Want to join me at a sneak preview event? Get tickets by clicking on our store link below!
Barrel Room Chronicles
Jan. 21, 2022

BRC EP 2 - Ghost Whiskey and The Guru

On this episode of Barrel Room Chronicles, A Glass Apart Author Fionnán O’Connor, shares how his academic career collided with the water of life. As an undergrad at UC Berkeley, he taught a one unit class in the  Celtic Studies department about the amber spirit. This experience helped lead him into his post graduate work on the history of lost Irish  Whiskeys. With a grant from the Irish government and the cooperation of Boann Distillery, O’Connor will be the first person to have a PHD in “Ghost Whiskey.”

Spotify podcast player badge
Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
iHeartRadio podcast player badge
Amazon Music podcast player badge
YouTube Channel podcast player badge
RadioPublic podcast player badge
RSS Feed podcast player badge
PocketCasts podcast player badge
Breaker podcast player badge
Overcast podcast player badge
Goodpods podcast player badge
Soundcloud podcast player badge

On this episode of Barrel Room Chronicles, A Glass Apart Author Fionnán O’Connor, shares how his academic career collided with the water of life. As an undergrad at UC Berkeley, he taught a one unit class in the  Celtic Studies department about the amber spirit. This experience helped lead him into his post graduate work on the history of lost Irish  Whiskeys. With a grant from the Irish government and the cooperation of Boann Distillery, O’Connor will be the first person to have a PHD in “Ghost Whiskey.”

Also appearing on this episode is Jonathan Pogash, The Cocktail Guru. Pogash tells how he became one of the most  premiere cocktail consultants and bartenders for restaurants and spirit companies in the nation.

Barrel Room Chronicles is a production of 1st Reel Entertainment and is distributed by Anchor.FM and is available on Spotify, Apple,  Google, iHeartRadio, Amazon and wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.


--- Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/barrel-room-chronicles/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/barrel-room-chronicles/support

Become a member of the Barrel Room Parlor by clicking on Become a Member  from the navigation bar or go straight to our Kofi site at www.ko-fi.com/BRC and click on the membership link.  Barrel Room Chronicles is a production of 1st Reel Entertainment and can be seen or heard on, Spotify, Apple, Google, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, YouTube, Breaker, Public Radio and wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.


Kerry: [00:00:00] On today's show we have Fionnán O’Connor who's doing a PhD in ghost whiskey, actually. Its historical whiskey, but I think I like the ghost whiskey term so fun. You've got a very interesting whiskey journey, which I would love to hear about. So tell me when you were a wee little lad, what did you expect your, your life to be?

What did you think you'd be doing? And did you ever think that you would be researching historical whiskeys?

Fionnan O'connor: I didn't know what modern whiskey was until I was 18. So, you know, there was the, we lit a lot, had, had very, very little idea of what was in store. But no, I mean, when I first struck out as an 18 year old episodes, Dead certain I was going to be an academic.

And my original background was in medieval history and medieval literature. A little bit of comparative lit and whiskey kind of happened by accident. I was, I was into whiskey very quickly from the age of 18. And to through again, a series of accidents and probably a little bit before the [00:01:00] age of 18, but, you know, we won't, we won't dwell too, too, too long on the roots in

Kerry: America, in America.

18 is very early. So

Fionnan O'connor: yeah, I found that I went, I did my undergrad in America. And I learned that very quickly. And yeah, well, don't worry. There were, there were ways. The but yeah, it, it it happened very fast and very soon I've been through a series of awkward circumstances.

It, it, it became an, my first my job. And then bizarrely enough, my, my research interests. And so I was, I was going to college in California and I met the west coast Diageo master of whiskey, or they had these masters of whiskey brand positions scattered around. So the guy that Steve bill on, I met. An Irish pub in Berkeley.

And he said, look, do you want to, do you want a job? And I don't think I had the right name and the right accent and well, actually the wrong accent, but [00:02:00] that wrong part of Ireland, but they own Bushmills at the, at the time. And anyway, I started working there and, you know, once I was part of the kind of Diaggio fold, I was allowed to drink a lot of stuff that I couldn't afford as a student.

