This summer, O’Shaughnessy Distilling Company will release Keeper’s Heart Irish-American Whiskey. The new offering from the Minneapolis-based brand sees two of the world’s strongest whiskey traditions come together to create something both familiar and completely unique.
To create Keeper’s Heart, the distillery brought in some of the world’s top whiskey talent, including Brian Nation–former Master Distiller for some of the most renowned Irish whiskeys in the world including Jameson, Redbreast, Midleton Very Rare, the Spot range and Powers Irish Whiskey–and Paddy Caulfield, former Brand Director and VP at Pernod Ricard.
In this week’s Bottle Breakdown, we sat down with Paddy Caulfield to discuss Keeper’s Heart, how the project came together, and what to expect from a truly Irish-American whiskey.
Spirited Zine: Can you tell us about the first time you tried whiskey and how that first sip has impacted your career today?
Paddy Caulfield: Growing up in Ireland, whiskey was popular among the older generation and didn’t develop into a fashionable drink until the late 90’s. I started drinking whiskey quite early into my adult life as my father was a keen Irish whiskey drinker, but I didn’t fully appreciate the process, the history or the craft around whiskey at the time. That appreciation didn’t come until I was lucky enough to become Brand Ambassador for some of the best-selling Irish whiskeys. This involved travelling to incredible places, educating consumers on the virtues of Irish whiskey, which quickly led me to become passionate about the industry. Approaching my 20th year in the business, I’ve been fortunate to work on some of the best and most beloved Irish, Scotch and American whiskey brands.
SZ: Keeper’s Heart is an Irish American whiskey. You’re Irish living in New York…Can you tell us what makes a whiskey quintessentially Irish, what makes one American, and how combining the two concepts creates a unique offering? Is that what drew you to the position?
PC: For me, triple distilled pot still whiskey is the quintessential style of Irish whiskey that produces a uniquely rich and creamy mouthfeel. Not so long ago it was under threat of disappearing but thankfully, the success of Irish whiskey in recent years has brought this unique style back to the forefront.
From an American perspective, the use of local ingredients; corn, barley, or rye, combined with specific distillation techniques and the use of freshly charred oak barrels, delivers bold flavors that pack a wonderful punch.
I’ve always enjoyed both styles but until now, I never imagined what combining these would result in. Thanks to the expertise of our Master Distiller, Brian Nation, we’ve been able to create a unique whiskey that perfectly marries the best of both styles and I can attest that the final result is a wonderfully balanced whiskey full of rich, complex and layered flavors.
Many factors drew me to this position; from the vision and ambition painted by our founder’s, Michael & Patrick O’Shaughnessy, to the remarkable talent they brought onboard such as our Master Distiller, Brian Nation, to the world-class distillery that’s being built and finally the opportunity to bring a unique style of whiskey to the world, provided an opportunity that was too good to pass up. I feel a strong personal connection to what we’re creating, being Irish, married to an American and recently having had a baby, I am excited at the prospect of bringing the best of Irish & American to life in a bottle of whiskey!
SZ: Where does Keeper’s Heart get its barley and how does the terroir impact the flavors and aromas found in the whiskey?
PC: For our Keeper’s Heart Irish American Whiskey, we will be sourcing and expertly blending the best of triple distilled Irish single pot still whiskey and triple distilled Irish grain whiskey with American rye whiskey.
At the same time, we’ll be producing our own distillates in the traditional Irish style of triple distillation in copper pot stills using local ingredients and maturing these over the next few years. We’re in the process of sourcing our barley and will be sharing details of our partners down the line.
SZ: Like all Irish whiskeys, Keeper’s Heart is tripled distilled. Can you take us through the distillation process and tell us the impact it has on the final product?
PC: Triple distillation is a key part of the process for Irish whiskeys and is the main contributor to delivering the smooth character that Irish whiskeys are famous for.
The triple distillation process enables us to bring to the forefront the signature flavor characteristics that we want in our whiskies. We term the center cut of the third distillation the heart of the distillate. It’s only the “heart” of the distillate that goes for maturation. This is also a contributing factor to the name of the first product to release from O’Shaughnessy Distilling Company, Keeper’s Heart Irish American Whiskey.
