"I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and I’m still fascinated by what’s possible."—Brian Nation, Master Distiller
It would be easy to say that Master Distiller Brian Nation has seen it all, but when it comes to working on Method and Madness “every day is a learning day, every day is a school day”. For Brian, it is the scale of the Micro-Distillery that has provided this new learning curve: “The Micro-Distillery gives us more opportunity and more time to just play around”.
Brian believes that the Master and Apprentice culture in Midleton is crucial to not only maintain traditions but also to encouraging innovation. “When I was an apprentice, Barry Crockett gave me the confidence to innovate and to change, a willingness to always try something different”.
And now as a Master the circle in complete; “working with apprentices, you’ll always get a new perspective, a set of fresh eyes”.
"YOU NEED TO BE METHODICAL BUT YOU’RE NOT GOING TO DISCOVER NEW THINGS WITHOUT TAKING A CHANCE."—Karen Cotter, Apprentice Distiller
As an Apprentice Distiller in the Micro-Distillery, Karen is not only learning from Master Distiller Brian Nation, but from the generations of distillers that have gone before her. “We work in a building built in the 1800s, and a lot of what we do still comes from that era”. While paying heed to tradition, Karen also believes that the work they’re doing will leave the distillery in a better place for the future: “We're taking the lead here, not following it”.
By working in a more manual environment, Karen is “becoming attuned to the sounds of the distillery”, learning the nuts and bolts of the craft, which provides a solid platform for experimentation and innovation down the line. “You need to be metho-dical because you want things to work out, but you're not going to discover anything without taking a chance”.
"FOR METHOD AND MADNESS THE DOOR IS WIDE OPEN TO GO OUTSIDE THE BOUNDS OF TRADITION."—Billy Leighton, Master Blender
Master Blender Billy Leighton is a man whose role requires absolute adherence to consistency. But with Method and Madness he sees an opportunity to “go outside the wider bounds of tradition”. “Method and Madness is not stuck to any particular style. The door is wide open”.
Although innovation is nothing new to Midleton, Billy believes that now is the time to really go for it. “It would be so easy to sit back on our laurels. But, when you do that, you go nowhere”. “If you don’t try these things, you never find out”.
"YOU ALWAYS NEED TO ASK ‘WHAT ELSE?"—Dave McCabe, Apprentice Distiller
Apprentice Blender Dave McCabe believes that the next generation of whiskey makers have a dual purpose. “You have a lot of gratitude for those before you, but you also have responsibility for those after you”.
Dave is in the privileged position of learning directly from Master Blender Billy Leighton, “The legacy of knowledge here is priceless, because of the work laid down before us, we’re in a very good position to keep innovating”. However, the role of the apprentice is not only to learn, “You need to adapt, you always need to ask ‘What else?’”
"WHEN YOU PLAY, YOU DO THINGS THAT YOU WOULDN’T NORMALLY DO"—Kevin O’Gorman, Master of Maturation
Even before his days as Master of Maturation, Kevin was always encouraged to innovate: “Something that was passed on to me was ‘try new things’ ”, and now he believes “we need to pass the baton on to the next generation and continue the race”.
Kevin is quite philosophical about the innovation involved in creating Method and Madness, particularly when it comes to maturation: “Sometimes you just have to give it time, wait and see what happens”. When dealing with experiments over such long time frames, “it’s never a mistake, there’s always something you can learn”. “When you play, you do things that you wouldn’t normally do” , and that’s when things get really exciting. “It was a trial, to our delight it worked out. The results are fantastic”.
"THIS IS A TESTAMENT TO THE MASTERS"—Finbarr Curran, Bond Apprentice
Bond Apprentice Finbarr Curran was on the frontline of innovation for Method and Madness, ident-ifying and locating new wood types for the spirit to be finished in: “We’re not bound to oak. My job is to track down new woods, from anywhere in the world. We’ve got great relationships that give us unique and rare barrels, and we’re always searching for more”. Finbarr believes that this innov-ation is essential to the long term survival of the distillery, “as soon as you’re stagnant, you’re dead in the water… not every barrel will work, but you have to try”.
