Hyde and seek

Augustine of Hippo knew a few things about lying. In about 395AD he wrote a couple of books on the subject, and in one, De Mendacio (On Lying), he detailed a compendium of the reasons people lie. As listicles go, it stands pretty strong to this day: Here they are, in order of descending severity:

  • Lies in religious teaching
  • Lies that harm others and help no one
  • Lies that harm others and help someone
  • Lies told for the pleasure of lying
  • Lies told to “please others in smooth discourse”
  • Lies that harm no one and that help someone materially
  • Lies that harm no one and that help someone spiritually
  • Lies that harm no one and that protect someone from “bodily defilement”

We are all guilty of at least one or two categories, but within the whiskey business, the third last is prevalent – lies that harm no-one and help someone make a buck. But there is always harm to a lie, no matter how benign it is.

I can still remember the moment I realised Hyde Whiskey did not own a distillery. It was at a whiskey society meeting in Midleton to taste the soon-to-be-launched Mano A Lamh, and I got chatting to Fionnan O’Connor about some of the new brands popping up. I was still learning about whiskey and, in retrospect, I really hadn’t a clue. I foolishly assumed that if a whiskey said it was from west Cork, then that was where it was from. Fionnan pointed out that it was Cooley stock and was thus from about 200kms north of west Cork. I was confused – why would they claim to be from west Cork when they weren’t? Why would anyone bother lying about such a trivial thing? Surely you let the product speak for itself, rather than dressing it up as something else, right? 

A quick google brought me the information that I needed – Hyde Whiskey’s parent firm was Hibernia Distillers, a convenient name for a firm that had no distillery. Back then Hibernia was registered to an office in Blackpool (they since changed address to Innishannon, albeit it under the Irish version of the name). The Blackpool office was the same space occupied by a food marketing firm named Bullseye Marketing. Bullseye is owned by Conor Hyde, director of Hibernia Distillers. 

The whole concept of food marketing is an odd one – surely we shouldn’t need to have food pitched at us with some sort of goofy narrative? Wrong. Apparently we need our smoothies to be Innocent, our low sugar soft drinks to be split by gender into diet and Max, and for our whiskey to come with an entirely fictitious story that has no bearing whatsoever on the liquid within. This is because we are easily influenced by brand messages, and so it was that I learned the hard lessons of what Hyde Whiskey – and a lot of whiskey marketing generally – was about.

The bulk of the initial publicity for the brand placed Hyde No. 1, their first release, squarely in west Cork. The local newspapers were delighted to announce that the whiskey was produced in the region. But as any food marketing guru knows, ‘producing’ means anything from actually making to simply packaging.

As for their much touted ageing in west Cork, further scrutiny showed that Hyde actually only finished the whiskey in Cork for six to nine months. So for ten years, this Cooley single malt was aged in their facility up the country, and then, according to Conor Hyde, it was decanted into their sherry cask to be finished in west Cork for less than a year.

Herein lies problem number one – where is Hyde whiskey from? The first Hyde release spent ten years at Cooley’s maturation facility, then an alleged nine months in Cork. I would suggest that it is not from west Cork, nor is it of west Cork. It is a Cooley malt, plain and simple. But no-one wanted to take Hyde to task over this initial claim. Whiskey bloggers are happy to get free samples and will regurgitate whatever you tell them to keep the booze flowing. Similarly, most people who work in the media have vague liberal arts degrees and are rarely experts in a single thing, least of all whiskey, so there are few journalists who would ask ‘are you sure this is actually from Cork?’

In the initial stages the Hydes put out the message that they were planning to build a distillery, but a quick check of the Cork County Council website informed me that this was not the case. They also claimed Skibbereen as their base, presumably because they used the warehouses of West Cork Distillers to finish their whiskey. However, with a brand like this which operates with so little clarity, who really knows.

Then there are the tweets. Photos of bottles of Hyde randomly sitting in fields around west Cork, with constant reassurances that the temperate air of west Cork was perfect for ageing whiskey. Unless it has the same climate as Taiwan – the secret to Kavalan’s success – I very much doubt that the alleged six-to-nine months the whiskey spent in temperate Cork had any impact, other than the fact it was in a sherry cask. Thus far, all of this was fairly standard whiskey marketing – create an illusion, lather, rinse, repeat. And then there was this tweet:

This was the point where I moved from seeing Hyde as just another whiskey brand to something else. It is a tweet with a screengrab of text attached – thus created in a two step process – so it is highly unlikely this could be written off as a typo, clerical error, enthusiastic marketing or anything other than a barefaced lie. It was later deleted when I asked where in west Cork their whiskey was distilled.

But I realised that it wasn’t just the whiskey that was coming with a backstory. In interviews in which Conor Hyde talked about how his family were vintners who owned a tavern. Unless he grew up in an adaptation of Dick Whittington, I would suggest his family were not vintners who owned a tavern – they were publicans who owned a pub. But this is the semantic quagmire of food marketing. Everything is handcrafted, artisan, bespoke, boutique, and craft; terms that have been rendered completely meaningless by marketeers. It is within these blurred lines that many brands operate, because they simply don’t want you to know much about what you are eating or drinking (other than what they tell you about it).

Hyde also tweeted this, presumably to illustrate their craft credentials:

 

They also deleted this tweet after someone pointed out that their product was previously owned by Beam Suntory. 

Then there were the interviews with Conor Hyde, such as this one from the Irish Examiner. Some samples:

So this is a limited, premium product?

We’re not going for high volume low margin.

We are going for a very premium, very top-end whiskey. We’ve spent a lot of time developing this in limited edition small batches, with very special wood.

So we’re trying to command a higher price point in the marketplace given the amount of tender loving care that goes into developing the whiskey before we sell it on the market place.

 

  • It’s a ten year old single malt, not exactly the holy grail of whiskeys. While there are many ten year old single malts that I love, Hyde’s is not exceptional, and is sold at a price point that is almost double what it should be. Also, ‘small batch’ is total nonsense as Cooley rattled out malt at a wicked speed in the biggest batches they could manage. This isn’t to say that their product is inferior – they made some cracking whiskeys over the years, but pretending they were some bespoke, boutique operation is misleading.

 

You just won the Best Irish Whiskey in The World award in San Francisco too?

I have to say that we are absolutely delighted to have won the award. It’s a very prestigious award.

The San Francisco Spirit Awards are the Oscars of world spirits. You have over 1,800 entrants from around the world and everybody strives to win an award at this competition.

You have some of the most respected judges from around the world too. These people are aficionados of whiskey, they know what they’re tasting. There were over 200 Irish whiskeys entered into the competition, so we were over the moon when we won.

 

  • Let’s put this one down to confusion on the part of the journalist (more of that later) – they didn’t win best Irish whiskey, they won best Irish single malt. Redbreast 21 took the top spot for Irish whiskey that year. As for the San Francisco World Spirits Competition – this is how they discern which is the best:

Producers must submit their product for the competition and pay a fee ($475 for 2013) for its evaluation. Not all entries are given awards (those not judged of sufficient quality are not given an award) but most receive a bronze, silver, or gold award from the tasting panel. The fact that most entrants receive an award likely involves some degree of self-selection, as the spirits producers choose whether to enter each of their brands in the competition and pay to receive a rating.

Like Feis Maitiu, almost everyone gets a medal. I’m sure the Apostle of Temperance would be delighted.

 

How do you break through into a crowded Irish whiskey market globally?

Well, we’ve positioned the brand as Hyde’s President’s Cask, so we are positioning it as a presidential quality whiskey.

It’s one of the best whiskeys to come out of Ireland as far as we are concerned.

We take so much time choosing wooden casks from all over the world to justify that positioning. We bring in empty Oloroso sherry casks from southern Spain, which are handpicked and very carefully graded. So then we take our whiskey, which has been maturing in bourbon casks for 10 years, and put them into the sherry casks for a further six to eight months. That’s what makes it so special and that’s what makes it such a premium product and so presidential.

  • Again, none of this makes Hyde whiskey special. In fact, it is all fairly standard. As for presidential, who knows what that is meant to mean, although given how Trump has risen to power using fake news and gaslighting, he might just be right. But this is my favourite bit:

So what makes Irish whiskey so different to any other?

People generally describe Irish whiskey as smoother whiskey. When you drink Irish whiskey you get a lovely warm glow inside your tummy.

With something like a scotch whiskey it’s a peated whiskey, which is made using a different technique.

They actually smoke the whiskey and you get that warm or hot sensation in your throat or your mouth just before it goes down.

It has a bit more fire in the mouth kind of feel to it. Whereas Irish whiskey is actually growing really rapidly around the world because it’s so smooth.

It goes down so easily and has a lovely mellow gentle finish to it as opposed to a more fiery finish that you might get with a scotch.

  • Now I am no expert, but this sounds to me like he either thinks he is talking to someone who doesn’t know a thing about whiskey (he possibly is) or he doesn’t really know what he is talking about. Disparaging Scotch with inaccurate claims about how they ‘actually smoke the whisky’ and that somehow it burns your mouth is bizarre and unhelpful. As for the ‘Irishness’ of the liquid – Hyde whiskey is actually closer to a Speyside whisky than anything – sherry finished, double distilled single malt. But at 70 euro a bottle, it is an overpriced, relatively dull Speysider. 

