Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Company has produced some incredibly exciting and highly sought-after bottlings under the JJ Corry name since it launched in 2015.
The whiskey bonder, set up by industry veteran Louise McGuane, is the first of its kind in Ireland for over 50 years. During the 19th century and part of the 20th century, all Irish whiskey was bonded. Hundreds of distilleries would sell their whiskey to third parties rather than bottle and brand it themselves. This practice died out with the Irish whiskey collapse in the 1930s. McGuane adopted this model after crowdfunding in 2015.
Today, her small, all-female team sources, matures, blends, bottles and brands Irish whiskey at her family farm in County Clare. In a relatively short time, Chapel Gate has amassed an impressive library of casks which are stored in McGuane’s rack house. The south-facing traditional dunnage warehouse, with a clay earth and gravel floor, is situated a quarter of a mile from the Atlantic Ocean. The maturation conditions are unique as it’s not uncommon for this part of Ireland to experience all four seasons in one day – which has earned it the name Wild Atlantic Way. Every cask is hand-racked in the old Irish tradition (on its side, known as on the bilge). McGuane believes the extra wood contact imparts a deeper flavour on the whiskey.
Each cask is classified according to flavour blocks, such as spicy vanilla, ripe banana and smoky bacon. The team draws from these flavour blocks when they blend in small batches.
Chapel Gate put its first whiskey into cask in May 2016 and released its inaugural bottling under the JJ Corry name the following year. McGuane chose the name after discovering the late 19th century whiskey bonder and entrepreneur JJ Corry had lived three miles from her family farm. The highly industrious Corry had been an influential figure in Ireland and one of his many achievements included inventing a bicycle, named the Gael, after which the first Chapel Gate bottling was named. The 60% malt, 40% grain blended whiskey became an instant success and caught the attention of the wider whiskey world.
The bottlers have since launched some very interesting bottlings, including the most expensive Irish whiskey ever sold (a 27-year-old single malt named The Chosen, priced at £6,500), a 16-year-old single malt Flintlock, and The Battalion (the first Irish whiskey finished in Tequila and mezcal casks) – all under the JJ Corry name.