Deirdre O’Carroll caught the whiskey bug in a ‘Cereals and Regulated Beverages’ module at University College Cork, where she was studying food sciences with the aim of becoming a dietician. Her fascination with processes saw her through the inaugural Jameson Graduate Engineering Programme, further study at the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, and several positions at Irish Distillers. In her new role as blender at Midleton, O’Carroll is part of a team managing a stock of 1.8 million casks, an enormity of scope that she finds rewarding: “Nine years in the industry and, every day, I’m still learning something new.”
It goes without saying that my first whiskey has to be Jameson. It really was my introduction into the whiskey world – and not just through drinking Jameson, ginger and lime! I started out on the Jameson Graduate Programme, where I got to spend a couple of months in each of the company’s areas, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to find out. So, it’s not only a job but a hobby. Before the pandemic, I did a bit of travelling, and I was always very proud to see that bottle of Jameson on the shelf – not only because it was a prominent Irish product, but because I had a hand in making it.
12 Years Old
This is definitely a very special whisky for me. My dad and my mum (who are in their 70s), my sister and me did a leg of the Camino de Santiago on a family holiday four or five years ago. After six to eight hours of walking over very hilly terrain each day, we’d have some nice food, we’d talk about the people we’d met during the day and we’d always share a Chivas 12, which is very popular in that region of Spain. I actually bought them all bottles of it for Christmas this year. It’s just a whisky that transports me back to a time when my body was incredibly weary, but I was so content.
Midleton Very Rare
Dair Ghaelach Kylebeg Wood edition
Dair Ghaelach, ‘Irish oak’, was one of the first projects I got involved in when I joined the Midleton blending team. It’s single pot still Irish whiskey between 13 and 25 years old, blended together and re-casked from ex-bourbon casks into native Irish oak. For this fourth instalment in the series, we got involved with an estate [Ballykilcavan Estate in County Laois]. David Walsh-Kemmis owns and manages the forest, Kylebeg Wood, and we had a forester on board, Paddy Purser, to help select the trees [for the casks]. We felled them about six years ago and tracked them to a sawmill and cooperage in Spain. It really is just an incredible story of teamwork and sustainability, and I really think it is the way forward for every whiskey. We can trace each bottle back to a particular tree of seven, which is particularly interesting from a blender’s point of view: tree number two is quite herbal and has a menthol note, whereas number five is extremely high in vanilla and toffee. It’s the same whiskey; the only variable is the tree.
Single Pot Still Fourth Release
My partner and I frequently travel to Dingle, a town in County Kerry, to visit family and friends. There’s a bit of rivalry between Cork, which is where Midleton is based, and Kerry, which is known as ‘The Kingdom’. You wouldn’t dare to push our products down there – they would have none of it. Dingle Distillery’s pot still whiskey has always been plonked in front of me in Dingle – I had no business refusing it – and I was very glad I didn’t. It’s a lovely whiskey, and I feel very fortunate that we get to live in Ireland, which is such a beautiful place with so many great whiskeys available.
12 Years Old
I love to cook and host, and I often offer this whiskey with dessert – though I often find people don’t need a dessert once they try it! From Mitchell & Son's Spot range, this whiskey is aged in three cask types: bourbon, sherry and Malaga wine. It’s very sweet, with exotic fruit notes. It’s similar to Green Spot, like its younger sibling, but a lot more exotic. It’s just a lovely whiskey and, whenever I think about it, I think of lovely, lazy summer weekend afternoons chatting with friends. It makes me reminisce about warmer days.
I would honestly pick whiskey, but I have my whiskeys, so – do you think I could maybe bring my dog, if I got him a gold collar? Would that make him a luxury item?