In a very short time Cooley Distillery has become a hugely significant player in the Irish whisky market, fending off a hostile takeover bid from Irish Distillers that would almost certainly have resulted in closure and producing a wide range of single malts (including Connemara, Locke's, Magilligan and Tyrconnell), blends (including Inishowen, Kilbeggan and Millar's) and even a single grain whiskey (the acclaimed Greenore).
Connemara has won eight Gold medals since 1996, including a Double-Gold Medal and the title of 'Best of Irish' at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2004.
From the website:
Named after one of the most famous regions in Ireland, Connemara is one of nature's masterpieces. The rugged Atlantic coastline and majestic mountains blend with the rain-soaked peated bog lands to create a landscape of unique natural beauty.
Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey captures the beauty of this region while reviving its traditions. This rare and original find among Irish whiskeys is a single malt, beautifully gilded in peat reek. Managing Director of Cooley Distillery, David Hynes and chairman John Teeling resurrected the traditional Irish custom of drying the malted barley over peat fires with this peated single malt. The smoke rising through the malted barley during this drying process confers the whiskey with a distinct peaty flavour and aroma. These traditional distilling methods combined with natural ingredients and long years in oak casks continue to create a whiskey that is simply exceptional!
Praise for Connemara:
"Genuinely a one-off, being Ireland's only peated malt carries a bit of a burden. But this is stylish, absolutely top rank and near faultless, showing remarkable maturity. For peat whiskey lovers this is more than a must. Brilliant." Jim Murray, author of Classic Irish Whiskey.
Connemara was recommended in Whisky Magazine's Irish tasting (Issue 15). "I love this whiskey", declares Michael Jackson.
"Attractive turfy peat smoke aroma, with some floral perfume behind. Seems to split on the palate with the smoke going one way and the fruit the other, and it's getting better and better as the malt gets older." Dave Broom, author of Handbook of Whisky.
"To equate Connemara with a peated Scottish malt is not to do it justice. Just as Ireland and Scotland are alike and yet different, those with an inclination towards Highland malts will find Connemara similar, yet different. There is no salt, iodine or heather here - this is a whiskey of the land." Peter Mulryan, author of The Whiskeys of Ireland.
"A relatively lightly peated malt which does not have the iodine medicinal flavours associated with peated malts. This level of peating combined with careful distillation has produced a malt which retains the sweetness of non-peated malt while still reflecting the peat in a dry finish. A superb combination, which is ultimately very satisfying." Noel Sweeney, Cooley Master Blender.
"Lively and confident with an extraordinary peat explosion unique to Irish whiskey. Wonderful balance throughout between clean malt and powerful peat." International Spirits Challenge 1996 (Gold Medal Winner).
About Cooley Distillery, from their website:
Cooley Distillery is the only independent Irish owned distillery in Ireland, founded in 1987 by John Teeling, a highly respected Irish entrepreneur. It was during his studies at Harvard University in the early 1970's that John Teeling identified the decline of Irish whiskey as an opportunity to reverse this situation.
John Teeling bought the former State owned potato alcohol plant in the Cooley peninsula on Ireland's east coast. This alcohol plant was converted in less than two years into two distilleries - a pot still and a patent still operation. This marked the first rival to Irish Distillers, who up to this point were the sole producer of Irish whiskey in the world. Meanwhile Willie McCarter, who had been in the US as a student at the same time as John Teeling and shared the vision, acquired some of the assets of the old A.A. Watt distillery in Co. Derry. In 1988 Willie McCarter merged his interests with John Teeling.
Another Irish entrepreneur, Paul Power, and Lee Mallagahan, the former owner of Locke's Distillery joined the Cooley board. Cooley soon acquired the brand names of Andrew A. Watt and Co. of Derry, Northern Ireland (established in 1762) and John Locke and Co. of Kilbeggan (established in 1757). The latter has the distinction of being the oldest licensed distillery in the world.
Cooley is a public unlisted company with over 300 shareholders who for the most part have been with Cooley since its foundation.
Ever since Cooley Distillery first entered their whiskies in the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) in 1995, the company has won a number of gold, silver and bronze medals for quality since first entering. This confirms the growing reputation of Cooley Irish whiskey.
However, the ultimate accolade for Cooley was when it was awarded a trophy in 1998 by the International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) for outstanding achievement to the spirits industry.
The citation accompanying the award reads: "This award to Cooley is one sign that the quality of Irish whiskey is now truly recognized. From its distillery in County Louth established as recently as 1987, Cooley produces a range of blended and single malt whiskies that have rapidly gained a formidable reputation and impressed the judges to award the Worldwide Achievement title to a distiller for the first time in the competition's history".
Character and Style of Connemara