Darryl McNally is responsible for the Dublin Liberties Distillery and the Irish Whiskeys from Quintessential Brands Group. I recently took part in a tasting of their Irish whiskey portfolio and he was kind enough to agree to my invite and spare some time to talk to Inside the Cask.
Inside the Cask: Hi Darryl, you are the Master Distiller and Director of Irish Whiskey at Dublin Liberties Distillery. However how did it all start for you? Where did the interest in whiskey initially come from?
I was born into the family bar and at a very young age began to learn the differences in spirits, beers etc. and the processes involved. After University I got a job at Bushmills Distillery in a supply chain role and it was then that the real bug really hit me on the process of making Irish Whiskey…..I was sort of hooked at that stage and have loved every minute since.
Inside the Cask: Most people will have no idea of the work involved in producing Irish Whiskey, so what is involved and what does it entail on a day to day basis?
First you need the finest malted barley, crush it into grist and add water in the lauter tun – this process extracts the sugars from the malted barley. We then add yeast in the fermenter and convert these sugars into alcohol. Using the Copper Stills, we then make this alcohol stronger at each distillation by removing water, plus the interaction between the copper which gives a spirit at about 85% after the 3rd distillation. This is then reduced to 63.4% and put into oak barrels to mature.
My job will be making sure each of these processes are completed properly and on time, but I also have a team in the distillery who make this happen day in, day out. I also look at the blending for our brands. On top of the actual whiskey production side of things, I also get involved in things like media interviews or hosting whiskey tasting for media and friends of the brand – no two days are the same but I can say it’s a great job!
Inside the Cask: What are the biggest misconceptions people have about Irish Whiskey?
That’s a tough one…I think people in the past thought it was an older man’s drink but Irish Whiskey is very much quality in a glass and has very delicate flavours, which appeal to all consumers, whether they’re old or young, male or female.
I think our new consumers appreciate the finer quality in Irish Whiskey and that unmistakable taste and quality.
Inside the Cask: Can you tell us more about Dublin Liberties Distillery, and the history behind the Liberties area of Dublin?
While our distillery is an example of modern excellence, distilling and whiskey have been closely linked with the Liberties for centuries. Going back to the 11th century, the Liberties was an area that fell outside of Dublin city walls and as such, it was outside of Dublin’s jurisdiction, law and taxes. It was a hub of bustling trade and illicit enterprise.
In the 1700s, commerce and craftsmanship fuelled the city by day. By night, tavern-keepers and brothel owners plied their trade in what was the most notorious red-light district in Europe, known as ‘hell’ thanks to the hedonism and debauchery of the area. The distillery building dates back to the 1700s and is a testament to the industry of the area – it was originally a mill, and for many years a tannery which specialized in rabbit skins. It tells a centuries-old story which today, as the Liberties takes another step, is in many ways reminiscent of the heyday of masterful Dublin whiskey-making, that is again becoming renowned the world over.
The Dublin Liberties Distillery is a state of the art craft whiskey distillery which also hosts an exceptional visitor experience and brand home for our Irish whiskeys.
The Dublin Liberties distillery boasts two tonne mashing, triple distillation with capacity for 10k litres in the first still and 6k litres in the second and third still, and capacity to produce over 700,000 litres of pure alcohol annually. We source all our malt from Irish farmers and draw our water from our own well within the distillery, which fell as rainwater here over 1000 years ago.
We have specified our yeast strain, and while our fermentation and distillation take longer than most, we believe this produces an unparalleled spirit, perfect for making whiskey.
Our whiskey is matured in special whiskey warehouses, which I manage along with the team until the whiskey is ready to be released. Whiskey needs a minimum of three years to mature, but we will leave the majority of our whiskey much longer. We age The Liberties whiskey in a variety of casks and also create bespoke finishes for our different whiskey variants.
Inside the Cask: What were the challenges involved in bringing a new distillery to life in Dublin? Any highlights?
The biggest challenge was the fact it was in the City Centre and there was no easy way to get things in and out of the site. We had some difficult days trying to transport the equipment into Dublin and then onto site, but we got there and are very proud of how it looks today.
Inside the Cask: What type of whiskey are you producing at Dublin Liberties Distillery? Are you open to visitors (once normal service resumes of course)?
We are currently making Triple Distilled Single Malt.
Usually, The Dublin Liberties Distillery hosts a unique experience, where visitors can get an insight into the workings of the distillery and learn more about the history of the Liberties area and what has inspired our whiskeys. Visitors have the chance to see, smell, touch and taste our award-winning whiskey. We host tours, immersive tastings, whiskey blending workshops and private events, however unfortunately due to Covid-19, the distillery is currently closed to the public.
Inside the Cask: Can you tell us more about the Quintessential Brands Group Irish whiskey brands?
We have 3 brands in total – The Dubliner, Dublin Liberties and Dead Rabbit.
The Dubliner is very much a straightforward Irish Whiskey, very much a competitor to Jameson and Bushmills.
Dublin Liberties is an ‘always aged, always premium’ offering as we have a 5, 10, 13, 16 and 27YO offering so really is super/ultra-premium.
Dead Rabbit was designed and collaborated with Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry from the Dead Rabbit bar in NYC…this is very much a bartender whiskey and perfect for cocktails as the base whiskey.
Inside the Cask: Any new releases coming out soon?
We have 2 new Dubliner Beer Cask series being launched, so watch out for those.
Inside the Cask: What is your favourite taoscan (or dram) and why?
Oh that’s tough…I always say you would never ask a father which one of his children he prefers….but our Dublin Liberties 16YO is very needy at the minute…it’s finished in PX casks and is very nice so that’s my go to whiskey at the minute.
Inside the Cask: Can you tell us more about your personal background? What else are you passionate about?
I’m married to my wife Colette and have two children, Conor (17) and Ellie-May (10), so they keep me busy at the weekend. I have two Newfoundland dogs who are part of the family, Yogi and Yana. I live on my Dads farm up in a place called Magilligan in the North West coast of Ireland – it is the hidden part of Ireland with beautiful beaches and scenery. I like Motorsport and anything car related…that’s it really!
Inside the Cask: What would be your advice for anyone else wanting to work in the drinks industry?
Go for it……I have loved every minute of it!
Inside the Cask: What is the favourite part of your job? Anything that you would like to share that not many people would know about you?
I love dealing with people and seeing their expressions as I introduce them to all things whiskey, especially if they have said they haven’t ever tried Irish Whiskey. I make it my job to convert people to Irish Whiskey.