Tullamore kakhulu – Egan’s Irish Whiskey
Egan’s Irish Whiskey is an old Irish Whiskey brand from Tullamore that has been resurrected and redeveloped by the direct descendants of Patrick Egan and his sons Patrick Junior and Henry, who first founded Egan’s Irish Whiskey over 150 iminyaka edlule.
I was lucky enough in the 70’s and 80’s to spend the latter half of my childhood growing up in rural West Cork between the two market towns of Bandon, where I went to school and Kinsale, where both my parents worked. Both towns had rich agricultural hinterlands where activity was focussed mainly on Barley, Sugar Beet and Dairy farming.
Ngaleso sikhathi, neither town had changed much in over 100 years since the mid 1800’s when many Irish towns had last experienced major change, growth and development as road, rail and canal infrastructures were built and developed.
The Model Railway Village in Clonakilty has created models of towns like Bandon and Kinsale in miniature from their layout in the 1940’s. They would remain largely unchanged for another 40 noma 50 years to become the towns of my childhood. Namuhla, when I bring visitors to Clonakilty, I can point to almost every model house and shop and say who owned, worked and lived there when I was a child. Empeleni, the houses and streets of both towns remained largely unchanged from the 1850s until the 1990s, when investment in modern road networks, industrialisation and population growth forced dramatic changes in layout and design.
Namuhla, it is sad to see that the main streets and squares of many of these old market towns are now just hollowed out and vacant shadows of their former selves, as shopping and commerce moves to ring-road roundabouts where the multinational grocery and retail outlets rule.
Kusukela 1850 ukuze 1990, their main streets were at the heart of commercial and of social interaction. Streets and infrastructure were enhanced and developed by local business families who established key agricultural support businesses such as hardware or agri-feed suppliers which later expanded into general mercantile, lumber, coal, milling, yokuphisa, malting, distilling and hospitality operations.
These were the families in the post famine years, who not alone laid the modern architectural foundations of these rural Irish towns, but who also moulded them into commercial and social hubs for the rural communities living within a ten to 15 mile radius.
The word “Komphakathi” is quite important here, for it was the daily social interaction in the shops, yards and main streets that turned these towns and their hinterlands into strong , cohesive communities and turned customers into friends.
In Tullamore, Co. Offaly and in the Irish Midlands, the Egan Family would become the main drivers of progress.
Patrick Egan, a 47 year old lawyer and third son of a well to do farmer, founded the Egan family wholesale and retail business in the towns of Moate and nearby Kilbeggan in 1852. Prior to this, the successful Westmeath solicitor had run practices in Moate and Dublin City and was also an associate of celebrated Irish Emancipator, Lawyer and Politician Daniel O’Connell. This alliance and patronage certainly did Patrick, his business interests and his practice no harm.
But it would be his two sons Patrick Junior and Henry Egan who would develop the Egan retail and wholesale business exponentially when they moved the core family business base to the larger, neighbouring Tullamore Town where the Egans would continue to trade until the 1960s as P. & H. Egan.
Egans developed a huge commercial network throughout the Irish Midlands. At their peak, they had over twenty different businesses outlets including animal feed supplies, bacon production, hotels, pubs, yokuphisa, malting and whiskey bonding. Their group headquarters was located at The Bridge House in Tullamore town centre which today, as the Bridge House Hotel, is still clearly recognisable from photos of Egans Store in the last century.
As spirit merchants and independent whiskey bonders and bottlers with close links to John Jameson and Powers in Dublin, Egans developed their own whiskey blends under Egan’s No. 5 and Egan’s No. 8 premium whiskey labels for both domestic and international sales.
In the 1880s, Egan’s expanded their existing brewing and bottling business when they commenced bonding and bottling their first whiskies behind their Tullamore Brewery and their newly expanded three storey bonded warehouses and cooperage. Lapha, they aged, blended and bottled whiskeys for brands such as Jameson in Dublin.
Following the introduction of potable water to Tullamore in the 1890’s Egans made major strategic acquisitions worth £80,000 or close on €10 Million in today’s money by buying out whiskey bonding competitors Lyle Sterling& Co. who had bases in Tullamore, Athy and Dublin.
By the turn of the century, Egans had a bonded inventory in Tullamore of the equivalent of 35,000- bottles of whiskeys and spirits and were buying whiskeys from John Jameson, Roe’s, John Locke’s in nearby Kilbeggan and others. But their main partner was John Jameson & Amadodana, to whom they already supplied their high quality malted grain.
By the early 1940s, Egan’s were still bottling for Jameson’s, (see photo above), and this continued until the early 1960s when the creation of Irish Distillers led to the decline and extinction of of independent bonding and bottling of Irish Whiskey by companies such as Egans.
Ngeshwa, e 1968, Egan’s Irish Midlands based business empire entered into voluntary liquidation.
Nokho, their legacy lives on in the buildings and heritage they left behind which can still be seen today in Tullamore and many other neighbouring towns and counties in the Irish Midlands .
Ngo 2013, The Egan family Diaspora who were directly descended from Patrick Egan and his two sons, set about resurrecting their old family whiskey brand. An Egan’s Irish Whiskey Renaissance.