    But however confusing and misleading that interview was, the best was yet to come. I heard the Sunday Business Post was doing an extensive feature on whiskey, so I picked up a copy. This was what greeted me:

That is Conor Hyde, who, once again, does not own a distillery, or a warehouse, or a maltings, or anything other than a brand. Why was he even included in the interview, along with people like John Teeling, Mark Reynier, Bernard Walsh and Peter Mulryan? These are people who chased this crazy dream of becoming distillers, putting their livelihoods on the line. How is he even on the same page as them?  There are many, many people in Ireland right now who are doing really interesting things in the distilling world, so why did the ‘they-actually-smoke-the-whiskey’ guy get a cover shot? But I’m delighted to report that the feature went downhill from there.

Here’s a shot of the interview so you know I’m not making this up.

Here is the transcript in italics, with a few clarifications by me:

One distillery taking that advice is Hyde Distillery in Roscommon, which was opened by Conor Hyde and his brother Alan in 2014.

  • At least it has one hell of an opening line. Hyde do not own a distillery in Roscommon or anywhere else. The only connection to Roscommon is the fact that former President Douglas Hyde – after whom the whiskey brand is purportedly named – was from Roscommon. It seems likely that this is what we in print media would call ‘a production error’. You might call it a fuck up. More on this later.

For Hyde, the key to good Irish whiskey is not so much in the distilled whiskey but the flavour imparted during the ageing process.

Like Walsh and Teeling, the Hydes spent a big chunk of their budget on selecting the right barrels for their whiskey to age in.

“Other potential entrants [into the whiskey industry] focus on manufacturing,” Conor Hyde says. “But it’s well proven that 80 per cent of the taste of whiskey comes from the wood.”

  • At least this has a bit more clarity, as Hyde are obviously less concerned with manufacturing.  This is because – once again – they do not own a distillery, warehouse, maltings or anything that has anything to do with actually making or maturing whiskey. Hyde also put a lot of effort into talking up the influence of wood on their website  – more on that later in a section titled ‘Plagiarism’.  If 80% of a whiskey’s flavour came from the cask, every whiskey would taste the same, as everyone buys casks from the same sources. To suggest that elements like barley, yeast, distilling itself and warehouse location have a mere 20% impact on the finished product is nonsense. Again, I’m no expert, but even I know that you are clutching at straws when you make a wild claim like that.

That makes it vital to select the right barrels and the right location for ageing, according to Hyde, who ages their whiskey in west Cork.

“It’s very temperate there,” he says, “which makes it perfect for ageing. It’s not too hot and not too cold. [In the barrels] the whiskey breathes in and out. When the wood gets cold, the whiskey retracts: when it gets hot, it migrates back into the wood. It’s that ebb and flow in and out of the oak that gives whiskey its flavour.”

  • Almost all of Ireland is very temperate. West Cork is no different. Exactly where in west Cork Hyde claim to finish their whiskey is a mystery – as I said before, I can only assume it was in the warehouses of WCD, but again, who knows. All we know for certain is that – once again – Hyde do not own a distillery or warehouses.

The Hydes’ whiskey sits in a variety of different barrels as it ages.

“We’re very much focussed on the finishing of the whiskey more than the distillation,” he says. “We put an awful lot of effort into sourcing unusual casks. We have dark rum casks from Barbados. We bring in sweet Oloroso sherry casks in southern Spain. We bring in Burgundy casks from the Cote d’Or near Dijon in France, [which is] very well known for the pinot noir wine grape. We also have your industry standard bourbon casks from Kentucky.”

It’s not cheap. A wooden cask can cost up to 800 to buy and ship, Hyde says, and the requirement to do due diligence is high.

“There are some dodgy cask sellers out there. You have to be careful with your wood.” This is to ensure it hasn’t been denatured by over-use.

  • Well, at least he is almost being honest by saying they focus more on finishing than on distillation, which is true as – and I’m going to keep drilling this point home – they don’t own a distillery or warehouses.  

Hyde Whiskey has won several awards for its whiskey and is exporting to over 18 countries, Hyde says, and it is well established in the US in particular.

“We’re in more than 25 states, and we have a full-time person on the ground in Chicago,” he says.

For Hyde, the start-up whiskey companies need to make sure that they nail those export markets properly.

“What you’re looking for is an exclusive exportation partner we could work with, who would understand and care for the brand, and position and market it as carefully as we would ourselves,” he says.

“Important advice to any brand: very carefully pick your distributor and importation partners in each country. They’re your representative on the ground, you have to trust they’ll do the right thing by your product.”

  • Uh huh. Distribution is important, yet, speaking as a consumer with zero links to the industry, I would say ‘not lying to the consumer’ is also important.

Hyde is in the process of distilling its own spirit, while it sells blended and aged versions of whiskey it has bought from other distillers.

“Our own probably won’t be ready for another year. Even then, we probably won’t release it for six years, because we have a high quality threshold,” he says.

  • There are two possibilities here – either Hyde are distilling by contract, whereby you pay a distillery to work from a mashbill you give them, then use your casks and age the spirit in someone else’s warehouse; or they are not doing that at all and this is more of the empty posturing that now seems to be part of the brand. If they are distilling by contract, then it is a shame that they can’t be upfront about it. But at this stage, Conor Hyde had passed a point of no return, and really couldn’t just say ‘we are independent bottlers and we are going to do interesting things over the coming years’. But the next part is the best:

His advice for other aspiring distilleries is simple.

“Making it is only half the battle. They have to all be cognisant that it’s not that hard to make whiskey – the hard part is selling and marketing.

  • “It’s not that hard to make whiskey”. It’s hard to underestimate how offensive this comment is – to barley growers, to maltsters, to distillers, to blenders, to just about everyone who works in whiskey. The obvious response to this outrageous comment is simply: If it’s so easy, why the fuck aren’t you making any? Why aren’t you doing this simple thing, rather than pretending you are? As for ‘the hard part’ being ‘selling and marketing’ – he isn’t entirely wrong. Marketing is a huge component of a whiskey’s success (or lack thereof), and it is precisely because marketing is such an all-consuming monster that we have ended up with Walter Mittys like Hyde Whiskey.

“Irish whiskey is only 5 per cent of the world market. We’re not going to go from 5 to 15, as projected in the next ten years, unless we’re strong branded quality products. The last thing we want to be doing is fighting ourselves on the world stage, with people undercutting each other’s commodity whiskey.”

  • Strong brands are important. So is honesty and transparency. As for ‘undercutting’ – if he means offering value for money, I would contend that consumers want value for money: If they don’t get it in the Irish whiskey category, then they will do what I do and just buy a lot of Scotch. I bought a 22 year old single malt from Linkwood for 55 euro on Master of Malt. Hyde No. 1 – a middle-of-the-road, ten-year-old single malt – is 60-70. It’s all very well to say we should all don the green jersey and arrange some sort of cartel, but consumers will get wise, just as they will get wise to the fact that almost all of the whiskey coming out of Ireland right now is from only three distilleries.  

On the day the SBP interview was published, there was an ensuing tweetstorm. First off was the claim that Hyde had a distillery in Roscommon. This was their explanation:

Saying they had ‘a distilery in Roscmom’ is a typo. Making a false claim like the one in the article either means that the journalist got it badly wrong, or he was lied to. This was the journalist’s bristling, unhelpful response to a query:

I’m going to assume that he simply got it wrong. Happens to the best of us, but usually you just put your hands up and admit it, rather than being snide.

In the flurry of tweets that followed, there were two opposing views, which largely sum up the entire debate around whiskey marketing. On one side, people involved in the industry – through marketing, sales, etc – defended Hyde, rightly pointing out that Jameson bottles still say Bow Street, Tullamore DEW says Tullamore, despite neither brand being made in those places.

On the other side of the argument were ordinary consumers who don’t like lies. This particular aspect of whiskey marketing and the ensuing row over it was brilliantly captured by drinks writer Sku in his analogous piece on cottage cheese. It simply asks – does all this detail about provenance actually matter? To many, it does not, but to me it does – I like to know where things come from, and I also think credit should be given where credit is due. Which brings me on to: 

Plagiarism

As I said, Hyde are pushing the wood angle, and their website has a large section devoted to their ‘intimate’ knowledge of casks and wood. Having worked as a copy editor and a copywriter, I learned to spot plagiarism. You can tell when someone copies and pastes work into their own – it lacks flow, and is disjointed.

