We started off the year talking about Scotch… and now…we’re talking Irish Whiskey? It’s not another April Fool’s joke. We had the opportunity to sit down and capture one of the most interesting stories in Irish Whiskey with Alex Conyngham, co-founder of Slane Irish Whiskey. We talk castles and rock concerts because that’s one big aspect of his history. Then we get into the dynamics of Irish whiskey and if there are commonalities between bourbon like sourcing, regulation, and financing a distillery. Then we discuss the role Brown-Forman plays and how they are trying to appeal to both bourbon and Irish Whiskey consumers.
- DISCUS hand sanitizer portal: https://www.distilledspirits.org/distillers-responding-to-covid-19/distilleries-producing-hand-sanitizer/
- Less than 100 bottles left from 3 different barrels of Pursuit Series left on Seelbachs: https://seelbachs.com/search?q=pursuit
- This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about drinking bourbon during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Where did you grow up and how did you get into whiskey?
- Tell us about your rock concerts.
- How did you decide to do the concerts?
- What is a good Irish cocktail?
- Where is Slane?
- What makes Irish whiskey unique?
- Do people source Irish whiskey?
- What is the process?
- How did you decide to start the distillery?
- Did you use a consultant to get started?
- What’s glamping?
- Tell us about your dad.
- How did you finance the distillery?
- What was it like to work with Brown-Forman?
- How big is the distillery?
- What age can you sell Irish whiskey?
- Tell us about the whiskey?
- Do you have your own yeast?
- What’s the typical Irish whiskey proof?
- How long are you aging?
- Tell us about your packaging.
- Would bourbon drinkers like Slane Irish whiskey?
- Tell us about the ultra premium Irish whiskey category.
- What is the price point?
Have you held a bottle of bourbon in your hand and wondered, how is this made? Sure, there’s the grains and the barrels and all that science that goes into it. But what about the package design, class manufacturing, shipping logistics, or purchase orders for thousands of cork stoppers. These are only a handful of things that you need to know. But with the University of Louisville online distilled spirits business certificate, you’re only a few clicks away from learning from industry experts from renowned spirits businesses like brown Forman, jack daniels, and more. Learn more about this online six course certificate at U of l.me. Slash bourbon pursuit.
Well, listen, I always love drinking Irish whiskey in the heart of bourbon country.
Hale you cool cats and kittens out there. It’s Episode 247 of bourbon pursuit. I’m one of your hosts Kenny.
I hope you’re hanging in there because I’m trying to hang in there. We’re all watching Tiger came together to try to get through this. But in the midst of all what’s going on, not much has been happening with actual bourbon. And the industry has kind of been shifting focus to figure out how it can help the situation. So we’ve got some more updates there for you on that. And as you know by now with our reports last week that many facilities have turned overproduction to begin making hand sanitizer. Last week reported that discuss or better known as the distilled spirits Council of the United States was working with the federal government on including distilleries into the Cova 19 relief plan, and they were successful. As a part of the economic relief package. Congress has eased tax regulations so that distillers producing desperately needed hand sanitizer to address the nationwide shortfall would not have to pay a federal excise tax on the alcohol use. This package also includes measures to help small business loans and small business operating costs, that many smaller distilleries around the nation are going to need
While their doors are closed for visitors, and if you’re in the medical field and you’re looking for sanitization supplies, or need some for your local community, discus has created a portal that lists every distillery in the US making hand sanitizer. The portal also lists distillers who need supplies, and those who need help distributing, you can get this with the link in our show notes. We’ve also been seeing more control states getting tighter, Alabama has closed down several locations, but Pennsylvania still remains the only state that has all 600 of its brick and mortar stores currently closed. This has led to other opportunities for distilleries in Pennsylvania to begin shipping directly to Pennsylvania residents as well as doing curbside pickup. While discus has also been urging the government officials to reopen their doors immediately. Some Pennsylvania residents are even going to extreme measures of driving to places like Delaware, New Jersey and New York to stock up and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is now discussing
The possibility of reopening online ordering during this time. And two weeks ago, we reported on Kentucky House Bill 415. And what that could mean for interstate commerce. A version of the bill has passed that allows distilleries to ship bourbon and other spirits directly to consumers. Now, here’s what it means for shipments coming into the state of Kentucky. So out of state distilleries and retailers can purchase a shipping permit for shipping distilled spirits, wine and malt beverages into the state of Kentucky. shipment details need to be submitted to the Department of Revenue every month or a 15% tax on the grocery receipt must be paid. Now here’s what it means for shipments going out of state. In state holders of these permits that allow the sale of alcohol by the package will be able to ship to consumers outside of reciprocal states but also following state and local laws of that particular consumer. Now it’s important to note that this bill would only affect shipping
In other spirits from the top of Kentucky’s three tier system, that means it’s the producer, leaving out the distributors and the retailers now giving consumers the option to purchase direct from the distillery. This is only available so far in Kentucky but serves as a benchmark and a template that other states could soon follow. So it’s a huge win for consumers out there. House Bill 415 will head to the full Kentucky house for a vote relatively soon. As this pandemic continues, we’ve seen an explosion in e commerce. Many platforms like drizzly and thirsty are going to beat their annual projections by five or six x. It’s finally a revolution into the digital age for spirits because it’s an industry that’s been lacking for far too long. And next week’s podcast is featuring Corey rellis, the CEO of drizzly, so make sure you tune in and don’t miss that. And as a small plug, we’ve got less than 100 bottles left from three different barrels of pursuit series.
left on seal box comm we know it sucks being stuck at home. But hopefully you can do it just a little bit more with some hand selected barrels from the bourbon pursuit team. Are you really bored at home? Like so bored that you would even have a conversation with Alexa? Well, the team over at go bourbon calm decided to put it to the test. And they asked Alexa, what’s your favorite bourbon? And she replied, definitely bullet. They even quizzed Alexa on bourbon by asking, what’s the difference between bourbon and scotch? So if you’re looking to sit there and put Alexa to the test, go on, give it a try. See what you come up with. We started off the year in 2020, talking about scotch and now we’re talking about Irish whiskey, who would have thought, but we had the opportunity to sit down and capture one of the most interesting stories in Irish whiskey. Alex Cunningham is one of the founders of slain Irish whiskey. We talked about way more than just whiskey though. First, we talk about castles and rock concerts, because that’s
One big aspect of his history. Then we get into the dynamics of Irish whiskey. And if there’s some commonalities between it and bourbon, such as sourcing regulation, and how do you go about financing a distillery in say, Ireland, then we discuss the role of brown Forman and what they are doing and trying to make bourbon and Irish Whiskey consumers happy at the end of the day. If you’re a part of the bourbon pursuit Patreon community, make sure you’re joining john and the other folks over the discord server where there’s a virtual happy hour happening almost every single day and zoom. I think by now many of us are becoming experts in zoom. So come in and join in the fun. All right, let’s get on with the show. Here’s Joe from barrel bourbon. And then you’ve got Fred minich, with above the char
I’m Joe Beatrice, founder of barrel craft spirits, we’re always trying to push the envelope of blending whiskey in America. Find out more at barrel bourbon calm.
