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Episode 7, Aeolus // Celebrating the Centenary of the Third Translation of Ulysses with Czech Whiskey Distiller Rudolf Jelinek

Release date: June 16th 2030

While whisky making only began at the Rudolf Jelínek distillery in Vizovice in 2008, Czech whisky-making dates back much further. Its roots can be traced to the 1970s. Since then, much has changed, but what has never changed is what makes their whisky what it is: spring two-row barley from Moravia, malt from Bruntál Maltings with traditional floor germination, and heavily charred casks made from European winter oak by Moravian coopers. Alongside the classic single malt whisky, Jelínek have also been busy maturing triple-smoked casks with peated, grain and rye whisky. The future is unwritten!

Very Ambitious Beginnings

An unprecedented and highly ambitious idea for its time, that a whisky should come from one of the countries within the socialist bloc, was conceived in the early 1970s. The site chosen for its realization was the Těšetice facility under the Likérka Dolany and the national enterprise Seliko Olomouc. Production preparations began in earnest in 1972, with the first distillation taking place in December of the following year. The result was a whisky with 43% abv., named King Barley. Comrades intended to showcase it at the Moscow Olympics, but only spirits with an alcohol content of up to 40% could be exported to the Soviet Union. Thus, the Těšetice team embarked on developing a new whisky in 1978. While its recipe was derived from the original, it met the required voltage. It was christened Gold Cock and adorned with a label depicting a rooster composed of golden ears of grain, symbolizing the fertility of Haná, the region from which the primary ingredient – malted barley – originated. Even then, the distillery sourced its malt from the Bruntál Maltings. If the malt was smoked, it was done so with peat from Mount Saint Sebastian. The water came from deep underground wells in the foothills of the Jeseníky Mountains.

Rise and Gradual Decline

In its first two decades, Gold Cock was bottled as a three-year-old blended whisky with 40% abv. Its production volume steadily increased, along with the renown of the Těšetice distillery, which regularly hosted various delegations. However, following the Velvet Revolution in November 1989, production came to a halt. The decline in interest in Haná whisky was largely due to the fact that its largest consumer, the Soviet Union, dissolved and ceased payments. The Těšetice facility became a branch of Seliko Dolany, which was privatized. Under new management, the Těšetice team made several attempts to revive whisky production. Investments were made, such as redesigning bottles and labels, as well as launching advertising campaigns. At that time, three whiskies were produced: a three-year-old blend with a red label named "Gold Cock Red Feathers", a six-year-old single malt with a black label named "Black Feathers", and a twelve-year-old single malt with a green label named "Green Feathers". Despite all efforts, the financial situation of Likérka Dolany did not improve, which naturally affected the Těšetice distillery. The last whisky was distilled there in 2002. The distillery, equipment, and years of distilled stock subsequently went up for auction.

Under the Wings of the Vizovice Distillery

The company Rudolf Jelínek, which acquired the Gold Cock trademark in the auction, also obtained part of the technology and whisky stocks, which were gradually transferred to Vizovice. Here, bottling of the three-year-old blended and twelve-year-old single malt whisky Gold Cock from the Dolany stocks continued, while preparations began for its own production, which seasonally complements the production of fruit brandies. The first distillation of whisky in the Vizovice distillery on specially modified columns occurred as early as 2008. In the autumn of 2013, the question arose for the first time whether it would be possible to offer whisky aged several decades to connoisseurs of malt spirits in the form of single malt, reflecting the somewhat wild 90s. Representatives of Rudolf Jelínek decided to review the archives and invited the organizers of the whisky festival in Malá Morávka, Petr Křenek, and another twenty whisky enthusiasts to taste six selected samples, which took place on June 20, 2014, in Vizovice. Two favorites emerged: the vintages of 1992 and 1995. They already looked promising in barrel strength, but eventually the decision was made to bottle them at 49.2% alcohol - Vizovice lies on the 49.2° northern latitude.

Whisky from the Archives and Own Production

Gold Cock Single Malt Whisky 1992 was introduced to the market in the spring of 2015 with a total of 1,948 bottles, followed in the autumn of the same year by Gold Cock Single Malt Whisky 1995, of which there were only 2,004 bottles. Even more limited - in the order of tens of bottles - were special editions of both vintages at barrel strength, namely 61.6% and 61.5% abv., respectively. The demand for all four releases was so high that the stocks quickly dwindled and they are now very difficult to come by.