When I browsed through Hyde’s extensive section on wood, it became immediately clear that it was lifted from somewhere else. I found the source, The Drinking Cup, and contacted Ben, the person who created it. He was terribly pleasant about their theft, even going so far as complementing what Hyde had done with his visuals, admiring how they had redesigning basic diagrams he sourced online and giving them new graphical life. But even though his work was open-source, he still sought a credit for his site, and contacted Hyde to ask for it. A few days later, an unsurprisingly small-batch credit was plonked in at the end of the text:

Hyde had lifted about 80% of Ben’s work with zero credit given. This isn’t just lazy, it is also stupid. To avoid this all they had to do was either put in a credit, or rewrite the copy, as they did for one of their other sections:

I never want to say any firm are ‘just’ bottlers – there is a fine tradition of indie bottlers like Cadenhead etc in the UK and in ten or 20 years we are going to need them here to create a vibrant whiskey scene for consumers. But Hyde have devalued the role of the bottler simply by pretending to be more. They don’t own a distillery, or a warehouse, yet they still send out messages like this:

There comes a point in this where I have to ask: Is it just me? Am I the only one who is bothered by this? Am I the only one who isn’t clicking his heels with joy at each new poorly disguised bottling of Midleton/Cooley/Bushmills? There is a lot of talk about a rising tide lifting all boats, but there is a difference between that and a tsunami of brands that lie with each breath they can muster. How many Irish whiskey drinkers in the promised land of the US realise there is no Hyde distillery? Or that every Irish brand save Dingle comes from one of the same three places? I can still remember when I realised Hyde were lying, and now, two years down the line, I clearly have not forgotten.

We talk about whiskey tourism – what if people want to visit the Hyde distillery? Or their warehouse? Or if an American tourist wants to visit any of the other brands who refuse to admit that beyond an office somewhere, they actually don’t exist? We need to get real. Putting out a sourced whiskey when you are trying to build a distillery is one thing – you have a goal, you are a bottler with a view to being a distiller. But if you are simply putting out a sourced whiskey, then you are an independent bottler and you need to accept that, work within it and be clear and straight with the consumer. Look at Lambay whiskey; at least they are trying something new – Cognac finish on sourced stock, with plans for island maturation. They got creative, rather than just talking shit at people and sending out misleading messages. 

You may be reading this and thinking that I am an angry jerk – which, by the way, I am – but I also care about the Irish whiskey category. People who understand whiskey are going to take notice of high-profile brands like Hyde, and what will they say? Well, here’s a few whisky writers, bloggers and journalists discussing the brand:

People are getting wise. Leslie Williams on FFT.ie made this point: “Looking at a bottle of say Hyde Whiskey or similar you would swear they had their own boutique distillery that has been operating for decades. I genuinely feel this is misleading and will come back to bite us if consumers feel they have been conned.  In Scotland and the US it is perfectly normal to sell whisky that has been purchased and aged somewhere other than the original distillery – honesty should be the key.”

But ultimately, what Conor Hyde has done is not that different from many others. He read the market and acted accordingly. He knew that if you had a distillery, your brand had more credibility. He knew place was important, so he chose west Cork for his narrative. He knew the brand needed a backstory so he co-opted Douglas Hyde into it. He did what many other brands do, but almost from the start, he went too far. And what has happened to him since? He has gone on to create an incredibly successful brand that is selling like hot cakes.

Augustine of Hippo’s list suggested that lying for material gain with no harm caused wasn’t that important. Whether or not there will be harm by this brand – and the many others following the same well-worn path of subterfuge and obfuscation – to the Irish whiskey category remains to be seen. But for me, and plenty of other consumers like me, we want whiskey and honesty in equal measure.

38 thoughts on “Hyde and seek

  1. I’ll try again.

    Interesting article and well done for persevering with this.

    I received two samples of this after a brief twitter message exchange along with wee chocolates, I did email someone, I can’t remember who asking for a bit of background to Hyde but heard nothing back, at all, I was unimpressed with the spirit and so forgot all about them. Indeed it was only when Mark at Malt Review brought them up regarding their dodgy bottle did they really register with me at all.

    This is very serious, we all buy whisky on trust, don’t we? When we pick up a bottle all we can do is trust that the age statement and other provenience is accurate.

    Isn’t there a body such as the Scotch Whisky Association in Eire that could stop them?

    This for me is the same as the Supermarket lie of saying a product is from a single named farm “Willow Farm” chickens from Tesco implies that Tesco buy their chickens from Willow Farm but of course no such place exists, they all do it and they all manage to get away with via small print but Hyde aren’t even doing that, they are just bare faced lying and then trying to cover that up.

    It’s shameful.

    The Captain.

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  2. There is an Irish Whiskey Association but they are really industry-led and at the moment are more concerned with category protection on a global scale – ie, going after anyone in other countries who tries to release an ‘Irish-style’ whiskey. Angry consumers and a press that knows its stuff is the best hope for bringing accountability.

    The point about Tesco fake farms is a good one – while Tesco do it to mask battery farming and sell us cheap meats, Hyde are pretending they have a distillery to sell us sourced whiskey at premium prices. I waited two years to write this, constantly thinking they might change the message they put out, bring in a little clarity as they matured and got to know the whiskey scene a little better. If anything they got even more brazen – that plagiarism incident showed just how cocky they were, stealing someone else’s content and then tweeting it out to the world as though they were experts. Incredibly poor behaviour, and embarrassing for all Irish whiskey fans.

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  3. Hi Bill – We have read your blog article with interest

    It is very regrettable that there seems to be some confusion as to what HYDE Irish whiskey does and what we stand for.

    So we would like take this opportunity to put the record straight to avoid any further confusion.

    We are not a distillery and have never claimed to have a distillery, ever.

    I can assure you that no one in our company has ever told a consumer, distributor, or journalist that we have a HYDE distillery located anywhere.

    We are an independent premium Irish whiskey brand.

    From our very launch we have always been open and transparent about who we are and what we do, as clearly demonstrated by this very first review article about HYDE whiskey published at our launch in 2014 : http://irishwhiskey.com/hyde-irish-whiskey-review/

    As you know it is well recognised that 80% of the final whiskey taste is as a direct result of the ‘wood effect’ in which the whiskey is aged in over the years and the local climate of where the cask is aged.

    As such, this is our primary area of focus and expertise – Wood Management.

    Our motto is “It’s all about the wood” #itsallaboutthewood

    At HYDE we take carefully hand selected Irish whisky, made by only the very best Irish distilleries, and we then ‘finish’ this whiskey in vintage oak casks that we source from around the world.

    We primarily finish our whiskey in Sherry, Rum, Bourbon and Burgundy casks. But we are also working on aging HYDE whiskey in Port, Madeira, Cognac and Beer casks.

    We age and finish our whiskey in two bonded warehouse locations. One in Skibbereen in West Cork and one in Little Island, both in County Cork.

    We also source ‘new make’ whiskey, made to our own very strict specifications, from two great Irish distilleries. This new make whiskey spirit is also aging in our own casks in our two Cork warehouse locations.

    The time and effort that we put in to sourcing our vintage casks from around the world is what allows us to take a great Irish whiskey and make it taste event better. This is why we have won just so many internationally recognised awards for our HYDE whiskey.

    You may be interested to know that in Scotland some of the world’s best known Scotch whisky brands originate from ‘Independent bottlers’ of Scotch whiskey.

    In fact today over 30% of all Scotch whiskey sold is an independently bottled whiskey expression sourced from third party distilleries in Scotland.

    One of the most successful scotch whiskey brands of all time Jonnie Walker, originated as an independently bottled whisky brand.

    There is a long list of independent Scotch whiskey brands that have contributed hugely to the growth of Scotch whiskey appreciation internationally, such as: A.D.Rattray, Gordon & MacPhaill, Douglas Laing & Co., Signatory Vintage, Jonnie Walker, Murray McDavid, Wilson & Morgan, Cadenhead, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Duncan Taylor, Ian Macleod, Lombard..…and the list goes on.

    As such, surely HYDE has just as valid a role to play in the growth of the Irish whiskey sector as any other brand originating from its own distillery.

    Independent ageing and finishing of great Irish whiskey is a very respected tradition which has existed for hundreds of years since the 19th Century. In fact in the 19th century every County in Ireland had its own local independent whiskey brand aged in local bonded warehouses that was sourced from independent distilleries.

    There are many examples of great Irish whiskey brands that originated, just like HYDE, as Independent brands sourced from third party distilleries;
    • Tullamore Dew
    • Redbreast
    • Green Spot
    • Slane Castle
    • Writers Tears
    • Wild Geese….…etc..etc.

    REDBREAST:-
    Redbreast has existed since 1903, when the Jameson Whiskey distillery, located in Dublin’s Bow Street, began supplying ‘new make’ whiskey in bulk to the Irish branch of Gilbey’s wine & spirits merchants. Gilbey’s, being an importer of various types of wines, already had a ready supply of good quality casks, which would be sent to the Bow St. distillery to be filled and returned for maturation in Gilbey’s warehouses. Gilbeys then sold the whiskey as an independently bottled third party whiskey brand under the Redbreast brand name.
    in 1986 the Redbrest brand was purchased from Gilbeys by Irish Distillers, the producers of Jameson Irish whiskey. Today Redbreast he largest selling single pot still Irish whiskey in the world.

    KNAPPOGUE CASTLE:
    In 1966, Mark Edwin Andrews and his wife Lavone´ purchased Knappogue Castle in County Clare. As they renovated the structure, Mark Andrews amassed a collection of rare single malt Irish whiskey, which he privately bottled and named Knappogue Castle 1951 after the historic building. He focused primarily on the whiskeys once produced at the B. Daly Distillery in County Offaly, which ceased whiskey production in 1954.
    In 1998, his son, Mark Edwin Andrews III, launched Great Spirits LLC, which made Knappogue Castle 1951 available to the public. In 1999, the company introduced vintage-dated single malts, under the same brand name. In 2003, the Great Spirits was merged into Castle Brands Inc, and in 2010, Castle Brands introduced Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Single Malt. Today Knappogue Castle is one of the most respected premium Irish whiskey brands around the world.

