In Dialog with Rupert Egan and Damien Gray, Head Chef and Proprietor of the Two Star Michelin restaurant Liath

On this ‘In Dialog with’ we meet Rupert Egan, Head Bonder of Egan’s Irish Whiskey, and Damien Gray, Head Chef and Proprietor of the Two Star Michelin restaurant Liath. This ‘spirited’ interview is an perception into their journey and unconventional collaboration for the groundbreaking mission, ‘Senses’, a primary on the earth of Irish whiskey, Learn on to find extra. 

Let’s begin initially. How did you two meet? 

Rupert: The primary time I met Damien he was behind the move at his then One Michelin Star Restaurant – Heron and Gray. After visiting Damien’s restaurant a number of instances and witnessing the inexperienced shoots of him experimenting with whiskey as an ingredient, I felt acquainted sufficient to counsel that he may contemplate swapping family whiskey manufacturers for one thing fully bespoke. And so, for a couple of yr afterwards, I could possibly be discovered trotting out and in of the Two Star Liath Restaurant, clinking with completely different distillates, ages, cask sorts, blends, finishes and serving strengths.

To say that Damien doesn’t march to the beat of one other’s drum is an understatement; in reality, it appears he has discarded the drum as a percussive instrument completely. For cooking, he sought whiskeys that may ordinarily have been deemed too younger, too excessive in ABV, or too scorching for an on a regular basis palette. He was naturally drawn to the bizarre, attracted by the magic of chance.

How I didn’t see that I used to be being covertly interviewed by Damien is now completely past me.

And that lightbulb second – when/how did the concept for Senses took place? 

Rupert: I’ve an inherent curiosity in working with uncommon individuals who do uncommon issues, so when Damien stated “let’s make a whiskey” there was no probability I’d decline. We each knew the journey was going to be something however standard and for me, as a whiskey bonder, this was the holy grail.

However the place to start out? We each agreed we wished to strip all of it again and do one thing foundational, elementary, and disruptive. Damien was already asking questions across the constructing blocks of style from a gastronomic perspective. He had been awarded a second Michelin Star with Liath Restaurant and had reshaped the tasting menu as a canvas-laboratory hybrid. 

Then it hit us; take 5 casks of ultra-premium Irish whiskey and re-cask every to deliver ahead the 5 constructing blocks of style – Bitter, Bitter, Salt, Umami and Candy. The remainder is historical past.

The unique assortment launched this month, but it surely has been a labour of affection for a number of years. Please inform us extra concerning the journey – the highs and the lows!

Damien: The low for anybody inventive isn’t figuring out, or second guessing how one thing will end up or be perceived after you’ve put each fibre of your self into it. The excessive, undoubtedly, was the primary style out of the barrel – the realisation that the experiment had labored, after which some. 

Rupert: As the person accountable for logistics one low I distinctly bear in mind was wading via the 17 completely different paperwork required to get a single ex-mezcal cask out of Mexico. It felt like each barrier was being put up and whereas additionally believing this was the one cask for the job – I used to be decrease than a snake’s stomach that evening. One of many many highs has been seeing the bottle and packaging within the flesh after basing many design choices off 3D renders and CGIs. They’ve had the precise impression we wished.

Working alongside one individual so intensely is a problem in itself, what are your particular person strengths and the way did you maximise them via the method. 

Rupert: We wished to be sincere with what we created and never merely mirror what the whiskey world sometimes delivers. We first tolerated however would quickly embrace one another’s idiosyncrasies and, in doing so, have created one thing extremely liberating and distinctive. 

On one hand you’ve obtained Damien approaching this with a gastronomic mindset and an unimaginable information of how sure meals and flavour profiles can unexpectedly ship towards the 5 constructing blocks of style. And on the opposite, you will have my experience as a bonder and blender to give you revolutionary options for cask ending to marry as much as the place Damien’s head was going. 

It’s been stuffed with sliding doorways moments to get to the place are immediately, however I don’t consider there’s anybody else who would have come collectively in the best way we’ve got to ship what we’ve got.

This can be a first on the earth of Irish whiskey, born from a shared purpose of expressing style’s 5 constructing blocks – Bitter, Bitter, Salt, Umami, and Candy – the result’s an extraordinarily deep flavour profile. What can ‘drinkers’ count on? 

Damien: Fairly merely, the unknown. We’ve got intentionally not created tasting notes as a result of we wish individuals to inform their very own tales with the whiskeys – a dish, a reminiscence, a go to to a particular restaurant or bar that it reminds them of. This can be a completely different method of experiencing whiskey.

Rupert: After we see individuals style these whiskeys with the outline and an understanding of how they’ve come to move, individuals type of cease speaking for somewhat bit. They only kind of nod, they usually kind of tilt their head somewhat bit. They carry on nodding. They’re positively understanding one thing extra about their very own capabilities as tasters. Their reactions counsel they haven’t had that have earlier than.

Why did you select an ultra-premium 23-year-old Single Malt Irish whiskeys for this assortment?

Rupert: We wrote our mission assertion in early 2023 and wished to mark it so a 23-year-old whiskey as the idea felt like a very good place to begin. We tried a number of several types of Irish whiskeys; we tried grain blended whiskeys, pot stilled. double distilled, triple distilled. Some pot nonetheless whiskeys simply aren’t going tackle the flavour inputs from the ending casks as we’d have favored. Triple distilled is usually a little fragile, and double distilled type of fitted properly in between these two worlds – it’s a much bigger, meatier, chewier whiskey

You each actually, travelled the globe to search out probably the most distinctive and suited cask companions for our whiskeys. Inform us extra about this journey, your choice standards, and the chosen companions. 

