The origin of whiskey has evolved into a long and rather Sisyphean debate. There is, however, the widely accepted notion amongst the whiskey drinking community that it was the Irish monks who brought home the secrets of distillation of perfumes. They had acquired the skills from their trips to the Mediterranean countries as early as the 11th century. The word ‘whiskey’, in fact, originates from the Gaelic expression ‘water of life’. It took the Irish 600 years to establish a whiskey industry when in 1608, the world’s first distillery became licensed and operational in Ireland. The art of whiskey making soon spread to other countries and regions, with quite a distilleries making some of the finest drinks there ever were. Amidst all of that, the Irish whiskey has maintained its character, representing the Irish way of life and the fabled Irish drinking.
In a country that not only cherishes its whiskey but celebrates it, being the most popular whiskey speaks for itself. Powers Gold Label, with its mildly spicy pot-still character, has become just that. Powers witnesses more consumption of their offering within the country than abroad. The brand gained renewed popularity with their relaunch in 2013. The story of the brand of Powers, however, goes back more than 200 hundred years in time.
The journey of Powers began in 1791, when an innkeeper, James Power, built a small scale distillery behind his establishment at 109 Thomas Street and saw a production of 6,000 gallons in its first year. James was soon joined by his son John Power in the distillation business and the distillery came to be known as James Power & Son. The small distillery began growing in business and eventually needed to relocate to accommodate the increased demand of production. Thus in 1822, James Power & Son was renamed as John Power & Son and was moved to John’s Lane, a little distance from the original site at Thomas Street. The new distillery had three single pot-stills.
The Excise Act of 1823 paved the way for a rapid expansion of the whiskey industry and the distillery of John Power & Son was no exception. The expansion saw Powers deliver an output of 300,000 gallons a year by 1833. The heightened production spurred further growth when the distillery was refurbished and expanded in 1871 launching the annual production to 900,000 gallons during the mid-1880s.
The 1823 Excise Act had catapulted the Irish distilleries, especially those in Dublin, to be seated amongst the worlds’ largest distilleries. The ‘Big Four’ of Ireland — Powers, John Jameson, William Jameson, and George Roe — began shaping the Irish distilling landscape with various innovations. It was during this period, in 1886, when John Power & Son became the first distillery in Dublin to bottle their own whiskey, that the idea of Powers Gold Label was born. Each bottle came with a glamorous gold label.
The distillery kept undergoing changes and in 1961, the distillery installed a Coffey still and branched into the production of vodka and gin, departing from an age old tradition of shunning Coffey stills. The distillery was also a pioneer in the Irish blended whiskey. The Irish whiskey industry was, however, struggling to keep pace with the competition from their Scottish counterparts alongside the Prohibition in the US. Powers and the remaining distilleries in the Republic of Ireland (Cork Distillers and John Jameson) merged in 1966 to form the Irish Distillers Group. The Irish Distillers Group decided to relocate all the whisky making to the Midleton Distillery and the John’s Lane distillery was closed in 1974.
The Irish Distillers Group was taken over by Pernod Ricard in 1989.
The Whisky behind the ‘Gold’ label
The Powers Gold Label is the Republic of Ireland’s best-selling whiskey. The whiskey is blend of pot still and grain whiskey, with the pot still element gaining a slight dominance giving it a slightly more spicy bite. The Gold Label’s taste and nose are reminiscent of a traditional whiskey distillation process that has not yet been lost in blends. While the Powers distillery is now almost demolished, the spirit of the Dublin distillers has been kept alive in their whiskey.