And I started going to whiskey fairs on, on behalf of, so I would do Bushmills and then assist Steve as a, kind of a Lackey setting up the classic malts lineup, you know, Talisker et cetera. While he kind of worked the room on deck. And then, you know, I'd be given a, a dinner break where I could go around and drink everybody else's stuff as if I was at, you know, paying to be at these places.

And, you know, I think as, as a problem, On the far side of the trade veil. It's, it's very easy to, there's a lot of comradery about showing people in other companies, what you're doing, you know, and so I was, I was doing that and I started working for a cocktail bar in San Francisco owned by an Irish fellow, abs the place called bourbon and branch.

But the owner is from, from Carrie, from on a skull originally. [00:03:00] So I had access to a whole shelf.

Kerry: That is a great place for him to be from Carrie. Yes, of course. Carrie.

Fionnan O'connor: Yes, of course. Yeah. Now lovely, lovely part of Ireland. And so I was doing that with one hand doing the other with the other, and then I started teaching a, so the college had this, this system called decals democratic education, Cal where a student could teach a one unit class.

An odd topic. If they could get a professor to sponsor them. And, you know, you had to submit a syllabus and you had to, you know, they'd come in and check on you and so forth. And we got the Celtic languages departments of the professor named Dr. Milia and he sponsored history and appreciation of whisky where myself and a Scottish mate of mine top, you know, history of whiskey.

And of course what we would do because of the complicated. Drinking age in us was we would just do the history and the theory and the production and all [00:04:00] that stuff in class. And then we'd go for a drink afterwards, and you're not required to be there for the tasting, but you know, you buy your own alcohol, however you can at whatever age points you are.


Kerry: I should've been going to Berkeley instead of San Francisco.

Fionnan O'connor: Well, I don't know. I don't know if it lasted much longer than the two of us, but in our prime, we were the second, most popular student taught class on campus after female sexuality. So we, we, we did have a lot of fun and of course when you're, I was doing that for four semesters.

And when you're required to stand up in front of people, you know, obviously you're, you're under a bit of pressure to kind of learn your shit. And so I started reading more about fermentation times and, and this kind of stuff. And then I graduated, came back to Dublin for my master's and I was still doing again, kind of comparative historical lit and.

I started writing a book about a particular type of whiskey know what's now being called single potstill and Irish [00:05:00] single pasta. What used to be called Irish pure potstill. And when I started, it was kind of a dying style and now it's all over the place, you know, and that happened almost while I was, who took three years to write.

So I was doing it while I was doing my masters and then put the academia on hold and thought, well, look, I'll finish the whiskey book. And then when the whiskey book came out, Ireland had gone from having like four distilleries to, you know, well, the current head count is 39 and then I, you know, all this stuff I've been saying free for years on bar stools, annoying people.

Suddenly I started getting paid to say this stuff on them, you know, it was, it was this kind of bizarre. And so, yeah, I, I became like accidentally became a whisky writer. People started using these, these words, you know, and, and I was kind of startled, but then as. Eventually on the back of the book, I managed to get a grant and a funding grant for a PhD on the history of Irish mash bills of lost mash bills.

And of course, the defining attribute [00:06:00] of Irish potstill, other than the use of the pasta, the Irishness of the process is the use of raw barley along with the malt. But in, when I was doing the research for the book, I was finding that the original definition was much closer to what you see in bourbon or rye where it's, you know, most.

Malt and raw bar, but other stuff as well. And this kind of flexibility is more elastic. A heritage that had died off and anywhere. The current project is about looking through old distilleries at what what's served in, in, in which distilleries it does survive. There are notebooks on. For the rest of it, government excise reports, legislation, you know, periphery industry, pub reports, whatever on trying to resuscitate this more complex legacy where you had yeah.

Molten, raw barley, but you also had huge heaps of oats for starters. And then to a smaller degree, we had rye and I'm trying to kind of reconstruct that on. So that's been. Ongoing for about three years now. [00:07:00] And next year is the crunch time. And last year at the end of last year, or end of 2020, started 2021 kind of December, January and blond distillery teamed up with, with the thesis on Redis stilled, a series of these mash bills.