I’m Fred medic, and this is above the char as well.
All isolated and supposed to stay six feet away from one another one very odd and very good consequences came up from this for me personally, and that is my TV bourbon is going dry. If you’ve listened to this podcast before, you would have heard me complain at one point or another about my TV bourbon and how that’s the one vise that I have when it comes to sipping a little too much. That’s right my TV bourbon as I’m watching the Vikings are justified or Better Call Saul or reruns of Breaking Bad or the wire. I find myself having one bourbon two Bourbons. Whoa, boy, let me have a third and hey, after that, let’s go ahead and have a nightcap of a fourth. It’s happened met sometimes twice in a week and you know what? That whiskey goes straight to my hips and my belly and I tell you what, it’s the one thing that I cannot shake when I’m in the gym but
For whatever reason, I just don’t want to sit on the couch and watch TV as we’re isolated. You know what I’m doing. I’m cleaning stuff, organizing things. I’m doing all the things that I was supposed to do you know, when I first got married, and I just kept putting them off and putting them off and putting them off. This past week, I taught my son how to use a drill and we fix the fence and fix the door and I cleaned the garage and I’m like, holy cow, Who’s this guy? Where’s he been the last 15 years. This isolation business has made me productive, more clean. And I’m actually on a really good schedule with my tastings. The one thing that I have given up, it seems, is my TV bourbon. I learned long ago to look on the bright side. So I hope you’re able to find some comfort and find some things right now that helps you get through this time of isolation. And hey, maybe it’s a bourbon. Maybe it’s two, but I do recommend not doing it while you’re watching TV because
that could lead to four or five. And that’s this week’s above the char Hey, you heard me mentioned all this stuff that I’m doing with my tastings. I’m doing nightly live tastings every day at nine o’clock on my YouTube. I’m doing a face off of something in my office. Never know what that’s going to be. So make sure you go to my YouTube and click that subscribe button and notifications. So you can check it out. Until next week. Cheers.
Welcome back to the episode of bourbon pursuit the official podcast of bourbon. But you know, we might be branching out every once in a while and trying new things. And in today’s episode, we are again branching out from bourbon trying something different. Because you know, we get we get kind of stuck in our hole in Kentucky and we think that you know, bourbon is the all be all and there’s this whole other world of whiskey out there. You know, you’ve got sir Yeah, exactly.
I mean, we forget that
bourbon is just such a small segment of the whiskey category in itself, you know, you’ve got scotch and today we’re gonna be looking at Irish whiskey. You know, we’ve I’ve been to Ireland, I’ve been to Dublin I’ve, I’ve, I’ve had a few of them over there. And I’ve, I’ve enjoyed them. I really know the powers of the world and stuff like that. And I’m excited about our guests being able to to try something that’s new. That’s, you know, that they’re building and everything out of there, too. Yeah, and I’m ready to start this Irish Whiskey pursuit podcast. You know, what we should we should licenses what we need to do now. With everything proceed.
Now I know we talked about scotch and rums and Irish Whiskey is one of the few things I have had and like, kinda really enjoyed because it kind of reminds me a lot of similarities of bourbon not so much but it’s just, it’s more approachable I guess from a bourbon standpoint to make the transition to it. So, but the thing is, I know nothing about it as usual other than Ireland. It comes from Ireland.
It’s Irish. And yeah, so I’m excited to meet our guests. And this is a beautiful looking product and excited to hear what is Irish whiskey and about this product and let’s taste it. Yeah, absolutely. So today on the show, we have Alex Cunningham. Alex is the co founder of slean Irish whiskey. So Alex, welcome to the show. Thank you very much. Now, we had talked about this before because I thought I was gonna butcher your name. incredibly bad because it is spelled This is Cunningham, by the way, and you know where we come from around here. It’s like see you and and I am his his CEO in y in gh am so I thought it was gonna be something that can be like, how can I say this? He’s like, he’s like cutting him. And I was like, that’s awesome. We just like to confuse people. Yeah. But you’d mentioned that really hadn’t been somebody eons ago. They just changed it. Yeah, we put the wire in there and actually the wire ties in with our with our family Christ, I guess. So. That goes all the way back to the 1100s and it’s in it’s on the bottle of slains that was
Before the See you in and I am so I think that’s probably where the posers I think that’s probably when everybody came over and they had to change their names that probably had something to do with that. Yeah, my family history had that same exact thing happened to them as well. So, but anyway, I kind of want to talk and let’s start a little bit from the beginning about you, you know talk about where you kind of grew up assuming it’s Ireland because you you know, you’re definitely not from like, East Texas is what it sounds like, you know, kind of talked about where you grew up and kind of how you got into whiskey. Sure. slain is the place that’s where I call home and we named the whiskey after that. It’s a stunning little village about 45 minutes north of Dublin, in an area called the Boyne Valley. And believe it or not Irish Whiskey was bigger than scotch back in the 1800s. And there were a lot of distilleries in the boiling Valley because we are on limestone bedrock there. So we’ve got great water. Same is here. Yeah, exactly. There’s a reason though. scotch and Irish like
Kentucky because they were off to that water for making whiskey.
