In December 2016 we welcomed our First whiskey casks FOr bonding to our Family Farm in County Clare right on the wild atlantic way.

Watch Our First  Batch Of Whiskey Go Into Cask Before we Welcomed it to County Clare 

A Bonder leaving, now defunct, Walker's Distillery in the late 1800s with his Barrel.

The Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Company was founded by Irish emigrant and drinks industry veteran Louise Mc Guane who has returned to Ireland to join the Irish Whiskey revolution. Irish whiskey is having a resurgence not seen in over 100 years. Multinational drinks companies are jumping into the game alongside small craft distilleries. Our approach is unique, we are reviving a 19th century whiskey business model once prevalent throughout Ireland. There was a time that every town in Ireland had its own local flavour of whiskey. Grocers would travel to distilleries by horse and cart, fill up barrels with whiskey and bring that whiskey home to age.

 

This is How Bonded Whiskey was Packaged

This is How Bonded Whiskey was Packaged

Because 80% of Whiskies flavour comes from the barrel it is aged in and the climate where that barrel is stored, this resulted in a vast variety of whiskey flavours all over the Island of Ireland. This practice died out over 100 years ago and the last whiskey bonder shut their doors in the 1970s. We at The Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Company are bringing it back. We are taking inspiration from the inventiveness of the whiskey bonders of the 1800s and applying modern know-how to create the finest quality whiskey that today's whiskey drinkers will love. We expect to go to market with our first whiskey release in 2017. Follow us on social media at the links below to stay up to date on our journey.

Resurrecting the Lost Art of Irish Whiskey Bonding

 
Former Whiskey Bonders Now Pubs

Former Whiskey Bonders Now Pubs

Our vision is to emulate the conditions of  ageing used by whiskey bonders of old whilst applying modern day know-how and thereby resurrect many of the lost flavours of Independent Irish Whiskey and to bring them to market for the modern whiskey drinker.

There was a time when every town in Ireland had its own particular flavour of whiskey. The Golden Age of Irish whiskey saw over 400 distilleries operating on the Island of Ireland. There were not many brands of Whiskey at that time, rather most distilleries simply made their whiskey and sold it wholesale to grocers for bonding.. These grocers would travel to their local distillery with their barrels, have them filled up with new make whiskey and then cart them home and store them for ageing or blending. Because 80% of whiskeys' flavour comes from the barrel it is aged in and the climate where that barrel is stored, this meant that there was huge variety in flavour within Irish Whiskey. The Irish Whiskey industry collapsed in the early 1900's and with it came the closure of all but 4 distilleries in Ireland. Those 4 distilleries owned by multinational organisations have made almost all the Irish Whiskey produced ever since. They created individual whiskey brands and turned off the tap to Groces thereby shutting down the practice of Whiskey Bonding.

 

 
Lost Irish Whiskey Brands

Lost Irish Whiskey Brands

The end of bonding meant the end of true flavour variety in Irish Whiskey. These big multinationals develop their 'flavour profiles' in laboratories, and store their whiskey for ageing on industrial estates in airplane hanger size warehouses. Whilst this ensures consistency, it also means that the spirit of independence and the great variety that once existed in Irish Whiskey has been lost for over 100 years. We want to change all that. Taking inspiration from the enterprising Whiskey Bonders of the 1800's we are resurrecting their business model for the 21st century. We are applying modern day know how to create the highest quality whiskey  for the modern drinker.

We Can't Be a Whiskey Bonder Without A Master Cooper

 
Eugene Quinlan: Master Cooper 

Eugene Quinlan: Master Cooper 

In the 1890's J.J. Corry had access to casks from all over the Commonwealth. We know from the archives that he sold Bordeaux Wine from St Julien, Rum from the Caribbean, Port from Portugal, Sherry from Spain. He had a wide palate of casks to choose from when maturing his whiskey. No doubt back then he would have used local wood too as there was a fully functioning Cooperage in Kilrush Town. Coopers were common all over Ireland, with the trade traditionally passed down through family lines. Each Cooper served a six year apprenticeship before they were bestowed with the title of Master Cooper.

