The Irish town of Tullamore
has not produced whisky for decades, but last month construction began on a new
distillery that will bring its namesake spirit, Tullamore Dew, back home to the
Midlands Region by summer 2014.
“People here are incredibly
proud of Daniel E Williams’ legacy,” said Cathy Sullivan, a Tullamore resident
and the brand’s marketing executive.
In 1862, a 14-year-old Williams
arrived in Tullamore to work at the local distillery. By the late 1880s, he’d
become manager of operations, and his initials had been added to the brand’s
logo. But a series of events – namely US prohibition from 1920 to 1933 and a 1930s
trade war with England – left Ireland’s whisky business in Scotland’s dust. The
Tullamore Dew distillery shut down in 1954, and the brand was sold and moved to
a distillery near Cork.
When ownership changed
hands again in 2010, efforts began to bring the brand home. In summer 2012, the
Tullamore Dew Visitor
Centre opened inside a restored, bonded warehouse that Williams helped
build on the banks of Tullamore’s Grand Canal. In addition to the visitor centre,
construction of the 35 million euro pot still and malt whisky distillery will
bring more than 100 jobs to Tullamore, whose 12,000 residents have been keenly
involved in the spirit’s homecoming.
“We asked people to donate
whisky artefacts and stories, and many have been incorporated into the visitor centre
tour,” Sullivan said. On a recent visit, displays included various farm
tools such as rakes and shovels that were used on the surrounding farmland.
A white whisky revival
Meanwhile, this regeneration
of the Irish Midlands’ whisky legacy has inspired a new generation of craft
distillers, two of which are focusing their efforts on poitín, an un-aged white whisky that’s been produced by Irish home
distillers for hundreds of years.
American distiller Rusty
Figgins Jr teamed up with Irish expat Ashlee Casserly to create the brand 1661
Poitín, a nod to the year in which the Irish government outlawed the potent
spirit. Poitín was made legal again in 1997, and today can only be made in Ireland, just as Champagne production
belongs to France. The duo plans
to begin production of their smooth, slightly sweet recipe in 2014 on a private
property about 35km north of Tullamore. Listed on the National Register of
Historic Places, parts of the County Westmeath farm date back to the 1750s.
Casserly and Figgins’
efforts coincide with the rise of Glendalough Poitín, a sugar
beet-based version created by four Irishmen. The team may open a distillery on the east coast of the
Irish Midlands within the next year. In the meantime, bottles are available in