And I can say this all publicly. Now. I know when we first spoke, it was all very hush. They were submitted to a blind pouch. Yeah. 26 blenders and distillers, mostly Irish, but also some Scots and on a few, a few critics here and there and become spice up the gene pool and had to be blind. So everything had to be done, you know, secretly.

So there were 10 mash bills and two, two controls on the table. And anyway, we, we subject them to an arduous, all day affair. I think a lot of them were very enthusiastic and then didn't realize how boring the whole thing would be. You know, where you're, you're literally given sheets of zero to three, you know, cause you're taking something highly subjective and trying to make it [00:08:00] as objective as you can.

So 26 gives us a good, a good robust panel. And then you take like a note, like you say, say You know, as vanilla and you rank each sample, they're cut down to 30%. I'm gonna have to nos zero to three, zero being, not present three being extremely present and going down. And then again with another trait and then again with another trait and to.

To come up with something out of this. And there was a lot of love and Goodwill from the tray. They all did it voluntarily. And we had everyone from, you know, Laura Hemi, who's Diaggio to Brandon Cardi who distills in a tiny shed up in the mountains. You know, there was, there was a huge kind of cross support, you know, and and that was, that meant a lot to me to have that kind of reaction.

And then the results as they come out will be available to the industry, you know? And, and, and the idea is that everyone in that room goes home and kind of. Not only recreates this stuff, but more, more properly kind of plays with what they've [00:09:00] found from the past and make something new out of it. And and what can we, what can we discern?

Cause it wasn't just the mash bills that died off. It was the kind of logic of how to manipulate, how many people are alive, who even remember. You know, Irish whiskey stopped having oats in it in the seventies. Now there's some bottles from the seventies that people drank that have oats in them, but you know, at how much of that was lost and trying to recuperate the logic of what happens when you play with oats going up or raw barley going down or up or both, or if you take the oats and wheat, whatever, you know, on deck.

Some of that survives in American whiskey, obviously at Wheaton ride, but in a kind of a bourbon and rye whiskey context, but putting that stuff with malt and raw barley and Raul barley in particular, I wish survives as this kind of uniquely Irish flavor profile had was, was kind of, you know, you're, you're stepping into new terrain.

That's also, you know, the ruins of the old industry. So it was a lot of fun, you know, on I'm still is.[00:10:00]

Kerry: Yeah, I really wanted to be on your panel, but you know, COVID

Fionnan O'connor: I know. Yeah. We couldn't have to have Americans in as well, but then COVID just slice that, you know, we had to, we had to split the panel. We had to do it twice, once in Belfast and once in Dublin and because of the real height of COVID. It was hard to get.

There was a foreign from the UK and Ireland. Yeah. So people could go to Belfast from the UK. And it's, it's a, it's a very odd situation Northern Ireland has, but essentially you could cross the border north, south. No problem. But if you were flying from Britain, you had to quarantine, but if you're flying from Britain to Belfast, you're still in the UK.

So you don't have, so there was a perfect. Spot in Belfast where we could get everyone. And then those who couldn't make Belfast. We did it, we repeated it in Dublin. But how many

Kerry: days apart, how many days.

Fionnan O'connor: Not that long, like a week or two, you know? And we didn't tell about us crew. What was, what was in them for that reason?

I, I was heartbroken. I couldn't tell them. [00:11:00] And what was, what was in the glasses? Cause we had to keep it silent for the next crowd down the line.

Kerry: What did you tell them? After the Dublin crew came in or they still don't know

Fionnan O'connor: everybody. Every it's public knowledge. Now, everybody, everybody knows what's in them.

Well, everyone who wants to.

Kerry: Right. So you touched on something, when you were talking about writing your book, how they basically changed the, the term for the potstill. So what is the reason, or do you know why they stopped calling at peer and changed it?

Fionnan O'connor: Yeah, I mean, there's a story about the U S having qualms with the term pure when it's not pure alcohol and.

But also, it seemed very convenient, you know, single pot still sounds like single-malt and I have a suspicion. I mean, you know, single malt is an invented term from, from the six days, you know, before then you never hear, you can call it it's called pure malt or. Highland whisky or Highland style or unblended whiskey or self whiskey is a very popular one on essentially William grants for gun Fiddich came up with [00:12:00] single malt and then in the seventies, other distilleries started imitating.

