The Whiskey

On one of my trips over to Ireland, I was at the Midleton Distillery, home of the most famous Irish single pot still whiskeys, and I thought why is no one in Australia making single pot still whiskey? It was then that I told my wife I would go back and be the first. After getting a job in the industry I quickly realised I loved all the aspects of creating whiskey. I worked my way up to managing a distillery, as head distiller, and met the person who shared my dream of producing triple distilled single pot still whiskey. Damian Mackey became my mentor and good friend, and we made plans to start making Tasmanian versions of this iconic Irish style of whiskey.  

This carefully constructed whiskey due to its mixed mash bill of grains gives a full chewy, thick whiskey that is uplifting at the front of the palate with a nice thick creamy texture that fills the mouth and covers the middle palate with its lovely oils. It then explodes flavours through the back for a long finish that just keeps giving. The “pot still” spice and full creamy mouthfeel (indicative of that unmalted barley ) are a lovely addition. It’s bottled in its natural state with no added colouring and without chill filtration as the first ever release of a Tasmanian single pot still whiskey that meets the Irish technical file. In fact, it’s an Australian first-of-its-kind. I hope you enjoy this whiskey as much as I do.

John Halton.

What is Single Pot Still Whiskey?

Liquorice, Lather, and Lies about Whiskey

Also called Pure Pot Still Whiskey, Irish Pot Still Whiskey and once upon a time just Irish Whiskey, what we now call Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey is whiskey made by a single distillery from a mixture of malted and unmalted barley, distilled together in a traditional copper pot still. It is not a blend. It is not a single malt. It has absolutely nothing to do with the sweet, delicate, ‘easier to drink than scotch’ whiskey someone once told you Irish whiskey was. Full-bodied, utterly unique, and tragically tied to Ireland’s ghost town landscape of silent distilleries, Irish pot still has attracted one of the whiskey world’s most obsessive cult followings this side of Islay.

The spirit’s closest relative is probably the single malt, a style similarly made from barley and slowly distilled in a pot still. They are both aged in seasoned oak casks and they’ve both enjoyed a certain fascination for their rich flavour and versatility. In fact, they
are separated from each other solely by one step in their production: the addition,
with each batch of malted barley, of a portion of “husky” raw barley. The percentage of this unmalted barley varies from whiskey to whiskey (and even used to contain portions of other raw unmalted grains such as oats and wheat) but this single decision echoes through the flavours of every subsequent step in the whiskey making process. The result is a whiskey with the same full-bodied complexity of its single malt sister but with a bizarrely spicy edginess from the raw barley as well as a noticeably thicker texture.

Single Pot Still

Although Ireland, like Scotland, has a long history of single malt distillation, it was single pot still whiskey that the world once looked to as the definitively Irish expression of the distiller’s art. During its golden age in the late nineteenth century, “Irish pure pot still” was the British Empire’s drink of choice. Not only were international spirits merchants selling about three Irish cases to every case of Scotch, but “Irish style” whiskey had become the second most popular spirit in the record keeping world after rum. “Dublin sipping whiskey” had replaced cognac as the after dinner tipple of the British aristocracy while the dense full-flavoured tipples of the Dublin distillers became synonymous with fine whiskey in the minds of the Victorians. In the 1880s, the English journalist Alfred Barnard made a grand tour through the distilleries of Ireland and Scotland and published his commentaries in 1887 as The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom. Out of the twenty-eight Irish distilleries Barnard visited, only two were devoted to what we now call single malt whiskey.
The rest were simply too preoccupied making one of the loveliest drinks the world has ever seen.

A hundred years later, nothing was left. In 1987, Ireland was littered with the old stonewalls and malt chimneys of its long silent distilleries and there were only two single pot still whiskeys left in existence. One of them was only sold by a specialist wine shop in Dublin and the other was in the process of being discontinued. Old bottles of single pot still whiskey sat on bar shelves here and there across the country gathering dust and some even lay forgotten in private cellars. In their desperation to remind the world that Irish whiskey even existed, the marketing men at Ireland’s sole remaining whiskey company had been busy for years telling anyone who would listen that Ireland made a soft, unpeated, triple-distilled-for-smoothness alternative to scotch with all the intimidating bits
left out. It was a lie.

What happened? Where did it all go? The drink that once lubricated Victorian Dublin and first convinced the world that whiskey itself was worth drinking had then vanished into near extinction. The story of Irish pure pot still whiskey’s creation, disappearance,
and astonishing revival as single pot still is nothing short of remarkable. The drink itself is more remarkable still.

So what exactly is it? Basically, it’s texture and spice. Words like lathery and oily aren’t the most attractive of culinary terms but they’re among the best ways of describing the sheer physical density of a pot still tipple. There’s a heavy cream-thickness in it that feels like it wasn’t made from water at all but something closer to a mouth-filling winter soup. At its lightest, it’s velvety. At what Irish Distillers call its most traditional, it’s so oily it almost drips its own viscosity. That full-bodied density might be almost impenetrable if it weren’t for single pot still’s other signature trait: spice.

Glorious bristling “pot still spice.” The phrase has been tossed around more and more frequently in whiskey criticism following the drink’s recent revival. There’s nothing quite like it and it’s not even quite like spice. Imagine something almost spicy, almost gingery, almost liquoricey, almost like spry grass and with an aroma startlingly similar to Christmas pudding. Dip the whole spectrum in brown sugar and let it distort every familiar malted barley or sherry cask flavour it touches. At its richest, this pot still spice rolls itself luxuriously across the tongue as it bristles with its own uncompromising texture. It grips the palate with its rich unforgettable prickle and then, in reflection of its own sad history, lingers long after it seemed to disappear.

Excerpt from ‘A Glass Apart: Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey’ by Fionnán O’Conner.


Transportation was the name given to the sentence that convicts received when being sent to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) back in the 1800s. The minimum transportation sentence was seven years which meant prisoners were shipped here and had to serve labour for seven years. 

Most offences that led to transportation were trivial and were often committed because of poverty and famine, (the Great Hunger) forcing those poor individuals to steal to stay alive or feed their families. There were also political prisoners who were given sentences. Most famous are the 15 “Young Irelanders” who were transported to Van Diemen’s Land for rising up against the English oppressors of the time. Their stories are worth looking up.

From 1818 until 1853, about 67,000 convicts, around 22% of whom were Irish, arrived on over 300 transport ships to the shores of Van Diemen’s Land. Many Tasmanians have Irish descendants that were victims of transportation, and this whiskey is a tribute to all those souls, including my ancestors, who had to leave their homeland and loved ones behind. 

Map: The route taken by Australian-bound convicts from Ireland to Van Diemen’s Land.