Midway through 2015, something remarkable happened in Dublin—a whiskey distillery opened. The city, which is world renowned for its bibacity, had been without an operating distillery since the 1970s. Teeling distillery’s arrival in the city’s ancient Newmarket Square was greeted warmly, not least for the droves of spending tourists it has lured.
For much of the 20th century, Irish whiskey was a dead man walking. Jameson’s pleasant, fruity whiskey was known worldwide, as was Belfast’s more grainy Bushmills. But few other brands found their way off the Emerald Isle, and only a handful of whiskey distilleries were in operation. Scotch whisky and American bourbon were held in far higher esteem most places.
It was quite a fall-off from the glory days. In the late 1800s, Ireland was the world’s biggest whiskey-maker, churning out even more alcohol than Scotland. Dublin alone had a few dozen whiskey distilleries, such as John Power and Son’s massive John’s Lane distillery. It belched forth 900,000 gallons of liquor per year, employed 275 men and had its own fire-suppression crew. (Alcohol and its vapors are very flammable.) Back then, Irish whiskey was highly regarded, and it was served as far away as San Francisco, where wharf bars put it in coffee.
Irish whiskey’s terrible fall began before the fin de siècle. Scottish distillers proved to be tough competition. Many of them replaced or supplemented their pot stills (which look like gourds) with more efficient and productive column stills. A whiskey glut ensued, and prices plummeted. Liquor firms in both nations went bankrupt. Continue reading “The Resurgence of Irish Whiskey”