“Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.” – William Butler Yeats
The Irish have a peculiar way of talking about death. My sincere apologies for sounding morbid in the first line of this article, but that is just how I feel about this whole sorry situation. One of my favorite Irish whiskeys of all time has died.
Slieve Foy 8 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey is no more. Shortly after I waxed lyrical about Slieve Foy and all things Irish whisky to the Indianapolis Star recently, I learned that production had finally ceased. It was terribly sad; almost like the passing of a dear friend.
But what prompted the demise of this whiskey? Money. Beam Global, owners of Jim Beam and many other spirit brands, decided that they would really like a slice of the burgeoning Irish whiskey market, which has seen tremendous growth over the past few years. The only available distillery to buy was the small, independent Cooley distillery. Beam bought the distillery in late 2011, and with it went independent distilling in Ireland. Up to that point, John Teeling, Cooley’s founder, had bought the rights to and resurrected many long-forgotten whiskey brands, much to the delight of whiskey fans at home and abroad. Many old brands had started to pop up again, like our best-selling value brand of the last few years. Do you remember Merry’s Irish whiskey?
However, it didn’t make financial or marketing sense for Beam to produce many smaller brands. No, what they needed was a flagship whiskey which could compete on a global scale with Jameson. Kilbeggan, the blend named after the Old Kilbeggan Distillery in the heart of Ireland, was chosen to serve as Jameson’s arch rival. It takes a lot of marketing money to pit oneself against the best-known whiskey in Ireland, but it also takes an ocean of whiskey. The production volume needed to meet the demand of this brand over the next few years meant that there would be casualties: Michael Collins, Merry’s, Clontarf, Slane Castle, Millar’s and Slieve Foy, to name just a few. Simply put, Beam needs every drop of whisky it can get its hands on to supply the Kilbeggan brand.
Slieve Foy’s day may have come, but by God we aren’t going to let it be lowered into the ground without giving it a good send off! That is why when I heard that it was no more I contacted the importer and had them ship me the last cases in the country. I have knocked the price down to a level that should enable everyone to grab a couple of bottles or a case (6 bottles), and I have taken another 10% off. It’s only fitting that we should all be able to toast the last of the Slieve Foy together!