Douglas Hyde, Ireland’s first president was inaugurated on 25th June 1938. The ceremony, which took place at Dublin Castle, marked Ireland’s coming of age as an independent nation. Hyde served as president from 1938 to 1945. Hyde No. 1 ‘President’s Cask’ pays homage to a man, who through his political, cultural and academic life, helped to lay the foundations of modern Ireland.
After tasting a few Irish whiskeys recently I thought I’d look into them a little more and who better to get involved than the people behind Hyde whiskey. Hyde whiskey is a rather great Irish offering and is gathering pace in making Irish whiskey one of the go to whiskeys around the world.. So over to.
Alan & Conor Hyde of Hyde Irish Whiskey
Q- When did the family decide to get into the whiskey business?
The Hyde family have a long tradition of being involved in the Irish drinks business. From 1640 until 1962 the family ran a tavern located just outside the picturesque town of Bandon in West Cork. The Hydes sold traditional Irish Whiskey and draught stout straight from wooden casks, tapped by hand with a mallet and brass tap.
The drink business runs through twelve generations of the Hyde family tree. At one stage in 1916, their grandfather, granduncle and grandaunt were all publicans in Bandon. Today, Alan and Conor Hyde are the first generation not to own a tavern, but they continue the family tradition by producing some of Ireland’s finest whiskey.
Q: Tell us about Hyde Irish Whiskey and how the idea developed?
A: Hyde Irish Whiskey is collection of three very distinctive spirits; A 10-year-old single malt, from which we create Hyde No. 1, aged in Oloroso Sherry Casks and Hyde No. 2, matured in dark Caribbean Rum barrels. These two pure single malts have just been joined by Hyde No.3, a 6 year old Single Grain Irish Whiskey matured in a Bourbon cask.
We decided to create HYDE Irish Whiskey in honour of Douglas Hyde, not only Ireland’s first president, but a very inspirational figure who helped to define Ireland’s sense of identity. As an academic he played a fundamental role in cataloguing Ireland’s rich cultural history and championing the Irish language.
The idea for Hyde Irish Whiskey has been germinating for a very long time. Our family has been involved in Irish drinks industry for over ten generations as vintners in West Cork. Both myself and Alan have also personally been involved in the Irish artisan food sector for most of our careers. For historical reasons, Ireland’s whiskey sector has been dominated by a very small number of very large scale players. Through our travels we saw a growing interest, both at home and abroad, in small batch premium whiskey with an unusual wood finish to bring something completely different to the marketplace.
We set about carefully selecting the very best vintage wooden cask suppliers from around the world and working with these different casks to create a new whiskey taste that is rich in character and truly unique in flavour. As we say it is all about the wood!
What did the family decide to do that is different to what else is going on in Ireland?
Ireland’s whiskey industry has historically been centred around a very small number of large producers; the major brands that we are all familiar with.
This consolidation came about for historical reasons as the industry was faced with challenges presented by the First World War and Ireland’s Independence struggle. These were combined with the extremely damaging impact of US prohibition laws which saw one of the key markets for Irish Whiskey all but disappear.
Recognising the growing interest in locally produced Irish artisan and specialist products, the Hydes decided to develop a small batch, independent Whiskey that embodies a unique personality created by a very natural process where the spirit interacts with carefully selected wooden casks.
Q – How will you maintain consistency and quality?
Hyde Irish Whiskey’s processes were developed in line with best practice, combining modern quality control techniques with centuries old tradition.
Our whiskeys are matured in County Cork on Ireland’s south coast, one of the mildest and most temperate places in the world. This coastal region, gently warmed by the Gulf Stream, is famed for its lack of extreme temperatures and mild climate, making it possible to grow exotic plant species, including palm trees, at a latitude as far north as Edmonton in Canada! This unique environment provides us with the optimal conditions for ageing whiskey.
We carefully monitor the maturation processes, drawing samples at key intervals to ensure that the whiskey is bottled at the optimal time.
Q: Do you plan other brands from your company?
A: We will be launching a forth unique whiskey to join the Hyde Collection in 2017. It is nearly ready and we will bring you more information as soon as available!
Q- Is there anything else unknown to the market that you would like them to know?
We are about to launch Hyde No 5 – A pure Single Grain Irish Whiskey, triple distilled, Burgundy finished, and aged for over 6 years!
Our ex-Burgundy red wine casks come from the historic Burgundy region of France, specifically the department of Côte d’Or, a famous vineyard region near Dijon.
Burgundy red wine is made from whole Pinot noir grapes crushed and fermented in a traditional technique that creates the wine’s unique character.
Hyde No.5 Burgundy finish is matured in US Ex-Bourbon casks for 6 years and then is finished in French Ex-Burgundy red wine oak casks (228 litres) for a further 9 months.
This leads to a wonderfully ruby-red colour in the HYDE No.5 Single Grain. “J’adore HYDE Côte d’Or!”
Q- Where do you want to see Hyde positioned in the market compared to other Irish whiskey and also whisk(e)y generally?
Hyde Irish Whiskey has been carefully crafted to appeal to true connoisseurs. Unlike mass market sprits, we only produce in small, limited edition batches and even individually number every bottle so that it can be traced back to its original cask.
It’s all about the wood! Each whiskey in the Hyde collection has its own very individual personality created through interaction with very carefully selected casks which are toasted and seared to create perfect maturation environment.
Unlike many of our competitors, we do not believe in chill filtering whiskeys as we feel it detracts from the natural flavours and textures that give it its unique character and personality.
Irish Whiskey has a very bright future with demand growing in key markets all over the world. The sector has seen a 220% increase in exports in the decade from 2003 to 2013 (Source: ABFI), with that trend continuing and expected to continue and even accelerate.
We will continue to develop Hyde Irish Whiskey over the coming years and we are always open to new possibilities!
Q: Do you feel a sense of optimism about the future of the Irish drinks industry?
A: There’s a huge sense of optimism at present in both the Irish food and drink sector. Ireland has always had an excellent reputation internationally and in recent years many smaller Irish companies have been making strong headway into the global market.
There is increasing demand for Irish drink products in established markets like North America and Europe but also in emerging markets where the positive perceptions of ‘Brand Ireland’ carries considerable weight with premium consumers.
It is a very exciting time to be in the Irish food and drinks industry. As an indigenous industry, that uses Irish produced raw materials and creativity, our food and drink sector is going to be one of the key drivers behind the long term success of our economy. We are delighted that Hyde Irish Whiskey is part of a new wave of small Irish brands that are helping to drive the Irish food brand forward on the world stage.