many varieties and expressions of our national spirit.
So whether you’re a discerning aficionado of whiskey, or simply partial to the occasional sup, we’d like to offer you a warm welcome to the Irish Whiskey Society. If you’re not sure about signing up, come along to one of our tastings first – sample some whiskeys and have a chat. Members get first dibs on tickets, but keep an eye on social media channels for updates. Visit our website – IrishWhiskeySociety.com – or message us on social media if you have any questions!
A massive thanks to Stuart at IrishWhiskey.Com for giving me the platform for this blog post. It’s great to be part of a community with such passion, working together to share the good word of Irish whiskey! If you haven’t checked out WhiskeyTrail.ie – head on over now!