Irish Whiskey Awards – full report
We’ve a full report on the 2018 Irish Whiskey Awards in which Dick Mack’s in Dingle did it again in winning the Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year while Irish Distillers won the Best Irish Whiskey of the Year with its Redbreast 12 Year-Old Cask Strength.
15 February 2019 | 0
Once again Dick Mack’s walked off with the Irish Whiskey Bar of the year at the Irish Whiskey Awards hosted by Slane Irish Whiskey at Slane Castle in County Meath recently. This was the fourth win for the pub, having missed out to worthy opponents Garavan’s Bar in Galway last year.
Irish Distillers won the Best Irish Whiskey of the Year Award with its Redbreast 12 Year-Old Cask Strength as well as picking up medals for the Barry Crockett Legacy (Best Single Pot Still Whiskey) and Jameson 18 Year-Old Bow Street (Best Irish Blended Whiskey RRP of €60 or more) alongside several gold medals.
Redbreast 12 Year-Old Cask Strength was also awarded ‘Best Irish Whiskey overall’ and ‘Best Irish Pot Still Whiskey’ in Jim Murray’s new Whiskey Bible 2019, providing the brand with its sixth award in seven years.
Emerging as well as established Irish whiskey distillers and producers celebrated wins at these awards as they revealed Ireland’s top distillers.
The evening commenced with a tour of Slane Irish Whiskey’s new state-of-the-art distillery, hosted by Co-Founders Alex Conyngham and his father Lord Henry Mountcharles.
Keynote speaker and Global Brand Ambassador for the Tullamore Dew Distillery was Irish whiskey veteran John Quinn who presented the awards.
John was named Whiskey Brand Ambassador of the Year by Whisky magazine’s Icons of Whisky Awards in 2016 and also named one of the Top 10 most influential people in Irish whiskey by The Spirits Business.
In a year that’s seen tremendous global growth in Irish whiskey consumption he reminded those present that even with sales of 10 million cases Irish whiskey still has considerable potential before catching up with Scotch (selling 90 million cases worldwide) or US whiskeys (which sell some 45 million) or Canadian whiskeys (20 million) or even Japanese whiskey (on 12 million cases globally).
The 3.3 million case rise of Irish whiskey in the past 18 months was mostly accounted for by one brand, Jameson, which took 3.1 million case-sales of this figure, he said.
The awards, now in their sixth year, span over 20 categories judged in blind-tasting sessions by members of the Celtic Whiskey Club, Irish Whiskey Society and Cork Whiskey Society. This year also welcomed the participation of the Galway Whiskey Trail and Kilkenny Whiskey Guild. Overseas members of the Celtic Whiskey Club also had the opportunity to purchase sample packs without having to travel to the Emerald Isle. The other spirit categories, as well as the beer and liqueur categories, were judged by members of the trade.
Best Irish Whiskey of the Year – Redbreast 12 Year-Old Cask Strength
Best Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year – Dick Mack’s, Dingle
Best Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey – Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy
Best Irish Single Malt Whiskey (12 Years & Younger) – Tyrconnell 10 Year-Old Port Finish
Best Irish Single Malt Whiskey (13 Years & Older) – JJ Corry The Flintloch 16 Year-Old
Best Irish Blended Whiskey (RRP of less than €60) – Teeling Small Batch
Best Irish Blended Whiskey (RRP of €60 or more) – Jameson 18 Year-Old Bow Street
Best Irish Single Cask Whiskey – The Irishman Founder’s Reserve Caribbean Cask Finish
Best Irish Cask Strength Whiskey – Redbreast 12 Year-Old Cask Strength
Best Irish Single Grain Whiskey – Kilbeggan Single Grain
Best New Irish Whiskey – Dingle Single Malt Batch 3
Best Irish Gin – Dingle Gin
Best Irish Vodka – Ballykeefe Artisan Irish Vodka
Best Irish Poitín – Bán Poitín
Best Irish Liqueur – The Dubliner Irish Whiskey & Honeycomb Liqueur
Best Irish Whiskey Barrel Aged Irish Craft Beer – Dingle Dark Star Ale
Best Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year (Leinster) – The Dylan Whisky Bar, Kilkenny
Best Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year (Munster) – Dick Mack’s, Dingle
Best Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year (Connacht) – Garavan’s, Galway
Best Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year (Ulster) – The Duke of York, Belfast
Best Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year (International) – The Dead Rabbit, New York
The Awards were founded by The Celtic Whiskey Shop, the company that hosts Whiskey Live Dublin and Gin Experience Dublin.