And then by the eighties, single-malt became the root of the phenomenon. That is not another, the whiskey single malt as a liquid concept has been around for centuries. But you know, the term single malt is quite new and it created a space. The unblended pure malt of a single distillery could, could thrive.

And I think the hope with single potstill and it's such an odd one because historically the name Irish potstill is very entrenched on, you know, when you look there are single malts in Ireland and there's a lot of them now, but when you look historically, they were really mostly just in, in Ulster, in the north of Ireland and the park closest to Scotland.

Bushmills Coleraine these places and, and the, you know, Alfred Barnard made his infamous tour of the Britain and Ireland of distilleries. You know, there were 28 distilleries in Ireland. Two of them made single mold, a few columns tails, and then the rest was all Irish potstill. [00:13:00] And the, you know, again, it was in contrast to Scottish potstill in people's minds.

And so the idea was that the arts were running mixed mashes, right through these, through these pots. And again, mixed matches around the principle of malt raw barley oats, wheat, and then.

Kerry: What do you think the reason is that they stopped using oats? Because I think that would be a very interesting flavor profile to keep

Fionnan O'connor: homogenization. The industry fell apart. You know, it went from having 28 distilleries to having two. And you know, a lot of these distilleries took their mash pills to the grave, you know, on you, you end up with.

You know, by the, by the 1950s, there's really two mash bills on the go. Other than singing, if you, unless you count single as a mashville. But two maps was on the go coming out of pots and then it becomes one and then that Mashberg gets simpler and simpler and then it, it, it kind of homogenizes to 60% raw barley, 40% malt, which is what, what Middleton make, you know, [00:14:00] and, and I don't mean to, you know, that that mash bill was one of the controls and it did just fine, you know, it was a extremely fruity in comparison to the adjuncted ones, you know, which tend to be more serially tasting.

So there's. You know, the easiest access point is there's more to it than that, but certainly what caused mash bills to homogenizes is very closely tied in the 20th century to a collapse and B corporate homogenization, you know, and, and, and that is, that is quite trackable. But again, you look back like the old mash bill for Jemison at would have been.

Back when Jefferson was a pasta whiskey would have been about 30 to 40% malt and about 40% raw barley, about 15 to 20% oats, 5% wheat, and about 1% rive, very, very different drink to what we would think of now. I of course the current one is, is a blend. But even the parts of the component of that is, is nothing like these older whiskey.

So that was part of [00:15:00] the attraction for the book. I was drinking samples of stuff from the fifties and sixties, and it was, it was there and I've had stuff from, you know, 1910. For the, for some of the dentists that died early on, like our Paris's up in Galway. And they were, I was, I was aware that they were different drinks and I was aware that they had oats in them and that there was some talk of weed and rod, but I just didn't know what you know, these were.

Spoken of, and almost hushed terms. If, if you, if you have, you know, old Middleton distillery, it's got oats in it. Nobody, nobody knew, you know, on them and trying to, to make that available and trying to look at that sincerely. I mean, so what I'm drinking now, this is a decanter cause the cork was fucked and.

Of locks distillery, which closed in 19:55 AM or around 50 5:00 AM. And this would have been about 40%, mild, 40% barley, raw barley [00:16:00] and 15% Otaiba 5% wheat. And so, you know, you'd be knocking this stuff around and they have these strange, it smells like contemporaries pasta. It smells like red breasts.

It doesn't at the same time, you know, it smells, it has this kind of linseed oily thing going on. It's very herbaceous. It's, it's, it's strange stuff, you know? And

Kerry: so where did you find this bottle? These came up.

Fionnan O'connor: It's, it's just a classic seven-year-old. But from that, from that time at somebody in Ireland found a, basically a creative them and sold them off.

And a mate of mine bought two and then told me, oh, this happened last week. And I bought one because I thought you'd buy it. And and then I owed him money, you know, as, as, as it happens, but they went, they did, we went from pennies in comparison to what they'd probably get at auction. And. And the but again, they, they do [00:17:00] and we got this stuff still poured.

There's a lot. You don't want. It's funny. That was something that, that fed the book, which was that the perception of Irish whiskey abroad and a big part of the marketing of Irish whiskey was. All the out of step with a lot of the people I knew and alone in Ireland and why they drank whiskey. And, you know, I think Irish whiskey, especially in America, has presented itself as a, kind of a smoother alternative to scotch.

