Like any good spirits purveyor, Ciaran Mulgrew spent his formative years inside of a pub. In his case, however, we’re talking the really formative years.
The founder of The Quiet Man whiskey grew up working in the bar his father owned in Derry, Ireland, before going off to work for Guinness, then starting Niche Drinks, a company that’s been producing cream liqueurs since 1983.
“I literally grew up in the pub. At 10 or 12 years of age I was running around lifting empty bottles and all that. I’ve never worked anywhere outside of the drinks business to be honest with you.”
W ith The Quiet Man, which is rolling out in the States now, he’s brought the tradition of whisky-making back to Derry; it’s the first to be bottled in the city in more than 100 years. “Before Prohibition Derry was the largest whiskey producing city in the world, not just Irish whisky, but whisky of any kind,” Mulgrew says.
The Quiet Man, which comes in two expressions, a blend and an 8 year single malt, presented a different challenge for Mulgrew and company, who are used to a much speedier process.
“The whisky business is funny. For many years we’ve been in the creme liqueur business. You get the milk on a Monday, you turn it into cream on Monday afternoon. You put it in a bottle on Tuesday and you can sell it on Wednesday. Whereas with something like our 8 year old single malt, you have to get it, put it in a barrel and watch that barrel for 8 years. It’s a difficult business compared to what we’re used to. But we’re giving it a go anyway.”
The results are promising. While the blend ($39.99) — 20% single malt, and 80% grain whiskey — is fine, with lightly floral and bright notes you’d expect from a traditional Irish blended, the single malt ($49.99) is a worthier addition to the ever-expanding world of whiskey. It’s eminently sippable neat, with the vanilla, honey, and hints of heather you might expect. Much of that comes from the bourbon casks it’s aged in, but as a point of pride, Mulgrew explains, they stick with first-use bourbon barrels for their aging process.
“A lot of whiskey around the world is matured in former bourbon barrels. The more the wood has had spirit in contact the less it can get form the wood. We use the barrels once then move on,” Mulgrew says.
“People have been asking me what I would drink it with. I always say, never worry, drink it with friends, don’t put anything else in it.”