Meet Bill Linnane…

Well, this should be a fun one. Bill describes himself as “Ireland’s Worst Journalist”, but I will leave that to you to decide for yourself. However my experience of Bill (limited to social media at this stage), is someone who engages with his fans*, enjoys a dram and has a wonderfully dry sense of humour. Definitely someone I would love to share a dram with some day. So please, pour yourself something Irish (or like Bill, something Scottish), and take a moment to meet Bill.

(*hollering, bantering followers on Twitter).

Bill, thanks so much for doing this, please tell everyone how are you involved with the whisky industry?
Proud to say I am but a lowly consumer and occasional blogger.

Well, that was short and sweet. So, what is the first whiskey you have chosen?

My first whiskey in this list will be the first whiskey I ever had, and given that I was a child, I
couldn’t tell you what brand it was. Chances are that it is one of the three whiskeys you
would find in almost any Irish household or pub – Paddy, Powers, and Jameson. I was only
given it to help with a toothache so it’s possible it would have been Paddy, which was
considered good for medicinal purposes or cooking. I can clearly remember my mum
rubbing some whiskey on her finger and then rubbing it into my gum; I was probably only five or six at the time. Alcohol was part of the fabric of life back in the late Seventies or early Eighties; people drank heavily and kids were given a drop of whiskey for a toothache or a bit of brandy for a sore tummy. Whiskey had that talismanic, ritualistic role – you’d commonly find it being used to wake the dead, or to wet the baby’s head. I think some aspects of that remain, but for the most part we are more enlightened now. Nobody gives their kids booze.
It’s easy to say that well, it never did me any harm, but I can see now how self-destructive
my drinking was in my teens and early twenties. Maybe if we had treated alcohol as a
decadent indulgence or a potentially harmful intoxicant instead of seeing it as medicine Irish society might have been a better, safer place for us all. But my kids have a different attitude to booze than I did – my eldest is 20 and she hardly drinks at all, and definitely wouldn’t drink whiskey, mainly because her dad is such a tedious bore on the subject that she has no interest in it.

That’s a really interesting take on alcohol as part of a traditional “cure-all”. What made the grade for your second choice?
Redbreast 12 was the first premium whiskey I tried; it was at a tasting in Midleton Distillery and I was blown away by it. Prior to that I had been rummaging around in blends and slowly building up my palate so when I had that first drop it really struck me of just how good Irish whiskey can be. It’s a single pot still whiskey, so a mix of malted and green barley. There is a long history behind the style, and I try to avoid getting into it because I think life is too short for a lesson in imperial tax law. The style is a hot topic here as the technical file which oversees and defines the various styles of Irish whiskey is seen by some as being misleading – too rigid on what grains and in what quantities single pot still (SPS) mashbills should be made up of. Some of the debate around SPS and the technical file reminds me of the Dogme 95 movement, when directors like Lars Von Trier decided that cinema had become corrupted by special effects and style over substance, so he wrote rules that stripped it back to cinema’s raw core. The end result produced some good films, but also produced a lot of self indulgent crap (many of which broke several of the Dogme rules anyway).

I think there is a danger in hunting for purity in the past, or dreaming of some pre-industrial idyll where mashbills should be more of a harvest cornucopia than a strictly defined category. A new definition is being worked on at the moment so it will be interesting to see what form it takes eventually, and in the meantime there is plenty of single pot still V1.1 out there like Redbreast which is just an excellent product.

Now, your final dram for What3Whiskies, what are you having?
Back in 2015 I was lucky enough to be asked on a press trip to the Spirit Of Speyside whisky festival. I was there for eight days and had the time of my life – going to tastings, ceilidhs, and behind the scenes distillery tours, as well as having some amazing food and drink. I had so many great whiskies on the trip, but of all the bottles I lugged home with me, the one I have kept replacing was the Benromach ten year old. It’s just a belter of a whisky and has a great balance and depth. It is also, like many scotches, far more affordable than a lot of Irish whiskey. I think the trip to Speyside really brought home to me just how developed the Scotch whisky industry is – in Ireland we have a lot of new distilleries and it is all very exciting, but I just don’t think the scene here can compare with Scotland, which is why I consume a lot more whisky than whiskey. I think this is a really vibrant period in Irish
whiskey’s history, a sort of belle époque when we mourn all the distilleries that we lost over the last century but at the same time there is such a spirit of optimism and rebirth with all the new ones, and all of them are free from the constraints of heritage or tradition. Ireland is in a position to really redefine the category and the identity of Irish whiskey over the next few decades and that is really exciting. But for the next ten years or so, I will be mostly drinking scotch, like a traitor.

If like me, you are now even more intrigued to know more about Bill and his musings, you can find him at the following:

Published by Claire Vokins

My am involved in whisky and horticulture. I own a small professional garden care company with a focus on working in a sustainable way. Whisky enthusiast. Studying "Politics, Philosophy and Economics" with the Open University. Stoic.

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