And you hear terms like light accessible, friendly, whatever. And then when you talk to the light. Retirees that go to whiskey societies in Ireland. All they want to talk about is oil, you know, oil and viscosity and density and ginger. And these are the buzzwords, you know, and they talk about a heavier whiskey is, and raw barley is very, very oily.

And then when the more about the old ones where they're even thicker still. And so even when I was with the algae, that always struck me that strange. Contrast between the marketing of Irish blended whiskey specifically, and [00:18:00] especially with, what's not been called single pasta that love for kind of resonance flavors, you know, back of the shed.

You know, you hear all these like horrific terms, like, you know, old Lino back of the shed wood shop, resin engine grease, and people say them with, you know, watering eyes about, you know, how much they adore this stuff on it. It was very. Stuff. And, and it has this weird again, like ginger kind of crackle. And that for a lot of them was, was the real Irish whiskey, even though it made up a tiny fraction of what was actually commercially available as Irish whiskey.

And I definitely would have fallen into that character kind of traditionalist, you know, last of a dying breed whiskeys. And that's what I you know, red breast and green. What, where am I where the last breath of that, but then when you really dug into the well, you started getting like, well, okay, powers in the fifties had 20% hopes in it, you know, and these, these very different much heavier drinks even, and again, you know, when they were direct fired and they tended to have a kind of a, a more [00:19:00] robust flavor as well.

So. Bits of nostalgia or curiosity were we're out there. And then the thesis was an attempt to, as best as I could, you know, using, like, I was happy enough to know how to work with an archive. You know, I go back through what was there and try and build some sort of gift back to the, back to the industry and, you know, Make this really easily accessible.

Now it's written in like very dry footnoted style. It's, you know, it's like eating sand to read. And even I think that I can't imagine what anyone else thinks. But the to at least have it out there and uncertainly.

Yeah. And the book, unfortunately, the book was reprinted in this just tiny, you know, king James Bible font, and that's really difficult to read. There's an older edition of.

Coffee table looking book, and I mean on the internet, you can find anything you want. So if you find a used copy [00:20:00] of the 2015 one, it's, it's bigger, but it's also far more legible. And the title again of the book is the book was called a glass apart. And at that point it was possible that came out in 2015, the original one that the mini one came out in 2017 and.

But they're both about the same book, just different, different size, and one is infinitely more legible. But when, when that came out, it was possible to just write about all honors potstill whiskey. There was every single cask, you know, whatever, and then historical bottles from before now, that's exploded.

You have the huge array of distilleries and it's going, it's growing faster and faster and faster. And then we're seeing now, you know, I think the. Renaissance of Irish whiskey hasn't happened yet. It's going to happen within the next five years. There's all these distilleries start having, you know, five to 10 year old product, five to 12 year old product in some cases, you know, and, and seeing that evolve and seeing these new flavors come out.

I think mash bills are very [00:21:00] slow part of distilling. Cause you know, you're going in at the root. It's not like finishing something. The hope is that this is, this is sowing seeds for the. You know, the long Renaissance, the long and rebirth of, of, of not just the category as a business, but the kind of, you know, culinary soul of Irish whiskey, you know, and what it was and what it can be out of the, out of the kind of plasma off of that inheritance.

So that's the next step. It's not just recreating the, but like seeing what people do with the recreation's, you know, what happens if you repeat these? What happens? Whatever, if you double the stale versus triple distilling. Endless possibilities, but that's not my job. You know, my job is just to make the history there and trim off the bullshit.

And, you know, and so

Kerry: on the tasting that you did, did you have a distillery make all these mash bills for you and then that's what they were

Fionnan O'connor: tasting? Yeah, so it would have been Bo on distillery up and draw it up and they were, they were enormously accommodating because for it to [00:22:00] be scientifically valid, it had to be.

Shared in all respects production only, except mashville so same flow rates, same fermentation time, same year, same cup points, same everything we had to re still separately so that the recycling faints weren't contaminating the next batch, you know, everything had to be clinically done to make sure that, you know, the differences weren't coming from distillation regimen or, you know, any other factor that we could control.

