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Tullamore Dew gets a new home

April 30th, 2010

C&C, the Irish drinks company, is selling its spirits arm to William Grant. This includes Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey and Irish Mist whiskey liqueur. Drinks International reports about it here.

William Grant, as you know, owns the Balvenie and Glenfiddich single malt scotch brands. This will be their foray into Irish whiskey.

I’m not sure what the impact will be on you. Here in the U.S., Tullamore Dew is currently imported by Skyy Spirits. I would imagine that the brand would now be brought in by William Grant.

No Responses to “Tullamore Dew gets a new home”

  1. JC Skinner says:

    I’m always worried when Irish whiskey brands end up in Scottish hands, due to historical precedent in that regard.
    I hope Grant are to be trusted when they say that they intend to promote the brand globally.
    Tullamore is already one of Ireland’s top whiskey brands, and the recent expansion of the range was very well received.
    I hope Grant choose to build on recent successes.

  2. JC Skinner says:

    The Northern Irish distilleries bought up by Scotch distillers post-partition and closed down cynically by them to eradicate competition from a superior product.

  3. The Irish industry did more harm to themselves than the Scotch industry or Northern Irish. The Irish whiskey industry’s downfall had more to do with exclusion from the British Empire market after independence and prohibition in the US. They consolidated all their distilleries into one, destroying their links with the past and tradition. Tullamore Dew is already a brand without an identity, not because of some Northern Irish or Scottish conspiracy, but rather because it was sold to Powers distillery–another Irish one–in 1963 and shut down/consolidated.

    Unless William Grant and Sons reopens the distillery–which I hope they do–the product will change little. It will still be distilled by the (New) Midleton distillery, the only change will be the owner. I highly doubt that WGS bought this brand just to mothball it because they feel its a threat to Glenfiddich, Balvenie or Grants!

  4. JC Skinner says:

    Sort of missing my point.
    Northern Irish distilleries were within the UK and the sterling zone post-partition. They weren’t excluded from the British or American markets. But they were effectively gifted to Scottish distillers (with the exception of Bushmills) and closed one by one.
    I would also dispute the issue of Tullamore Dew’s identity. The distillery may be closed but its still is in operation at Kilbeggan now. And the lack of a home distillery has not hurt the brand which has remained popular in Europe for decades and latterly in the US too.
    Will Grant, like C+C, continue to provide business for both IDL and Cooley by having Tullamore distilled by them?
    Or could they ‘reposition’ Tullamore Dew as a Scotch, using their own Scottish facilities to distill a Tullamore Dew that isn’t Irish?
    I’m not concerned that Grant intends to mothball Tullamore Dew – I’m concerned that they may decide to take it out of Ireland.

  5. JC, I can’t really see the benefit of turning the Tullamore Dew brand into a scotch. Should it compete with Grant’s blend or Glenfiddich? Whisky business has changed a bit since World War One, so think Grant’s would rather keep it Irish, just to have another cash cow.

  6. JC Skinner says:

    I hope you’re right.
    But I see a lot of cost-cutting and consolidation and lost jobs in the Scotch industry right now. And I’m aware that the term ‘Irish whiskey’ has no legal standing or DOC.
    This brings me back to the previous discussion about ‘what is Irish whiskey?’
    I don’t see anything stopping Grant distilling Tullamore in Scotland at a lower cost base and selling it as Irish whiskey anyway.
    There might be outrage in Ireland (and maybe even in Scotland) at such a move. But would consumers in Asia, etc, really care?

    PS Just wanted to address Andrew’s point about the New Midleton distillery “destroying their links with the past and tradition”. When Barry Crockett visited the Irish Whiskey Society last month, he confirmed that Midleton not only produces all the heritage brands entirely separately, but they even produce utterly different base spirits for them, based on the original methodologies of each brand.
    This even extends to distilling completely different versions of potstill whiskey for Redbreast vs Powers vs Jameson. I for one was left with a strong impression that IDL treads extremely carefully with respecting the heritage of brands like Powers, Jameson, etc.

  7. I’m not sure you can claim that Tullamore’s identity/roots live on because one of its old stills is being used at the rebuilt Kilbeggan distillery. That’s like saying that Ben Wyvis lives on because its still are now installed at Glengyle distillery, when in fact Ben Wyvis is little more than a pile of rubble, with few old bottlings to show.

    My issue with Tullamore Dew and most of the Irish whiskey brands (except those of Cooley and Bushmills), is that they are just that, a brand. One of the charms of the Scotch whisky industry is that every single malt has a home with a usually identifiable profile. Even many of the blends can be traced back to their source. You are correct in stating that Irish whiskey was at one time considered the finest in the world, but that was before it was all effectively distilled by a single distiller. A brand may be successful, but with nothing behind it, that’s all it is, a brand.

    As for WGS moving the production of Tullamore Dew to Dufftown, that ludicrous, they are simply diversifying their portfolio. WGS turning Tullamore into a Scotch is ridiculous bordering on paranoia.

  8. JC Skinner says:

    Re Ben Wyvis – I’d have thought spirit made with the same still would be closer to an original than spirit merely made at the same place. It’s a technical point really, but if I were curious about Wyvis and couldn’t afford an historic bottling, I’d be happy to try something from the same still made to approximately the same mashbill.
    I’m fortunate to own some original PPS from the old Tullamore distillery. But for those who don’t, the installation of the still at Kilbeggan is very welcome, I think. One can visit the original Tullamore distillery, which is still extant as a museum, or taste the output of its still. Were Grant to install a new still at the original site (which would be wonderful), I don’t think the spirit would resemble the original as much as the Kilbeggan output might.
    I’m confused about your point in relation to provenance too. Every Irish whiskey can be traced back to their source.
    Tullamore Dew, oddly enough, is pretty much the only heritage brand whose provenance is complicated (since some bottlings are IDL and some are Cooley.)
    I suppose it comes down to whether one buys into the concept of whiskey terroir – all that stuff about how the sea hitting the cask room walls on Islay magically imbuing the spirit by mystical osmosis with a taste of its location.
    I don’t.
    I don’t view Midleton as a single distillery operation, and nor do IDL. There are a lot of different things happening in the one location. I’m not sure how that undermines the integrity of the whiskeys that emerge.

  9. JC Skinner says:

    According to The Scotsman newspaper, Grant do indeed intend to open a new distillery.
    A bottling plant at Clonmel is the suspected site for the new venture. The paper states that the company doesn’t think it can sufficiently expand the brand by bottling under contract, and are set to seek capacity of their own.
    If true, this is fantastic news.

  10. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    I do not quite see the connection to Kilbeggan other than that there is on show one of the original Tullamore stills.

    http://www.irelandwhiskeytrail.com/tullamore_dew_distillery_heritage_centre_tour_offaly_ireland.phps

    http://www.irelandwhiskeytrail.com/d_e_williams_tullamore_distillery_offaly.phps

    Tullamore Distillerie was one of two distilleries originally built in Tullamore. it is long gone.

    In that sense the brand Tullamore Dew is homeless.

    What I do not see either is that Grants will make a Scotch out of Tullamore Dew or that they bought it to take it off the market or as it was put “to close the distillery”.

    Would you rather have it being bought up by one of the drinks giants?

    Trust William Grant & Sons to have a sense for history and tradition even if it is Irish history.

    You certainly know that Tullamore Dew has not been sold in Ireland for ages and that it has come to the market there only a few years ago?

    So why the fuss and the mistrust? Let us see what they are up to and how they will develop Tullamore.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

    • John M says:

      Just to clarify about the stills. There are five stills from the Tullamore distillery at Kilbeggan. The three large pot stills are not in use – they are almost exactly the same as the ones that once operated at Kilbeggan and the plan is to fire them up again at some stage.

      There is also a small still, said to be the oldest still in operation, which Kilbeggan uses in combination with a replica to make whiskey.

      And there is a column still, which will be put into operation shortly.

      The Kilbeggan distillery is certainly a link to the past, as is Bushmills. And Midleton just moved it’s operation a short distance to a super-distillery.

      • JC Skinner says:

        Thanks for explaining that. I’ve seen the stills at Kilbeggan but never really understood what was in use.
        I agree utterly re the heritage of Irish whiskey remaining intact. Bushmills hasn’t budged since the late 18th century. Yet they don’t make the whiskey now they once made back then. They no longer make peated malt or PPS, yet they do make long-aged cask finished malts which they had no tradition of.
        Does that undermine their heritage? I wouldn’t have thought so.
        It was a tragedy how the Dublin distilleries and North Mall closed. But since most of the skills of the artisans ended up at Midleton, doing the same job with the same aim in a different environment, I think the heritage was reasonably well respected, especially since they preserved Bow Street so well.
        They too moved with the times over the years, from PPS to PPS-based blends. Sales and fans alike would attest to the success of those amendments to the historic brands.
        For me, the Cooley issue is more complex. Kilbeggan is up and running again, which is great. But they had a Kilbeggan and a Locke’s brand long before that happened. And Tyrconnell too is a venerable brand once distilled in Derry, I believe.
        I’m not sure there is the continuation of heritage there that there is with Bushmills and Midleton. IE, I think that Tyrconnell now is best considered on its own merits and not as some culmination of a North Coast whiskey from generations ago. Ditto Kilbeggan, and it’s going to be complicated when the new Kilbeggan spirit starts hitting the market, as it will shortly.
        What can they call it? ‘New’ Kilbeggan, when it’s made on antique stills in Ireland’s oldest standing distillery? ‘Original’ Kilbeggan? (It’s not – that’s what was made there until it closed.) They could save the Kilbeggan branding for Kilbeggan output only, but while that would make sense to consumers, there would remain confusion with the existing stocks of Cooley-made Kilbeggan whiskey.
        They could have used the Locke’s brand, except the exact same problem applies there too.
        As I said, complicated.
        None of that should in any way distract from acknowledging the great work Cooley does, of course. They’ve been magnificent pioneers and artisans and are more than worthy keepers (and re-lighters) of the Kilbeggan flame.

  11. JC Skinner says:

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your information from, but I’m in Dublin city centre right now, and the little neighbourhood off-license next door is selling Tullamore Dew, as is the bar on the other side of it, and pretty much every other outlet in town.
    Tullamore has to my knowledge always been continually sold in Ireland.
    The connection to Kilbeggan is that one of Tullamore’s old stills is in operation there, not merely on show. The same still is in use today.

  12. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    that was not always so. I should have wirtten “not widely sold” probably though I remember vaguely having read somewhere that at a time Tullamore Dew was not available in Ireland. But that could have been false then.

    http://www.irishwhiskeynotes.com/2007/11/tullamore-dew.html

    And it seems that the idea of selling the brand is not entirely new either.

    The feature above is dated 2007.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

  13. JohnM says:

    Unlikely they’d spend so much on the brand just to shut it down. Very unlikely.

  14. JohnM says:

    I’m not sure that the pot still used in Kilbeggan is the one that made the likes of Knappogue Castle 1951 or the Cadenhead Tullamore. Not sure of course, but I’d say the ones that made such whiskey are the ones lying idle at the Kilbeggan Distillery.

  15. JC Skinner says:

    @JohnM: The Scotsman reports the opposite – they intend to open a distillery in Clonmel, apparently.
    I guess we’d have to ask Cooley if they knew which still was used for what.
    @Kallaskander: Tullamore Dew has never been especially popular in Ireland. Paddy competes strongly with it here. But it’s always been available.
    I recall buying Tullamore Dew in Dublin in the late 1980s. It’s owners, C+C, had and have good distribution in Ireland. I’m not sure why David couldn’t find it in 2007. It might have been difficult to find in Dublin bars, but not in the off-licences.

    • kallaskander says:

      Hi there,

      thank you JC. I learned something new about Irish whiskey.

      Greetings
      kallaskander

      • JC Skinner says:

        I have too, Kallaskander. Now I have to find out whether the still in use at Kilbeggan was used to make potstill at Tullamore or not!
        This latest twist in the brand’s future had me thinking about its past. It is somewhat unusual. Tullamore Dew began as a pure potstill, but was the first of the Irish blends when they installed a coffey still in the late Forties or early Fifties.
        Later, after Tullamore shut it moved production to Cork and slowly assumed its current profile – a young PPS based blend heavy on the grain, with a touch of single malt in there. Not unlike Paddy, in other words.
        Even though Paddy and Tullamore are (and were) owned by different groups, it seemed as if Paddy got the promotion at home and Tullamore abroad. Latterly, though, there hasn’t been much of a push behind Paddy and Tullamore moved into the single malt market (using finished Tyrconnell whiskey from Cooley) with their 10 yo, and the whole brand got a push off the back of that launch.
        And now C+C have sold it on to Grant, whose expertise is very much in Scotch. In Ireland, we’ve been wondering will this mean a change in Tullamore’s profile again if they do start distilling in Clonmel.
        Perhaps a double-distilled single malt Tullamore is in the offing? Or would they go triple distilled?
        More interestingly, will they attempt to recreate the current flavour profile by distilling their own potstill and grain whiskeys?
        It’s very much a case of ‘watch this space’, I reckon.

  16. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    one other thing…

    William Grant & Sons know a thing or two about whisky. They will learn about whiskey very quickly and I am sure they have thought about it for some time.

    As they sell one of the most successful single malts already it could be one of their goals to sell the most successfull pure pot still.

    There is one distiller in Irelad working after Scottish guidelines and principles already.

    Let`s see if the Scots decide to be more Irish than the Irishmen themselves. I think there is a potential for the renaissance of Irish pure pot still.

    Yes I know about Redbreast and Green Spot. But they are marginal brands afaik.

    To make an Irish blend you not only need pot stills but you need a patent still in Ireland as well or you have to buy your grains elswhere in country.

    If one builds a traditional pot still distillery in Ireland one could make malt or pure pot still on your own with your investment.

    Not that Grant`s would not have the means to install a patent still from the begining as well, mind.

    We live in interesting times I say.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

  17. David says:

    I see I’ve been quoted as saying that Tullamore Dew was not available in Ireland. To be clear, I didn’t say that. I said (in 2007) that it’s not promoted in Ireland. I also noted its absence from many bars.

    It has always been available in Ireland though, in bottles and in some pubs. As a nostalgic brand, it’s also very well known in Ireland, even if few drink it here.

    C&C let the Irish market for Tullamore Dew fade. Perhaps that was true in other markets that Irish Distillers owned too. Taking the manufacture away from IDL should open up the competition.

    A three-way global fight between Jameson, Tullamore Dew and Bushmills can only be a good thing for the profile of Irish whiskey.

  18. John M says:

    I have read that there are “rumours” that Grant will move their corporate head office to Ireland for tax reasons and the distillery built (if there is one to be built) will produce white spirits for their other brands – with the capability to produce grain whiskey too.

    I’d say this is pure speculation.

  19. kallaskander says:

    Hi David,

    sorry, I did not want to quote you as a reference saying that Tullamore Dew was not available in Ireland. I picked that – wrong – information up somewhere else.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

  20. JC Skinner says:

    Thankfully, Tullamore has always been around in Ireland.
    I have to say, if half the rumours are true, then the introduction of Grant to Irish distilling could be exactly the opposite of what I feared, which would be a tremendous development.
    They say expect the worst and hope for the best. Having at least feared the worst, I’ll now indulge in a little hope, or rather a big one – I hope Grant do open their own distillery, and I hope they have a go at PPS, grain and single malt there. I hope to taste all their outputs, and I hope to welcome a fourth force (and a fifth distillery) to Ireland.
    I don’t mind where their corporate HQ is. I think I’d rather the suits stayed in Scotland to be honest.

  21. Pure Pot Head says:

    Re this Tullamore Dew discussion. Let’s be straight up about it. Tullamore Dew was never a popular brand in Ireland. It was always seen as a basic ‘provincial’ whiskey in the words of my grandfather. Switching to column stills turned the Irish off it and that finally killed it off. The brand sells big quantities in parts of Europe where is is either discounted heavily or flogged as an Irish Coffee ingredient. I’m sorry but that’s the fact. It just doesn’ t come close to Jameson, Powers, Paddy or Bushmills as an iconic whiskey of Ireland. And Grant’s isn’t exactly a premium priced whiskey either so my expectation is that they will just continue to pile high and sell cheap with both brands. They’re not going to make Tullamore Dew Scottish, they’re not going to make a Pure Pot Still, none of that will happen. They’re just putting a long term wager on future Irish whiskey which is the world’s fastest growing most dynamic whiskey category. It’s a good sensible move by Grants. They’re riding two horses now. But I think they’re in for more of a struggle that they realise. It’s only a matter of time before Irish Distillers begin to release the sleeping giant that is John Powers Whiskey, Irelands favourite whiskey for most of its history, into the global markets. They’ve kept it on a leash all these years to give Jameson time to re establish itself free of any real competition. That has now happened and it’s clear the strategy was right. But the game is only beginning. I believe it’s going to get even more interesting in the future.

  22. JC Skinner says:

    Powers on a leash and Paddy and Redbreast neglected too.
    But it’s hard for IDL to divert resources away from Jameson and potentially dilute their core (booming) brand that they’ve been working hard to build up.
    The game is definitely only beginning. There is vast room for expansion in the Irish market, I feel.

  23. JohnM says:

    Powers and Powers 12 have now been released in the States and they’re going down well, I believe, particularly the latter. Powers is my favourite standard Irish whiskey and I love the 12, although I feel it could be just that bit better.

    I don’t know Grant’s plans, but why not make a pure pot still? Irish whiskey is growing in popularity not just because of the name, but because of the style and the quality, I believe. So why dilute the quality if you want to grow the brand?

  24. ??? says:

    Yes Grants have it now and hopefully will do great things for us. C&C will still be involved.
    Rumors have it that Grants are planning to build a distillery for TD, if that true, remains to be seen.
    No need to slag off Tullamore Dew Whiskey, yes it sell well in continental Europe but so what?
    It still brings tourists to Ireland, that bring revenue (badly needed nowadays) to visit Tullamore and the home of the whiskey which is now the Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre,now a museum.
    Call me biast if you want. Nothing wrong with TD, some don’t like it, fine.
    But no need to slag it off.

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