We believe fervently that we can't make whiskey without  a great distiller AND  a learned Cooper. It takes only a day or two to distil whiskey, but many, many years to mature it.  80% of whiskies flavour comes from the cask its aged in and the place where that cask is stored. We have to ensure we choose the right casks to put our whiskey spirit in and also ensure that they are properly cared for over time. To do that we need a Master Cooper. 

Sadly here in Ireland the Art of the Cooper has all but died. There are only four Master Coopers working on the Island of Ireland. We want to ensure we nurture this craft back into existence, its kind of an obsession of ours. We convinced Eugene Quinlan, Master Cooper to be the Guardian of our Casks and also to advise on our forward Wood Program for whiskies we intend to release in in 5,10 and 20 years time. Eugene has 40 years of experience in the Cooperage trade and a tradition in his family that goes back six generations. He works with some of his Grandfathers tools. 

Eugene Keeping a Watchful Eye

Eugene Keeping a Watchful Eye

Eugene works with us as a "Journeyman Cooper" which means he travels from his home across the Shannon River to us here in County Clare to work our casks. We are building a small Cooperage for him  in a 16th century barn we have on site. 

To the best of our knowledge there has not been a 'Journeyman Cooper' in Ireland in living memory. We support the craft of the cooper because its integral to the resurgence of Irish Whiskey and to the quality of what the whiskies we will release in the future. We hope that the next generation of the Quinlan family will have the chance to carry it on the great work that Eugene does for us and we'll do our bit to support that. 

 

 

80% of Whiskey's Flavour Comes from the Barrel It is Aged in and the Climate Where That Barrel Is Stored

 

Our approach to ageing, just like our approach to farming, is to work hand in hand with Nature. The Irish weather is renowned for its unpredictability and tendency to change. Its common here on the west coast of Ireland to experience four seasons in one day. Our farm right on the Wild Atlantic Way where our first Rackhouse is located has its own unique microclimate. Only one mile "as the crow flies" from the Atlantic Ocean the air is tinged with brine and the temperature can fluctuate wildly throughout the day. Not so great for a biking holiday but fantastic for ageing Whiskey. We won't know for a few years just how our whiskey is going to be, but we are willing to wait. 

 
                                                     Our Purpose Build Rackhouse on our Family Farm in West Clare Right on The Wild Atlantic Way

                                                     Our Purpose Build Rackhouse on our Family Farm in West Clare Right on The Wild Atlantic Way

A Fine Summers' Day on the Farm

A Fine Summers' Day on the Farm

A Misty Winters' Morning on the Farm

A Misty Winters' Morning on the Farm

Our Purpose Built Whiskey Rackhouse on The Wild Atlantic Way  is the Only One of Its Kind in Ireland

Our Bonded Rackhouse is the only one of its kind in Ireland. It is styled after a traditional Dunnage house but also takes inspiration from Kentucky and France. It has a southerly facing aspect and windows ensuring that the temperature allows for continuous maturation. The floor is nothing but earth with a gravel screed. This promotes humidity in the Rackhouse. It is small in scale ensuring that the sleeping whiskey benefits from the wild fluctuations in barometric pressure and temperature we have in this little micro climate. We hand rack all of our casks on the Bilge, which means on their sides. This is a practice that has totally died out in Ireland, multinationals choose to vertically pallet their whiskey as its makes  better economic sense. We believe that our whiskey will benefit from the extra contact with BOTH heads of the barrel allowing for deeper flavour extraction from the wood. Only time will tell. We have to wait a few years to see if we are right, but we think it will be worth the wait. 

Our Rackhouse is Located on the McGuane family farm right on the Wild Atlantic Way. These are our casks arriving before being racked. 

Our Rackhouse is Located on the McGuane family farm right on the Wild Atlantic Way. These are our casks arriving before being racked. 

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We choose to rack on the Bilge because we think the Whiskey benefits from additional contact with both heads of the barrel. 

All of our casks are Racked by Hand 

All of our casks are Racked by Hand 

Who Was J. J. Corry?