    GREEN SPOT / YELLOW SPOT:
    In 1805, William Mitchell established a bakery and confectionery business on Dublin’s Grafton Street. In 1887, the business expanded into the wine and spirit trade at a premises on nearby Kildare Street. At the time, it was common practice in Ireland for merchants to purchase distillate in bulk from whiskey distilleries, and to mature it themselves in their own casks in bonded warehouses. Mitchell & Son sold a range of whiskeys under the ‘Spot’ brand. The name having originated from Mitchell’s practice of marking casks of different ages with a daub or spot of coloured paint. Yellow Spot ceased bottling in the late 1950’s. However the brand was subsequently relaunched by Irish distillers in 2012. It now sells all over the world as a premium Irish whiskey.

    Just like many of these other whisk(e)y brands that originated independently ( Walsh Whiskey, Tullamore Dew, Slane Castle, Redbreast, Green Spot, Yellow Spot….etc. ) We do not have our own HYDE whiskey distillery right now but that does not say that we will not invest in a distillery at some point in the future, should the opportunity present itself.

    No one from our company has ever met or spoken to you Bill, but if you want to contact us directly we would be delighted to meet with you in person for a full interview, HYDE whiskey tasting session, or a guided tour of one of the bonded warehouse where we age and finish our new and mature Irish whiskey in the various cask types.

    I am also very happy to share with you all our trade and consumer marketing materials so that you can clearly see that our focus is, and always has been; It’s All about the wood.

    Please feel free to contact me directly Bill at any time should you require any further information or clarification about HYDE Irish whiskey.

    Best Regards,

    Conor Hyde.

    HYDE IRISH WHISKEY
    Inis Eonáin,
    County Cork.
    IRELAND.
    E-MAIL info@hiberniadistillers.ie
    WEB http://www.hydewhiskey.ie
    Facebook: HydeWhiskey
    Twitter: @HydeWhiskey

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    1. “We are not a distillery and have never claimed to have a distillery, ever. I can assure you that no one in our company has ever told a consumer, distributor, or journalist that we have a HYDE distillery located anywhere.”

      “Distilled and matured in West Cork, Ireland.”

      One of these things is not like the other.

      Like

    2. It is very regrettable that there seems to be some confusion as to what HYDE Irish whiskey does and what we stand for.

      – Yes, there is much confusion, mostly due to you. You send out tweets suggesting that somehow it is a product of west Cork. Six to nine months does not a west Cork product make. Simple as.

      So we would like take this opportunity to put the record straight to avoid any further confusion.
      We are not a distillery and have never claimed to have a distillery, ever.

      – You called your firm Hibernia Distillers, and tweeted that Hyde No. 1 was distilled and matured in west Cork. Typo, perhaps?

      I can assure you that no one in our company has ever told a consumer, distributor, or journalist that we have a HYDE distillery located anywhere.

      – So how have they got the wrong idea? And did you correct them when they did? I don’t recall you issuing a statement in the aftermath of the Sunday Business Post article to ‘put the record straight’.

      We are an independent premium Irish whiskey brand.
      From our very launch we have always been open and transparent about who we are and what we do, as clearly demonstrated by this very first review article about HYDE whiskey published at our launch in 2014 :http://irishwhiskey.com/hyde-irish-whiskey-review/

      – That’s a blog post, not an official statement. If you want I can repost the links to sites that said you were planning a distillery, or that said your product was from west Cork. There are blogs that pointed out that you were selling sourced whiskey, there were blogs that did not. Did you clear the matter up with the ones who didn’t? As an independent bottler I would assume you would do this simple thing to avoid any confusion.

      As you know it is well recognised that 80% of the final whiskey taste is as a direct result of the ‘wood effect’ in which the whiskey is aged in over the years and the local climate of where the cask is aged.
      As such, this is our primary area of focus and expertise – Wood Management.

      – While I am no expert, I know that this is nonsense. The reason you are suggesting the wood is of tantamount importance is because it is the only part of the whiskey that you can possibly lay claim to. However, while I am no expert, I do know someone who is, and he said this about your claim: “No one told me that it was recognised that 80% of the final whiskey taste is as a direct result of the ‘wood effect’ in which the whiskey is aged in over the years. Why bother distilling malted barley when we could have used any old grain spirit instead. Or water.”
      That’s Mark Reynier, third-generation wine merchant, the man who resurrected Bruichladdich and who owns Waterford Distillery.

      Our motto is “It’s all about the wood” #itsallaboutthewood

      – Yes, I know, you used that hashtag and tweeted that link to your site endlessly, which is how I ended up noticing your plagiarism, which you have failed to mention.

      At HYDE we take carefully hand selected Irish whisky, made by only the very best Irish distilleries, and we then ‘finish’ this whiskey in vintage oak casks that we source from around the world.
      We primarily finish our whiskey in Sherry, Rum, Bourbon and Burgundy casks. But we are also working on aging HYDE whiskey in Port, Madeira, Cognac and Beer casks.

      – ‘Hand selected Irish whisky’. Ok. As I have said from the start, you had the chance to do interesting things and be a brand worth believing in. You chose a different path.

      We age and finish our whiskey in two bonded warehouse locations. One in Skibbereen in West Cork and one in Little Island, both in County Cork.

      – So Hyde No. 1 was in Skibb for six to nine months. How then was it you sent out all those tweets about how it was matured in west Cork when it was merely finished there for a fraction of its time in cask?

      I am aware of the Little Island warehouse, and have contacted you on Twitter to point out that calling it the Hyde warehouse in misleading, as you don’t own it.

      We also source ‘new make’ whiskey, made to our own very strict specifications, from two great Irish distilleries. This new make whiskey spirit is also aging in our own casks in our two Cork warehouse locations.
      The time and effort that we put in to sourcing our vintage casks from around the world is what allows us to take a great Irish whiskey and make it taste event better. This is why we have won just so many internationally recognised awards for our HYDE whiskey.

      – I’m not even going to start on drinks awards.

      You may be interested to know that in Scotland some of the world’s best known Scotch whisky brands originate from ‘Independent bottlers’ of Scotch whiskey.
      In fact today over 30% of all Scotch whiskey sold is an independently bottled whiskey expression sourced from third party distilleries in Scotland.
      One of the most successful scotch whiskey brands of all time Jonnie Walker, originated as an independently bottled whisky brand.
      There is a long list of independent Scotch whiskey brands that have contributed hugely to the growth of Scotch whiskey appreciation internationally, such as: A.D.Rattray, Gordon & MacPhaill, Douglas Laing & Co., Signatory Vintage, Jonnie Walker, Murray McDavid, Wilson & Morgan, Cadenhead, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Duncan Taylor, Ian Macleod, Lombard..…and the list goes on.

      – This is a point that I make in the post. I’m going to quote myself here, just so we are clear: “I never want to say any firm are ‘just’ bottlers – there is a fine tradition of indie bottlers like Cadenhead etc in the UK and in ten or 20 years we are going to need them here to create a vibrant whiskey scene for consumers. But Hyde have devalued the role of the bottler simply by pretending to be more… if you are simply putting out a sourced whiskey, then you are an independent bottler and you need to accept that, work within it and be clear and straight with the consumer. Look at Lambay whiskey; at least they are trying something new – Cognac finish on sourced stock, with plans for island maturation. They got creative, rather than just talking shit at people and sending out misleading messages.”

      As such, surely HYDE has just as valid a role to play in the growth of the Irish whiskey sector as any other brand originating from its own distillery.
      Independent ageing and finishing of great Irish whiskey is a very respected tradition which has existed for hundreds of years since the 19th Century. In fact in the 19th century every County in Ireland had its own local independent whiskey brand aged in local bonded warehouses that was sourced from independent distilleries.

      There are many examples of great Irish whiskey brands that originated, just like HYDE, as Independent brands sourced from third party distilleries;
      • Tullamore Dew
      • Redbreast
      • Green Spot
      • Slane Castle
      • Writers Tears
      • Wild Geese….…etc..etc.
      REDBREAST:-
      Redbreast has existed since 1903, when the Jameson Whiskey distillery, located in Dublin’s Bow Street, began supplying ‘new make’ whiskey in bulk to the Irish branch of Gilbey’s wine & spirits merchants. Gilbey’s, being an importer of various types of wines, already had a ready supply of good quality casks, which would be sent to the Bow St. distillery to be filled and returned for maturation in Gilbey’s warehouses. Gilbeys then sold the whiskey as an independently bottled third party whiskey brand under the Redbreast brand name.
      in 1986 the Redbrest brand was purchased from Gilbeys by Irish Distillers, the producers of Jameson Irish whiskey. Today Redbreast he largest selling single pot still Irish whiskey in the world.

      – Most of this was lifted from Wikipedia, without credit.

