Keeping Sonny’s spirit alive

Bar-owner John Mannion and Jack Kenny of J & C Wine and Spirit Distributors with one of the limited-edition presentation boxes of the Sonny Molloy’s Redbreast 16-Year-Old Single-Cask.
Bar-owner John Mannion and Jack Kenny of J & C Wine and Spirit Distributors with one of the limited-edition presentation boxes of the Sonny Molloy’s Redbreast 16-Year-Old Single-Cask.

Lifestyle – As sales of whiskey soar, Irish Distillers have embarked on a unique project with one of Galway’s best-known pubs. JUDY MURPHY hears how the glass is half-full for Sonny Molloy’s.

Just a few short years ago, anyone walking into a bar in Galway wanting to sample Irish whiskey would have met with slim pickings.  In the country that had given this spirit to the world, whiskey seemed to be dying a death. But fast forward to 2018 and all has changed.

Pubs such as Garavan’s in Galway City have won numerous awards for its whiskey selection, while the Galway Whiskey Trail, launched five years ago, means that every decent pub and off-licence in the city has a selection of Irish whiskey that could have you sampling for a week . . . if your wallet and your liver could cope with the challenge.

Irish whiskey is increasingly being sought after as a collector’s item and this has led to new, ground-breaking partnerships between Irish Distillers – the company that produces labels including Jameson, Powers, Midleton and Redbreast – and Galway’s leading whiskey bars.

Earlier this month Irish Distillers launched a Power’s 15-Year-Old Single Cask whiskey, specially bottled for Garavan’s.

And just last week, the prestigious Redbreast label teamed up with Sonny Molloy’s Whiskey Bar to launch a unique one-off whiskey, produced especially for the pub. It’s the first time since it was first distilled in Dublin more than 100 years ago by Gilbey’s that Redbreast has entered such a partnership.

For Ger Garland, who has the enviable job of Brands Ambassador for Irish Distilleries, it’s vital that the company forges the right relationships with the right clients.

“Garavan’s is a pub that goes back for three generations and has had a connection with Powers through those years, so that was a perfect fit,” he says, referring to the era when John Power was an independent distiller.

That ended in 1966 when Powers joined forces with two of the country’s other main distilleries, Jameson and CDC, to address the challenges facing Irish whiskey. It was a bleak outlook then, compared to 100 years previously when Ireland sold 80 per cent of the world’s whiskey – by the 1960s that was down to just two per cent.

The consolidated group, which settled on the title Irish Distillers, moved to a green-field site in Midleton, County Cork, because the farmers who supplied its grain were located in the South East and all the raw materials were available locally. It’s now part of the Pernod Ricard Group, which operates a decentralised model, giving the Irish operation great autonomy, Gerard explains.

In 1984, the Master Distiller at Midleton, Barry Crockett, created the first of what became the Midleton Very Rare Vintage Whiskeys, a premium blend of rare, top-quality whiskey that’s been released annually since.

For more,  read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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