Family members from all around the world united as one to reform the historic family whiskey business as P. & H. Egan’s Limited and Egan’s Irish Whiskey. Partnering with Intrepid Spirits, who also distribute Mad March Hare Poitín futhi Michters American Whiskey, the Egan family have released a stable of four new Irish Whiskey Expressions. A ten year old Single Malt, an eight year old Single Grain, a Pedro Ximénez finished Single Malt and a fifteen year old Single Malt.
While Egan’s Whiskeys are sourced from an approved Irish Whiskey Distillery, the family, represented by Maurice and Jonathan Egan who are 5th and 6th generation descendants of Patrick Egan, are quite hands-on in directing, the blending, cask selection and finishing of their new whiskeys.
Egan’s Irish Whiskeys
Egan’s 10 Unyaka Old Single Malt
Aged for a minimum of 10 Years in American oak and bottled at 47% ABV, this Single Malt Irish Whiskey is non chill-filtered to retain the unique characteristics of the carefully selected casks. Quite smooth even sipped neat.
Esemthethweni zokuhlolwa Amanothi
Ikhala – Delicate, with a hint of apple, spices and light smoke.
Mouth – Malty & alube, with complex hints of cereal & smooth silkiness.
Linger – Big finish and what appears to be an endless aftertaste.
Egan’s Vintage Grain
I am a huge fan of good single grain Irish whiskey and this is very good single grain whiskey indeed. ngokuvamile, I talk about a good single grain whiskey being the chassis upon which great Irish whiskey blends are built or as the blank canvas for extracting maximum benefit from premium or unusual cask finishing. But this is just plain and simple Irish Single Grain Whiskey Excellence. No fancy finishes. Just excellence in distillation followed by 8 years in Bourbon Casks. But don’t take my word. The great Jim Murray awarded Egan’s Vintage Single Grain 92.5% in his 2019 Whiskey Bible.
Esemthethweni zokuhlolwa Amanothi
Ikhala – Vanilla, oak fudge, and caramel notes.
Mouth – Charming sweetness & smooth vanilla, with a subtle hint of spice.
Linger – Long, gentle and gaining in warmth.
Egan’s Fortitude – Pedro Ximénez Sherry Cask Finished Irish Whiskey
Pedro Ximénez Sherry is made from over ripened, sun-dried Pedro Ximénez grapes which yield a quite sweet, almost treacly sherry which still retains the grapes natural acidity. It is not uncommon as a whiskey cask finish, especially in Continental European whiskies, but it can often be “overcooked” in the cask and overpower the whiskey it should be augmenting. Egan’s have achieved near perfection with Fortitude. A perfect balance between an excellent single malt expertly countered with a silk smooth sherry finish which is both strong and restrained. One of the best Pedro Ximénez finished whiskeys I have ever tasted.
Egan’s Fortitude is non chill-filtered and bottled at 46% ABV to retain true character.
Esemthethweni zokuhlolwa Amanothi
Ikhala – Heavy sherry, uju, raisins, and a hint of marzipan.
Mouth – Full of complexity, strong influence of sherry, mixed fruit, notably raisins, and sultanas.
Linger – Satisfyingly long, the complex flavours linger on the palate.
Egan’s 15 Year Old Legacy Reserve
Esemthethweni zokuhlolwa Amanothi
This very limited single malt, aged for 15 years in American bourbon casks, has been carefully hand-selected by Maurice & Jonathan Egan – the fifth and sixth generations of the Egan family. This release is limited to only 1,000 bottles and is an expression of their commitment to honour the craft and dedication of their forefathers.
Ikhala – An unmistakable Irish Single Malt nose. Creamy with notes of apple and citrus. Toffee and vanilla add complexity.
Ulimi – Full bodied as one would expect from a Single Malt of this age. Lemon peel and pepper with some oak dryness.
Qeda – Big finish and what appears to be an endless aftertaste.
The stars of the show for me here are the Egan’s Vintage Single Grain and Fortitude Pedro Ximénez Finish. Both are now firm additions in my own personal Irish Whiskey collection.
Creating a sourced whiskey brand requires a lot of care and attention in product development if you are to stand out from the crowd. You need a great distillery and distiller supplying your liquid. Your blending and finish must always be greater than the sum of the parts and this is where whiskey science falls back and whiskey art takes over.
Egans are doing it all so well and so right. Along with one or two other magical new Irish Whiskey brands, Egan’s is a brand to watch.
If ever a town deserved two great whiskey brands, it is Tullamore.
Tullamore is still to this day a vibrant and friendly Irish market town which has never lost sight of its commercial heritage. It’s one of the very few Irish towns that still preserves that friendly main street social-commercial atmosphere that I spoke about earlier. Today, The Bridge House is one of the largest town centre hotels in the midlands and it is really great to see the way that the modern owners show their appreciation of the past by maintaining the look and utility of the building facade.
With Egan’s and Tullamore D.E.W.‘s combined influence still so visible in today’s town, surely it is only a matter of time before a whiskey savvy historian develops a Tullamore Town Whiskey Walking Tour.
Yet another way of bringing people and life back into the centre of rural market towns to shop and socialise.