Booze | April 18, 2021 6:44 pm

One Academic is Working to Revive Ghost Whiskeys

The past and future of Irish whiskey converge

Boann Distillery
Ireland's Boann Distillery.
Boann Distillery

What happens to a whiskey recipe when the distillery behind it ceases to exist? That’s when you end up with a ghost on your hands. Considering the long history of making whiskey, it’s not surprising to learn that a number of ghost whiskeys and ghost distilleries are out there — notably in Scotland and Ireland. In a 2018 interview, Johnnie Walker master distiller Jim Beveridge spoke about the appeal of revisiting them. “There is something quite romantic about being able to savour the great whiskies from distilleries that closed long ago,” Beveridge told Euronews.

For one academic in Ireland, learning about historical techniques of, and recipes for, making whiskey was only the tip of the iceberg. A new article by Ronan O’Connell at Atlas Obscura explores the work of Fionnan O’Connor, an academic whose doctoral thesis is on ghost whiskeys. That interest doesn’t just cover research and writing, though. O’Connor recently teamed with Boann Distillery to create new whiskey using the methods and recipes he’s researched.

O’Connor’s path to whiskey researcher began when he was researching his book A Glass Apart: Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey. He learned about a number of now-defunct distilleries and has spent the last few years collecting whiskey recipes from archives across the country. He then began working with Boann Distillery on making new whiskey using some of the recipes he found; the results are currently maturing in casks.

“[T]hey all taste entrancing,” O’Connor told Atlas Obscura. Could whiskey’s future involve tapping into the knowledge of the past? This project might give drinkers the best of both worlds.

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