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A Tale of Two Cities   Craft  Distilling in Dublin & New York   We know the process well. The milled grain is mashed and then fermented over a period of days. The resulting wash is then distilled to a rarefied state, only to be barrelled up in order to imbibe the qualities of the oak. Within each of these common steps, there is to forge an identity. Indeed in the modern age, where large parts of the process are mechanised, each idiosyncrasy unique to a particular area takes on an existential significance. How does what we are sipping here in Dublin in 2017 compare to the spirits mixed in the cocktail bars of Brooklyn? I’m lucky enough to say I lived in Dublin when whiskey distilling returned to the Liberties after four decades. Visitors to the Teeling Distillery, founded by brothers Jack and Stephen, are instructed in the rich heritage the spirit has in the city. For me, having grown up in Cork, the Jameson brand’s Irish whiskey is going through a new renaissance as consumers all over the world re-discover what the category has to offer. Thankfully the category has enough international recognition to be considered one of the main whiskey producing regions in the world, and as such many people can recite little about the category. But with so many people with so many points of view and opinions, it’s sometimes hard to know what is fact and what is fiction. Many visitors arriving at these shores, their grasp of Irish whiskey being minimal and their misconceptions being scary. Let me enlighten you, please! adopted home, Dublin distilling was a novel concept. What became clear following my visits to Newmarket Square (in the heart of the Liberties, Dublin), however, was that the whiskey producing world was larger than I first imagined. The term whisky, along with cousins whiskey, bourbon, rye, is a declension in the family of distilled spirits, in which names often signify divergent  ingredients and practice. Each term is a broad church, but those acquainted with Bourbon may only be aware of the superficial differences between it and other American spirits. Personally, I knew nothing about American Rye, a lesser-known relative to the north. It was in this spirit of discovery that I made the journey to the New York Distilling Company’s headquarters in Brooklyn. Upon ringing the bell, I am greeted first at the delivery gate and then at the door by Chris Murillo, the master distiller at NYDC. He is welcoming and tells me to photograph whatever I want and to tell him if he’s in the way. When I set up the tripod to photograph the still, he is hovering nearby. “I just want to make sure she’s looking good.” The 1000 litre still, with its copper kettle and column, is a “progressive and evermore common design” according to NYDC co-founder Allen Katz. It strikes a contrast to Alice, Natalie, and Rebecca, the three stills named after Jack Teeling’s daughters. Its six portholes, its levers and gauges, and the fact that it is backlit lend a retro-futurist, vaguely steam-punk quality. In comparison, the “big onion base and broad shoulders” of the traditional Dublin stills in Newmarket are rooted in a specific historical design, though they conjure up nostalgia for an era visitors never knew. The NYDC still is manufactured by Bavarian micro- distilling solutions specialists Christian Carl. The Newmarket stills were also made on the continent, as the Teeling brothers baulked at the idea of waiting two years for Scottish manufacturers. On a recommendation, they “popped” over to visit Frilli, an Italian company who have been producing Grappa stills for almost two centuries. The stills now sit bordered on one side by a walkway, in a distilling space built to incorporate visitor experience. Elsewhere in the distillery, the milling and mashing equipment allowed the Teelings to keep the whole process contained in one room. The distillery also uses a combination of new and old fermentation techniques, with two 4000 litre washbacks (fermentation tanks) made in Scotland from Oregon pine in which visitors can see the bubbling liquid. NYDC keeps a more functional workspace, which is beside a functioning fire station near the Lorimer Street L stop. The atmosphere is relaxed as Chris and his assistant Matt go about their work, studiously attempting to avoid being caught on camera. Talking Heads, Paul Simon and Fleet Foxes play on the speakers as they spray paint a large metal frame and check in on the still’s progress, all beneath a huge star-spangled banner. There are barrels, some of which are signed by staff visiting from other Bang Bang bar at Teeling. There is a modest tasting table by the entrance to the Shanty where most of the entertaining are done. It is from the bar, one of the perks of NYDC’s farm distillery licence, that Allen speaks to me on the phone. The barman is setting up for a stand-up gig later that evening. Usually, comics deliver their