Max LeGroom

A historical landmark set upon an emerald hill overlooking the River Boyne in County Meath, Ireland, Slane Castle was reconstructed in 1785, though its history dates back over 800 years. The principal residence of the Conyngham family, its legendary grounds have attracted musicians from all over the world, hosting boisterous music festivals for over 30 years. Long before its tenure as a rock n’ roll venue, the castle has served as a marvel of neo-medieval Irish architecture. Mythical splendor abounds. 

Its 1500-acre estate also currently features a distillery where Slane Irish Whiskey is produced. To the north of the distillery rises the Hill of Slane. According to seventh-century texts that recount stories of the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick lit an Easter fire atop this hill in defiance of the high Druid king in the year 433 AD. According to legend, the king was so impressed with his devotion that St. Patrick was allowed to continue his missionary work and, ultimately, helped bring Christianity to Ireland. In light of these events and the distillery’s proximity to a watershed moment of yesteryear, I could not think of a more proper way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than by sampling a taste of Slane. 

I spoke with Derek Grimm, a representative of the company, to learn more about Slane, its philosophy, and its processes. The manufacturing operation attempts to perfect an ancient craft of tradition by using the soil and water of the Boyne Valley while partnering with a big name in the American bourbon industry. 

“The main thing to know is our distillate and our barrels are chosen very deliberately,” Derek noted. “Our barrels are comprised of new American oak from Brown-Forman cooperages in Louisville, Kentucky, used Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey barrels, and Oloroso Sherry barrels from Jerez, Spain. Each barrel imparts its own flavor to the liquid and is then blended to create Slane!”

“Our flagship is the Triple Casked Irish Whiskey,” Derek continued. The name, of course, alludes to the aforementioned barrels. “It presents flavors of vanilla and toffee on the front, banana and caramel towards the middle and finishes off with a wonderful round fruitiness.” The triple-casking creates robust, bold flavors that pair just as well with a Wagyu steak as it does chicken wings. He admitted, though, that flavor can be a very personal thing that can change depending on your palate. Sometimes, whiskey can be more evocative of a memory than a particular taste or smell. 

Whatever your senses detect, these flavors are created using both malted and unmalted barley, much of them grown on the grounds of Slane Castle. “Combining these two classic styles of Irish grain, we captured the light, spicy notes from the barley and the deep, rich, malty notes of the malt,” Derek explained. “Our master distiller Dr Gearóid Cahill uses a blend of science and taste to make sure we are consistent with our flavor, color and texture. He is an absolute wizard when it comes to whiskey, and his experience as a master brewer comes in handy when it’s time to make the mash.” Regardless of your familiarity with these terms, whiskey conjured by an Irish wizard is an easy sell. 

While tradition and taste are important to the company, there is also a concerted focus on environmental sustainability. Derek also listed the ways in which Slane is proactively attempting to reduce its environmental impact. “We use a rainwater catch system, treat the water, and use it in our whiskey, helping to reduce our dependence on the water from the river Boyne. We send our spent grain to local farms as feed for animals. We are constructing a fish ladder to bring back the salmon population to the river.” Their diligence continues, their resolve unwavering. “Our commitment to the environment is at the heart of our whiskey. Aiming for a neutral carbon footprint has been our goal since day one.”

In anticipation of Worcester’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the second-largest of its kind in all of New England (next to Boston, naturally) and other related festivities, perhaps you will soon find yourself in the presence of this brand of whiskey. Perhaps you will now seek it out. Much like the acoustic effect of the undulating lawn on which the castle perches, a nice tumbler is sure to amplify the flavors and aromas of Slane. You might be hearing notes of Thin Lizzy and U2 by the time you get to the bottom of the glass. Or jar.