If consumers confuse Livermore’s Concannon Vineyard with the Irish whiskey of the same name, the mixup is understandable—the two products have a common lineage.

James Concannon left Ireland for America in 1865, harboring the dream of creating great Bordeaux and Rhone-style wines in the New World. Ten years later he wandered across the country to California, became intrigued with the Livermore Valley, and immersed himself in the world of winemaking. Eventually, he became the first Irish immigrant to start a successful winery in the U.S. His operation survived Prohibition, and eventually became known as a champion of California Petite Sirah and the potential of Livermore as a viticultural area.

Even though Concannon vineyard has been sold to The Wine Group, it’s still a family enterprise—run by John Concannon, the great-grandson of James and the fourth generation to be involved in the business. Under his leadership, the winery joined forces with the Cooley distillery in Ireland’s County Louth, with the goal of creating a whiskey that would reflect the family’s heritage. Concannon Irish Whiskey was launched last year.

The creation process begins with locally grown barley and water from a nearby spring. After the barley is malted, the mash is distilled in traditional, long-necked copper pot stills that allow for the greatest amount of contact between the copper and the whiskey, while the grain whiskies are processed in column stills. The distillate is then aged in Bourbon-seasoned casks for a minimum of four years before being transferred to a barrel that once held Concannon wine, thus forming a bond between the two products. The finished whiskey is blended by Noel Sweeney, master blender at the Cooley Distillery for the past two decades.

Tasted neat, Concannon reveals scents of vanilla and caramel on the nose, along with a fine herbal edge. It enters the mouth smoothly, but turns spicy very quickly: earth notes, candied fruits and black pepper permeate the mid palate and linger on the finish, where they are joined by hints of rich caramel and mocha. The texture is lean and focused, and the whisky drinks like an imaginary cross between single malt Scotch and premium American rye.

When it comes to advice on how to drink it, Concannon combines the best of both worlds. Their website contains several videos featuring Brand Ambassador John Cashman, who explains in serious and thoughtful terms how to taste it—neat, of course, or with a few drops of water if you so choose. On the other hand, Concannon also includes a series of cocktail recipes developed by Gillian Boyle, head bartender at the Mint Bar in Dublin’s Westin Hotel. These recipes span a significant range, and attest to the lightness, smoothness and mixability of Concannon Irish Whiskey:

CONHATTAN
1.5 oz. Concannon
1 oz. St.-Germain
1 bar spoon of Noilly Pratt dry vermouth
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Put all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice, and stir until evenly diluted. Strain into a martini glass or 7 oz. coupe; garnish with a cocktail cherry and orange zest.

ROSES AND ORANGES
2 oz. Concannon
2 heaping teaspoons bitter orange marmalade
1 stem of rosemary
3 dashes Angostura bitters
.25 oz. lemon juice
.5 oz. simple syrup
Press rosemary and syrup in the base of the shaker. Add ingredients and ice. Shake and double strain into an ice-filled tumbler or rocks glass; garnish with an orange and lemon twist.

CONCANNON WINTER WARMER
1 oz. Concannon
.5 oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream
4.5 oz. hot chocolate
Add all ingredients together and stir. Serve in a mug or warm glass with marshmallows and whipped cream.

ABOUT THE BOOK: Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, by Mark Spivak, will be published in November by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot). Writing in an engaging and appealing style, Spivak chronicles the untold tales of twelve spirits that changed the world and forged the cocktail culture. While some are categories and others are specific brands, they are “the best kinds of stories—the type a writer could never make up.”

Order on Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Iconic-Spirits-Intoxicating-Mark-Spivak/dp/0762779268/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1344332549&sr=1-1&keywords=iconic+spirits

ABOUT THE BOOK: Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, by Mark Spivak, will be published in November by Lyons press (Globe Pequot). Writing in an engaging and appealing style, Spivak chronicles the untold tales of 12 spirits that changed the world and forged the cocktail culture. While some are categories and others are specific brans, they are “the best kinds of stories—the type a writer could never make up.”

Want to chime in? Follow this link and leave a comment:
http://www.iconicspirits.net/blog.htm?post=863194

 

Mark Spivak is an award-winning writer specializing in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He was the wine writer for the Palm Beach Post from 1994-1999, and since 2001 has been the Wine and Spirits Editor for the Palm Beach Media Group, as well as the restaurant critic for Palm Beach Illustrated. His work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Robb Report, Ritz-Carlton, Continental, Art & Antiques, Newsmax, Dream of Italy and Arizona Highways. From 1999-2011 he hosted Uncorked! Radio, a highly successful wine talk show on the Palm Beach affiliate of National Public Radio.

Mark began writing Iconic Spirits after becoming fascinated with the untold stories behind the world’s greatest liquors. As a writer, he’s always searching for the unknown details that make his subject compelling and unique.

You can learn more about Mark at http://www.iconicspirits.net/index.htm

Available on Amazon
http://www.amazon.com/Iconic-Spirits-Intoxicating-Mark-Spivak/dp/0762779268/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1352925414&sr=1-1&keywords=iconic+spirits

 

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