      KNAPPOGUE CASTLE:
      In 1966, Mark Edwin Andrews and his wife Lavone´ purchased Knappogue Castle in County Clare. As they renovated the structure, Mark Andrews amassed a collection of rare single malt Irish whiskey, which he privately bottled and named Knappogue Castle 1951 after the historic building. He focused primarily on the whiskeys once produced at the B. Daly Distillery in County Offaly, which ceased whiskey production in 1954.
      In 1998, his son, Mark Edwin Andrews III, launched Great Spirits LLC, which made Knappogue Castle 1951 available to the public. In 1999, the company introduced vintage-dated single malts, under the same brand name. In 2003, the Great Spirits was merged into Castle Brands Inc, and in 2010, Castle Brands introduced Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Single Malt. Today Knappogue Castle is one of the most respected premium Irish whiskey brands around the world.

      – Most of this was lifted from Wikipedia, without credit.

      GREEN SPOT / YELLOW SPOT:
      In 1805, William Mitchell established a bakery and confectionery business on Dublin’s Grafton Street. In 1887, the business expanded into the wine and spirit trade at a premises on nearby Kildare Street. At the time, it was common practice in Ireland for merchants to purchase distillate in bulk from whiskey distilleries, and to mature it themselves in their own casks in bonded warehouses. Mitchell & Son sold a range of whiskeys under the ‘Spot’ brand. The name having originated from Mitchell’s practice of marking casks of different ages with a daub or spot of coloured paint. Yellow Spot ceased bottling in the late 1950’s. However the brand was subsequently relaunched by Irish distillers in 2012. It now sells all over the world as a premium Irish whiskey.

      – Most of this was lifted from Wikipedia, without credit.

      Just like many of these other whisk(e)y brands that originated independently ( Walsh Whiskey, Tullamore Dew, Slane Castle, Redbreast, Green Spot, Yellow Spot….etc. ) We do not have our own HYDE whiskey distillery right now but that does not say that we will not invest in a distillery at some point in the future, should the opportunity present itself.

      – So where did bloggers get the idea you were planning a distillery? Because ‘we might build a distillery at some point’ is not ‘planning a distillery’. Did you contact them to correct them?

      No one from our company has ever met or spoken to you Bill, but if you want to contact us directly we would be delighted to meet with you in person for a full interview, HYDE whiskey tasting session, or a guided tour of one of the bonded warehouse where we age and finish our new and mature Irish whiskey in the various cask types.

      – Yes they have, oddly enough, at Cork Summer Show. I asked where the spirit was from and your rep got that look on his face when reps realise they are talking to someone who might know how the whiskey scene works. Then you came along and I asked you where the ATM was (I had just bought Hyde No. 1 for the more realistic price of 50 euro), and you told me where to find it. Incredibly, it was exactly where you said it was. The show is a great day out, by the way, kudos on that. As for the offer of the tasting, cheers, but I’m good, and I’m also good for a tour of someone else’s warehouse.

      I am also very happy to share with you all our trade and consumer marketing materials so that you can clearly see that our focus is, and always has been; It’s All about the wood.

      – I appreciate that offer but your Twitter feed alone is more than enough material for me.

      Please feel free to contact me directly Bill at any time should you require any further information or clarification about HYDE Irish whiskey.

      – No thanks Conor. I do appreciate that you took the time to comment, but am saddened that you didn’t actually say a whole lot apart from clarifying about having stock in Little Island. If there is anything in my post that is incorrect or misleading, please point it out and I will correct it. If you feel you have been wronged, or defamed, talk to a solicitor. Your message above made no reference to tweeting that your product was ‘distilled and matured in west Cork’, or your false claims of craft credentials – https://twitter.com/HydeWhiskey/status/791508772808261632 – neither did it explain your plagiarism of The Drinking Cup, which was what finally compelled me to write this.

      I have no doubt today’s furore will have no impact on your brand, and that you will bring some interesting whiskeys to market in years to come. But you need to step back from this narrative and hit reset. Look at your website. Do you really think any consumer is going to read that and know that the whiskey you are currently selling is not from Cork? Or that you don’t have a distillery? Or a warehouse? If the spirit is good enough, just give it to them straight. That’s about it.

      Like

  4. Great piece and good for you to speak up if the Irish whisky is to be a success it needs to be more transparent and honest to customers

    Like

  5. Bill,

    Well said. Brand promoters playing fast and loose with the truth can only impact detrimentally on the reputation of Irish whiskey further down the line.

    The relationship between marketing and semantics is a fine one and over-eager marketers are apt to cross it, given half a chance. At least in Scotland the SWA regulate it, but in Ireland there is no authority doing the same. The IWA are AWOL. In the vacuum, until there is clarity and direction, the “over enthusiasm” will persist. I fear for the reputation of the industry as a whole.

    An independent bottler brand, which Hyde undoubtedly is, surely has a moral obligation not to mislead the consumer. There is nothing wrong with independently bottled whisky, per se, done well they can be a great way to discover new whiskies. But if you as a whisky journalist are confused by the packaging and press statements, what on earth must the consumer think? Master of Malt, a leading whisky retailer, clearly think there is a distillery too: http://tinyurl.com/ybu6anon

    In Scotland there is an accepted labelling convention for the two non distillery-owning categories, Independent Bottler and BOB (buyers own brand) favoured by supermarkets. The former clearly states the origin of the whisky: “Joe Blogs Brand”, “whisky distilled at Such-and-Such distillery”, “bottled by XYZ, Postcode.” The latter does not name the origin, is prevented from using some pretty geographical name picked off a map that implies an origin, and shows a bottling postcode.

    There is clarity from the Scotch Whisky regulations:
    (4) Scotch Whisky must not be labelled, packaged, advertised or promoted in any other way that, having regard to the presentation of the product as a whole, creates a likelihood that the public may think that it has been distilled at any distillery or place other than the distillery or place at which it was actually distilled.

    The problem here, whether through naivety, over-enthusiam or deliberate intention, is that the copywriter’s cleverly worded marketing material and label statements, particularly when taken as a whole, give the clear impression that the brand name on the front of the label distilled the whisky in the bottle. Which it didn’t.

    Perhaps Conor can tell us what the Master Distiller printed on the front label actually does then?

    Like

    1. Mark Wrote:
      In Scotland there is an accepted labelling convention for the two non distillery-owning categories, Independent Bottler and BOB (buyers own brand) favoured by supermarkets. The former clearly states the origin of the whisky: “Joe Blogs Brand”, “whisky distilled at Such-and-Such distillery”, “bottled by XYZ, Postcode.” The latter does not name the origin, is prevented from using some pretty geographical name picked off a map that implies an origin, and shows a bottling postcode.

      There is clarity from the Scotch Whisky regulations:
      (4) Scotch Whisky must not be labelled, packaged, advertised or promoted in any other way that, having regard to the presentation of the product as a whole, creates a likelihood that the public may think that it has been distilled at any distillery or place other than the distillery or place at which it was actually distilled.

      Hi Mark,

      I agree with you that these measures would be a very welcome addition here in Ireland.

      I’d also love to see a fuller description of the components of a whiskey especially wrt blended whiskey. Those of us in the know are aware that say Black Bush is 80% single malt and 20% single grain. But to add this to the label rather than just saying “XYZ Whiskey” would I think be of both interest and assistance especially to the novice whiskey drinker starting out of their journey.

      Kind regards,

      Stuart

      Like

      1. Having said all that, I am now looking at a new bottle of blended Scotch and its cardboard box on the table in front of me. I know that it was not distilled, blended or matured anywhere close to Edinburgh.

        But the bottle labeling says Blended, Matured and Bottled in Scotland. It also lists on the bottle label “Company Name Edinburgh” followed by a post code which is an office block in an Edinburgh business park. The box says “Distilled, Blended and Bottled in Scotland” followed by “Edinburgh and same Post Code”. Another brand from the same company carries the same information.

        So all may not be what it should be in Scotland despite the regs?

        Kind regards,

        Stuart

        Like

  6. “There is a long list of independent Scotch whiskey brands that have contributed hugely to the growth of Scotch whiskey appreciation internationally, such as: … Gordon & MacPhaill, Douglas Laing & Co., Signatory Vintage, Jonnie Walker, Murray McDavid,… Cadenhead, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Duncan Taylor, Ian Macleod”

    All very fine independent bottlers. Incidentally their owners all have at least one distillery each too.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. No one told me that it was recognised that 80% of the final whiskey taste is as a direct result of the ‘wood effect’ in which the whiskey is aged in over the years. Why bother distilling malted barley when we could have used any old grain spirit instead. Or water.

    Like

  8. Hi all,

    by way of introduction, I’m an Irish based amateur whiskey blogger who owns and edits some Irish Whiskey and Scotch Whiskey related sites and social media accounts including http://IrishWhiskey.com. I’ve been involved at different levels in whisk(e)y tasting, commentating and reviewing since I first discovered whisk(e)y after leaving college in the late 80’s.

    As someone who has met both Bill Linnane (the blog author here) and Conor Hyde of Hyde Whiskey on several occasions in recent years, I do not agree with the content of Bill’s article. As for the tone and the highly personal nature of the attack, I find it disappointing to say the least.