The control as in the scientific control was at 50, 50 malt raw barley, which is just straight down the middle, no adjuncts. And on the second control, 60 40, which is the commercially prevalent one. That's what say like red breast is on. And then everything is, is based on that framework.

And there, they were triple distilled, you know, because now if we were just looking at. Compounds would want to double the stale because then we get even more of everything and to be more distinct, but even a triple distillation, there were, there were [00:23:00] amazingly different to each other was startling. And we had to keep it triple because a, those are the controls and B you know, if you're looking at say like the old Dublin distilleries, they would have been triple sealed in large bulbous parts, you know, the ancestors to, to Middleton.

So again, It haunted, we couldn't, we couldn't muck about with, with other stuff. You know, they had to be in one place and Balaam was perfect because they had a setup where they had large bulbous stills, Allan Middleton, or Tullamore, or any of the, the kind of industry standards on they were, you know, automated enough to be.

Precise, but then creative enough and small enough to be willing, to take time off and do this, you know, and Michael Walstead instead of was, was, you know, he's a good friend of mine, so saw eye to eye immediately. And he very much fell in love with the project and what could be done. And we would, we had a great time, you know, when they were coming off, we expect to be faced with all kinds of problems.

You know, it was all this talk about oats, creating a paste or porridge or gumming up the works and, and all this [00:24:00] stuff. And as long as we handled. The forehand and made sure it was constant that handling, you know, like beta glucan stance, even when we didn't need them. You know, everything was exactly the same as we were.

We were fine. So we spent a month, you know, we'd have these logs where I talk to them about what was happening during the day on, they ended up just being kind of drumming sessions, you know, because nothing was going wrong. So it'd be having a Merry time talking about what went. Right. You know, so it was a really, it became a lot of fun, you know,

Kerry: where there those a video sessions or just notes.

Fionnan O'connor: I had recording equipment by which, I mean my phone and audio recordings, keeping a log on the log. The log was supposed to be recording the.

The technical tribulations that they've faced and they didn't really happen. I remember the anxiety, there was one March that was 30%. So that was the highest out content. And there was, there was a lot of worry, you know, the engineering firm that outfitted them w. Came out point blank saying [00:25:00] like the warranty is null and void for this, you know, we're not taking any responsibility.

That was a great, you know what I was thinking, oh, fuck. Am I going to break the kits? You know, they but anyway, nothing went wrong. So the log is just me and Michael propped up saying like, Comparing things. We, we must've compared everything. You know, what happens when you have 15% oats, 5% ride versus 15% oats versus 5% wheat versus 20% oats, you know, and changing variables.

But yeah, an absolute joy and they were, they were enormously accommodating, you know, cause it's not easy of course, for a distillery to, to take that risk, and then I also asked that they would sell the CAS off. To private, you know, punters pub societies, people am because when we're inviting all these other distillers in, , I want it to make it clear that, blonde we're building a brand around this, that it is obvious to get all the credit they deserve for, for having made it.

But it's gone back into the bloodstream in a very public way, and on the [00:26:00] information trade.

Kerry: What is the ultimate goal of the thesis, like when you're all done with it and it's published and it's ready to go, are you going to try to , pass it out to various distillers and say, Hey, make these,

Fionnan O'connor: the ultimate goal of the thesis is to turn me into Dr.

Me everything else is, you know, periphery is what's, what's, what's motivating the thesis. But that's aside. Yeah. The hope is, is to get it out there to, is there. Reorient the imagination of Irish whiskey away from even what's in the thesis, away from the past, or as often happened the false past.

And to at least make it clear what was in the past, but then to encourage people to manipulate that to, you know, not just replicate the past, but take the past as culinary heritage on and muck about with it, reinterpret it, re spin it, you know, do what they want with it. So the hope is that this. The the, the Genesis, you know, I don't want Irish [00:27:00] whiskey to be what our average whiskey was in 1915, but let alone what it was in 1850.

But to be aware of that in a fear sense, and to treat it seriously as culinary culture, as liquid inheritance, as something more than the easy branding that Irish whiskey and Irish, anything can fall into, you know, Ireland has a term here. I'm Patty Whakarae is like us, prostituting the country with, leprechauns, shite on a, you know, it makes a lot of Irish people cringe.

