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Distilling Dublin

Written by Georgina Wilson-Powell. Photos courtesy of Teeling Whiskey.

Once upon a time (or rather in the 19th century), Dublin was Ireland’s whiskey production capital. At its height, the “golden triangle” in downtown Dublin, also known as the Liberties, was home to 37 different distilleries. Teeling Whiskey (who introduced the extra “e” in the word to stand out from its competitors) was one of the first. But by the 1970s, the area, including the Teelings had run dry; Dublin’s whiskey making became a memory. Until 2015.

Stephen Teeling, one of two brothers, brought up with the family trade, decided to reignite the brand and whiskey making in Dublin. He opened the still in the capital last summer, it was the first of its kind to open in the area since the 19th century.

“We’re trying to be the next generation of whiskey producers and balance old and new processes. So we built the distillery to have an industrial feel with wooden washbacks and old fashioned copper stills,” explained Teeling.

In June last year the distillery opened its visitor center designed to provide tours and tastings.

“We’re a gritty urban distillery that is younger than a lot of the other brands; that gives us a freedom to speak to people. We had seen urban and craft brewing take a different approach to traditional brewing and we wanted to match that with whiskey. Our consumers are interested in the process, the people who make it and our personality,” said Teeling.

With 25,000 people passing through their door in the first six months, the Teeling family heritage and story has made them an attraction. Teeling is now being sold in over 40 countries, making it Ireland’s fastest growing distillery.

Caption: A group takes a tour of the Teeling Whiskey facility.

“We want people to engage with us,” Teeling said. “We have good days and bad days, but that’s the real deal and our consumers want something authentic and different, rather than a faceless corporation. We can excite and educate them. Anyone can pop into the distillery and find out what’s in the product and how we get the taste.”

That taste, different than traditional Irish whiskey, comes from the aging process that is overseen by a master in micro brewing. The variety of barrels adds a depth and flavor, such as those used previously to age Nicaraguan rum or Cabernet Sauvignon. The small batch process means that while the distillery can turn out around 120,000 bottles a year, the artisan level of care and attention remains consistent. The particular cask details can be found on each bottle. And for those who are extra particular, it’s possible to fill a bottle straight from a choice of cask. Both the Teeling single malt and the blended whiskies have won medals at the World Whiskies Awards.

Caption: Stephen and Jack Teeling celebrate another successful batch and an exciting year ahead.

While the economic downturn in Ireland allowed the Teelings’ to afford to buy a building near where the family business started so many years ago, the upturn has lead the country’s consumers to be more willing to support craft producers.

“People are definitely more discerning than they were two or three years ago, which is great. It’s a different world, the US has had a craft renaissance starting with microbreweries like Samuel Adams, now it’s our turn.”

It was also important to the family to be involved and give something back to the community of the Liberties, where distilling began all those years ago. The distillery has a café, which uses local producers for everything, from the coffee to the cakes. They also have a space for events and a quirky bar for tastings. Having organized successful events such as craft fairs before Christmas, the brothers are planning more for 2016 such as food tasting collaborations with local chocolate makers.

Caption: The Bang Bang Bar

While the emphasis is on craft and artisan production on site, Teeling’s plan is nothing short of global. He explained, “We’re focusing on the American market. We have the capacity to make one million liters of alcohol a year, so while we’re small to the big guys, we’re substantial for craft distilleries. We wanted to stand up and show we have large ambitions from the start.”

With their unique flavors, growing popularity and ambition, it isn’t hard to believe that Teeling whiskey will be on the shelves of American liquor stores and supermarkets soon.

 

January 21, 2016

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