Rupert: Knocking on the door of different producers around the globe to get the casks we would have liked was equally invigorating. There’s one thing particular about describing the mission to different like-minded individuals and seeing their eyes shine with pleasure. 

When beginning with 23-year-old Single Malt whiskey, it is advisable to be assured any subsequent step should elevate what’s already a spectacular spirit. The idea of utilizing whiskey as a conduit for delivering every of the 5 particular person traits of style has merely by no means been executed earlier than, by anybody, anyplace. We knew we would have liked to tread fastidiously and would find yourself, fairly actually, travelling the globe to search out probably the most distinctive and suited cask companions for our whiskeys.

We’ve enlisted the experience of a few of the world’s best wine and spirits producers for Senses, with some barrels taking 18 months to supply and choose and a number of other cask companions not having collaborated with the whiskey world earlier than. 

We went to any size required to make sure the right cask end, for instance, to create our Search (bitter) whiskey I put a cask behind the automotive, drove it to Mayo and had it re-charred, stuffed it with a bespoke Imperial Stout by Dot Brew and stuffed the now ex-stout cask with the one malt whiskey, forming probably the most superb dark-chocolate and occasional notes that lightly gesture in the direction of bitterness. For Goirt (salt), I’d stumbled throughout a value checklist from the information of my nice grandfather’s spirit importation enterprise which listed Godet, the world’s oldest Cognac, as one among his choices – I wished a wine or spirit that had been produced and aged by the ocean, so we contacted Jean-Jacques Godet after a greater than 100 yr hiatus to each re-introduce the Egan household and safe his curiosity in our initiative, in addition to one among his oldest ex-Grande Champagne casks. Arguably our most leftfield cask used for Senses was to create our Géar (bitter) whiskey; we wished citrus and gentle smokey notes and seemed in the direction of a Mezcal cask. We had been launched to a distiller in Oaxaca with an virtually legendary fame for producing spirits that others gained’t. Mezcal is the world of yesteryear that whiskey can now nearly bear in mind.

What’s the right serve for Senses? 

Damien: Neat, room temperature, 50ml and three drops of ice-cold water after the primary mouthful. And completely don’t hearken to the long-held view that whiskey can’t work with meals. I encourage you to have it with meals – don’t underestimate what it’ll do with completely different flavour profiles. It’s a very fulfilling expertise.

Damien, please inform us extra about what diners on the expertise at Liath Restaurant and your strategy to presenting the 5 traits of style?  

Damien: Diners at Liath can count on precision, high quality, enjoyable, pleasure, and a relaxed environment with out feeling intimidated. Eating at our restaurant is supposed to be a particular expertise, an event reasonably than a necessity. We’re grateful for each visitor who chooses us for his or her particular meal, and we goal to supply an distinctive expertise.

The strategy to the senses mission began in 2017 and has been evolving ever since. Initially, we didn’t set out with the intention to create a eating expertise of this type, however we found a singular code of easy methods to pair meals and flavours and we’ve been on the journey ever since as a result of we consider deeply in it. The important thing was unlocking how the senses work together with style, which has remodeled how I prepare dinner and compose dishes and tasting menus. It has been a exceptional journey.

Which dish did / do you most take pleasure in creating?

Damien: One dish that stands out is the Eel Cornet – it’s been on the menu since Liath opened. It’s merely known as ‘Reggiano Parmigiano, truffle, and eel’. This dish has advanced from a easy parmesan churros with eel paste to a refined and particular mixture of substances delivering a singular umami expertise in a non-traditional method. It holds a childhood reminiscence and represents the way forward for gastronomy, showcasing that smaller parts can have vital impression.

For those who may liken the gathering to an individual, who would it not be and why? 

Damien: Salvador Dali. He embodies the extravagance, uniqueness, and thriller that the Senses assortment represents. His work displays the type of goals you will have after indulging in it—surreal, surprising, and profound. His cookbook can also be off the charts, which aligns with the creativity we attempt for.

Rupert: That’s an incredible reply. Salvador Dali completely captures the essence of unpredictability and artistic excellence that we goal to convey with the Senses assortment.

Luxurious is very subjective – what does it imply to you? 

Damien: Luxurious means a once-in-a-lifetime expertise—one thing tremendous distinctive and particular that you just most likely gained’t do once more.

It’s experiential. It’s not nearly having the largest pockets. The Senses assortment, restricted to solely 200 units, is unique and represents a once-in-a-lifetime alternative. It’s about creating memorable and distinctive experiences.

Lastly, what’s your life motto? (you probably have one)

Damien: in the event you go quick, you’ll go sluggish, and in the event you go sluggish, you’ll go quick – mainly, in the event you rush, you’ll make a mistake and do it once more, so take your time, do it correctly and also you’ll do it sooner with extra precision.

Rupert: For me, it’s “due to, not despite.” It’s the challenges that create nice outcomes, not despite them however due to them. Difficulties deliver out one of the best outcomes.

Priced at €5,950, every Collector’s Case contains 5 700ml bottles, a Pattern Field with 5 40ml tasting phials, and a sequence of fantastically produced playing cards documenting the three-year improvement journey. Solely 200 units can be found globally, making ‘Senses’ a very unique providing.

For extra data and to buy ‘Senses,’ go to Celtic Whiskey Store.

Related Articles

Back to top button