20 Jan Taking premium craft Irish whiskey to new heights
Irish whiskey is undergoing a renaissance. And as demand for premium craft Irish whiskey soars, the market is expanding exponentially.
This means more distillers, more producers and ever more variants of Irish whiskey hitting the market all over the world. You can find out about the long and turbulent history of Irish whiskey here. It’s been a long and bumpy road to this new era, and I’m particularly loving all of the craft versions that are now available.
Premium craft Irish whiskey is like a fine wine
Whether it’s different maturation techniques, new ways of imparting flavour or innovative production methods, craft distilleries are pushing the boundaries of Irish whiskey. And they’re offering ever more choice to consumers. At Craft Irish Whiskey Co. we have a firm niche. Our aim is to produce the best, the most collectible and the most flavourful Irish whiskey in the world.
We know that whiskey can be exceptional just like a fine wine. It just needs the correct practices. In the same way that vintners produce fine wines, we use specific techniques to produce small yields of high-quality product.
By selecting the finest type of Irish barley and only using pure Irish spring water, we produce craft Irish whiskey with a unique depth of flavour and intensity. By increasing the copper to spirit ratio, sulphuric aromas are reduced, and the flavours are enhanced. We only produce limited quantities of super high-quality Irish whiskey. I’d rather take years longer to create the perfect whiskey, than rush it out to make a profit. The beauty of craft Irish whiskey for us is its purity, its mix of tradition, innovative production methods and its history.
Why premium casks are vital to the process
For us, premium casks are essential for the ageing process. The cask’s life journey starts a decade before it is touched by our spirit. Premium casks have their staves ‘yard seasoned’ for years. This allows the rain, snow and sun to weather the wood, leaching out undesirable tannins that can enter other whiskies that do not take this vital step. Crafting the ideal cask begins back in the forest when the oak is felled and carved into staves. Generally, it’s possible to make three barrels from a single tree and the first step is to dry it out. A typical white oak tree consists of almost two-thirds water, so before the cask is made the wood must be thoroughly dried. Premium cask wood is air dried for years, a process that allows it to dry but also dispels any tannins or other compounds that could affect the whiskey. And it’s this long, thorough, careful seasoning process that differentiates premium casks from standard.
Standard casks are air dried for just three months and finished off in a kiln, which doesn’t allow all the harsher tannins to be leached out. Whereas a premium cask will yard season for more than three years and fully dissolve all those tannins.
At least three to four years is needed to condense the natural organic polymers in the wood (known as ‘lignin’). Lignin is responsible for that vanilla flavour or the caramel flavour when toasted. This is the process that intensifies the flavour but gets rid of unwanted tannins. Ideally, the cask will then host a high-quality bourbon whiskey for another six years, which further seasons the oak. This entire process is absolutely key in producing an ultra-premium Irish whiskey and is why we can produce whiskey with such delicately contrasting flavours.
Next you need to deep stave toast the wood. Most charring takes place in 50-60 seconds. Whereas a deep stave toast takes over 60 minutes. This really caramelizes the lignin and adds a depth and complexity to the whiskey that’s unmistakable.
This is all a lot more expensive to do, but it’s the difference between a ‘top shelf’ craft product and a mass-produced product.
Casking the Irish whiskey at 52% ABV
It’s not all about seasoning though. Our proprietary casking method is the final piece of the craft Irish whiskey jigsaw. The rest of the industry casks to a standard 63-69% ABV. By the time the whiskey is aged, it hovers around 50-58% ABV. When it’s bottled it’s diluted with water until ABV is around 40-46%. So that’s the industry standard. But Craft Irish Whiskey Co. does it very differently.
We add all of the water up front, before the spirit is aged. Many years later when it’s matured, it goes straight from the cask in to the bottle at cask strength. Craft Irish Whiskey Co. is the only producer to cask their whiskey at 52% ABV, and it’s the reason our whiskey stands out. It has a deeper flavour, a richer mouthfeel and is more viscous on the tongue.
Why are we the only one and no one else is doing it this way? Well for one it’s far more expensive as you need a lot more barrels when adding all your water day one, you need far more storage space too. So, it’s just not cost effective when trying to sell mass produced cheaper whiskey. And big whiskey houses are kind of hampered. They follow techniques passed down to them from master distillers who’ve gone before, and they must stick to it to assure a consistent product for their brand. We don’t have that issue being new to the market. We can break boundaries and challenge old outdated myths.
All of these crafty techniques have gone into our ultra-premium rare single malt – The Devil’s Keep. Aged in premium Kentucky bourbon barrels, The Devil’s Keep only ran to 333 bottles of syrupy, rich, deep, oaky whiskey with a lingering finish of warm vanilla spice.
With premium craft Irish whiskey, we only produce limited releases, and we will only ever sell ultra-premium whiskey. By sparing no expense in the process, this type of product is the finest Irish whiskey in the world.