“The Irish Whiskey Awards has become such an important date in the Irish events calendar and we’re delighted to run it to raise funds for the very deserving charity Mary’s Meals,” said Celtic Whiskey Shop’s Managing Director Ally Alpine at the event.
Mary’s Meals feeds over one million children every day whilst ensuring they attend school.
Tickets for the event were priced at €50 and all proceeds from the night will be donated to sponsor the Kapatomoyo School in Zambia — €1,0951.20 will be required yearly to feed 702 pupils.
Drinks Industry Ireland was the event’s media partner.
Irish Whiskey Awards & Gold Medal 2018 Winners:
Best Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year (Leinster)
- Winner: The Dylan Whisky Bar, Kilkenny
- Gold Medal: The Dingle Whiskey Bar, Dublin
- Gold Medal: Bowe’s, Dublin
Best Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year (Munster)
- Winner: Dick Mack’s, Dingle
- Gold Medal: John Bennys Pub, Dingle
- Gold Medal: The Folk House, Kinsale
Best Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year (Connacht)
- Winner: Garavan’s, Galway
- Gold Medal: The 1852 Whiskey Bar at The Skeffington Arms Hotel, Galway
- Gold Medal: Tig Neactain’s, Galway
Best Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year (Ulster)
- Winner: The Duke of York, Belfast
- Gold Medal: Bittle’s Bar, Belfast
- Gold Medal: Fealty’s Bar, Bangor
Best Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year (International)
- Winner: The Dead Rabbit, New York
- Gold Medal: Seamus O’Dowden’s Irish Pub & Shebeen, Vermont
- Gold Medal: Patrick’s Bar, Paris
Best Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey
- Winner: Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy
- Gold Medal: Redbreast 21 Year-Old
- Gold Medal: Yellow Spot 12 Year-Old
Best Irish Single Malt Whiskey (12 Years & Younger)
- Winner: Tyrconnell 10 Year-Old Port Finish
- Gold Medal: Dunville’s PX Cask 12 Year-Old
- Gold Medal: Connemara 12 Year-Old
Best Irish Single Malt Whiskey (13 Years & Older)
- Winner: JJ Corry The Flintloch 16 Year-Old
- Gold Medal: Method & Madness Single Malt French Limousin Oak Finish
- Gold Medal: Retronaut 17 Year-Old
Best Irish Blended Whiskey (RRP of less than €60)
- Winner: Teeling Small Batch
- Gold Medal: Tullamore Dew 12 Year-Old
- Gold Medal: Powers Gold Label
Best Irish Blended Whiskey (RRP of €60 or more)
- Winner: Jameson 18 Year-Old Bow Street
- Gold Medal: JJ Corry Bonders Blend 16 Year-Old Plus
- Gold Medal: JJ Corry The Gael
Best Irish Single Cask Whiskey
- Winner: The Irishman Founder’s Reserve Caribbean Cask Finish
- Gold Medal: Dunville’s VR 17 Year-Old Port Mourant Rum Finish
- Gold Medal: The Quiet Man 8 Year-Old Single Cask
Best Irish Cask Strength Whiskey
- Winner: Redbreast 21 Year-Old Cask Strength
- Gold Medal: The Whistler 7 Year-Old Cask Strength
- Gold Medal: Writers’ Tears Cask Strength 2018 Release
Best Irish Single Grain Whiskey
- Winner: Kilbeggan Single Grain
- Gold Medal: Teeling Single Grain
- Gold Medal: Method & Madness Single Grain Virgin Spanish Oak Finish
Best New Irish Whiskey
- Winner: Dingle Single Malt Batch 3
- Gold Medal: Pearse 5 Year-Old Single Malt
- Gold Medal: Kilbeggan Rye
Best Irish Gin
- Winner: Dingle Gin
- Gold Medal: Echlinville Single Estate Irish Pot Still Gin
- Gold Medal: Jackford Irish Potato Gin
Best Irish Vodka
- Winner: Ballykeefe Artisan Irish Vodka
- Gold Medal: Dingle Vodka
- Gold Medal: Straw Boys Vodka
Best Irish Poitín
- Winner: Bán Poitín
- Gold Medal: Tipperary Boutique Collection: Big Field Poitín
- Gold Medal: Ballykeefe Poitín
Best Irish Liqueur
- Winner: The Dubliner Irish Whiskey & Honeycomb Liqueur
- Gold Medal: Feeney’s Irish Cream Liqueur
- Gold Medal: Merrys White Chocolate Irish Cream Liqueur
Best Irish Whiskey Barrel-Aged Irish Craft Beer
- Winner: Dingle Dark Star Ale
- Gold Medal: DOT Brew D-IPA Double Down
- Gold Medal: Pearse Lyons Imperial Stout Station Works Brewery
No drinks menu at Dick Mack’s
Reclaiming the Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year for the fourth time after not winning it last year means a lot to Dick Mack’s Finn McDonnell.
