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Rediscovering the Legacy: The History of McConnell's Irish Whisky.

In the realm of Irish spirits, McConnell's Irish Whisky emerges as more than a libation; it is a living testament to tradition and innovation, a brand that has woven its legacy into the fabric of fine spirits since the late 1700s.


Early Beginnings


In an era where 'spirit dealers' and 'grocers' laid the foundation for prosperous businesses, Hugh McConnell, a notable entrepreneur, became a pivotal figure. Following Hugh's untimely departure, his widow Eleanor took charge, etching her name in history as a 'rectifying distiller' in 1841, as documented in Martin's Trade Directory.


A Flourishing Distillery


The turning point arrived in 1899 when McConnell's legacy was further etched by the visionary McConnell brothers, John and James. They established a new distillery and brewery along the River Lagan, transforming the area into Belfast's expanding heart. The Cromac Distillery, named after the locality's pure alkaline-free water, became a global sensation, featuring not just spirits but also Cromac aerated water and ginger ale.


Trials and Triumphs


Yet, McConnell's journey was not without challenges. In 1907, a fire ravaged the Ravenhill Road distillery, causing substantial damage. Undeterred, the family faced an even greater fire in 1909, resulting in the loss of half a million gallons of whiskey. Despite the setbacks, the McConnell family's resilience shone through, emphasizing that their distillery and five bonded warehouses remained unscathed.


The eventual silence of McConnell's distillery during the Prohibition era in the 1930s marked a temporary pause in a legacy that had endured for over a century. However, it was a legacy waiting to be rekindled.


Restoring the Legacy


Enter the Belfast Distillery Company, spearheading the revival with a clear mission: "Restoring the Legend." The resurrection of McConnell's Irish Whisky, with roots tracing back to 1776, has been nothing short of triumphant. The brand is not merely making waves locally but has become an international sensation, earning accolades from the United States, Canada, Australia, and European Irish whisky markets.


Belfast Born


At the core of McConnell's resurgence is the Belfast Distillery Company's commitment to shaping the rebirth of distilling in Belfast. While the city currently lacks active distilleries, a transformative vision is on the horizon. The company aspires to create a world-class visitor experience, a celebration of Belfast's distilling tradition that is not just alive but flourishing once again.


McConnell's 5-Year-Old


When it comes to affordable entry-level Irish whiskeys, McConnell's 5 Year Old emerges as a true gem in the illustrious line-up of McConnell's offerings.


Crafted with precision and aged for five years, McConnell's 5 Year Old boasts an ABV of 42%, delivering a delightful blend of Irish malt and grain whiskies. The alchemy unfolds as these spirits rest gently in carefully selected first-fill ex-bourbon casks, infusing the whisky with a nuanced sweetness gracefully entwined with the sturdy embrace of oaky woodiness.


As you embark on a sensory journey, McConnell's 5 Year Old unfolds a tapestry of flavours. The aging process orchestrates a symphony of notes, including the rich warmth of vanilla sweetness, the succulence of ripe fruits, the indulgent allure of butterscotch, and the subtle dance of pepper spice.


Engaging the senses, the olfactory experience is a delight. Floral and citrussy notes of cedar intertwine with sweet spice and peppery oak, creating a harmonious bouquet. This aromatic dance is accentuated by peppered spice and delicate vanilla undertones, setting the stage for the tasting experience.


On the palate, McConnell's 5 Year Old reveals a union of mace and earthy vanilla pod, complemented by the luscious notes of golden syrup. Earthy fruits, the velvety sweetness of butterscotch, and the earlier mentioned vanilla nuances derived from the bourbon barrels contribute to a multifaceted tasting profile. A white pepper kick is followed by the distinct presence of woody oak, adding depth and character to each sip.


The crescendo of this whiskey journey is found in the finish – a finale marked by dark treacle and toasted spices. As the flavours linger, they leave behind a trail of ripe fruity reverberations, creating a captivating and memorable aftertaste. Each sip beckons for another, making McConnell's 5 Year Old a true indulgence for aficionados and novices alike.


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Words by AW.

Photo courtesy of McConnell.



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