New Lost Irish Whiskey Is Inspired by Pub Hopping
Virtually everywhere in the world, an Irish pub can be found: not just in places like the U.S. and Australia, home to historic Irish immigrant populations, but in far-flung areas. There’s Murphy’s in La Paz, Bolivia; Healy Mac’s in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and the simply named Irish Pub Casablanca in Morocco. Some estimates put the number of Irish pubs beyond Ireland at 8,500—20 percent more than the country’s own 7,000 or so pubs. “I’m obsessed with the Irish pub being the world’s favorite watering hole,” says Tim Herlihy, a native of Termonfeckin, Ireland, which is precisely why it inspired him to create Lost Irish whiskey.
To locals, the imported Irish pub is no more than what it appears: a dark-paneled bar serving up creamy stout and shots of blended whiskey, perhaps with the occasional live band playing fiddles and tin whistles. But the Irish pub abroad can also serve as a way station for expats seeking a toehold in an unfamiliar place. And one wandering Irishman has now created a whiskey to capture that feeling, for himself and anyone who finds a sense of belonging in the pub.
“When I was growing up in Ireland, I’d go abroad with my family or friends to Spain, France, or whatever—and it was great that there was an Irish pub everywhere we went,” Herlihy says. “But it was a head-scratcher.” Why wasn’t there a German beer hall or French café, he wondered. “When you go farther and farther afield, there’s always an Irish pub.”
Herlihy should know: By his estimate, he’s visited 1,500 Irish pubs all around the world. In 2016, when he was serving as the brand ambassador for Tullamore DEW, he undertook a quest to visit an Irish pub in every state in 30 days. (Impressively, he pulled it off two days ahead of schedule.)
“These days, I’ll go abroad to any country and find the Irish pub straightaway,” Herlihy says, calling his strategy “an idiot’s guide to navigating that country, as opposed to traveling across the world just to get a taste of home.” It’s a travel hack—“a little Irish embassy everywhere you go.”
A taste of Ireland
Herlihy’s concept isn’t just an idea: The blend for Lost Irish reflects the diversity of the Irish diaspora, which touches every inhabited continent.
“The whole idea is Ireland is the world’s biggest small country,” he explains. “There are 5 million people in Ireland; 70 million worldwide; 35 million that claim Irish ancestry in America. I wanted to create a liquid that captured that.”
Lost Irish is rolling out in several states and online now, priced at $40.
The blending components for Lost Irish include three types of whiskey: single malt, single grain, and single pot still, Ireland’s signature style. That’s complex enough, but Herlihy—who worked with John Teeling of Great Northern Distillery to develop the recipe—opted to use seven different cask types, from six continents, to layer additional flavors and character into the blend.
The base casks were first-fill bourbon barrels from the U.S. In addition, Herlihy finished various components for six to 14 months in Caribbean and Colombian rum, Spanish oloroso sherry, South African brandy, Australian tawny (a fortified wine), and Japanese mizunara casks. It took a lot of experimentation, and he admits “there were a few sacrificial casks” when the attempts didn’t pan out, but the final result succeeds wonderfully.
This is a complex whiskey at 40 percent ABV that’s soft and gentle—like a typical Irish blend should be—while capturing the far-flung divergence of the diaspora. It also fosters the unity that all whiskey drinkers can find in the process of exploring and enjoying a great dram in a welcoming pub.
“There is a sense of belonging that comes with Irish pubs or the Irish diaspora, but I think that’s only half the story,” Herlihy says. “The ‘lost’ bit is something that applies to far more people than just Irish people. Wanderlust, exploration, discovery, adventure: We’re looking to harness that idea and bring it across in our whiskey.”
Tasting notes: Lost Irish Whiskey
Integrating the creaminess and spice of single pot still whiskey with familiar grain sweetness and fruity malt, this mild-mannered whiskey shows remarkable consistency and balance from beginning to end. Shortbread topped with lemon curd, fresh raspberries, lilac, and dried rose petal aromas give way to a soft palate of toasted oats, citrus peel, cinnamon, caramel, and leather. The finish is soft and short, a fading whisper of roasted walnuts and oak.
And the beautiful thing is you don’t have to be Irish to enjoy it.