As we celebrate the great holiday of the Emerald Isle, it’s worth nothing that Ireland’s capital city of Dublin — long associated with Jameson and other Irish whiskeys — hadn’t housed a working distillery in nearly half a century. That dry spell ended mercifully in 2012 when Stephen Teeling and his family opened Teeling Whiskey in the industrial outskirts of town. The distillery’s flagship offering was finished in rum casks for a subtle sweetness in the nose and finish. This month, Teeling launched its single grain corn whiskey. It’s a gentle sipping spirit with a history as complex as the drink itself. And today’s as good a day as any to sit down with a native and talk shop over a tipple.
With a family legacy in Irish whiskey dating back to 1782, Stephen Teeling is something of an expert on the subject. “For centuries Ireland’s unique climate has given us a competitive advantage globally for whiskey production,” he notes. “It is a flavorsome yet approachable spirit that has a huge character but doesn’t offend.” This might be a slight gibe at popular single malts of the day, known for their aggressively smoky characteristics. Irish whiskey, by contrast, tends to be far more accessible to the masses.
“Key ingredients like cereals, quality water, and a consistent temperature for maturation impart a DNA that is uniquely Irish,” Teeling asserts with pride. When it comes to his new Single Grain, that key ingredient is corn — a delicate component that can be overpowered when not aged properly. “So it was important we used the correct wood to mature it in,” Teeling points out. He ultimately trusted Californian Cabernet Sauvignon barrels to impart subtle notes of red berry fruit and a tannic dryness without overbearing the mash bill.
Bottled at 92 proof, as opposed to the traditional Irish standard of 80, Teeling Single remains gracefully drinkable. It also bears striking similarities to straight bourbon, and so will be welcomed widely by a new generation of drinkers — or so Teeling hopes. “The demographic that is driving the dynamic growth of whiskey,” he says, “is a younger consumer with a palate for lighter and sweeter products. Irish whiskey, although a serious whiskey in terms of taste, wouldn’t be as formal in its approach as scotch and is closer to its American cousin rather than its Celtic one. It is inclusive and attractive for younger consumers.”
And now that it’s hit shelves and bottle shops here in the city, it’s also relatively easy to procure. This is something of a coup in whiskey production, as it’s traditionally been a rarer expression. “Our Single Grain is one of only a handful of bottlings in the world,” says Teeling. Rarer still, it’s an authentic craft whiskey from Dublin. That’s something worth celebrating.