Earlier today, yeah, good horses, Motherland, but it’s hotter and hill here. Exactly. He’s patenaude. He goes a little bit. It’s okay. So yeah, the water quality’s really important. That’s why a lot of the distilleries were there. And also we got some of the best farmland in the country. And so I farm as well. My family’s been farming and slain for generations, and we grow barley. And we weren’t growing that historically to give it to capital for feed. But we love our Irish whiskey. So we said Why the hell are we giving it to the cattle wouldn’t be a lot more fun to turn it into whiskey. So they set out to do your crop rotate. Yes, are really Yeah, really important. It didn’t actually used to happen too much, but monoculture and continuous is not a continuous crop cultivation ain’t good for the ground. So what we do now is we introduce rotation crops, we plant Hydros every year to boost the biodiversity. So after a crop of volume I put in beans it’ll put the nitrogen back in the soil. It’ll again
Putting nitrogen eggs. And I think you’re talking right my alley over my knees like, let’s talk coding.
It’s a big part of it right you’ve got a good whiskey comes from good ingredients. Sure we take that very seriously, but we’re the only Irish distillery that would be surrounded by its own land bank. So we’ve got 1500 acres surrounding the distillery. I grew up about 2000 tons of barley, and you can make a lot of whiskey from that. So that was one of the reasons we got into the business in the first place. My Irish Whiskey journey, I guess, started I was a brand ambassador back in 1999, working on the leading Irish whiskey in the category, so that was where my journey started. But it wasn’t until the Reddit is a Jamison Bernie che was okay, just a guess. Yeah. And you know, and that that brand has opened up the category for Irish. And now I think people are looking for a little bit more choice, but
we started our own journey with the whiskey app slain, really back in around 2009. So slightly
At that time, the family home is called slaying castles. So that’s where I grew up big old rambling place pretty cold, but wonderful. Hide and Seek was good. And this is this is like real castles not like Walt Disney kind of castles is real. It’s a real kitty castle. Yeah, and this is a real one. But there’s a big responsibility to a place like that going. So we have survived by diversifying and back in the early 80s. My dad Henry, who I started this brand with decided he was going to turn the front garden into a rock music venue. And so we started doing rock concerts in 81. With a you to the opening act at first show.
Yeah, so that was good. And the gate you do? Well, they were just starting out everybody, somewhere. And then since then we’ve had everyone from the stones, Bowie Springsteen, and on three weeks time, we’re gonna be having Metallica arriving and we just went to Metallica city.
It’s awesome. Yeah, it’s really good. He’s had the chance to meet all those people. But now he gets the idea. It’s like that
level, right? This is the real highlight. Yeah, we’re the A plus plus. Yeah, totally. So that’s gonna be a good show, and we’ll be selling, slain to that crowd. So we’re gonna have a bit of fun. So we came out of rock and roll and capitalized on the awareness of slain. By adding value to the barley, we grow ourselves and turning into whiskey, which is something that we love drinking. But learning how to make it was a whole different journey. I want to hit on this rock and roll part a little bit more. So kind of like why why did the idea of saying like, let’s just turn the front garden into a concert venue, like a field of dreams, we’ll build it and they will come? Yeah, well, slightly. So Ireland was a pretty tough place in the late 70s, early 80s. We had some difficult times in the country and dad loved his rock and roll. And he had to find ways to bring extra income in in that climate. And he just said, let’s give a chance for everyone to forget about the troubles for a day and come together through music and practice.
approached him from Belfast, and they didn’t have any money to put the gig on so a guy from the east on the lending who became known as Mr. Everything, because everything’s gonna be alright and
he put up the money and they managed to put that first gig on and then you know we’re now Ireland’s leading outdoor music. How many people are we talking about? 80,000 Wow, wow. Okay, so it’s a big garden so it’s like Nokes, or I forget, I forget it’s like a castle like I got to keep that in my head here like it’s pretty massive. Yeah, not for castle. Yeah, but yeah, an actual castle. Yeah, so lots of people have made that journey to slain and I know they get the chance to try the whiskey while sir or while so there as well. So we’re going to be smashing it. Some slang cocktails on the day for Metallica. So should be good fun. You gotta get a particular cocktail you go to because around here it’s it’s old fashions Manhattan’s you know that’s that’s kind of the go twos and you can mix it with a rye or bourbon, but kind of talk about like a an Irish type of cocktail. It’s used with Irish whiskey. Yeah, well, funny. There’s there’s a good amount of
American influence in slain and actually makes a surprisingly good old fashioned no that’s maybe a little controversial as we’re hearing a lot about okay, but we’ve got our readers off some really nice heavy brown sugar notes in the liquid and I think that works very well for an old fashioned in fact the bath one of the better ones I’ve tasted had no sugar syrup a little huh no it’s that’s the way to do it. I mean, you know, no flavor additives or anything like that. The D model the cherries or do you kind of like I love a bit of modeling you know? Yeah.
No muddler no muddler for you? Yeah, but you got you got to do the look sardos yeah they’re like oh my god I’ll delicious if there’s there’s no like sorrows and like send it back. Now getting so geographically where where is slain? So you’re talking in between Dublin and Belfast on the East Coast were a few miles inland, as I said in the boiling Valley. So if you’re heading straight up from Dublin about 45 minute journey
and we literally have the room
Boyne which is our water supply for the distillery flows right through the farm. Okay, well with the rock who’s the you met some cool people I know obviously us but who are some of the most memorable or do you have any stories like of festivals like that? You know Come on. Yeah, well when I when it comes to what happens with artists what what what happens in slain stays and slay it’s like Vegas, but Nivea. I have been lucky enough to to to meet some and and
Dave Grohl springs to mind when the Foo Fighters played. He was an absolute gentle learner in here he performed in the pouring rain and did an outstandingly good gig. Total gentleman. So yeah, I think they love coming to slain because it’s a very special place. There’s a benefit of the Irish crowd. We got the backdrop of the castle and the river and then of course the whiskey added bonus. So talk about Irish whiskey. What makes obviously being from Ireland, but what what goes into an Irish was good and makes it you know, unique.