    After reading the article early this morning, I decided to refrain from comment to see if Hyde Whiskey would respond first. Now that they have responded, I’ll chip in.

    I have no connection (commercial or otherwise) to Hyde Whiskey or Conor Hyde other than the fact that I have written about them along with the majority of other Irish Whiskey companies and brands in recent years. West Cork disclosure – As many of my own readers and followers already know, I grew up in West Cork as a “blow in” from age 10, but I have not lived in West Cork for over 30 years.

    Nor do I have any connection (commercial or otherwise) in my past or present with any other whiskey brand.

    Having read Conor Hyde’s response carefully, I would considerate it to be absolutely accurate, honest and open. I note that in their reply here, Hyde reference the very first interview I conducted with them back in March 2015 in which I expressed a personal and professional opinion on both Conor and his company. At the time, I wrote that my first impression was that:

    “Interviewing someone like Conor Hyde is a pleasure. He is modest, professional, passionate and disarmingly open when talking about Hyde Whiskey.”

    My opinion has not changed since then.

    Although, Bill describes himself (self-deprecatingly) on his own Twitter account as “Ireland’s Worst Journalist” I am surprised that any journalist would not, in the amount of time he obviously spent researching and drafting this article, have contacted either Conor Hyde or his company for either comment or input prior to publication. But at least they have been afforded the right of reply here.

    An article should not be judged on its quality solely by the length of the article or the numerous number of selected quotes to support the particular argument being made. Often, what is omitted or left out of an article can be as telling as what is included. Writers and bloggers such as myself have at very least a moral responsibility to be fair, balanced, open-minded and accurate in our research, writings, referencing and opinions. I would suggest that that bar is even higher for journalists.

    A simple google search for “Hyde Whiskey Review” will yield much if not all of the open information on source and provenance (detailed in Conor Hyde’s response here) on just page 1 of Google Search.

    Along with my own review from 2015, referenced above by Hyde and their own Hyde website I also found these informative open source articles mentioning the provenance of Hyde whiskey. Your own search may of course be slightly different.

    http://peatedperfection.blogspot.ie/2016/10/hyde-irish-whiskey-review.html 2015

    https://thewhiskylady.net/2015/07/27/weekly-review-hyde-irish-whiskey-10yrs/ 2016

    All of these articles and others which have been openly available online for the last year or so since 2015/16, clearly state in public that Hyde Whiskey was sourced from Cooley and matured / finished in Cork. For a whiskey journalist to either miss or ignore these readily available information sources is astonishing.

    Mark says “But if you as a whisky journalist are confused by the packaging and press statements, what on earth must the consumer think?”
    But Bill says
    “I can still remember the moment I realised Hyde Whiskey did not own a distillery. It was at a whiskey society meeting in Midleton to taste the soon-to-be-launched Mano A Lamh, and I got chatting to F****** O’C***** about some of the new brands popping up. I was still learning about whiskey and, in retrospect, I really hadn’t a clue.”

    My own review of Mano A Lámh on one of my own whiskey review sites was in early March 2015. My own review of Hyde (mentioned above) was also in March 2015 and I was never left under any impression either then or now that Hyde had their own distillery or as to where their base whiskey was sourced. Both were commonly known facts within the wider Irish Whiskey community. I was quite aware that even then, Hyde aspired to the possibility of opening their own distillery at some stage in the future. This all seems reasonable then and now.

    The author of this piece today by his own admission, “was still learning about whiskey and in retrospect, I really hadn’t a clue” in February 2015, just two and a half years ago. It’s a fair jump to go from not having a clue about whiskey two years ago to launching a blistering and in my view completely unwarranted attack on a respected and successful whiskey company today.

    In observing Hyde Whiskey closely for the last few years, I have never, ever seen a claim by them that they owned a distillery. As I write this, I have a bottle of premium expression Tullamore DEW before me. Nowhere on the label or bottle does it mention where it was distilled, matured or bottled other than Distilled, Matured and Bottled in Ireland”. We all know that it has been produced for many years by a leading Irish distillery as whiskey from the new Tullamore distillery will not be available until at least next month, the third anniversary of the opening of their new distillery. This is all common, accepted and legal practice. Hyde take quality Irish Whiskey from an approved distillery such as Cooley and then like many, but not all other non-distillery owning brands, add their own magic through blending and / or maturation. In this, they are no different from almost all other non-distillery owning Irish Whiskey brands.

    So why have Hyde Whiskey been selected as a target for such strong (and in my personal opinion, completely unwarranted and unjustified) criticism?

    I think that Conor Hyde’s response above is factual, accurate, truthful, helpful; and given the nature and tone of the original article, quite dignified.

    I think that I know the action that many others would be taking if an article such as this were written about them.

    That Conor Hyde has chosen to respond (above) today in the open and honest manner that he has, says more about the man and his company than I could ever say.

    Hyde Whiskey have been successfully punching way above their weight in the Irish Whiskey industry, especially in the export market. It is my own personal belief that their continuing success and growing traction in the Irish Whiskey export market may be causing some concern to one or two of the larger industry players and may be frustrating to some of the smaller distillery owners who have made a business decision to wait it out until whiskey produced in their own new distilleries has matured for sale. But that’s a subject I may return to another day on my own blog.

    As a whiskey blogger who has been pleased to meet Bill on several previous occasions (normally at Irish Distillers hosted events) could I ask Bill a question? There are many accusations in your article about Hyde, but only one line in your article which might be seen as being critical of someone like me. Therefore, I feel justified in asking….

    Is your accusation that “Whiskey bloggers are happy to get free samples and will regurgitate whatever you tell them to keep the booze flowing” a personal opinion or a fact? It seems to me to be an incredibly sweeping statement to be made by a professional journalist.

    Bill, there is nothing personal to you intended or to be inferred in my contribution here today. You have an opinion and I have a contrary opinion in this debate. I look forward to chatting again in person when we next meet at a whiskey event in Midleton or elsewhere. But as a reasonably experienced Irish Whiskey aficionado and commentator, I could not in conscience stand by and let the content of your article today go unchallenged.

    Kind regards,

    Stuart

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    1. I seem to recall that you own a whiskey sales website that specialises in Irish brands. The point about whiskey bloggers was not aimed at you, however, the point about those who support Hyde generally coming from the side of the industry was. You have a number of business interests in Irish whiskey, so perhaps in the interest of fairness you should have mentioned that during your introduction.

      I see that while you say you are an amateur whiskey fan, your own site says you are an ‘Irish Whiskey journalist and aficionado’ and that your site is ‘an online centre of excellence for Irish Whiskey’. This explains why you feel you are in a position to lecture me about how journalism works. Let’s clear up any confusion – I’m not a journalist. I worked as a copy editor for 12 years, in which time I also wrote features. After leaving the paper I have since worked for the Indo and Examiner, along with occasional pieces in Irish Tatler Man and a Canadian spirits magazine. I am a feature writer, and I get paid to do it, which is why I dislike plagiarism so much. I’m sure that as an ‘Irish Whiskey journalist’ you can understand how truly obnoxious plagiarism is, yet you make no reference to Hyde doing it.

      If I was writing this post for print, I would have reached out to him, but this is a blog post – not the NY Times. I have interacted with Hyde on Twitter and see they are slow to answer questions they don’t like, so why bother contacting them? Conor’s own reply was exactly what I would expect – denial after denial. As I have stated, I am not a whiskey expert, but I know that tweeting messages about how your product is from west Cork when it is not is just misleading.

      I see you alluded to court action. If Mr Hyde feels he has been defamed, he is obviously entitled to sue me. Perhaps he might also want to sue food and drinks journalist Leslie Williams for this comment: “Yet, looking at a bottle of say Hyde Whiskey or similar you would swear they had their own boutique distillery that has been operating for decades. I genuinely feel this is misleading and will come back to bite us if consumers feel they have been conned. In Scotland and the US it is perfectly normal to sell whisky that has been purchased and aged somewhere other than the original distillery – honesty should be the key.” Perhaps Mr Hyde should read through the comments on Twitter about his brand and sue all of those people too? Or perhaps he should sue Mark Reynier for questioning him and the messages he put out? I think a clearing of air in court might be just what is needed here. If it looks like a personal attack on Conor, that is simply because he is Hyde whiskey. It’s great that you like the guy, but that doesn’t mean he is right. In fact, as a journalist I am sure you will have interviewed key players in the Irish whiskey industry and will have heard, as I have, what they think of Hyde whiskey and how it is marketed. Aside from that, the messages of support that I have received via DM about the post have mostly come from inside the industry. So is everyone wrong?

      I know as an ex-military man you won’t shy from a scrap, and admire you coming out swinging against me in defence of Mr Hyde’s marketing practices. You feel you are right, and nothing I say is going to change your mind. I stand over what I said, and as an ordinary Joe who likes whiskey, I have no problem accepting your accusations that I clearly don’t know a lot about either whiskey or journalism.

