Thirty years to the day since Britain was battered by the infamous storm of 1987, ex-Hurricane Ophelia threatened to wreak havoc across Ireland at the beginning of an important week in the Irish whiskey history books. Schools and workplaces shut down across the country, and advice was to stock up on essential supplies and remain at home until the storm had passed. Thankfully, Ophelia ran her course, leaving much of Ireland unscathed.
County Offaly and the town of Tullamore were gearing up for something very special that same week, and storm delays were simply out of the question. As industry and media guests travelled west from Dublin to the Midland’s county for the unveiling of Tullamore D.E.W Distillery’s €25 million expansion project, incessant rain threatened once again to dampen more than just the bog and peatlands of the surrounding area. But while the weather is a common talking point among the Irish people, it would take a lot more than a day of downpours to oppress our spirits.
On arrival at the town of Tullamore, I was excited to visit the home of Tullamore D.E.W and understand what the ‘Power of Three’ is all about; that would have to wait, as first stop was lunch at local bar The Brewery Tap. This popular watering hole is packed full of memorabilia, hearty pub grub offerings, great Guinness, friendly banter and Irish charm. Not surprisingly, shelves and taps showcase the local nectar, but I was struck by the enormous sense of pride and passion shared by locals for the recently revitalised Tullamore D.E.W.
The Brewery Tap owner, Paul Bell, praised the opening of the malt and pot distillery just three years ago in September 2014 for reviving recruitment and tourism in the local area. There was a feeling of gratitude to family-run brand owner William Grant & Sons for its approach to supporting the local community and remaining true to its family values. There is no doubt today would be a momentous occasion not only for the distillery, but for the people of Tullamore and County Offaly.
We may need to wait some time to measure this growth, but the pride in the brand’s achievements to date coupled with the commitment to its future is shared by three important parties – its creators, its owners and its local community.
Arrival at the massive distillery site is like stepping out onto a movie set. Perfect brickwork and shiny pagoda rooftops mark the entrance to the new bottling hall. This forms a stark contrast to the contemporary design of the new grain distillery building with its pristine white walls. Three imposing continuous column stills stand tall between the two buildings, reminding us that today is the day the craft of Tullamore D.E.W really comes to life.
Building work on the new grain distillery began in October 2016 and the spirit is now ready to start flowing just a year later. Since its purchase by William Grant & Sons in 2010, more than €60 million has been spent on bringing the Tullamore brand back to its rightful home, and this latest expansion completes the ability of Tullamore D.E.W to craft all its whiskey from grain to glass on one site. CEO, Simon Hunt, says, “The completion of the site has brought the total production of this legendary whiskey back to one important location – the town of Tullamore.
"We are the second largest Irish whiskey globally and the leading Irish whiskey in several important markets, but we believe there is much more to come for Tullamore D.E.W.”
On a tour around the Admin, Mash and Mill Tower and a nosy in the state-of-the-art control room, countless facts and figures about the project are divulged: 900 tonnes of rock used to develop a sound base; 550 piles driven into the completed foundations; 225 tonnes of structural steel; 8km of stainless steel pipework connecting equipment areas. All very interesting this is too, but why is it that the number three seems the most important figure of all here? As we explore the facility, the significance of the Power of Three is apparent and the addition of the grain element on site completes the equation for the brand: triple distilled, triple blend, triple cask matured.
To accompany the recent expansion, the company embarked on a bold marketing campaign inspired by the history of distilling in the town of Tullamore in the 1800s and the creation of Tullamore D.E.W by Daniel E. Williams, whose initials adorn every bottle. ‘The Beauty of Blend’ was launched in New York in September to celebrate a brand that reached Irish emigrant communities around the world and supports social inclusion. The campaign aims to challenge preconceptions about how great whiskey is made and champions diversity and culture through its slogan, The Beauty of Blend – but at the heart of this ambitious marketing strategy, is the whiskey.
Tullamore D.E.W is unique in that it blends three types of whiskey – malt, pot still and grain – to create its distinctive triple blend. Adding to that, it now has the rare ability to distil all three elements of its blend at the same facility. With three warehouses and space for 10 more, plus the bottling hall, the company now has control over each stage of production.
An impressive outfit! This begs the question, where on earth does it go from here? Global brand director, Caspar MacRae reveals, “Our ambition for Tullamore D.E.W is reflected in the major investments we’re making in the brand and in the distillery. In the last three years, global sales of Tullamore D.E.W have grown from 840,000 cases to 1.1m. The quality of our blended whiskey, combined with the brand’s reputation and increased investment, puts us in a great position for further growth in 2018 and beyond.”
We may need to wait some time to measure this growth, but the pride in the brand’s achievements to date coupled with the commitment to its future is shared by three important parties – its creators, its owners and its local community. The Power of Three strikes again at Tullamore, it really is a magic number!
The new grain distillery
The new bottling line