So I think Irish is a category is seeing some really strong growth in this country and it’s doing doing pretty well in Kentucky for us. I think it’s a very approachable category. So in terms of the definitions, we got a pretty extensive technical file that governs the rules are making Irish whiskey and I won’t go into too much detail but what’s different about slain I suppose the distillery is we actually make three different types of whiskey at the whim of distillery. So across the water in Scotland, you typically have a malt distillery or you have a grain distillery. slains actually got pots and columns. So we got three parts deals, because we believe in triple distillation. And then we got six column stills, because we’re a protected heritage site. So we can build two tall columns, which would be what you normally do, we have to split the two into three and six columns. That allows us to make three different types of Irish whiskey. So you’ve got grain whiskey, which is a little similar
To I guess American as in its column distilled can be a mash bill of malt and other cereals. Then we make triple cereals that’s that’s when we don’t hear too often. You know, most people will talk about different grains, you know, early cereals too often Yeah. Is that an Irish thing? Or just I guess is that is that analogous to a? No, that’s probably maybe a bit of an Alex thing. I am a farmer. So I guess we grow different cereals on the farm, primarily barley, though. But the pot stills that we have, we make two different types of whiskey out of that we do a triple still malt whiskey, which is from 100% malted barley, so that’s kind of similar to scotch. But then we do something called parts still, which is only made in Ireland. And you take a malted and unmalted, barley and the mash bill and you run it through the pot stills, and that leads to some really big charactered kind of quite oily, delicious whiskies that develop dried fruit nuts, they get older, and we are making that claim now but it’s going to take a bit of time for those to be ready. So that’s a few years away. What we’re focusing
on now is our slain blend. And I think you asked what makes Irish whiskey. Not all Irish Whiskey is triple distill, but a lot of it is and we believe in that too. And that delivers a really lovely, smooth, accessible character. But what we’ve done on top of that is we’ve developed a triple cast maturation. So that adds character. So triple the steel for smoothness, triple cost for character. What do you mean by triple cast? So like, is it honoring? Sure, sure. It says it right here in the label. Let me see. So we’ve got a, I see virgin, Virgin season and Sherry. Okay, so it is right there in the label. Yeah, so three very different animals. So as they go through each cask in separately or as a like a blend of the three different guests know, so it’s a little bit like when you’re mixing your music, we like to do them separately so that you get a lot more control, because then when it comes to the blending of the three, you can actually fully dial in to the impact of the one barrel. So this is not a sequential, we’re not taking the same batch and running.
Through a library. So effectively what we what we did is so the distillery went into production about a year and a half ago. So fairly recently now anyone who knows anything about whiskey is you don’t make whiskey that quick. So to get ourselves started, we actually bought malt and grain whiskey from other distilleries in Ireland, between three and about 10 years. And it was good juice. But we wanted to try and create our own flavor profiles. So we actually took that liquid, we blended it in different proportions and split it between three different barrels for roughly two more years, and that secondary maturation are owned. So let’s we’ll feed through the same violin program, but it’s those three different barrels that give you the unique kind of rich, robust character slang. So is that pretty is that common and are like this, so for sourcing to start out, because it’s pretty common here? Yeah. So we’re up to, we’re up to about a, I think, close to 20 distilleries, okay, and come from a base of only three
So this has all happened in the last five years or so. So Irish Whiskey just like it is happening here a lot of distilleries are springing up and yeah to get themselves started. They are they are sourcing from others and we did that too. And we’re we’re perfectly honest about that. I guess the difference is we didn’t just buy what we bought and create a plan and put it out to market we actually spent two years doing our own maturation at slain to try and build our own flavor profile. Is it so like here when we source was I don’t we source our own? Do you have to go like through brokers and like or can you just go straight to the story? What’s the process like over there? To buy the whiskey? Yeah, to that whiskey. Yeah, I mean, at one time Irish Whiskey because of the growth that was going on, it was pretty hard to get supply. But we were lucky enough that we did get some good juice and some of it was quite old as well, which wasn’t wasn’t easy, and we probably paid a pretty penny for it. But again, we wanted to deliver one slain launch, we wanted the best possible liquid and that’s why we bought good whiskey to start
With and did spend an extra two years staying out of the market to add that triple cast character. So it came with a cost but I think it was worth it for sure in this was 2009 timeframe is when this started. And then I started out small reasons. So the 2009 we originally myself and dad, we played in the whiskey sector and slightly different brand attached to slain initially. So we worked with other distilleries at that time. And then there was big changes in the industry and about 2012 big acquisitions happened. And we actually lost our supply at that stage. And then we did what I had always wanted to do, which was to build our own distillery, because ultimately, the only way to have full control and credibility, I think, is to build your own distillery and it was a bit of a crazy journey to get there. But But we did. So when you’re you approached your dad, you’re like, we’re gonna start a whiskey company, her words, you know, what was his initial reaction? Yeah, I mean, look, if you
grow up in a place like slain. Dad always taught me you know you are, you’re never going to own this place. You’re just protecting it for the next generation. So that that that long term vision, you need that in the whiskey business. So nothing happens in a day. So people thought were a bit crazy was actually dad’s idea to start it and dad as a maverick. I mean, he was the guy who opened the front garden and invited them Lizzie to come stomp around so he what he wasn’t fitting was another good banner. Yeah, well, one of the great tracks whiskey in the jar, you know, which dad used to love playing in the nightclub, which we also haven’t had in the castle back in the day. So whiskey.
Whiskey was always a global bag with you.
I got a big suitcase.
But, uh, No dad, it was dad’s idea to start the whiskey because he he puts laying on the map through the gigs and we wanted to find a way to I guess capitalize on that. Plus, you know, he and I love drinking whiskey and we’re already
growing the raw materials so that the kind of the stars aligned. And to see these buildings which are right next to the castle, they’re the old 18th century stables. And ultimately they were linked to the farm. So they had grain stores, for example, they now they are now home to the distillery. So we’re kind of its history repeating a few like, we’re adding the value on site, creating local employment and making some great whiskey. So like, we’re when you’re starting a whiskey company over there, like are you like, because I’m assuming you didn’t know how to make whiskey if I didn’t. So is there like consultants and experts kind of like your you know, their, you know, the late day pick roll a lot of people use to kind of, you know, help get them started getting the recipes figured out? How did y’all go about that? So I would have to say the Irish Whiskey industry is very collaborative, and I got a lot of good support from other people in the industry. I asked a hell of a lot of people a lot of questions and I kind of learned as I as I went along. I learned a little bit of I guess, from my
Ambassador is a little bit about selling whiskey but didn’t know much about making it. Now I don’t profess to be a master distiller and master blender. But if we were going to build a distillery, I needed to know what we were doing and where we were putting our money. So I visited distilleries in Ireland, Scotland over here in America probably annoyed a lot of people a lot of questions. But we built up what I would call a old school distillery in terms of how we make the whiskey. So we got wooden wash backs, we got a hand beaten, copper pot stills, three of them. But when it comes to how we kind of make it, there’s a lot of state of the art stuff there as well. So sustainability is something that’s really important to me. And so we have a lot of energy recovery built in. So whenever we’re heating something up, we’re cooling something down. And we’ve even invested in an anaerobic digester on site which will take those what some people call waste. After distillation. We’ll be feeding that to microorganisms.
