That's the spirit - Egan's Centenary Whiskey debuts in Tullamore

Gina Fox


Gina Fox


EXACTLY 100 years to the day after the death of Henry Egan and 51 years after the closure of P. & H. Egan, the people of Tullamore raised a toast to one of the town's most celebrated and storied families.

When he cracked open for the very first time a bottle of Egan's Centenary Whiskey in the Brewery Tap on Saturday evening, Jonathan Egan was maintaining a tradition in the drinks business stretching back six generations.

“You are the first people in the world to taste this whiskey,” Mr Egan declared, surrounded by family members and local people who had taken part in an historical walking tour of the town.

A tasting of several Egan's whiskeys, culminating in the opening of Egan's Centenary, took place in the Tap, the pub which was owned by the Egan family for 102 years until 1968.

Jonathan Egan is the son of Victor Egan, a man who lived for a period above the Brewery Tap, now owned by Paul Bell, and along with Maurice Egan, a cousin, Jonathan is bringing the revived Egan's whiskey brand to the world market.

He lives in Chicago with his wife Alison, a native of Offaly, past pupil of the Sacred Heart School and graduate of DCU.

“She's the first lady of Egan's Whiskey,” quipped Jonathan as he introduced his wife, the brand ambassador for the spirit.

They met in China where Jonathan, a graduate of Trinity College, ran a successful business, China Metal Solutions, which is now based in Chicago.

“I grew up hearing all the stories about Egan's and it was my dream to bring this whiskey back,” he explained.

P. & H. Egan was a massive commercial enterprise based in Tullamore, encompassing brewing, bottling, malting, whiskey bonding, retailing, pubs, hotels and animal feeds.

The company developed partnerships with Jameson and Powers in Dublin and a barge would take malted grain from Tullamore on the Grand Canal and return with spirit for Egan's.

The current expressions of Egan's Whiskey have reignited that tradition of bottling and the venture aims to capitalise on the growing global demand for Irish whiskey.

Egan's already have an award-winning single malt whiskey and the brand trades strongly on the heritage and legacy of founder, Patrick Egan, and his two sons, the aforementioned Henry and his brother Patrick Jnr.

Egan's Centenary Irish Whiskey was aged in bourbon casks and then finished for three months in cognac casks.

Explained Alison: “It’s the trend now that all these whiskeys are finished in different casks and it diversifies the expression.”

Unlike many whiskies, it does not have caramel added for colour and result is a light-coloured blend which Egan's have placed in black bottles.

As Jonathan said on Saturday: “The purists would argue add nothing to it - just water.”

The packaging of Egan's Centenary Whiskey also recalls the 'Tullamore Tweed Incident', a story from the land war with Henry Egan at its centre.

Land League leader William O'Brien, an MP, was imprisoned in Tullamore jail in 1887 and Henry Egan was a frequent visitor.

Mr O'Brien refused to wear the official prison garments and he, along with fellow agitator and tenant farmer John Mandeville, was beaten and stripped.

The story goes that Henry smuggled a tweed suit into the prison for O'Brien and after his release the MP wore it in the House of Commons as a symbol of his defiance of the British authorities.

Saturday's celebrations, which coincided with World Whiskyy Day, began at the Town Hall, Cormac Street, formerly Acres Hall.

Acres Hall was once the residence of the Egan family and on Saturday local historian Michael Byrne led the historical walking tour of the town. Egan's whiskey is distributed by Intrepid Spirits, a company run by John Ralph, friend and business partner of Jonathan Egan.

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