A couple of months ago I returned to the Midleton distillery in Cork, Ireland, for a party they were throwing to celebrate the newly-expanded facility.
I wrote a one-page story about it for November's issue of Tasting Panel magazine, which you can read here (digital magazine, go to page 149), but I have more to say than just that.
I last visited the Midleton distillery in early 2011 (as well a a stop into the former distillery and current visitor's experience in Dublin). A write-up on that visit is here on Alcademics.
The Midleton Distillery looks like it did a few years ago with the exception of gleaming new column stills and the new Garden Stillhouse. These are the new column stills:
(On all pictures on this post, click the thumbnails on top for a larger picture below)
The existing stillhouse (where the pot stills are based) holds four pot stills, which are used to make all the triple-distilled pot still products, as well as the pot still part of the Jameson blended whiskies.
The brand new Garden Stillhouse, enclosed in glass, holds three new pot stills so that they can nearly double capacity- and it has room for three more to be installed within a few years. (That's how fast Jameson is growing, folks.)
Each of the copper pot stills holds 80,000 liters. As you should be able to tell from the pictures, they're pretty huge. The stills are used for the same thing each time: there is a Wash still, a Feints still, and a Spirit still for the first, second, and third distillation.
I was curious as to how they're all the same size, since they're cutting heads and tails during each distillation. It turns out that they collect the result of each distillation in holding tanks before moving it to the next still, so they could add the results of 1.5 runs from the first still into the second distillation, for example.
In addition to the distillery expansion, they added an archives and a Whiskey Academy. We didn't get a chance to do an in-depth training but the Academy was really cool - there are a wall of mini-stills so students can actually distill whiskey there.
A second major reason for the celebration was that it was Master Distiller Barry Crockett's last official function. After 32 years with the company, he was retiring and handing the reigns to Brian Nation. Crockett was instrumental in moving the distillery operations from Dublin to Cork in the 1970s, as well as developing the Single Pot Still range that includes Redbreast, Green/Yellow Spot, Midleton Very Rare, and others.
To honor his career, they renamed the older stillhouse the Barry Crockett Stillhouse.
During the day of the celebration, they had guided whiskey tastings, food carts by local purveyors, inspirational talks by the likes of David Wondrich and Nick Strangeway. At night, they threw a hell of a party inside a barrel warehouse with food and music including The Chieftans.
So yeah, that was one heck of a party and a great return trip to the Midleton distillery. In a future post, I'll write a little more about the process of making Irish whiskey.