They create by gas and when we burned by gas to heat stills, so that’s going to reduce our carbon footprint by about 25 to 30%. So everything was slain is built to last and I hope that was slain. You know, it’s not just about protecting for the next generation, it’s actually leaving at that and when you start it, that’s all right. Where did you get that from? Was that, you know, was that ingrained in your family? Or is that yes, I think ingrained in family and it’s just it’s, I guess, my own personal belief.
My wife Kareena, who? Who runs an amazing glamping site, and other reason comes slain on long like glamping Yeah, that’s been a thing. I’m sorry. It’s glamping be right up your alley. It’s like camping for for techies. Oh, exactly. I’m, I’m on board. Yeah. So so we have an organic farm and we grow veggies and we rare animals and we obviously produce barley. But the glamping allows people to kind of stay in immerse themselves in the landscape. So that kind of lower footprint style of living is just hi myself in Korean. I like to live our lives. If we
Can and the lessons that we’ve learned that we apply to how we make our whiskey. Talk about your dad, kind of like what those lessons that he put on you or like. He said he was a maverick, but he is kind of talking about more about him. So he’s a maverick, but he’s got great intent. And, you know, he has done, you know, I wouldn’t be sitting here and we wouldn’t be involved in slaying if he hadn’t kept the show on the road by by putting those gigs on back in the day. And he’s a very resilient, determined individual. He’s also one of my best friends. And we’ve had a lot of fun working together. I think what he taught me is you, you need to be prepared to take risks in life.
But just don’t hurt anybody along the way.
And do things as as best you can. And I think that’s how we’ve tried to approach the whiskey and that’s why we ultimately stayed out of the market a little bit longer to spend those two extra years and proven the whiskey. So I think he’s he’s taught me to
I guess the other big lesson is do what you love but make sure you have fun doing it. So kind of talk about his his growth path because was was he ever involved in the whiskey industry he just like drinking was, again joy drinking that he didn’t have any connection to to to whiskey in the past. So it’s a new thing for us as a family. Bryce’s closest connection was you working working? Yeah, well, it’s I guess, yeah. And maybe I guess that’s where, you know, when he had that lightning bolt of let’s get into the whiskey business. I just as soon as he sat at all the pennies dropped. I was like, You are so right. This is something we need to do. And people thought we were crazy to do it at the time because it’s a good few years ago, and I’ve been at this for 10 years. But look at where Irish Whiskey is now and where it’s going. You know, it’s really growing as a category in this country. And this is the number one market in the world for Irish Whiskey America. So it’s important not in Ireland. No art DPR
the Irish had gotten behind.
You know, we were down to very few brands a few years ago and, and it’s great to see all these distilleries springing up and more and more people are coming to Ireland for Irish whiskey, you know, you’ve got the Kentucky bourbon trail here, which is amazing. But the Irish Whiskey trail is getting going as well. So I would encourage anybody who does want to come to Ireland to make sure they get on that trail and, you know, short come to slain but there’s lots of other good distilleries as well, to kind of talk about the bootstrapping process you know, you want to go and you want to start creating a distillery you know, Ryan already talked about the, you know, finding the right people and figuring that out. But like, monetarily, like you’ve gotta you got to figure out like, how far in debt Do we have to go to figure this out are quite fun. Yeah.
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Got it. You got to figure out like how far debt Do we have to go to figure this out are quite far. Yeah.
It’s still going. Yeah. So yeah, no, we did look we were we were lucky in that we ended up partnering with with Brian foreman, and myself and dad financed everything on the project up until 2015. So we hadn’t laid a brick so to speak, but we had started restoring the the yards. We had designed the entire distillery and that meant our own efforts, but we did bring in some very talented people. We had a scotch stellar on board. We had one of the people who originally designed the Middleton distillery, which is down in County Cork, so we had a good team on board. And one of the proudest moments actually was when brown Forman came on board. And we shared that our technical designs we kind of expected, you know, hey, we know what we’re doing making whiskey. We’ll do it our own way, but actually they took the designers read and made a couple of
modifications on energy recovery that I hadn’t spotted, but generally they took it as read. But financing it was was tough up until that point and we had to pay the deposit on all of the stills. Our sales come from Macmillan and Scotland. There’s only two makers. There’s an unsightly left and Ireland but there’s four sides to Macmillan, we went with Macmillan. And that was a pretty penny to pay that deposit. And had we not done that we would have lost our place in the queue because there’s such demand for stills. So I had a few sleepless nights over that one. But I was lucky enough to meet Gavin Brown, who’s one of the brown family members. And we had an amazing lunch where we spoke about the potential for Irish Whiskey but actually more about what it means to be a family business and thinking about next generation. And ultimately, that led further down the road to getting the deal done. And we got that done in 2015. And pretty much as soon as we signed that deal. We started building the distillery who made that initial call or new
Meaning, like really seeking you an Irish Whiskey coming out? Or were you like looking for investors to kind of help get you past that dip? You know, is this that I call? Yeah, Brian foam was a company audit mode for for a long time. And they I knew they had publicly stated they wanted to get into the Irish category. So I guess we both had something the other party wanted but ultimately, you’re like I got exactly what you’re looking for. Yeah, but that’s not the way it comes down to the people. And, and ultimately, it’s about relationships and myself and dad felt comfortable working with what is essentially another family business. And not only that, they know how to make great whiskey. And what’s really exciting about what’s happened with slain or bland is actually the barrels that they bring to the table as well, because we have, I guess an advantage over some of the other brands in terms of those barrels that we can access. Mm hmm. You have an endless supply. I’ve seen it. Yeah, we do. We have an endless supply, but it’s not just the
It’s not just the level of supply, it’s the quality that goes with us. Sure. So we’ve been able to tap into some barrels that others just can’t, I’m always interested in, because I’m an entrepreneur, but not nearly on your own scale. But like, when you get absorbed by, you know, not absorbed or purchased by another company. What’s it like, like, because you’re when you’re, you’re doing everything you can to hustle and mostly make it work and do everything. And then every decision goes through you, but now you have like, you know, a parent company to kind of like, guide you and teach you like, how’s that? Like, like, because you’re like, Well, I know what I’m doing. But they’re like, No, we know what we’re doing. So what’s that relationship? Why Yeah, it’s a it’s a transition. I guess. It’s an intriguing question. I think a good one. You know, when you’ve I remember in the early days when the phone rang, and be like, you know, hello, welcome slaying whiskey and they’re like, Can I can I speak to a marketing department? It’s like, Yeah, sure.
