Another day, another gin; but this time we can tell you that Method and Madness Gin from Midleton in Cork really is something special.
Inspired by the Shakespearean quote ‘Though this be madness, yet there is method in ’t’, the innovative Method and Madness distillery launched in 2017. Though the company started with whiskies, which are currently maturing, the micro-distillery has now ventured towards gin in order to pay homage to Cork’s historic links to gin production.
Irish Distillers in Cork haven’t produced a gin since 2005’s Cork Crimson Gin, which was widely lauded as one of Ireland’s best gin but was unfortunately ahead of its time, missing the gin revolution by about a decade. Inspired by this celebrated gin, as well as the recipes recorded by William Caldwell in 1798, Master distiller Brian Nation and Apprentice distiller Henry Donnelly worked tirelessly to combine 16 botanicals, including black lemon, gorse flower and lavender, to create the perfect flavour. Upon tasting the gin, we noted its silky smooth citrus flavour, with a light hint of lavender and spice – delicious! To celebrate the product launch, we spoke to Master Distiller Brian Nation to get a better idea about the creative process that surrounds a premium, innovative product.
Tell us about your role in the company and your relationship with Henry Donnelly.
“My background is all in whiskey so when we decided to develop gin at the microdistillery, it was a learning curve for me too. We want the microdistillery to be an innovation hub, not just for whiskey, but for all spirits. It was a no-brainer to start distilling whiskey, but only Henry had thought to suggest it. Henry was part of the graduate distiller programme and he spent his time here developing ideas. He was so good that we ended up appointing him as the distiller in the micro-distillery because he really wanted to learn and had a lot of innovative ideas. We thought it was a great role for him and he’s really blossomed in it. The micro-distillery is our innovation hub so we’re going to try everything and anything that we can to try to keep innovating.”
What is the creative process behind developing such an innovative product?
“We have a number of different resources and different people that we can pull together to help us with the development process of whiskey making. We also have the archive that we can go through to get some inspiration about what to do next. An example of that is we saw in different archives that oats and rye were used in small amounts during whiskey distilling in the past, so that inspired us to change the mash bills and add quite a high percentage of rye just to see how it would turn out. It’s maturing now and we’re very pleased so far. We’ve found a number of different distilling techniques too. How we start our creative process is that we have brainstorming sessions, sometimes just with the production team, but usually with the innovation team, the new product development team and the marketing team too. We throw ideas around and some great ideas come out of these sessions. We’ve actually developed 11 different styles of distillates that were never made here before, they’re maturing now. Some of them might never see the light of day but the point is that we’ve all learned from the process. We’re recording everything we’re doing so that other generations can see what was done in the past and that will inspire them.”
Midleton Distillery has an archive that holds the records of past distillations. How important has this resource been in creating new products?
“Having heritage and authenticity to build on is so important. To be able to learn from what was done in the past gives us more strength and conviction when developing something new. Method and Madness gave us a chance to do something a bit different and that’s very important to us. It’s only really since we started the micro-distillery that I’ve seen the full benefits of the archive. Our archivist Carol has so much knowledge that we can tell her what we’re planning to do and she’ll be able to give us some information from the past that might help us. It’s really invigorating for us to learn more about what was done before because it helps us to know what we should and shouldn’t do.”
What do you think of the reaction to the new gin?
“When you come out with something new, you’re always nervous about what people who are experienced with the spirit will think. It was important for us to produce quite a balanced gin that had quite a lot of citrus in it, but it needed to be earthy and fragrant too. I think this version has really fulfilled what we set out to do, it might even be better than we thought!”To celebrate the launch of the new gin, Irish Distillers are holding a sensory experience aboard a vessel where science and art will intersect. Tickets for this exclusive event, which takes place on Thursday 4th, Friday 5th and Saturday, 6th April, cost €25 per person and can be bought on Eventbrite.
Method and Madness Gin is bottled at 43% ABV and is available in Ireland and Global Travel Retail from March 2019, at the RRP of €50 per 70cl bottle, ahead of a wider release in global markets from July.