A Drink With… Colum Egan, Bushmills

16th November, 2012 by Becky Paskin

It wasn’t always about whiskey for the Bushmills’ master distiller. Colum Egan tells Becky Paskin how breakfast cereal kickstarted his career.

Colum Egan Bushmills master distiller

Colum Egan, Bushmills’ master distiller, has been working for the Irish whiskey brand for 11 years

You’re known as one of the greatest characters in the Irish whiskey industry.
I like to be gregarious and I’m passionate about what I do. Making whiskey is something I was born to do and that comes through. The passion I have affects other people at the distillery also. Their passion feeds into my passion and we bounce off each other.

It sounds like you really love your job?
I think I have the greatest job in the whole world. I’ve been in this role for 11 years and I’m very proud to be looking after 400 years of distilling tradition at the distillery.

Come on, there must be a downside somewhere?
The worst part of my job is leaving to go home in the evening, but I do have to go home to my family at some point – they do have to see me now and again.

So how did you get to become a master distiller?
I had various numbers of jobs, but each one gave me a skill I need to be a distiller. I did engineering roles, people roles, accountancy roles. I even went into breakfast cereal before coming to Bushmills.

Breakfast cereal? What skill did you gain from that?
I can tell you all about making breakfast cereals! There are some obvious similarities to whiskey-making in the sense that both develop your ability as a taster and noser. Also wheat reacts similarly to the barley we use to make  whiskey. You can draw similar lines between them.

Where did your inspiration for Bushmills Irish Honey come from?
Irish Honey came out of left field. It was something I always had as a child with my parents when I had a cold. When the idea was floated around we thought it was perfect because it’s what we as the Irish drink at home traditionally.

There are so many honeyed whiskies out there – what sets Bushmills apart from the rest?
We add real Irish honey to Bushmills Original. I was really proud of it because I’ve tasted some other honeyed whiskies and they are too sweet and sickly, and don’t particularly taste of honey. We are the only Irish whiskey to make a honey, but I don’t think the others would come anywhere near what we do if they tried.

You’ve obviously made some good calls in your time, then. What qualities make a great master distiller?
You need to have an enthusiastic approach to life; you have to be passionate about what you do. You have to respect the past and be able to learn from it, but be able to adapt and look to the future. You have to be an innovator as well.

So, can you look into your crystal ball and tell us what you see in Irish whiskey’s future?
The future of Irish whiskey is fantastic. There are a lot of new distilleries coming out now, and all the new, different tastes and ranges will attract more people into the Irish whiskey category. I’m excited about the future; it’s looking good and I’m glad to be part of it.

The Irish are known for their toasts. What’s your favourite?
One of my favourite toasts is: “There are tall ships and long ships, there are ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships, and may they always be! Slainte!

Leave a Reply

If that's interesting, how about these?

Calls for Dallas Dhu to move to public ownership

Scottish politician Richard Lochhead has asked Diageo to transfer ownership of more...

Irish drinks industry calls for excise tax reduction

The Drinks Industry Group of Ireland is urging the government to reduce excise more...

Halewood buys stake in West Cork Distillers

Halewood International has acquired a “significant stake” in Irish whiskey more...

Kerrygold launches airport pop-up

Irish brand Kerrygold has unveiled a pop up store at Dublin Airport, allowing more...

Popcorn Sutton appoints master blender

Popcorn Sutton Distilling has named former distiller for Diageo’s George more...

Reynier predicts 'scrabble' in craft brown spirits

Craft distillers are “in for a shock” when their brown spirits more...

Top six new spirits books for summer 2016

It's holiday season – so what better time to start that new book? If you're more...

Karuizawa Geisha Series auctions for first time

A complete set of Karuizawa Geisha Series Japanese whisky will head to auction more...

Nicola Carruthers joins The Spirits Business

The Spirits Business is delighted to announce the appointment of Nicola more...

Wild Geese wins case to launch in Australia

Avalon Group’s Wild Geese Irish Whiskey brand is now free to launch in the more...

Bootleg alcohol leaves 29 dead and blinds six

At least 29 people have died and a further six have been blinded after drinking more...

New innovation opportunities for Scotch whisky

Cross-category inspiration, transparency and the growing need to capture a more...

Over 65s are 'bigger drinkers' than young people

Over 65s are now the most likely age group to drink alcohol every day – and more...

Pennsylvanian distillery offers 'seasonal' gin line

Brandywine Branch Distillers has launched The Revivalist Gins, a four-strong more...

Confessions of a spirits retailer: Dan Murphy's

Adam Jenkins, head of spirits for Australian drinks retailer Dan Murphy’s, more...

Miller's Norwegian distillery unveils 'foraged' gin

Marcin Miller’s new distillery has launched Vidda Tørr Gin, made with more...

Captain Morgan asks for change in Constitution

In a bid to further align itself with millennial drinkers, Captain Morgan rum more...

Jose Cuervo and Ford craft car parts from agave waste

Jose Cuervo has teamed up with Ford to experiment with the use of agave plants more...

ELLC releases second barrel-aged gin

Independent distiller East London Liquor Company (ELLC) has released just 75 more...

Jim Beam celebrates summer American-style

Jim Beam will be flying its American colours with a ‘Bourbon and Burger’ more...