So you get the dollar. So
yeah, let me check to see if the rain yeah
I completely that’s how it works, right and, and you’re fighting as a small and then suddenly you got all of these resources and additional people.
For me, it’s worked really well, because they have been incredibly inclusive, I’m still very involved in everything from liquid decisions to how we communicate about brand and how we behave. So I think the key to success is making sure that you respect and include what you started with, and it’s gone better than expected. They’re really good people to work with. So they’re going to help embrace your core principles. Absolutely. Yeah. But they bring so much to the table. It’s not just the barrels, you know, they got they got great technical expertise. So when we were when we were putting the blend together that involved it was a collaborative approach between Ireland and and some of the expertise over here, you know, and, and that worked really, really well. So I think it’s a it’s, I’m happy with where it’s landed, for sure. So how big is the operation now?
That’s over and slain. So the distillery can produce roughly we’re not up to that yet, but if it could probably about the equivalent of about 600,000 cases of whiskey a year, but we’re, you know, we’re we’re warming up slowly. young age. Yeah, you got age. So there’s one thing you need in this business, it’s patience. Yeah. But you know, because we make three different types of whiskey and we’re planning for the future, as well as supplying stuff that will feed into the blend, where we’re pretty busy. We’re not up to capacity, but production certainly ramping up. So bourbon like typical as you know, alright, before we can start selling it was it with Irish as though the rules are kind of three years in a day, okay. But, you know, I would never want us to release anything until it’s ready. And that’s kind of the key is just give it the time it needs. Having tastes a lot of Irish I think, certainly over for the minimum for the grain.
Then malt is going to take longer. And then pot still actually takes the longest. So that’s why our launches will come over, you know, give me 20 years, we’ll have a lot of rain. And I’m looking forward to that. But we just focus on the blend for now. Very cool. Well, let’s try it. Yeah, let’s let’s actually right. We’ve done a lot of talk him and he’s, yeah, Do y’all have like a jeers thing in Irish last what was what was the scotch one? I guess? So it’s similar. It’s all derived from Gaelic, okay, so scotch Gaelic and Irish Gaelic? reasonably similar. But in Ireland, it’s a little different. So it’s launcher. launcher. launcher in a second. Okay, okay. I don’t think it’s actually a word, but I just made it one. So kind of kind of talk about the whiskey a little Sure. Okay, so firstly, it’s an Irish Whiskey blend. So blends account for a good a good proportion of Irish Whiskey volume that is sold.
Blend means you’re putting two different whiskey types in this case together. So you put malt whiskey and grain whiskey.
In the same in the same blend. However, what we did was the whiskey that that we originally purchased would have all been in American whiskey barrels, which
the vast majority of Irish and scotch is matured in American whiskey barrels because you guys can only use them once here and we are very grateful thanks very not very sustainable. Well, you know it Do you know what, it’s fine because those barrels do not go to waste very, we say thanks a million we’ll have those so they come over to Ireland. So that had all been an American whiskey barrels. But as I said, we then spent two years doing a secondary maturation which is which is the triple cost it brings all this lovely character. So when we’re tasting slain probably makes sense to talk about these vowels individually and we can try and pick up some of that some of the notes that are there. So I just threw this will do so. Start on the nose. Now probably one of the things is going to hit you strongly as this lovely vanilla hit. Nice rich have even Yeah, for me. It’s like
boozy banana foster like, bananas false now you’re talking my language. Yeah, it’s like, yeah, real boozy with the we talked about the caramelized sugars. You know, the torch just got off of it. Yeah, no, I like that. Actually, that delves into the second barrel. I’ll focus on the first one. Sorry. No, no, no, you’re totally right because a banana foster now is absolutely where we’re at. And I’m delighted to pick that up. The vanilla head that comes first is really coming from that first barrel, which is a virgin American oak. made right here in Kentucky at Brown Forman cooperage. Now what’s special about this barrel is it’s customized specifically for slain. So all of the research and development of brown Forman have been able to do on different levels of toasting and charring is fed into this barrel. So it’s like a, it’s a heavy toast, medium char. And that toast is really what makes the difference because it helps to draw out the van islands that then become vanilla.
So using virgin oak for an Irish Whiskey blenders is pretty unusual as what the SEC is most probably aren’t united that not they’re not. But what is unique is this barrel was made specifically for us for slain and it does deliver that really lovely kind of aromatic vanilla hit nose. Now you will mention that banana Foster and that kind of moves really neatly into the second barrel. So our second barrel we call seasoned seasoned, as you probably know, that’s just a term that means someone was living in that barrel before.
And it’s an old veteran. Yeah, exactly.
In this case.
So it is American whiskey. Most American whiskey barrels, a lot of them end up in Ireland. However, the challenge with that is if you’re an Irish distillery, you’re typically going to be buying a barrels maybe through a dealer say say Calvin cooperage, for example, or you might have a relationship with another distillery like order stellar say, Heaven, Hell or an artist.
Brown Forman, but the challenges that they actually make lots of different whiskies and the rain, really any track or trace. So when those barrels arrive in Ireland, you don’t know exactly it’s labeled as murder and completely so the way the industry deals with it is by blending it all together. However, because of our relationship with brown Forman, we’re able to focus in on particular barrels. So we’re primarily using as our season we’re primarily using a Tennessee whiskey barrel or a jack daniels barrel. And that delivers very particular flavor notes.
Also, those barrels have to be shipped wet because otherwise they’re going to dry out and live on their island Island. So there’s a little bit of liquid in there and we are not throwing that away. We’re just pouring our whiskey in on top. So the net result is you’re picking up some of those lovely flavors. So ripe banana is absolutely coming from that barrel. And then Irish whiskeys tend to be blends tend to be nice and sweet. But that sweetness can go from like a nice, light clear honey to a much heavier dark branch.
