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In the Irish whiskey industry, the name Teeling has become synonymous with something of a maverick way of both producing and marketing whiskey. The small distiller taking on the big conglomerate. That started when John Teeling established the Cooley whiskey distillery in 1987, and since the sale of Cooley to one of the aforementioned conglomerates in 2011 it has continued with his sons, Jack and Stephen, who both worked with their father at Cooley, and the establishment of their own Teeling Whiskey Company.
Jack and Stephen have set out to create an Irish whiskey brand with a premium position rather than chase the high volume value end of the market, evidenced by their choice of a high 46% alc./vol. bottling strength.
One of their ancestors, Walter Teeling, first established the Teeling Whiskey Distillery back in 1782 and the brothers’ choice of a phoenix rising from a pot still for their logo symbolises the rebirth of the Teeling Whiskey brand. It could also be said to reference the Teeling family’s establishing a new whiskey business after the sale of their previous Cooley Distillery and the re-establishment of whiskey distilling in Dublin after a 39 year hiatus with the opening of the brothers’ new distillery in 2015.
The Teeling Whiskey Distillery sits in the Liberties, on a market square called Newmarket in central Dublin, an area which back in the 1800s was the main area for the production of whiskey in the world. The Liberties was also home to the original Teeling Distillery, established by Walter Teeling in 1782.
The Liberties is so named due to the area historically, as far back as the 12th century, lying outside Dublin’s city walls and its jurisdiction – the rulers of these lands were literally at liberty to set their own rules and taxation. By the late 18th century, the slacker regulations attracted industry, particularly tanners and weavers. It was also where many maltsters were located so giving brewers and distillers ready access to malted barley. This, along with abundant water from the nearby Vartry Reservoir completed 1868, attracted many brewers and distillers to The Liberties.
In 1804 there were some thirty brewers including Guinness’ St James's Gate Brewery and by 1886 there were three major distilleries in The Liberties: John Powers' John's Lane Distillery, George Roe Distillery (then the largest in Europe covering 17 acres) and W. Jameson of Marrowbone Lane. These, along with a couple of dozen smaller distilleries including John Jameson & Son in Bow Street and Walter Teeling’s Distillery in Marrowbone Lane formed what became known as The Golden Triangle of distilling.
Dublin, and particularly The Liberties, were at the heart of the Irish whiskey industry and during the 19th century Dublin whiskey was the world’s premier whiskey with sales far eclipsing the then fledgling Scotch whisky industry. Ironically it was an Irishman who inadvertently brought about the demise of the Irish whiskey industry.
The beginning of the 19th century saw attempts to develop a still to speed and improve the distilling process and in 1826 Robert Stein invented a still consisting of two columns. An Irishman and patent office cleric, Aeneas Coffey considerably improved Stein’s design and patented his ‘Coffey’ still in 1831.
Column stills are also known as ‘continuous stills’ because, as its name suggests, they can be run continuously without the need to stop and start between batches as in pot stills. This coupled with the higher concentration of alcohol in the final distillate makes column stills much more economical to operate than pot stills.
While the Scottish whisky industry embraced the new stills using them to make grain whisky, creating the blended Scotch whisky category, the Irish legislated against the use of column stills. Sales of blended Scotch whisky soared to the detriment of Irish whiskey and the last Dublin distillery eventually closed in 1976.
Thankfully, Irish whiskey is once again booming with a growth in sales outpacing that of Scotch whisky. With this in mind, the Teeling brothers built The Teeling Whiskey Distillery, the first new distillery in Dublin in over 125 years. Fittingly it lies a stone’s throw from where Walter Teeling's old distillery was located.