As an apprentice to Master of Maturation Kevin O’Gorman, Finbarr is acutely aware that a project like Method and Madness would not be possible without the groundwork laid down by previous generations: “This is a testament to the masters”.
"WE LEARN FROM THE WOOD, AND EACH OTHER. IT’S AN ONGOING PROCESS OF DISCOVERY"—Eoin McLaughlin, Bond Apprentice
As Eoin says “trying something new should start with knowing the past”, and for him this starts with learning directly from Master of Maturation Kevin O’Gorman. “With Kevin’s knowledge, it’s always an educated guess… he has a lot of literature, he is a fountain of knowledge”.
Eoin sees his role as asking “what else can we do”, what can new woods bring to the table?”.
As part of the maturation team that was responsible for the unique finishes in the Method and Madness range, Eoin has learned a great deal about whiskey past, present and future.“
We learn from the wood, and each other. It’s an ongoing process of discovery”.
"METHOD AND MADNESS HAS GIVEN OUR EXPERIMENTAL WHISKEYS A HOME"—Dave Quinn, Master of Whiskey Science
“I think it will surprise a lot of people… doing things we’ve never done before”, Master of Whiskey Science Dave Quinn is excited about the new possibilities being realised with Method and Madness. “Method and Madness has given our experimental whiskeys a home… we’re getting truly unique whiskeys to the whiskey enthusiast”.
As a Master, Dave’s job is half “liquid innovations”, and half passing on the torch. “We’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re rolling it on”. Dave has amassed a great deal of whiskey knowledge over the years, and when the day finally comes for him to leave Midleton, he wants to make sure he has handed it all down: “I don’t want to walk out the door with some knowledge or experience in my head that I haven’t passed on”.
"THERE IS A CONSTANT CHALLENGE, BUT THAT’S WHAT KEEPS THE HEART PUMPING"—Dagmara Dabrowska, Apprentice of Whiskey Science
“The more you know, the more you appreciate. Your horizon gets wider and wider”. Dagmara comes from a scientific background, but her close working relationship with Master of Whiskey Science Dave Quinn has taught her something a bit more intangible, a passion for the spirit. “I had the drive for science before, but I got the passion for whiskey from Dave. He introduced me to a new world because of his passion and enthusiasm”.
Dagmara describes her role on Method and Madness as “embracing the subtlest of differences”. She wants to systematically discover ways of making better whiskey, “the science of whiskey is not unveiled yet, my job is to unveil it one piece at a time”. “There is a constant challenge, but that’s what keeps the heart pumping”.
The Micro-Distillery in Midleton is a place for big thinking on a small scale. Innovation has always been at the heart of what we do in Midleton, but we needed a place where boundaries could be pushed an curiosities quenched. So we transformed the old Bonded Warehouse No. 2 into a new Micro-Distillery and handed over the keys to a team of Master and Apprentice whiskey makers.
This distillers’ playground has provided us with a platform to try new things, on a scale where we can learn from our mistakes. The Micro-Distillery will be home to some of our most curious minds, headed up by recent graduate distillers Karen Cotter and Katherine Condon, with the support and mentorship of Master Distiller Brian Nation. With centuries of knowledge and discovery colliding under one roof, expect big things from this Micro-Distillery.
"I’VE BEEN DOING THIS FOR OVER 20 YEARS AND I’M STILL FASCINATED BY WHAT’S POSSIBLE"Brian Nation – Master Distiller
The Midleton Distillery has been in operation since the 18th century, and is today home to some of the world’s most prestigious Irish whiskeys. With a whiskey CV like this, it would be easy to sit back on our laurels, but that’s not how things are done around here.
In Midleton we always look to the past in order to push things forward. Our archives provide us with a detailed grounding in what has been tried before, with distillers’ notebooks dating back to 1826 being used for inspiration on the Method and Madness brand. Our legacy of Master and Apprentice, working side-by-side, also provides us with a constant supply of curious minds with generations of knowledge to fall back on.