Chapel Gate isn’t a distillery, but a modern whiskey bonding company, meaning that they buy good quality whiskey from distilleries, mature it in their casks in their old warehouse. Whiskey bonding is an important part of Ireland’s whiskey history; many whiskey brands started in bonded warehouses, like for example, the Spot whiskeys and the big Redbreast brand.
Nowadays, new whiskey brands pop up everywhere, and some of them are probably in reality whiskey bonders, while others are simply bottlers. The definition of what a whiskey bonder is needs to be examined a bit now that the tradition is coming back. Many whiskey companies start building a brand without having a distillery – some because they are building their distillery, or their distillery is so new that their own liquid isn't whiskey yet, and they buy sourced whiskey to release under their brand in the meantime, either as a custom made ready product or they own a warehouse where they finish the sourced whiskey in own casks.
The latter could probably be considered whiskey bonders, some have no plans for having a distillery but only plan to do the maturation part. But although cask management and maturation is an art form in itself, few (or perhaps none) take pride in being whiskey bonders such as Chapel Gate.
Chapel Gate has its home on a family farm in county Clare where they’ve built a rackhouse where all the magic will happen. Their first whiskey, The Gael, was released during 2017, a very interesting blend. It consists of not less than four different whiskeys, three single malts and one grain. These whiskeys have arrived already mature to Chapel Gate.
The brand, JJ Corry, has its name from an old whiskey bonder from the area. He wasn’t only whiskey bonder but he was also an innovator and entrepreneur, and The Gael is actually the name of a bike he invented.
It’s bottled at 46% ABV, and the only cask type that is specified is the oldest single malt component that has been matured in ex-sherry butts, so I suppose the others must be matured in ex-bourbon casks.
Fresh apple with a hint of mint, honey, citrus and some kind of pepper.
The first entrant is fresh stone fruit, citrus, followed by a floral character, some vanilla, and honey. There's pepper at the end, it’s quite intense, but mixes with the fruity and floral flavours and creates a long spicy finish.
A flavourful and complex whiskey, with a nice freshness. After this sip, I definitely look forward to what will come out of this company in the future.
Read more about Chapel Gate and The Gael here.