      I have zero interest in discussing this with you in person, in Midleton or anywhere else.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi all,
    I have read your comments with interest.
    I think Bill was correct in his approach. The piece highlights what the customers is seeing. Interviewing Conor wouldn’t help to highlight the issues.
    Mark Reynier, like him or loathe him, pulls no punches. While I want him to produce Pot Still style whiskey because of his passion for the grain, I know he’ll tell me to go f*** myself.
    He has highlighted other issues associated with the Irish Whiskey industry.
    I hear from numerous “producers” that the cask is x% flavour of the final product. 80% is pure bullshit. The great Billy Leighton would tell you that.
    In Bill’s article he quotes
    “Other potential entrants [into the whiskey industry] focus on manufacturing,” Conor Hyde says. “But it’s well proven that 80 per cent of the taste of whiskey comes from the wood.”
    “Making it is only half the battle. They have to all be cognisant that it’s not that hard to make whiskey – the hard part is selling and marketing.”
    How ignorant is that, can you imagine telling non whiskey drinkers this. If it’s that easy why is there only a handful of distillers. Ah jaysus, aged piss is still piss. A Sherry Cask matured in a temperate climate won’t help it, although Bear Grills could dispute it I’m sure.
    The % of influence is arbitrary. It depends on the Cask, the previous content, the maturation conditions and a tonne of other factors. I’m no expert by the way. I just love whiskey.
    If the % of Cask influence is 80% why can I know the distillery by first taste. Of course the distillate matters. I’ve distroyed more taste buds and brain cell than I like to admit but I can detect the distillery of lots of these brands & again I’m no expert.
    Bill correctly highlights the inadequacy of the legislation in Ireland.
    I got in a spot of bother a few years back for slating a distillery for producing what I believed to be poor products and using the rising tide of Irish Whiskey popularity to flog their wares as better than it was.
    In recent years I’ve met with them and tried their new product. They are really top notch now. I also understand the struggle they have to try and establish themselves. They too have a Cooley aged whiskey which they finished themselves and it’s a nice aged Cooley. They don’t gouge with the price like other “copy & paste” Cooley rebranders do. I taste said whiskey along side there own young whiskey and I’m happier with their own. It bodes well for them.
    From that experience I have been trying to be diplomatic, which is a problem for me because I grew up on a sheep farm on the side of the hill. Ignorance is in my DNA.
    I abhor the way some Irish whiskey brands are going, the cute hure and shenanigans shite that’s rife. Sadly it’s part of our DNA.
    Just because he’s a grand fellow, as Conor and many others are doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be brought to book.
    I can site numerous examples of deception that in the industry that the IWA and others just turned a blind eye too.
    Here’s one from a big producer, Lockes Irish whiskey has “Pure Pot Still” on its label. This has been there for 20 years. The Teelings knew it as it used to be on other brands of theirs but they didn’t change it. The current owner probably haven’t a clue what PPS is but my point is nobody has ever bought them to book.
    I wish I had the writing ability of Fionnan O’Conner of A Glass Apart, to highlight my own grievances. For now I’m glad to support Bill, Mark Reynier & Peter Mulryan and any other who has the balls to highlight the issues before the revival in Irish whiskey is distroyed by those just out to make a buck on the hard work of others.

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  10. “… We bring in sweet Oloroso sherry casks in southern Spain…”

    You either bring in Cream Sherry barrels, or regular Oloroso barrels. ‘Sweet Oloroso’ is an illegal labelling term. Another example of obfuscation/lack of care in Hyde’s marketing spin.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi all again,
    I better introduce my as Stuart did too.
    Apart for an ignorant ex-sheep farmer from the back of a hill, I’ve worked as a barman dispensing this stuff for a generation.
    I first discovered great Irish whiskey while living in Germany. It was Jameson Gold that got me hooked.
    I collected the stuff for years and drank as much different ones as I could find.
    The “Copy & Paste Cooley” stuff has been a pet hate of mine for years. Not the product but the bull behind them.
    I’ve pissed off more than a few with my comments as Stuart will be well aware off.
    I’m currently doing a diploma in distilling and have completed General Certificates in both Brewing and Distilling. I’m sure my opinions will close lots of doors for me when I finally quality but if I don’t have my opinions I’m not the asshole I want to be.
    I knows lots of Bloggers etc that go to launch events and get their samples. They then write a nice review and all are happy. I was sent a sample by Hyde, a C&P Cooley, grand stuff went well with a beer I think but I wouldn’t endorse it because of its price range. The same applies to the Jameson makes series. I didn’t get samples by the way. Grand whiskey but the Jameson 12 & Gold, which are discontinued were better. I’m told that the public wanted them. Yeah!
    Marketeers ask the questions with the answer they want. The Method & Madness is a whole different story.
    I digress sorry. We need honest criticism in this industry. We need transparency. I know that Scottish blends don’t tell you all the makes but independent bottlers of single malts do. They too have built & owned distilleries in time.
    Perhaps in time when we have plenty of distillers we may have Hyde Cooley single malt or Hyde Dingle Single malt but don’t pretend you’re the reason it great and charge us a premium for your input.
    I can’t understand the non disclosure agreements, why? If it’s good, I’m going to go to the source and who puts out bad whiskey anyway. Be proud of your roots and don’t try to tell fibs.
    You never have to remember the truth.
    Sláinte

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  12. “it is well recognised that 80% of the final whiskey taste is as a direct result of the ‘wood effect’ in which the whiskey is aged in over the years and the local climate of where the cask is aged.”

    I’d love to seethe evidence for this. I’d also like an explanation for how the misinformation about a distillery in Roscommon ended up in a national paper. Typo doesn’t cut it I’m afraid. Full disclosure: I was a national newspaper reporter for 20 years and now run the top ranking English and Journalism degree in the UK.

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    1. I’m not saying whether I agree or disagree about the 80%. Who knows? Every whiskey is different and of course taste is quite personal.. And how do you quantify a % of taste? My technical / engineering background is more Telecomms and IT, so I defer to subject matter experts.

      But a quick Google search reveals these supporters of the 80% argument.

      From Chemical and Engineering News – An online journal of the American Chemical Society http://cen.acs.org/articles/95/i5/whisky-and-how-do-you-best-enjoy-hundreds-of-flavor-compounds.html

      From a press release last year by Scotch Whiskey Company The Macallan
      http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-macallan-unveils-double-cask-12-years-old-300340464.html

      50% to 80% of flavour…. http://whiskyanalysis.com/index.php/background/source-of-whisky-flavours/

      Labrot and Grahams (Woodford Reserve) Master Distiller quoted in The Economist reckons 80% of the flavour comes from new barrels http://www.economist.com/node/457125

      And finally from the home page of a new an Irish Whiskey Bonder who state on their home page that “Because 80% of Whiskies flavour comes from the barrel it is aged in and the climate where that barrel is stored, this resulted in a vast variety of whiskey flavours all over the Island of Ireland”. http://www.chapelgatewhiskey.com/

      But there may of course be many other contra views out there saying 20%, 40%, 60% etc..

      Kind regards,

      Stuart

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  13. Hi Bill,

    You are factually incorrect in several assumptions and accusations you have made about me as a person, some of which call into question publicly my integrity.

    I’m not a fan of tit for tat attack and defence across the public airways, so happy to discuss privately by email off line with a view to you issuing a retraction / clarification.

    If not, I’ll reluctantly submit another final post here.

    Kind regards,

    Stuart

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    1. Is this your site – http://irishwhiskey.com/basket/ ? It appears it is, and it has a shop attached to it. You told me about this aspect of your business when we did the Irish Whiskey Academy together. Explain to me what I said that was factually inaccurate?

      As for tit-for-tat – you were more than happy to post a lengthy diatribe in defence of Conor Hyde, calling my ethics into question. I’m not being precious about this, but you thought it wise the throw your two cents in on a public forum, so here is where we will sort this out. Tell me what was incorrect in what I said, and I will correct it. Until then, I will tell you what I told Conor Hyde – if you think you have been defamed, contact a solicitor.

      And while I’m at it, I might as well point out this quote from your piece: “Hyde Whiskey have been successfully punching way above their weight in the Irish Whiskey industry, especially in the export market. It is my own personal belief that their continuing success and growing traction in the Irish Whiskey export market may be causing some concern to one or two of the larger industry players” – you then go on to unnecessarily mention that you usually meet me at Irish Distillers hosted events, or that we could take this all over ‘a whiskey event in Midleton’.

      Despite your claim that there was ‘nothing personal to you intended or to be inferred in my contribution’, I believe it is very clear what you are inferring in your lengthy, personal attack. I didn’t bother commenting on it, as I thought it was too tragic to mention, but since you are now throwing accusations my way, it’s as good a time as any to remind you that defamation is a costly business and difficult to prove, but if you are implying that my post on Hyde was somehow sponsored by IDL, you might want to think again.

      You came here in defence of Hyde’s business practice and now you are telling me that I was ‘factually incorrect in several assumptions and accusations you have made about me as a person, some of which call into question publicly my integrity’. Correct me and we move on.

      As I said before, discourse is a two way street – if you want to preach and make accusations about me as a journalist, or a whiskey fan, you can do it on your own blog, where I won’t see it. I wrote a piece on Hyde whiskey and their marketing strategy – you came here to defend them by undermining and attacking me. You played the man, not the ball.

