Before founding J.J. Corry Irish Whiskey in 2015, Louise McGuane worked at LVMH, Diageo and Pernod Ricard in New York, London, Singapore and Paris. She is now based back on her family farm in Cooraclare, County Clare where she matures new make spirit in a purpose built bonded rackhouse and blends it with mature whiskey to create the brand’s signature style. Here, she speaks to Candice Tucker about the whiskey bonding process, the advantages of being a woman and the rising demand for Irish whiskey
1. What made you decide to focus on bonded whiskey rather than the native traditional processes?
Irish whiskey bonding is a native traditional process but it was one that was lost. It was once a vital part of the thriving Irish whiskey industry. Bonders were located in every town in Ireland and rather than distilling whiskey they sourced it from local distilleries and created bespoke bends and flavours for their customers. The practice died out due to the near collapse of the Irish whiskey industry in the early 1900s. We went from having hundreds of distilleries on the island to only two or three. These distilleries cut off the bonders and began to mature, blend and bottle themselves. I felt that my contribution to the rebirth of the industry was to bring back this lost art and when I discovered the J.J. Corry brand which was a well-known bonder in my county in the 1800s I decided to bring the lost art of whiskey bonding back!
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2. Have you faced any challenges working in a field which has traditionally been male dominated?
Of course, my experiences will be shared by all women who work in such industries, but I think it’s very powerful to be underestimated. Irish whiskey continues to be a mostly older male environment and most of them scoffed at me when I started the business, but I went on to launch the first ever design led luxury Irish whiskey and this year made Drinks International Top Ten bestselling Irish Whiskey list, so who’s scoffing now? When you are underestimated you can fly under the radar and achieve incredible things without anybody standing in your way as you are not perceived as a threat.
3. How do you differentiate your bonded whiskey from others?
I have built and am continuing to build the most comprehensive library of flavours of Irish whiskey in my rackhouse. We operate in a similar way to a perfumer: we build a whiskey by blending layers of flavours together. By ensuring I have styles of whiskey from multiple craft producers I have a really vibrant pool of flavours to pull from. This results in utterly unique whiskies and styles.
4. What trends have you noticed in the whiskey industry in the last 10 years?
Whiskey is having a moment, people are moving away from traditional scotch and bigger brands and are seeking out authenticity. Whiskey drinkers want to understand who makes the product they demand transparency and they are willing to try non- traditional flavours. Irish whiskey is no doubt the stand out in terms of growth in popularity, it is becoming incredibly collectible.
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5. In 2019, you launched The Chosen, which at £7,000 a bottle is the most expensive Irish whiskey in history, and yet, it sold out in less than an hour. Why do you think it was so popular?
It was the first ever design led Irish whiskey. I worked with contemporary luxury crystal maker J. Hill Standard and luxury cabinet maker John Galvin and inside was a superlative 28-year-old Single Malt. Only 100 were crafted and their desirability I think centred around the craftsmanship that went into them and the emerging collectability of Irish whiskey.
6. Where is the most memorable place you have tasted whiskey?
It is without a doubt sitting on a 30-year-old Single Malt sherry cask that I sourced in the rackhouse I built myself on my farm to mature my whiskey, enveloped in the scent of whiskey maturing in casks I have travelled all over the world to find.
Find out more: jjcorry.com