Nothing that comes out of slain is light or fluffy. We’re in the business of kind of rich and complex. So I wanted us to get to a heavier sugar note and that’s where that second barrel the season barrel really comes in. So you actually you’re right on the money with a banana sauce. Yeah, I mean, yeah, the torch came in. I mean, it’s, it’s basically like we’re two bourbon casks already. Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s, for us. It’s an easy transition. Yeah. And I think that that’s a good point. You know, some people have described this as an as an Irish whiskey, a good Irish Whiskey for bourbon drinkers. Because I think there are some familiar familiarities and similarities there, for sure that American influences is definitely there. Do they hook you up on the yeast do here or do you have to use your own power there? So at the moment, we’re just using standard distillers used to have our distillery however, brown Forman are one of the few companies that do cultivate their own yeast strains. So I think that’s maybe something to look out for the future for sure, because I always get like brown sugar notes out of the old forester yeast. Yeah.
Whatever but yeah anywho but I’ll quit talking let you know
why we’re drinking whiskey. This is good. So I think if we had just finished with those two barrels, we would have ended up with an Irish Whiskey that probably just tasted a little too like an American whiskey. So we needed we needed something to kind of balance that influence. Now. The person who got me drinking Irish Whiskey was was my grandpa way back in the day probably before he should have but that’s a whole nother story. A common theme.
Yeah, but he was a lovely man, but he loved his Irish whiskies that had a Sherry cask influence. Now quite a lot of Irish Whiskey does have a Sherry cask influence. And that really stems from our history where before American whiskey took off, and all of those lovely barrels became available, we would have used what was coming into the country, which was wine, port and Sherry. And so out of those ones, the Sherry ones were the ones that really captured my imagination.
In the early days of drinking whiskey, and that’s kind of stayed as a theme. So, at the time brown Forman didn’t know I guess too much about the Sherry side of things. They have their scotch brands now. So that’s that’s changed but at the time, I had to convince them the importance of what a Sherry barrel could do. So we actually we went out to her wrath in Spain, and we taste a lot of sherry there was a lot of fun amazing food out there. But what’s been yeah are fantastic. But what a Sherry barrel does for for Irish Whiskey as it It adds this fantastic body and depth and lots of color. So we’re talking about an Allah Rosso Sherry cask. It’s been seasoned with Allah Rosso for a full two years before we even look at it. It’s then shipped wet, over to slain and again we pour our whiskey in on top, and very quickly, it starts to take on lots of lovely color and these characteristics so
So going back on the nose, behind your banana Foster and the vanilla and those lovely sugar notes you may pick up a little bit of a almost like a raisin or a kind of date note maybe even a little bit of fig so you’re kind of getting into dried fruit territory and that’s the primary influence that Sherry cask and also get like a graham cracker kind of yeah smell on it. That’s probably from the barley that I’ll dig out what a graham cracker was until, like two states but I get you Yeah, I’m the I’m the I’m sorry I don’t know commentary.
No, I I totally get you but on the pilot.
So I find it’s as easy as easy to gravitate towards Yeah, so IRA dangerous, delicious. Good. dangerously delicious. Oh, yeah. That Yeah, so welcome. If you’re if it’s smooth, right and Irish is generally has that lovely smoothness but it is full body on the palate.
Like I said, it’s got a lot of depth at the end like Nevada’s smooth products, they kind of the finished falls flat, whereas this one’s still kind of building a little bit on Yeah, I guess it’s, it’s a nice linger. I think where the Sherry cast comes in is there’s this lovely little brain or kind of baking spice note right at the end.
And it kind of it’s not, it’s not Bice by any means, but it’s a nice little kind of spice at the end. And that’s really coming from that Sherry cask. And it’s kind of like, nutty or creamy, like peanut buttery. Yeah, at the end. I don’t know. I’m pulling all the stops today.
But so this is I was looking at the bottle. So this is 40%. So 80 proof, correct. kind of talk about the reason of going to 80 and not 9095 whatever it is, I don’t really know honestly because us we don’t know the Irish Whiskey industry that well so I don’t know if like if that’s a common thing. Generally most Irish Whiskey blends will be at proof. That’s fairly standard for
For a blend, if you start getting into your, into your single malt or certainly a single pot stills, you know, that can get a bit of variation, sometimes a little bit higher. We settled at 80 proof, which again, is fairly standard because we just felt it worked really well at that level. Now, it is strong enough to hold up, you know, one of my favorite ways to drink and slaying would be on the rocks. So in that way, it behaves a little bit like a bourbon.
And it needs it.
I guess. Yeah, I mean, nothing wrong with it neat. And you have this with a banana pudding or something like that. It’s fantastic. But put it on the rocks and it holds up, it doesn’t wash out. And that was really important when we put this together. So it is designed to be a whiskey that’s good on its own, but it’s not going to get lost in a cocktail or get washed out when you throw some ice at it. What’s the typical proof when you’re dumping these before you cut it? So typically, well we put it into the barrel at about 62 and a half
alcohol. So that’s what 120 and doing my mask in my head, yeah, I’m terrible around 120 proof we use Excel a little a little lighter.
And depending on what style of whiskey you’re making, so our malt would be, we’d be taking off a pretty high proof around 160 or so. And then we’re going to reduce that down. The grain whiskey element is very high. I mean, grain whiskey is not far off of what you’d be doing grain usual. So you’re talking about 96 97% alcohol. So it’s, it’s very strong. So you got to reduce that down again to around 62 and a half percent alcohol before you put it in the barrel. And then what’s the what’s the kind of aging that you’re looking to do? Or what’s in this bottle today? I mean, we, we already learned that it’s gotta be, what, three years and three years at a day or three years and three days, two years, three years and three years in a day, so? Yeah.
So in terms of maturation, the key to this product is is that triple cast for extra characters.