Keeper’s Heart Irish American blend, launching this summer, is a blend of triple distilled Irish pot still whiskey, triple distilled Irish grain whiskey and American rye whiskey resulting in a perfectly balanced whiskey that combines the smoothness of Irish whiskey style with the boldness of American whiskey.
SZ: You’re working alongside some big names in the industry. How did you all come together?
PC: The O’Shaughnessy’s have a talent for making connections and bringing people together, the genesis of our Whiskey. Keeper’s Heart is the story of family and celebrates moments worth keeping. Started by cousins, Patrick and Michael O’Shaughnessy, our whiskey was created to celebrate the spirit of family, support our community and leave a meaningful legacy for generations to come.
With a dedication to doing things the right way, Patrick and Michael were able to convince our Master Distiller, Brian Nation, to join the family and embark on this exciting journey. The team also boasts industry veterans like CEO Mike Duggan of Diageo and Phillips Distilling, one of America’s oldest family-owned spirits companies, and Tom Herbst also previously of Diageo and ex CMO of The North Face.
Food & Beverage Director, Pip Hanson, is an internationally renowned bartender, hailing from Minneapolis. I recently came on board after hearing of the opportunity from Brian, having worked closely with him during my time with Jameson whiskey. Opportunities like these are few and far between, and I was thrilled to be able to join such a talented and passionate team.
We will have some exciting news to share on new talent and partners joining the team in the coming weeks, so you could say the O’Shaughnessy Distilling Co. family is rapidly expanding!
SZ: What is unique about Brian’s approach to whiskey and how did he imprint himself on the final product? How does this tie back to the whole brand?
PC: Brian Nation is a remarkable Master Distiller who is responsible for making some of the most renowned, high-quality and awarded whiskeys in the business. His ability to craft and skill the most iconic whiskeys derives from his passion and years of distilling experience.
It’s not just Brian’s mastery of whiskey making that sets him apart, his personality and style makes him one of the most unassuming and easygoing master distillers in the business.
Brian’s imprint on the final product runs deep, as he has led every part of the sourcing and blending process over the last year, while setting up our production process at our Minneapolis distillery. The vision to create a unique whiskey that blends the very best of Irish and American has been a remarkable journey and gives whiskey fans a new tasting experience this Summer.
SZ: When we finally get our hands on a bottle of Keeper’s Heart, how should we enjoy it? Is there anything we should pair it with?
PC: When we were crafting the blend of Keeper’s Heart, we wanted to ensure that the whiskey we produced was versatile and could be enjoyed several ways. I believe we have achieved this in our blend and recommend whiskey fans to experiment with the liquid.
First and foremost, I’d recommend trying Keeper’s Heart neat or with a few drops of water to fully appreciate the different styles that come together in a perfectly balanced way. Our whiskey has been designed to suit cocktails, providing a base that has enough flavor and character to withstand both simple and complex cocktails without overpowering or getting lost in these.
Pip is currently developing an incredible array of Keeper’s Heart cocktails that will be served at the distillery. We’re excited to share these with our community very soon!
SZ: O’Shaughnessy Distilling Company’s distillery is opening in Minneapolis this summer. What were the challenges the distillery faced when building out a brand during COVID?
PC: Building a distillery and launching a whiskey brand during COVID has certainly raised many challenges along the way. We were fortunate enough to be able to adapt our plans to work through COVID restrictions and build a safe place to bring people together. This included setting up contactless ordering and implementing additional outdoor space. The team has done an incredible job to set ourselves up for success with or without COVID restrictions in place.
It has been great to partner with the city of Minneapolis on this project and we look forward to opening soon, bringing jobs to the area, and creating a safe space for people to reconnect and enjoy themselves knowing how tough COVID has been for the local bar and restaurant industry.
We will obviously be monitoring the situation very closely and adapting our space accordingly, especially as it comes to tours, tastings, entertainment and across our food and beverage service.
SZ: What’s next for O’Shaughnessy? Are there any releases after Keeper’s Heart that we should be looking for?
PC: We’re looking forward to opening our doors this summer and to become a source of pride for the local community, especially after the trying times over the past year. We have a few exciting announcements to come over the next few months as well as new releases so make sure to follow the latest news at keepersheartwhiskey.com and be sure to come and visit us!