Daithí O’Connell: Ireland’s Modern Whiskey Merchant
You’d be forgiven for associating smoky, peated whiskeys with Scotland rather than Ireland. Despite Ireland’s historical use of peat, especially in the west and south of the country, for much of the 20th century Irish whiskey was predominately unpeated. This meant that during the malting process whiskey’s main ingredient barley was dried over a dry heat rather than a smoky fuel like peat or turf, eliminating that distinctive bonfire-aroma and flavor from the whiskey.
The rise of new, independent distilleries in Ireland over the past few years has opened up the possibilities and permutations of what can be done in the world of Irish whiskey now that small batch experimentation is easier.
This has brought remarkable innovation in all areas of the production of whiskey as well as new twists on the peated Irish whiskeys of old from a number of producers.
Daithí O’Connell is the founder of W.D. O’Connell Whiskey Merchants. It’s safe to say that the whiskey merchants of old didn’t have previous experience sailing yachts, flying planes in the Middle East or setting up pubs and financial technology companies in Asia, but Daithí is a modern whiskey merchant with a hint of the renaissance man about him. It might just be the beard…
Daithí works with distilleries in Ireland who supply him with spirit and mature it to his specifications. Launched not even a full year ago and inspired by the Irish whiskey bonders and merchants of days gone by, his first whiskeys hit the market this year. one of the whiskeys getting the most attention in his lineup is Bill Phil – the first triple-distilled peated Irish single malt whiskey in more than fifty years.
As I am very new to peated whiskeys and to be quite honest, not yet fully won over, I’ve been enjoying chatting with Daithí over the past few months as he tries to convince me of this style of whiskey and he may actually be winning the battle…..he’ll be delighted to hear – my palate is maturing by the day….
But there’s more to his company and bigger plans than one whiskey alone and I wanted to hear all about Daithi’s illustrious past, his challenges and opportunities as a whiskey merchant and what he is aiming to do over the next few years. Daithí is a man of many talents, some of which may surprise you – I hope you enjoy our chat.