 

When we set out to understand the methodologies of Whiskey Bonders of the 1800's we didn't have to look too far. Only 3 miles away from our farm was once a renowned whiskey bonder called J.J. Corry.  J.J. was an innovator and a man before his time. His little shop at 63 Henry St. Kilrush was a key part of the local community and the only place where you could buy J.J.'s pride whiskey "Corry's Special Malt." It was available by the glass for 3 Pennies or by the Jar.


 

A Man Before His Time

J.J. was a true entrepreneur and innovator, born on a farm close to our brand home,  because he was not the first born son he was forced to make this own way in the world. We know that he dabbled in auctioneering before he set up this shop in 1890. Once he did acquire the premises and after marrying the girl from the pub next door, he immediately set about setting up his own brand. The town of Kilrush was a busy international port in the 1890s and J.J. would have purchased goods from all over the world directly from the Ship's Captains' fresh from their travels. He sold tea from India, Rum from the Caribbean, Wine from France, Port from Portugal in addition to Guns, Ammunition and Bicycles. A true Renascence man J.J. was a pillar of the community and an early adaptor of technology. He even went so far as to invent a Bicycle called 'The Gael' in the 1890s.  But most of all he was known for his hospitality and of course his  whiskey..

An Original J.J. Corry Label

A Special Place Steeped in Legend and History

 
P.J. Mc Guane Still Farms the Land Today

P.J. Mc Guane Still Farms the Land Today

Our business is based on the McGuane family farm, located on the Wild West Coast of Ireland in the beautiful county Clare. The farm has been in the McGuane family for generations and is still farmed today by P.J. our founder's father. We keep a herd of 50 dairy cows and about 30 cattle depending on how good a year it is.

Peat Bog & Faerie Folk

The farm boasts not only its own Peat Bog, which we have great future plans for, but also plays host to what is known locally as a "Fairy Fort." This mystic earth mounds found all over County Clare are said to be the dwelling places of the 'Little Folk.' We like to think that they will keep a watchful eye over our sleeping whiskey.

A Fairy Fort

A Fairy Fort

 

Independence Has Always Mattered Here

We know from family legend that the farm was known as a safe haven for Rebels and Freedom Fighters during Ireland's turbulent past. This was confirmed when, during a renovation, we found a FlinkLock Pistol, hidden in the rafters of our barn. It does not seem that the weapon was ever needed and it was long forgotten, we have had it dated to 1790!

Our FlintLock Pistol discovered in 2012

Our FlintLock Pistol discovered in 2012

A Drinks Industry Veteran But a Farmer's Daughter at Heart

Louise and Ruby the Whiskey Dog On Her Family Farm In County Clare 

Louise and Ruby the Whiskey Dog On Her Family Farm In County Clare 

My name is Louise McGuane and I left my home in Ireland 20 years ago, my subsequent career in the drinks industry took me all over the world and I have been lucky to live and work in New York, Paris, London and Singapore. In those 20 years I worked and learned from some of the best in global multinational drinks companies Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Moet Hennessey. I know the drinks industry inside out and it truly is my passion.

After marrying my husband in 2012 I was soon faced with a tough decision. I was no longer able to leap from country to country every 3 years or travel 80% of the time on business so, I decided to walk away from my global corporate career. I took a little time off and spent it back home in Ireland. During that time I watched my 74 year old father & mother continue to work the farm as they had always done in the knowledge their neither my brother nor I would farm it after they were gone. The Irish have a particular connection to the land and I felt a duty to secure the future of the family farm. I am certainly not the farmer that my father is, so I decided to use my established skill set and so, I founded The Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Company. After all, Irish Whiskey is ultimately an agricultural product, so why not ensure a future for the farm for the next generation by finishing and ageing whiskey in the very special place.





For the Full Irish Examiner Article CLICK HERE

For the Full Irish Examiner Article CLICK HERE

FROM THE IRISH EXAMINER MARCH 2017

FROM THE CLARE CHAMPION DECEMBER 2017

                       FROM THE COCKTAIL LOVERS MAGAZINE MARCH 2016

                       FROM THE COCKTAIL LOVERS MAGAZINE MARCH 2016