“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 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.