Paul Caris, cellar master and blender for Grace O’Malley Spirits, has a winemaking background. Originally an enologist, he worked around the globe before starting work with a cooperage. “By chance, they asked me to implement a spirits programme, where I learned how to taste spirits and worked with some of the global players. One offered me a job as master blender in Cognac.” He now works as a consultant to several producers there, as well as others around the world.
He is, however, very attached to Grace O’Malley Spirits, producers of gin and whiskey here in Ireland. It is owned by managing director Stephen Cope and two German investors. “My brief is to make great whiskey,” says Caris.
The whiskey is sourced from Great Northern in Dundalk, which, Caris says “is doing a great job. They have a very talented team there.” Grace O’Malley currently buys about a million litres a year and is building a maturation warehouse in Dundalk. “We want to have our hands on the liquid and be able to taste it during maturation and to have the very best wood management.”
As well as launching their first blended whiskey earlier this year, they have released the 19-year-old Single Malt Amarone Cask (€239.95 from irishmalts.com). It is 2001 liquid, triple distilled and aged in bourbon. "I selected the casks in Valpolicella. It spent eight months in 500-litre barrels with constant monitoring. I think that the Amarone worked really well with old whiskey; that sweet black and red fruit character and a nice extra dimension provided by the wine tannins".