But you see it in a lot of export oriented stuff and to kind of move it away from that, into this more sincere, food and drinks, heritage at distiller's heritage. And of course, Naive, you know, a lot of these are controlled by huge multinationals and you know, there's a lot more forces at play and it is an industry first and foremost, it is not a restaurant, you know, there's a lot more there, but in any sense, as available to anyone across the craft, to two large distilling [00:28:00] operations, I have had sincere talks with loads of them about what they'd like to do.

And we, you know, even after the panels, we've all went to the pub. And had the, as a war. And there was a lot of questions, especially after the second panel where we could be a bit more open-minded about what was going on. , what people wanted to do with any of this and, and, when college comes back on stream, they lab group over in, in, so the, the there's a, a paper within the things, the, the, the chemical analysis happening over at Harriet walk in, in Edinburgh. And and they'll. Coming back. They've already started sending me little strains of grass and this and that,

and then we'll get to see, you know, is there a compound in oats that makes it taste more Lindsey, you know, whatever, you know, and how do we, how do we extrapolate from, from the sensory using, using the chemical and that's way out of my hands, because that's not. Field at all. So I'm readily lucky to have them [00:29:00] involved and interested.

Kerry: Do you think this, this thesis experience will bring out another book for the public?

That would be a little bit easier to read than your.

Fionnan O'connor: Oh, absolutely. In fact, the other book is already even the way or on the way, and when the thesis is finished, it'll the energy will definitely transfer over to the other one

Kerry: so when you did the, the mash bill tastings yourself, did you have a favorite or is there one that really stood out as way different than you would have expected it to be?

Fionnan O'connor: You know, more or less jelled with, with, with what Michael and I have been saying to each other. So, you know, No huge surprises, some surprises internally kind of certain things were a bit fruited than we thought, but you know, nothing, nothing major.

And like definitely the trends are all there. You know, ones we thought were Vanilli Arvin, you know, so forth. And so that was more than any particular masters did a huge relief,

Kerry: so before you took on this project, what was your favorite type of whiskey? Was it Irish whiskey from the get-go or did you have scotch or

Fionnan O'connor: bourbon whiskey? [00:30:00] Paul Irish potstill, single Puesto specifically, but I think my, my three loves really and would have been like Eilis, scotch, very heavily peated malt, whiskey, American rye, kind of like Monongahela style, you know, raw high rye potstill, which are all very, very different to each other. But. Oh, again, unapologetic about what they are, you know, and that would definitely be the favorite, confident distillate led whiskey, you know?

Kerry: So after you finished the thesis and the second book. What do you plan to do as Dr. O'Connor

Fionnan O'connor: I, you know, just keep doing what I'm doing and I would love to just keep writing about whiskey drinking whiskey and writing, you know, if, if necessary and then academic context as well. I'm happy in that field writing about like, the social position of alcohol, whatever, you know, there's, there's there space there.

Kerry: Well, soon to be Dr. O'Connor. I want to thank you so much for being on the show today and imparting all your knowledge. [00:31:00] And I hope that you keep us up to date on when your thesis has finished and when it is published and when your new book comes out, because we would love to support. That put it up on the website and be able to follow your, research because I find it fascinating.

And when I saw the article in the magazine about a ghost whiskey, PhD, I said, oh, I got to get this guy because this is fascinating. So thank you so much for being on today.

Fionnan O'connor: No problem. Pleasure, absolutely honor.

Fionnan O’ConnorProfile Photo

Fionnan O’Connor

Author / PhD

Fionnán O’Connor is an independent whiskey writer living in Dublin. His A Glass Apart was published in October 2015 and hailed by newspapers across the country as the definitive guide to Irish pot still whiskey. He has served as a consultant and lecturer for distilleries across Ireland, chairs the cask selection committee of the Irish Whiskey Society, worked as an independent bar staff educator, and represented Irish whiskey before the European Union. In 2018 he was awarded a full time PhD grant by the Irish Research Council to investigate the potential of lost historical mash bills in driving innovation in contemporary Irish distilling. He continues to contribute articles to books and magazines across the industry.