“Every year we’re doing a bit more work and we weren’t happy not to win it last year,” he confides, “So we made our mind up that we were going to win it back in 2018.”
Mission accomplished then and Dick Mack’s bar staff are also getting into it and are now confidently recommending their particular favourites.
Dick Mack’s own bottling line
As part of the ongoing work on the whiskey range at Dick Mack’s, it’s coming out with its own bottling line which means that its whiskeys are going to be different and are going to tell a tale, says Finn.
“A couple of them might be blended down the line,” he comments. There are a couple of bottling lines to choose from with Dick Mack’s having a couple of barrels laid down with Walsh and a couple with Echlinville.
In fact Walsh Whiskey has just released a unique expression in collaboration with Dick Mack’s – The Irishman Single Malt – Coffee Stout Cask (ABV 48%), a very limited edition of just 240 bottles available exclusively from the Celtic Whiskey Shop.
“We’re now getting to the point where some may soon be ready while others will be a long-term product.”
Dick Mack’s also tweets to people around the world all that it’s doing.
“We feel we’ve done a lot more than most people. We put it out there, telling people what we’re doing.”
Dick Mack’s Time Machine
Finn describes Dick Mack’s as being “like a time machine, really. You walk in the door and look to your right where the bar is and there is a wonderful collection of bottles from all over the country to catch the eye. And while recovering from that you can admire the leatherwork counter.
“We have our walls full of whiskeys now and the pub finds itself having to filter out one or two of the ones that don’t move,” he says.
“The back contains an old living quarter and living room – all pretty much untouched from the time my grandfather and grandmother would have been alive,” he says.
Locals come into Dick Mack’s in the late morning as do tourists.
“All of them come in to chat” explains Finn, “and with no TV or radio they can get to know each other.”
Dick Mack’s Brewery
The pub also opened a microbrewery about a year ago and a lot of the on-trade in the town have taken it on. The microbrewery is also doing barrel-ageing using Dingle whiskey barrels.
“We’re learning all the time about this,” comments Finn, “We’re
trying to get the people in the bar involved. They’re getting into it now and getting the idea behind it so we bring them to places like Kilbeggan to get that passion going in them.”
Dick Mack’s Whiskey Club
Some 35 customers take part in the local chapter and the tasting nights are not limited to Irish.
“We’ve an Islay Night coming up at end of month” says Finn, “from a range we brought back last May or June.”
Probably Dick Mack’s Unique Selling Point would be the people that drink there, Finn believes, “We had a couple come in the door from the US today and when they walked in everyone turned to look at them but after a minute they realised everyone was talking to them and they had a great night. It’s the people that drink here!”
You see Dick Mack’s doesn’t have a menu.
“When we got into the thing back in 2012 people recommended that we have a menu and we did so that people would walk into the bar and order from the menu but now we don’t have a menu as it initiates a conversation between the customer and the barman about whiskey.
“Then you’re not there on your own at the bar and so if you meet people and have a good time with good drink while with us then then it’s even better.”
Tyrconnell 10 Year-Old Port Finish
Traditionally, most Irish malt has been used to create blended Irish whiskey so it’s rare to find Irish malt whiskey bottled in its purest form. Distilled in the old Irish tradition, this pure pot still single malt whiskey uses only the most natural Irish ingredients of barley and fresh spring water. The resulting whiskey is then left to mature in oak casks stored in 200 year-old granite warehouses allowing it develop its full flavour and character in maturing for 10 years before it’s transferred to old Port pipes for a further 3-5 month period. The Port cask finish gives the whiskey a silky sweet taste of vine fruits which combine with the honey and spice from the Bourbon-matured malt whiskey. Flavours of fruit and nut chocolate and some hints of red fruits and smooth malt can also be found. Like the other whiskeys in this range the Port Finish was initially matured in ex-Bourbon casks before being transferred into Port casks for a final maturation period. The Kilbeggan Distilling Company picked up four awards while the Tyrconnell 10 Year-old Port cask Finish distributed by Barry & Fitzwilliam was named Ireland’s Best Single malt 12 Years & Under.
