I have to be honest, I love building stuff. I did a big house renovation project a few years ago and really enjoyed the whole process, except for the part were my builder went bust and went to Las Vegas with much of the budget halfway through, true story ….That sucked. However the end result was great and it feels really special to walk around a building that you are intimately familiar with. Every fitting and fixture has your own stamp on it and every corner holds a memory. It was then with great joy that I watched a digger make its way up our little country lane this week to begin work on our first Whiskey Rackhouse.
In essence we are building a shed, however a lot of thought has gone into this particular ‘shed.’ The science of the Barrel House is getting increasingly more attention in whiskey circles and its something I follow closely. I am firmly in the camp that puts a lot of weight on the influence of micro environments on maturation and the resulting flavours. I am not the only one to do this. The guys over at Buffalo Trace with their WAREHOUSE X are leading the charge on this thinking and throwing money and technology at it too. I was also lucky enough to visit Copper & Kings in Louisville who use sonic waves in their Rackhouse, the belief being this encourages extraction of flavour by causing the liquid to vibrate at a sonic level and therefore interact with the barrel more . They do this by blasting music at insane decibel levels in the Rackhouse. Their sound system has something like 10 massive Sub-woofers dotted around its a serious investment and one they believe in firmly.
You will notice that my terminology is a little different to that usually used around Irish Whiskey. I use the term Rackhouse, because I am trying to create something different here that breaks away from the current norms in Irish Whiskey maturation. Whiskey making in Ireland has essentially been a monopoly for a generation or two, there is today no variety in or real emphasis placed on maturation by Pernod Ricard or Jose Cuervo. When bonding died out in Ireland, any variety in maturation died with it. Large corporations consolidated maturation facilities and scaled the process up to industrial levels. Even those with a similar business model to mine, allow their third party new fill to age in Airplane hangar warehouses, because its more economical and easier to do. After all, who in their right mind would bother building their own maturation facility ??……Sky high Palletisation and barrels ageing upended is the norm here in Ireland simply because producers want to maximise warehouse space. `
This is not the case in other whiskey making regions and in designing our ‘shed’ I’ve taken influence from Scotland, Kentucky, France and the history of Irish Whiskey. Our namesake whiskey bonder J.J. Corry aged his whiskey in a shed on his farm just like we plan to do. We are adding a few modern twists to our design though, which should result in something quite unique and good looking…..I simply REFUSE to create something industrial, that is not within our ethos at all.
The first Rackhouse is here on the farm, which is as the crow files less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean. The air here is so briney that we have to wash salt stains off the windows after a storm. Seagulls are one of our local birds….Our little microclimate alone should have an intriguing effect on the sleeping whiskey, before the isolated Rackhouse environment takes effect but only time will tell.
It feels great to have started and I cannot tell you how great it is to type this as I listen to a digger working away like mad outside the door. We are another step closer to making this happen and it feels really good. Oh, for those of you wondering about the Rackhouse cats (our most popular blog post yet) we have been inundated with lots of applications..I’m choosing a local animal charity to work with and will have an update on that soon.