I first had The Gael Batch No. 1—whiskey bonder J.J. Corry’s first-ever expression—in 2019, not too long after it had been released in the U.S market.
That March, my whiskey tasting schedule was more than a dash delayed and I had a vast array of Irish expressions to sample before me. The assignment: narrow the whole lot into four picks. It was no easy endeavor, but I recall feeling strongly that The Gael was a sure in, given its “barley-tastic” profile plus its surprisingly round and luxurious mouthfeel—whiskey characteristics that leave me cheerfully weak in the knees every time.
Several years and a global pandemic later, McGuane’s business is (unsurprisingly) taking off in a massive way: Today, she is one of six founding members of The Assembly—a group of heavy-hitting industry names established by Last Drop Distillers that include Foursquare Rum master distiller and blender Richard Seale; Sazerac master blender and director of quality Drew Mayville; Paul John Whisky master distiller and blender Michael D’Souza; Domaine de Sazerac cellar master Denis Lahouratate; and Last Drop master blender Colin Scott.
And now, she is also behind The Last Drop’s 32nd release, which comes out this November: a complex 32-Year-Old Irish single malt whiskey sourced directly from McGuane’s archive in Cooraclare, where J.J. Corry is based.
“This has been a career highlight. I have been inspired by the work of The Last Drop Distillers for many years, and their mission to discover and celebrate these truly exceptional spirits speaks to my most fervent passion for this industry,” says McGuane. “To be invited to become a member of The Assembly was an honor, and to be asked to collaborate with [Last Drop managing director] Rebecca Jago and [Lough Gill Distillery master blender] Helen Mulholland—a true idol of mine—on the creation of this beautiful Irish whiskey has been a dream come true. This is a singular moment to celebrate the Irish Whiskey category, and the coming together of three women with a common passion and a common goal.”
Along with Jago and Mulholland, the three selected a number of vintage 1991 single malts that McGuane then married before finishing in ex-Oloroso sherry butts, which she bottled at 46.4% ABV. And the result is nothing short of incredible. On the nose, you get the sweetness of poached stone fruit, mildly charred caramel, with a touch of green apple. One sip in and notes of dark chocolate and Christmas pudding begin to emerge—without lingering too much, giving way to nuttier and bittersweet aftertaste.
Naturally, all this deliciousness comes with a price. Given the ever-so-low global allocation of 663 bottles—and the fact that this is a Last Drop release—the SRP clocks in at a whopping $2,500 for a 700ml bottle (with a 50ml miniature).
As a child of West County Clare, McGuane has been flying the Irish flag in the whiskey world for quite some time. Before she founded J.J. Corry in 2015 to revive the lost art of Irish whiskey bonding, she spent more than a decade working all over the world—from Singapore to Paris and beyond—as an executive for some of the world’s largest wine and spirit companies such as Diageo, Pernod Ricard, LVMH, and Nyetimber.
And with this latest Irish whiskey expression for Last Drop, she returns home—and the world is little better for it.