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Episode 1, Telemachus // Crafted by The Kilbeggan Distillery, in the oldest working pot still in the world

Release date: June 16th 2024

Nestled along the banks of the meandering River Brosna, Kilbeggan Distillery stands as a testament to Ireland's rich whiskey heritage. With its storied past, unique character, and captivating spirits, this historic distillery invites visitors on a spirited journey through time.

Kilbeggan Distillery is the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in Ireland. Matthew MacManus obtained the license to produce whiskey in 1757. Coincidentally, on the other side of Europe, the Battle of Prague was raging, when Frederik II, otherwise known as Frederik the Great of Prussia, invaded the Czech lands and advanced on Prague with 64,000 troops. Prague was defended by the Austrian army which was mostly comprised of Czechs. They were commanded by Prince Karl of Lorraine and Irishman Field Marshall Maximilian Ulysses Count Browne.

The Locke’s family took over the Kilbeggan Distillery in 1843 until it ceased production in 1954 and closed in 1957. Most of the surviving machinery dates from this period. The distillery closed for several reasons. The business was never thoroughly modernised, there were high taxation and transportation costs, economic depression reduced demand for whiskey in Ireland in the 1920s and 30s while beer, being cheaper, grew in popularity. And the American market was closed between 1920 and 1933, due to prohibition.

Ulysses too, was prohibited in America at exactly the same time, having fallen foul of the Comstock laws. Still in force today, they are a set of federal acts passed by the United States Congress under the Ulysses S. Grant administration in 1873, for the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use.

However, with the unwavering perseverance of a dedicated group of advocates, artists, thought leaders and revolutionaries, the fortunes changed for both Irish whiskey and Ulysses in remarkable and uncanny succession:

On December 5, 1933 the “Repeal of Prohibition” Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, thereby ending a nationwide ban on the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol.

The following day...

On December 6, 1933, Judge John M. Woolsey ruled in the case of "United States v. One Book Called Ulysses" and overturned its ban. Today his ruling is recognized as an erudite and discerning affirmation of literary free expression.

The following month...

On January 29, 1934 James Joyce featured on the front cover of TIME magazine to mark the occasion of the 12 year struggle to overturn the ban on Ulysses and recognize its leading role in the modernist movement.

New Beginnings

Cooley Distillery bought the distillery and the license to make Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey in 1988. In 2007 a working craft-sized distillery was established in one of the old bonded warehouses where they are still producing malt whiskey today. It is boutique, ultra-small batch production, according to traditional methods. On average only two casks are produced at the distillery each day!

Kilbeggan Distillery has one oak mash tun and a handful of small Oregon pine fermentation vats. For their double distillation, they have two little copper pot stills, one of which was the oldest operating still in the world, and in which the whiskey for Episode 1, Telemachus was made.

Ulysses Whiskey x Art, Episode 1, Telemachus

Coper pot still at the Kilbeggan Distillery
The original copper pot still in which the whiskey for Telemachus was created.

Kilbeggan Distilleries' contribution to the Ulysses Whiskey x Art project is ultra-rare. It was made in a since-decommissioned copper pot still from the early 1800's. The still was originally made for the Tullamore Distillery, which was mothballed in the 1950's. Mercifully one of the stills was rescued, lovingly refurbished and put back to use by the Kilbeggan Distillery on March 19th 2007.

Ulysses Whiskey x Art's Telemachus was made in the oldest working pot still producing whiskey in the world.

Alas, after two centuries, even Kilbeggan had to call it a day. This heroic pot still is now a museum piece at the Kilbeggan Distillery. It would be fair to say that Episode 1, Telemachus is like a "lost distillery" release that can never be made again.

Stream of consciousness

With a nod to Joyce’s pioneering use of stream of consciousness, the final bottling, Episode 18, Penelope (in 2041), with only 732 bottles to match the number of pages in the novel when it was first published by Shakespeare & Company in Paris, will be the same liquid as that in Episode 1, Telemachus, albeit aged in casks 18 years longer...

During this 18 year journey, the whiskey will evaporate, un-punctuate and dream, so that when we finally take a glass to our nose and lips, we will experience the ecstasy of Leopold and Molly Bloom...

"...and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."


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