Patricia Noonan does a Q&A the Irish Way with Writers’ Tears’ Bernard Walsh…
Patricia Noonan recently spent some time sitting, sipping and relaxing with Bernard Walsh, founder of Walsh Whiskey Distillery, makers of Writers’ Tears and The Irishman. Walsh was in town recently at an event hosted by his Ontario importer, Woodman Wines and Spirits, where Noonan recorded the chat below just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. – Ed.
Good Food Revolution: What was your background before making whiskey?
Bernard Walsh: I am a farmer’s son from God’s country, Tipperary. One of nine children; farm in the family for ten generations and currently managed by my oldest brother. The remaining eight were all well educated, and sent out into the world. Me, I graduated in Computer Science and had a wonderful sixteen year career in software/technology, traversing the globe, before my homing instincts drew myself and my wife to be, Rosemary, back to the Emerald Isle. We wanted to be close to nature and farming; inspired by the vineyards of France, we saw barley as our grape and whiskey as our wine… and so began our love affair.
Good Food Revolution: What inspired you to start a distillery?
Bernard Walsh: I am a farmer at heart. While farming for a living was probably not going to work, I loved the idea of taking barley and turning it into aromatic amber gold liquid. While traveling with work, I was inspired by the vineyards of France, the reverence the humble grape received and all because of its autumnal bounty. As a fan of Irish history, it always troubled me that Ireland, once the King makers in whiskey were no longer. I see my efforts over the past twenty years as contributing in some small way, to the current Irish Whiskey renaissance. I like ‘making a difference’.
Good Food Revolution: Who is the master distiller/blender?
Bernard Walsh: Billy Leighton .
Good Food Revolution: Who does the barrel selection?
Bernard Walsh: Bernard Walsh: moi! This is a labour of love and never ending. Casks are reputed to contribute up to 60% of the whiskey flavour. So, if you’re going to leave that precious liquid ageing in those barrels for years, then they better be good ones. There are a lot of casks out there but the quality varies hugely. Every barrel we get into our warehouse is checked both physically and sensorially.
Bernard Walsh: Patricia, you are correct. The Irishman was first. With the Irishman we were the first to experiment with the blending of two dynamite ingredients; pot & malt. The result was just awesome. But not happy there, we doubled down on the amount of pot still in the blend, making Writers Tears not only unique but pound for pound delivering some of the best quality whiskey to originate from Ireland.
Good Food Revolution: Was your inspiration behind The Writers’ Tears Double Wood, Ireland’s connection to both the USA and France, historically?
Bernard Walsh: Patricia, the project started with a historical link in that before the Irish ever used Bourbon barrels, they were using Cognac casks. This was a time when Ireland only made pot and malt blends (long before grain became popular in Ireland). I worked with a small family cognac house owned by the Legaret family. Using their Deau XO cask, we delivered an amazing whiskey. This was the inspiration behind Writers Tears Double Oak, the bringing together of French and American.
Good Food Revolution: What about a Canadian connection to one of your future expressions… is there a development for this?
Bernard Walsh: Patricia, you’re bold! I have made an expedition to Canada in the hunt for the next great casks. Irish Whiskey has never (to my knowledge) worked with Canadian casks so I opted for the cold weather to check out our Canadian friends. What I found was out of this world. You’ll have to wait till December to find out, but let’s say it’ll be a fantastic Christmas present!
Good Food Revolution: What’s your ‘close to perfect’ food pairing to each of your whiskeys in the portfolio (available in Canada) Starting with breakfast?
Bernard Walsh: Oh my God! Well, not too difficult considering the chill still in the air. For
breakfast, The Irishman Founders Reserve; A cap full in your bowl of porridge. The barley of the whiskey goes sublimely with the oat of the oatmeal porridge. For lunch, Writers Tears Copper Pot neat with Oven baked Salmon (5 minutes only) on a bed of sautéed spinach. And for dinner, make an aperitif cocktail with Writers Tears Copper Pot, mint leaves, ginger ale & ice. This is a great high ball while you prepare dinner. For a rib eye steak dinner, The Irishman 12 yr Single Malt. For a panfired plaice or sole fish dinner, Writers Tears Double Oak with a drop of water. And for your poached pear and cardamom cream dessert, Writers Tears Red Head. And, of course, you want a nightcap of either The Irishman 17 Year Old or Writers Tears Cask Strength with a cigar or shortbread biscuits: take your choice.
Good Food Revolution: What’s the drinking order for St. Patrick’s Day?
Bernard Walsh: Early on go easy, Have some cocktails; I just love Writers Tears Copper Pot in an Old Fashioned and an Irish Manhattan, which is a Manhattan with The Irishman Founders Reserve. Most importantly sip, savour, silax – that’s Walsh-speak for ‘sit and relax’.
Patricia Noonan’s Tasting Notes
Writer’s Tears Copper Pot Irish Whiskey: This pot still whiskey has fruity, honeyed aromas with full, velvety weight on the palate. It’s spicy, malty, with a lingering finish.
Writer’s Tears Single Malt Redhead Irish Whiskey: This single malt, non-chill filtered, sherry cask-aged Irish whiskey sports dried fruit aromas from orange peel, raisins and currants. Oloroso sherry butts used for ageing the spirit, for all you sherry lovers out there.Voluptuous weightiness in the mouthfeel, with baking spice flavours – ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, into a lengthy finish.
Writer’s Tears Double Oak Irish Whiskey: This whiskey uses American new oak bourbon casks and French cognac casks to age the spirit in the blend. Fruity citrus peel aromas lead to a powerful, expressive gingery mouthfeel that just goes on…
The Irishman Founders Reserve: This handcrafted Irish whiskey is founder Bernard Walsh’s premium whiskey. With spicy aromas, it’s a velvety combo of pot still spiciness, malty, chocolate and toffee flavours with hits of baking spices carrying through to a finish as long as an Irish mile.