sets in the distillery itself, but it is too cold at this time of year. Last week’s edition was “a total mess”. The Newmarket site encompasses an exhibition and event space, a café, a cavernous tasting area, a cocktail bar and a gift shop. However, in a tale of two city distilleries, space is always at a premium. For Katz and his co-founder Tom Potter (formerly of Brooklyn Lager), the challenge was to satisfy a Venn diagram of concerns. “It boiled down to the right space, at the right price and in a zoned location that would be approved by the city,” he tells me. NYDC is also renting their site (which, as a millennial, I can relate to.) Teelings was the first distillery in Ireland to undergo a modern planning process. According to Jack, this involved a “high level of education” with the council, who thought that the building could potentially blow up. Thankfully, the days of the Great Distillery fire (which claimed almost five thousand barrels) are gone. NYDC cannot claim any distilling heritage, but there are some other traces. Recent excavation by the city uncovered remains of nineteenth-century ceramic beer bottles left behind by German brewers. This find ties in neatly with the ethos of the company whose five signature products all refer to certain facets of New York history and long lost flavours. The Ragtime Rye refers to the syncopated rhythms of the pre-prohibition saloon scene. NYDC selected Rye as it is a lesser-known American style (which differs from its more famous Canadian counterpart) in a market dominated by Irish and Japanese brands. Rye whiskeys are more vegetal and spicy than bourbons, and NYDC’s offering is no different. Hints of nutmeg and cinnamon precede a fruitier, liquorice finish. Sucky sweets also form an integral part of the Rock and Rye, which pairs the rye spirits with rock candy sugar, cherries, clementine and cinnamon. The resulting flavour is thick, sweet and hot. The distillery produces a New Netherland Gin named for Chief Gowanus, who lends his name to the famous canal. Gowanus (named Gouwane) supposedly welcomed the Dutch to present-day Manhattan, then New Amsterdam, capital of the New Netherlands. NYDC “like to think (it) would have brought a smile to the Chief ’s face,” (a slightly problematic claim, given the complex influence of colonial binge drinking culture on Native American society).   It is of particular interest to whiskey drinkers as the base spirit is NYDC’s double-distilled Rye whiskey, redistilled with juniper berries and crystal hops. The discerning palate may detect oaky vanilla, though stringent citrus notes from the infusion complement these sweeter tones. Over the past eighteen months, the Newmarket distillery has released a Single Malt Revival in two volumes. Volume one, a twelve-year-old finished in rum casks, boasted a smoky, oaky coffee finish. Volume two’s Calva- written yet” dos finish made for sweeter, more verdant apple notes. Thus far the distillery has yielded large amounts of Single Malt and Pot Still spirit, but there have also been experiments with crystal malt and white wine yeast. (Soon, the crystal malt will give way to an old-style Dublin porter recipe on the mash bill.) In terms of a specific Dublin style, Jack believes “you need to know where you have come from and also draw inspiration from what has gone before.”Though much is already bottled, Chasko feels that“the chapter on Dublin whiskey hasn’t been written yet.”There is also an argument for living in the moment. Of the few samples of genuine Dublin distillate he has sampled, there has been a discrepancy between what he tastes and what he has read. He also draws in influence from further afield, the Craft brewing scene in his native Oregon, where the object is always to try new things and explore the desires of the customer. Ultimately the way forward is to “be true to ourselves and listen to what others are telling us.” For Allen, a New York spirit is made with New York grain. The “antique qualities” of rye are important. Planting the same grain over years and decades provides the opportunity to create a terroir (an idea Allen first discovered while living in Italy). That said, this product of New York is made to be mixed. Of the two hundred bottles in the Shanty, only five come from NYDC. American cocktails are one of the only two completely American contributions to gastronomic culture (the other being barbeque of the American south). It was as an executive member of Slow Food USA that Allen formed these strong opinions. The role was also a good excuse to visit a lot of distilleries, just as sourcing exotic barrel finishes took the Teeling brothers all over Europe, and beyond. So it is that distillers now travel the world in the hope that their product may travel in time. Everything is cyclical, but to find this synthesis of past and present alive and well on both sides of the Atlantic is some re
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