An Interview with Master Distiller Darryl McNally | Dead Rabbit Whiskey

This month, I had the opportunity to interview Master Distiller / Blender Darryl McNally from The Dublin Liberties. We talked about his newest release Dead Rabbit Whiskey, working with Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon of Dead Rabbit NYC and the landscape of American-Irish whiskey. Dead Rabbit Whiskey is a collaborative project between The Dublin Liberties and Dead Rabbit NYC (the bar). Being all Irishmen, they decided to release a 5-year old Irish whiskey to commemorate Dead Rabbit NYC’s 5 year anniversary. The name “Dead Rabbit” itself refers to the Irish gang Dead Rabbit in America (think Gangs of New York with Leonardo DiCaprio). So far, Dead Rabbit Whiskey is only available in New York City and Toronto (LCBO).

One really interesting thing I discovered through chatting with Darryl is that he is only one of three Master Distillers working in Ireland. Because of this, when he was sourcing the whiskey to blend into the Dead Rabbit Whiskey, he had a vast knowledge of the landscape of Irish whiskey available as he had laid down the whiskey himself only years earlier. Bottled at 44% ABV, Dead Rabbit Whiskey is distilled through traditional Irish distilling methods (pot stills with both unmalted and malted barley) and aged in both bourbon and virgin American oak half casks. Though this whiskey is fully Irish, it takes on an American / bourbon profile because of the aging in bourbon casks. The whiskey takes on the rich vanilla notes of bourbon with an Irish temperament.

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As most of you know, I am currently pregnant so I’ve had to sit out many whisky tastings, heel parties and Toronto Whisky Society outings. Though I am very excited to welcome a new life into the world, I have really missed doing my whisky thing! Doing interviews is one of my favorite ways to introduce my readers into the whiskey world because there are so many methodologies of distilling and blending. I hope everyone enjoys this interview and my collaborative tasting notes on Dead Rabbit Whiskey.

Dead Rabbit -

Grayce: Good Morning, Darryl, thank you for chatting with us today! Before we begin, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into whiskey?

Darryl: Yes sure I was born into my family’s pub back in 1974 so was well used to the bar trade at a very early age… was no surprise then that almost straight after University I joined Pernod Ricard at their Bushmills Distillery site in 1998. From there I have worked in several areas all of which were vital to do the job I do today. I am married to Colette for 20 years and have 1 son Conor aged 15.

Grayce: Wow, you’ve been in the business for a long time! I’m sure you’ve tried (and also made) many amazing whiskies in your career. After a long day of work, do you drink whiskey and if so, what is your go-to whiskey?

Darryl: There are several great options but the Dead Rabbit is definitely one and also I am very partial to our Dublin Liberties Copper Alley…..

Grayce: As only one of three Master Distillers in Ireland, where do you see Irish whiskey going in the future?

Darryl: From strength to strength with the many new Distilleries opening and the growing stocks we should be prepared for Irish Whiskey as a category to continue in double digit growth.

Grayce: If you could release any type of whiskey you wanted (using any grain, cooperage and distillation method) without having to consider pricing and weather, what would your dream release look like?

Darryl: I’m a real Malt head to be honest so definitely a Single Malt and Triple Distilled using small copper stills run slowly through the spirit safe, then fermented for a longer than normal period to really squeeze every last flavour potential then transferred at 63.4% to a mix of Bourbon, Virgin Oak and 2 really exotic sweet flavour inducing Casks for a minimum of 10 years…..and of course produced by me…..

Grayce: Are there plans to release a Cask Strength edition of Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey?

Darryl: Never say never we are currently developing a new addition as we speak but I need to remain tight lipped on that one but all I can say is that it will be very good!! And innovative!

Grayce: Because of Jack and Sean’s history growing up in Ireland and opening Dead Rabbit bar in America, was there any correlation to choosing bourbon casks and virgin American oak casks as your choice of barrels?

Darryl: Absolutely but also because of the story of the Irish people coming to America so essentially living part of their life in Ireland but finishing their life in America……just like the whiskey Irish at heart with an American Finish

Grayce: Irish whiskey making methods have slowly been migrating into the small batch whiskey scene in North America. How do you feel about this Irish-American fusion in whiskey-making (eg. McKenzie Whiskey in NY)? Would you like to see more Irish American distilleries start following Irish whiskey making methods?

Darryl: Yes as in my opinion we Irish started whiskey making and as we moved around the world we shared the art of making good whiskey and just like our distillery in Dublin we want to go back to the old traditional ways and almost re-live how it was made back in the day……..therefore great to see this happening around the world.

Grayce: Which of your current whiskies is your proudest accomplishment?

Darryl: Dead Rabbit as it is different, edgy, black sheep or should I say black rabbit in the family, innovative and in my opinion sits very nicely between and in both the Irish and American Whiskey Categories from a taste perspective.

Dead Rabbit - hero shot -

Tasting Notes
Nose: Vanilla, malty, apple, oak, lightly bitter, grassy, grain, a touch of solvents
Palette: Vanilla, raisins, burnt sugar, lightly floral, green apple, woody bitterness, creamy body, straw
Finish: Bitter oak, vanilla, grassy, light sweetness, warm & moderately long. Some minerality in the very long run.

Overall Consensus: Warm for a 44% whiskey and not bad for a young whiskey but still a bit spirity owing to it’s youthfulness – we can’t wait to try it once it’s been aged longer!

* As I wasn’t able to taste the finish of the whiskey, the above tasting notes are created in collaboration with the Toronto Whisky Society (Bryan Vanderkruk), iYellow Wine Club and EatnMingle (Reynold Pan).

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