People

Keeping up with Egan's

Breathing new life into the brand
By Maggie Kimberl
The new Egans bottle
The new Egans bottle
It has always been a dream of mine to bring the story back to life,” said Egan. “My grandfather would always show me the bottles, barrels, and labels, and we would do a walking tour of the town and it just captured my imagination.”

As a boy, Jonathan Egan would spend long days with his grandfather, learning the family’s history in Tullamore. A tavern once owned by the family, a twice great grand-uncle who was the mayor after being imprisoned for being a ‘land leaguer,’ and a family name that once supported half the town with its many businesses were among the family legends passed down to Egan.

“The scion of the more recent family, Patrick Egan snr. (born 1811) was a great friend of 'The Liberator', Daniel O'Connell and both were barristers,” recounts Egan. “Patrick, his junior, was also an ardent Irish nationalist and was Crown Coroner for County Westmeath. In 1852 he established the firm P. & H. Egan, Tullamore, for two of his sons Patrick and Henry Egan. The firm was known throughout Ireland and was one of the finest in the Midlands trading in everything from agricultural machinery, fertilisers, timber, whiskey and spirits. They were general grocers, brewers, maltsters and ironmongers. The firm went from strength-to-strength surviving World War One, the Irish War of Independence, the Irish Civil War and World War Two. However, with the advent and stiff competition from new format retail supermarkets, the firm entered voluntary liquidation in 1968. Egan's had served Ireland and provided much needed employment for many Irish and Tullamore families for over 116 years.”

After school Egan left Ireland for China, where he lived for a decade. There he met his wife, Alison, to whom he refers as ‘The First Lady of Egan’s’. The two met at a party and realised they were from the same tiny town in Ireland, which rekindled Egan’s imagination about the family business.

Egan notes the worldwide interest and growth of whisky, Irish whiskey in particular, led he and his best friend, John Ralph to approach his cousin, Maurice Egan to collectively resurrect the old Egan Whiskey brand together.

“The rich and deep history handed down the six generations of Egan’s was worthy of investing in the rebirth of this famous old Irish business,” Egan says. “To this day there are many people who fondly remember the Egan family as noteworthy employers and supporters of Irish nationalism.”

Egan and his wife left China in 2015 to launch their brand in Chicago, Illinois, USA. But why launch an Irish whiskey brand in the United States in the midst of the Bourbon boom?

“It’s a pretty crowded market right now with a lot of new distilleries – 27 distilleries on the island of Ireland,” Egan says.
The plan is eventually to get back to Ireland, but only after the groundwork is laid to build the brand first. And, Egan says, it is much more likely the new family business will go back into the bonding business, rather than the distilling business, as that was the model previous generations of Egans followed. As a non-distiller producer, however, Egan’s still puts its mark on the final product through secondary cask finishing and batching, creating a premium Irish sipping whiskey.