So it started out living in an American barrel for a good number of years. So the malt and the grain, they were all the stock we bought was different ages, some of it was up to 10 years old. And then we’re adding extra time on that with a triple cast, which is roughly two years. So that gives you an idea of how old some of the whiskey isn’t that blend. And then we’ll be phasing in our own juice, you know, hasn’t when it’s ready, but it all goes through the same barreling program. And that’s, that’s how we get the consistent try to keep it consistent throughout the time. Yeah, stuff like that, too. Yeah. talks about the packaging who’s Yeah, a little different. No, yeah. It’s a bit different. And then you’ve got it got this. Is this the crest that we’re talking about that? Yeah. So you asked why the why was in the cutting of name and it kind of it’s tied to this, this sort of hay fork that is at the center of the crest. And that’s so that goes back to my family’s time in the 1100s. At that stage, we’re in Scotland, we landed in Ireland and 1605. But there was a rebel Prince Malcolm, who was on the run from
Macbeth of the Shakespearean origin of Macbeth wasn’t a particularly nice dude. So
Malcolm was on the run, he came to Cunningham’s farm and cutting could have surrendered the fugitive or he could stand up for what he believed in which was a rebellion. He hid Malcolm Malcolm survived as a result, defeat him at birth and became king Malcolm the second and he went back and rewarded Cunningham with a bit of land and an arboreal to celebrate the occasion and he chose the hay fork that he had used to hide Malcolm in the hay and hay loft. It’s a it’s a symbol of rebellion, perseverance, determination, and that’s what it took to get the slain whiskey project done and that’s why we put it on the bottle. And then it is a black glass bottle so it’s a little different. black and red have been our family colors for centuries. And I guess it was a little bit more rock and roll. So we just felt it. It set the right tone for for the whiskey
We have a lot of fun putting that together. And actually, when we did the excavations around the distillery because it’s all on the national list of protected structures, we found some really, really old bottles. None intact. Unfortunately, they were black glass. So that kind of confirmed that sticking with black made sense. Nice, as I say, so I’m a I’m a product of the 80s. I don’t know if you were big into like, 80s movie culture, but I saw that and I was like, it’s a, it’s the flux capacitor. It’s right there on the bottle. Nice. Okay, I hadn’t seen that. But there you go. There you go. Actually, I think it might be upside down. But it’s a dolly. But you know, really the whiskies really good. I think, you know, this is our first really good introduction, at least for the podcast due to Irish whiskey and knowing more about it, and knowing more about the history and sort of, really where it’s stemming from as well. You know, if you were to like, give our listeners like a good reason, like, you know, they’re bourbon drinkers right there. They’re real bourbon drinkers or bourbon nerds. Like what’s what’s the
Selling pitch that you would give to a bourbon drinker to say, go out and try this. I think if you enjoy bourbon you’re going to enjoy trying slain because Bourbons generally are very much flavor forward. Okay? And in the Irish category, that’s what slain is all about, you know, and people are moving between brands and between categories a bit more. If you want to step outside of bourbon and get something that has an element of familiarity, but it’s going to give you something a little bit different and slains a good a good call. So those heavy brown sugar notes, the hits of vanilla, those are going to be familiar, but you add in that heavy dried fruit notes, little bit of spice, it’s coming from the Sherry. That’s gonna be a nice, I guess, step away without having to jump too far.
Yeah, it’s one of the richer kind of Irish whiskeys I’ve ever had. I’ve had powers and I’ve had dabbled into like Red Berets and you know stuff, but it’s definitely got more than more depth than I remember of other Irish Whiskey products. So very impressed.
Well done. Thank you very much Well, we had a lot of fun not meant to get knocked out Shakespeare got to now you’ve knocked out a whiskey brand so we’re really Wait How can you even top this? Good question I think by focusing on our on our ultra premiums further down the road so give me a decade I’ll have more to talk about. Yeah.
So with the ultra premium category because we don’t really know the Scott or sorry, the the Irish kind of ultra premium category, like what’s that look like in in your vision? What would that entail as well? So I think in 20 years time, we’re gonna be all talking about the Irish answer to scotch single malt which is pot still. So single pot still whiskies which bring that on malted barley into the mash bill, create this really lovely, rich, complex, quite oily, characterful whiskey and we are making that at slain. So we just made our first batches not too long ago, the new makers fantastic. So when that hits the word, it’s going to lead some great whiskey
So it’s a fairly small category within Irish at the moment, but I think it’s going to be where the real kind of high end higher end of the market growth is going to happen over the next 20 years. So watch this space. Stay tuned. So what’s what’s the price point for a product like this? For slain yellow for the current bland depending on which market you’re in for a 750? You’re talking in and around 30 bucks a bottle? Oh, wow. Yeah. So yeah, so we when we won the gold medal at the Irish whisky awards, one of the really nice positive feedbacks was that we kind of over delivered on flavor for that price point because we were competing with more expensive whiskies. So that only up for a case. Yeah.
That was always the aim. We wanted to make something that was smooth, approachable, full flavored, and affordable. Yeah, we hit all three. Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, like for us, I think this was a valuable lesson and getting schooled and Irish whiskey. And, you know, Alex, thank you so much for coming on the show today because
It was it was a pleasure to not only meet you and hear your story, you know Yeah, I know You came all the way from Ireland for us and so we really appreciate that you know, it’s a it’s a badge of honor for us to have you on the show. Thank you. Well listen, I always love drinking Irish whiskey in the heart of bourbon country
like this Yeah. Trading traders. Traders for an hour. Yeah, sorry Chris Morris.
Now appreciate Alex very cool story and ton of history of your family. That’s incredible. What I’d love to come over there and party party for a week Come on. We should do burn get with Fred and do burn beyond like we can do bourbon workshops are Irish Whiskey workshops over there, you know? Yeah. and beyond. Yeah, slightly beyond Irish Whiskey pursuit, watch. Go watch that trademark. Be gone tomorrow.
Another question before we go or another opportunity for you to tell our audience how they can learn more about slain. If you’re any kind of social media or slain. How can they find out more about that? Yeah, sure. So
The website slain Irish whiskey.com that’s a good place to start. Obviously if you are lucky enough to get to Ireland come and see the distillery because that really brings it to life.
You can find this on Instagram, slain Irish Whiskey as well. My own Instagram presence is Alex Cunningham with the Y co n y n th. Yeah, listen to the front. Yeah, remember how to spell you can find me on there. And yeah, that’s a good good place to learn. I’d say you got a good man of information from the websites best place to start. What if we want to go glamping where do we go? So that is rock farm slain.ie for all and my wife loves glamping so there you go. Listen, you’ve got more and more reasons. My guests will be seeing you pretty soon I get there is home renovation first. there that’s awesome. So again, Alex, thank you so much for coming on the show today and you know make sure you follow explain as well as him on all those social media channels. You can follow us bourbon pursuit, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and if you’d like
Like what you hear also make sure that you take a minute and just check out our Patreon page. It’s a way that we help build and grow and fund the podcast day after day. Yep, I think you nailed it. So we’ll see you next time. Cheers. Cheers.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai