February sees the year’s first installment of our popular Meet-the-Distiller series with a tutored tasting from the Cooley distillery’s master blender Noel Sweeney. From its old masters to its rising rebels, Irish whiskey has rapidly become one of the most exciting drinks on the planet and, as that spirituous liquid landscape continues to flood, we intend to get each of those distillers into the society to tell our members what exactly makes their spirits tick. Today, Cooley is an inseparable part of Irish distilling’s heart and soul. Aside from their core range of single malts, single grains, and the flagship Kilbeggan blend, they’ve supplied oddly tinted stock to innumerable independent labels and many of today’s new distilleries began their careers as Cooley bottlers.
Now rewind the clock. They might be old masters today, but Cooley were once the new kids on the block when there were very few people on the block at all and many attribute the recent explosion of experimental Irish to the hard sweat and innovation of Mr. Sweeney’s 90s tipples. From double distilling to peating to peculiar finishes, Cooley broke all the rules and made drammers round the world reexamine Irish whiskey. In Ireland, their success gave the spirit and its admirers the energy and confidence that has fueled its modern revival and, when the Irish Whiskey Society held our very first meeting in Bowe’s pub, that occasion was naturally baptised with a special donation of Tyrconnell finishes.
As new distillery after new distillery aspires to become the “Cooley of today”, Cooley have set their sights on simply being “the Cooley of tomorrow” and, whatever his past laurels, Noel has been hard at work pushing his modern Irish classics into newer and stranger flavour terrain. So join us at the Gresham as we take a long look back at Mr. Sweeney’s remarkable career and a brave look forward at what lies ahead for Irish distilling’s original upstart.