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Irish Distilling Special – Powerscourt Distillery’s Fercullen Falls: “The spirit that’s been produced over the last four years here is of the highest quality”

Their new Fercullen Falls release marks an exciting new chapter for the Powerscourt Distillery as, for the first time, they include their own liquid in the stunning blend. Head Distiller Paul Corbett and Head of Whiskey John Cashman talk about their passion for uisce beatha…

Lockdown brought a lot of things to a grinding halt, but nothing could stop the precious liquid in the Powerscourt Distillery maturing in its casks – or their new Head Distiller, Paul Corbett, conjuring up Fercullen Falls, a superb new small batch blended Irish Whiskey, which is guaranteed to warm those winter cockles.

“It’s a 50/50 blend of grain and malt whiskey,” Paul tells us. “Ten per cent of the grain whiskey was matured in new heavy char virgin American oak casks – and the rest of the grain and all of the malt whiskey in first-fill, ex-bourbon barrels.

“Bourbon is a gift to the Irish whiskey industry because it gives that beautiful vanilla sweetness without the astringency,” he continues. “The barrels are as scarce as hen’s teeth at the moment because of global supply issues, but using all of our contacts we managed to track some down.”

We’re glad they did because that vanilla sweetness perfectly complements Fercullen Falls’ malt spice and peppery clove finish.

What makes the new release even more special is that, for the first time, Powerscourt’s own distilled whiskeys are included in the blend.

“It’s a massive milestone for us,” notes Powerscourt’s Head of Whiskey, John Cashman. “There was talk of us releasing a three-year-old liquid in 2021 but I wasn’t totally happy with it and said, ‘No, let’s give it another year to mature.’ So, that’s what we did and both Paul and myself are delighted with the way it is now.”

So much so that they’re planning to release a 100% Powerscourt Distillery Single Malt in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

“The spirit that’s been produced over the last four years here is of the highest quality – it’s a really amazing flavour,” resumes Paul who’s following in the award-winning footsteps of Noel Sweeney, Powerscourt’s founding Master Distiller & Blender.

“They’re big shoes to fill – but I think I’ve got some pretty big feet,” he laughs before adding: “Noel is definitely one of the most respected people in the industry.”

Paul, who started out at Teeling Whiskey in Dublin before landing the Head Distiller/Blender job at Clonakility Distillery, fell in love with the Powerscourt Estate, the moment he drove through the gates.

“First of all, you’ve got the valley and in the background the Sugarloaf,” he enthuses. “Then there’s the distillery itself. I had a big smile on my face when I started here because the equipment is Rolls Royce standard. I’m at the stage now where I can tell exactly what’s happening by how much the floor’s vibrating or what noises are coming out of the corner!”

Food pairings being a big thing in the Fercullen Whiskey Lounge, what does Paul recommend as an accompaniment to Fercullen Falls?

“I’ve got a pretty sweet tooth, so I think shards of dark chocolate would go well with the American oak.”

Yum! At 43% ABV, Fercullen Falls is a little more muscular than your average Irish whiskey.

“We wanted a whiskey that is full of flavour and appeals to both – inverted commas – ‘traditional’ whiskey drinkers and also really stands up in a cocktail,” reveals John Cashman who’s too modest to mention his receiving of an Icons of Whisky award – so we will!

“The 50% malt in it means that a really good bartender can play around with it and come up with new and interesting expressions to drink,” he continues. “Go into any high-end bar in the world and you’re going to see males and females in their twenties enjoying whiskey cocktails.”

Paul and John have big plans for making the distillery even more sustainable than it already is.

“We have the purest water that comes straight off the mountain,” Paul says. “We grow about a hundred tonnes of barley on the estate, which I’ll be putting into our Potstill recipes – there’s going to be an amber malt mash bill and I might introduce a weizen yeast into the fermentation, which will give the spirit a more funky kind of bananas and cloves flavour.

“We’re also looking at harvesting our own wild brewer’s yeast from the flowers in the Italian Gardens, which as far as I know will be an Irish first.”

Adds John: “I’m in talks with the Head Gardener here, Alex Slazenger, about the possibility of getting some oak from the estate as well, so can make our own casks. That’d be 100% Powerscourt!”

Asked what other plans he has for 2023 and beyond, Paul concludes by saying that, “I’m going to introduce more European oak into the wood policy, which is a bit spicier. It’s got really deep colour and will add more complexity to the spirits. I want to vary the grains we use – oats, for example, give your spirits a sugar-frosting sweetness and rye adds nice floral notes. I also want to use some of the highly kilned grains that are used more in the brewing industry. We’re just going to make things as fun and interesting as possible!”

Read the full Irish Distillery Special in the new issue of Hot Press, out now.

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