Connemara 12 Year-Old
Hand-picked from the oldest and most exceptional casks, Connemara 12 Year-Old marries a distinctive peat flavour with a rich layer of spiciness and lingering wood tones that can only be achieved after maturing for 12 years in American oak. A sophisticated expression truly worth the wait, Connemara’s smooth sweet malt taste and complex peat flavours make it a truly unique Irish whiskey. Connemara allows you to unearth the peated pleasures of Ireland. Each year a small number of old, exceptional casks are hand-picked to create Connemara 12 Year-Old which contains some of the ﬁrst distillations of Connemara. Extra maturation in American Oak casks adds a layer of spiciness and wood tones, delivering a sophisticated and complex liquid. Distributed by Barry & Fitzwilliam Connemara 12 Year-Old won the Gold medal in Ireland’s Best Single malt 12 Years & Under.
Kilbeggan Single Grain
Kilbeggan Single Grain furthers the spirit of innovation found within the Kilbeggan Distilling Company family of spirits and serves as a tribute to the townspeople of its namesake.
For 200 years the humble town of Kilbeggan produced a whiskey beloved the world over. But when tough times shuttered the distillery doors, the townspeople came together to keep the whiskey alive. They banded together to pay for the distillery licence and put in years of hard work, late nights and even sacrificed weekends into bringing the distillery back to life. Their dedication to honouring the whiskey-making traditions of the past while creating a better future inspired the creation of Kilbeggan Single Grain.
The notion that “single grain” describes a whiskey made with just one grain is a common misconception. Rather, the term refers to whiskey made in a single location using malted barley and at least one other grain. 94% of the mash bill for Kilbeggan Single Grain is made of meticulously-sourced corn, with the other 6% being malted barley.
Distilled at 86 proof, Kilbeggan Single Grain is a sweet spirit that absorbs the flavours of the casks it ages in. After ageing in ex-Bourbon barrels, it’s finished in a marriage of different fortified wine barrels, giving it a smoothness & making it ideal for cocktails as well as giving it a depth of flavour that allows it to be appreciated neat.
Distributed by Barry & Fitzwilliam Kilbeggan Single Grain was awarded Best Irish Single Grain at the Irish Whiskey Awards.
Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye
The first whiskey to be 100% distilled and matured at Kilbeggan since the distillery was restored in 2007, Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye is double-distilled with one distillation in the oldest working pot still producing whiskey in the world today. This produces a style of Irish whiskey that was very popular in the late 1800s.
The Heritage mashbill consists of rye, malt and barley. Although rye was once popular among larger Irish distilleries in the 1890s, it virtually disappeared around Prohibition and the Irish War of Independence. Conceived as a pot still whiskey, it breaks the technical definition of ‘Pot Still Irish Whiskey’ since it uses such a high amount of rye.
As both Irish whiskey and rye whiskey enjoy a resurgence, Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye is a true innovation within both categories, with a smooth, spicy flavour profile sure to excite whiskey-drinkers and cocktail enthusiasts alike. Distributed by Barry & Fitzwilliam Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye picked up a Gold medal in the New Whiskey category at this year’s Irish Whiskey Awards.
Merrys White Chocolate Irish Cream Liqueur
First produced in 1994 Merrys Irish Cream Liqueurs have won many taste awards and accolades down through the years including several gold medals in the International Spirits Challenge and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
The Merrys range, using both traditional and non-traditional natural flavour inspirations, includes the Gold Award-winning White Chocolate flavour.
“Above all, it’s the quality of our ingredients and the freshness of our rich Irish dairy cream that makes Merrys so special,” says Merrys’ General Manager and Master Blender Don Crowley who’s able to bottle cream in small batches within hours of it leaving the farm gate and to have access to the finest aged Irish whiskey to give it that special taste profile.
Whistler 7 Cask Strength
This year’s Gold Award-winning expression showcases the 7 Year-Old Bluenote at Cask Strength. The liquid has been drawn straight from the cask at 59% alcohol, allowing the consumer to create their own imbibing experience by opening up new and exciting flavours if one decides to experiment with the addition of water. Matured in ex-Bourbon barrels for five years and finished in Oloroso Solera Sherry barrels for a minimum of two years to add a rich sweetness and depth to the whiskey, the 7 Year-Old Natural Cask Strength edition is limited to 1,200 bottles per batch. All have been bottled at natural colour without chill filtration.