      Like

      1. Hi Bill,

        In my introduction, I mentioned that I own and edit several Whisk(e)y sites including http://IrishWhiskey.com. Some of my sites do have affiliate links for purchase of whiskey but this is just for the convenience of the odd member of my audience from say the US looking for an Irish whiskey they can’t get locally and desperately want. The high shipping costs of whiskey and affiliate commissions of just 2% reinforce the fact that this is just an extra service of convenience / facility for a tiny percentage of my readers, many of whom have become whiskey friends. The DataFeedR affiliate feed engine alone costs a couple of hundred euro a year to maintain. I just checked my affiliate control panel and even with a quite decent audience-traffic, total sales to date this year for all my sites are a staggering £43.65. I “religiously” donate the 70 or 80 quid income from the site every year anonymously to a West Cork charity I support. Against this, the cost of running and maintaining my various whiskey sites runs to several thousand euros a year. In addition, I have never accepted paid advertising of any kind on my sites.

        All this is my spare time leisure hobby and my passion. I also own and edit The Irish Whiskey Trail website at http://whiskeytrail.ie , the Dublin Whiskey Trail at http://DublinWhiskeyTrail.ie and several other regional whiskey trail websites which promote excellence in whiskey tourism. The sites have a blocking payment-gateway to prevent registration by spammers and allow registration and listing addition via voucher code, but again, I am happy to confirm that I have never accepted a single cent in payment for any of the many listings promoted free of charge on my whiskey tourism sites. I do it all for free as a committed amateur and at some personal cost out of my love and passion for whiskey.

        I am also happy to confirm that in all my years of conducting whiskey talks and tastings and TV, Radio and Media interviews, I have never on principle accepted one cent for any event, interview or magazine I have contributed to. Like you I’m sure, I get invited to a few nice whiskey launches and events at home and abroad, but always insist on paying my own travel costs etc. on the rare occasions that I can find time to attend.

        So please Bill, tell me all about my “Number of business interests in whiskey” that you know so much about and are so sure about and have written here about as fact.

        I get a huge amount of fun and enjoyment out of my amateur whiskey hobby and this alone makes it all worthwhile. I get even more fun out of the fact that I managed to rescue / secure the IrishWhiskey.Com domain several years ago for the Irish Whiskey world.

        I am fairly sure that I am described across my various sites including http://IrishWhiskey.com as a “Whiskey Writer and Whiskey Aficionado”. Aficionado as in enthusiast. I have sometimes been afforded the moniker of journalist (someone who writes about news) and am happy to accept the compliment. I fail to see the relevance of my personal current work status or profession to this debate. I am not “an ex-military man” but again, thanks for the compliment. I’d also be obliged if you would keep what you think you know, but obviously don’t know about my professional life outside this debate.

        I never alluded to or mentioned “court action” and am bemused at your repeated advice to myself and others to contact a solicitor. Likewise, I never asked if your whiskey blogger accusation was aimed at me. You said, “Whiskey bloggers are happy to get free samples and will regurgitate whatever you tell them to keep the booze flowing” without qualification, so it was aimed indiscriminately at all of us whiskey bloggers. As a whiskey blogger, I asked you a direct question. Was your statement based on fact or is it just your own opinion stated as if it was a fact? I know and am friendly with quite a few whiskey and whisky bloggers in Ireland, UK, USA and mainland Europe. I know, (as a fact) that most them happily maintain their whiskey blogging activities, just like me, at some considerable personal cost. While we do receive the odd sample bottle or miniature to review, far more of the bottles we taste and review in our blogs have been paid for ourselves.

        I am sorry that you have “zero interest” in discussing this with me whenever we next meet in person. My mind and my opinions are always open to change when informed by new and factual information and experience.

        While I respect that you did not wish to discuss the matter any further, I felt I had to challenge and correct these poorly-informed, incorrect and sweeping, throwaway statements that you have made about me personally. Once again Bill, writing what you think is true, but is incorrect doesn’t make it true.

        Goodnight Bill,

        Kind regards,

        Stuart

        Like

  14. I’m annoyed, very annoyed. I love to promote great Irish whiskies from authentic Irish distilleries. About two years ago, Hyde Whiskies crossed my radar. The very first question I asked was “Wonder where it’s distilled?” and a little time on the WWW answered that question for me. It was distilled in the ‘Hibernia Distilery’ (somewhere in West Cork, or maybe not). So I did some investigating and it didn’t take me long to realise that there is no such distillery as ‘Hibernia Distillery’ Let’s face it, any of us with an interest in Irish whiskies know where the core distilleries are. I’ll list them quickly, Midletonn, Bushmills, Teelings, Cooley, Dingle,West Cork, Tullamore, Walsh. Slane (maybe). These are the core. Where in there, did you read ‘Hibernia Distillery’? Nowhere. Why? Because my research could not locate its address. It was confusing.

    On 4th April 2017 I went to a Cork City pub for a whiskey tasting. This was as part of the Cork Whiskey Festival 2017. There was a Hyde branded stand in the pub promoting Hyde Whiskies exclusively and offering tastings of 3 Hyde Whiskies. I was thrilled, at last, maybe someone from the Hyde “distillery” could tell me where exactly the whiskey was produced.

    When I asked for and was offered a sample, I asked the promoter “Where is the distillery?” and his immediate reply was “The Hibernia Distillery”. He offered no more information than that. I was amused. This distillery does not exist, yet this promoter told me the name of a non existent distillery without hesitation. He did not pull this name out of a hat, he was clearly told to say this, if he was queried about the distillery, and he was not told to say this by the Tooth Fairy. Someone who employed him as a promoter of Hyde whiskey told him what to say.

    Why I am annoyed is that Conor Hyde in his reply above said: and I quote, “We are not a distillery and have never claimed to have a distillery, ever” But I want to know then, why your promoter, the person employed by Hyde Whiskey on 4th April told me that the name of the distillery is ‘Hibernia Distillery’? Your promoter HAS claimed to have a Hyde distillery.

    We all know that in general new distilleries may use ‘bought in stock’ for a few years while they wait for their own stock to mature. No problem with that. My problem is when whiskey producers claim that bought in stock is “their own”

    If I was an authentic Irish Whiskey, maturer, marketer and bottler, I would be proud of that fact and would see no reason to have to fib about a concocted distillery. Other whiskey producers do this, why not Hyde?

    Yes, I am annoyed.

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  15. Wow. Have spent the last hour reading the full blog post and comments. I am not from the industry, do not have training or background in whiskey, I buy the odd bottle of Jameson 12 every couple of years or so. I stumbled across the blog post on Twitter – and am glad I did. As a consumer and from my perspective, I like to know where the products I buy come from, where they were made and who made them. Any deviation from this, any vagueness, any attempt to misrepresent the product, quality aside, will be punished. I refuse to buy that product. I refuse to buy it as I don’t trust it, and when that trust is gone, it’s very hard to rebuild. This happens across the board. Charleville cheese is not made in Charleville, but in a U.K. plant. A cheese pretending to be Irish by name and there are many more examples. Thanks to the original blogger and all the contributors for a fascinating discussion. I leave here a little more enlightened than when I woke up.

    Like

  16. Just saw this now. Bill Linnane is just wrong. Is Jameson distilled in Dublin – they have a brand home. Is Bushmills distilled in Bushmills – yes and no? The grain is from Jameson.

    There are over 5,000 scotch brands about 4,500 are blends. There are 7 Scotch grain distilleries – go figure.

    Every whiskey is different. The age, blend, warehousing and type/age of wood, all create a unique product. Where it is distilled has little relevance to the final spirit.

    Further, whiskey drinking is a social occasion so the bottle, label, name, etc. all add or distract.

    Like

    1. “Where it is distilled has little relevance to the final spirit”
      HaHa

      SK79 – you seriously need to go to a distillery, get a proper tour and see the amount of effort and attention to detail that goes into a final spirit. Then, sir, I think you may understand the relevance of the distillation.

      Like

  17. Well constructed argument Bill. If the regulations were truly designed to protect both industry and consumer there would be no ‘grist for the mill’ here. However, inexplicably there is almost a laissez faire attitude in this food category, whilst every other facet of food promotion strictly endorses provenance. I really don’t understand the lack of transparency – if you market a good, quality product, protected by solid supply & quality agreements, then why not be transparent? What’s the risk? Consumers will be drawn by your cask selection, maturation or finishing strategies and you’ll earn repeat business and brand loyalty based on your generalised whiskey acumen. That logic is tried and tested. By obfuscating and putting out mixed messages a business can only achieve the opposite. Defies logic really.

    Like

  18. Everything is crystal clear on the matter, only a fool wouldn’t understand. Mr Hyde and his company may get the success they’re looking for, but they’ll never get the respect from any true whiskey lover. As long as this doesn’t harm the rest of the whiskey business in Ireland, and the rennaissance of Irish whiskey in general, so be it. But for the sake of it, it is essential that there should be an establishment of rules-regulations from an independent authority.

    Well done Bill, I was wondering when someone would step forward and shed light to the issue.

    Greetings from a humble whisky ..(lover, hobbyist, afficionado, freak, put whatever you like…), outside the beloved Emerald island.

    Like

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