Meanwhile, enough time had passed for whisky distilled in 2008 in Vizovice to be bottled. This historic occasion was marked in 2016 with an eight-year-old whiskey. Since 2018, its ten-year-old variant has also been available.

However, we must remain patient for future releases because Jelínek only distilled whisky for the second time in 2014. Since 2016, this has been happening regularly, always in May and June, and production is gradually increasing.

From Grain to Malt

The Bruntál Maltings is a place steeped in tradition and history. Malt for Jelínek's whisky is still produced here using the same methods as four decades ago. The director of the maltings, Pavel Vavřík, and his team are so passionate about whisky from Vizovice that they are open to various experiments with grains and peat. However, barley is naturally the foundation, and in Bruntál, they work with various varieties such as Bojos, Laudis, Malz, and Overture. The first step in processing barley is malting, which involves soaking the grain, a process that takes 36-72 hours, followed by germination, which lasts from four to six days, during which the grain spread on malting floors is turned twice daily. The result is called "green malt," which is then transferred to the kiln, where it is dried and smoked. If a smoked flavor is desired, peat is added to the fire during kilning. Bruntál Maltings source their peat from Rašelina Soběslav, which is the direct successor of the former supplier. The kilned malt destined for Jelínek's whisky production is ground into coarse grist, which is first heated to controlled temperatures, allowing the enzymes formed during germination to convert starch into simple sugars, which are then extracted into the mash.

From Fermentation Tank to Distillation Still

The finished malt from Bruntál is transported to Vizovice, where all subsequent production steps take place. Fermentation takes place at a temperature of around 22°C and lasts approximately 72 hours. The resulting wash has about 5-10% alcohol, which is then distilled in a 1,500-liter Arnold Holstein still. It's a two-stage process; after the first distillation, the distillate has about 25% alcohol, and after the second, around 64%. It then goes into casks, where it gradually matures into whisky over time. Since whisky production began in Vizovice in 2008, around 20,000 liters (less than 100 casks - see below) of distillate is being laid down annually.

Casks from Moravian Coopers

Several sources provide casks for maturing Rudolf Jelínek whisky. Firstly, there are casks from Těšetice and Dolany, with a volume of 260–290 liters, which are either in their original state or have been refurbished. These casks are made of European oak and are all heavily charred. However, to meet demand, new casks were needed, supplied by the cooperage Bařina from Čejkovice and formerly by Fryzelka from Valašské Klobouky. These casks have a volume ranging from 220 to 280 liters, also made from European oak and heavily charred on the inside. Additionally, casks from bourbon purchased from Heaven Hill Distilleries have found their place in the warehouses in Vizovice. These casks are made from American white oak, have a volume of around 200 liters, and have been used, for example, for aging rye or extra-smoky single malt whisky. Not to be overlooked are experiments with aging whisky in casks previously containing fruit distillates or red wine, such as Pinot Noir.

Ulysses Whiskey x Art, Episode 7, Aelous

The team at Rudolf Jelinek are passionate about making world-class whisky. When the opportunity presented itself to create a limited edition for Ulysses Whiskey x Art, Episode 7 - Aeolus on the centenary of the Czech translation of the novel, the challenge was accepted with pride and gusto. We look forward with great anticipation to a whiskey pairing with literature that only time and care can create.

The Czech Translation of Ulysses in 1930

In the vibrant Czech avant-garde scene, where expressionism and surrealism held sway, Anglo-American modernism found a relatively marginal place. However, James Joyce managed to make an early appearance through two significant translations in 1930. Stanislava Jílovská’s deluxe four-volume hardbound translation of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ladislav Vymětal and Jarmila Fastrová’s rendering of Ulysses marked a pivotal moment. Notably, this was only the third full-length translation of Ulysses into any language, following the German (1927) and French (1929) editions. Both works were published by Václav Petr, a publisher known for championing both domestic and foreign writers, with a special focus on young Czech poetry.

Fast-forward to 1976, and Aloys Skoumal’s translation of James Joyce’s Ulysses (titled Odysseus in Czech) emerged under the Odeon imprint. Accompanied by Skoumal’s insightful afterword and annotations, this work stands as the pinnacle of his prolific career. Skoumal’s translation prowess extended beyond Ulysses, encompassing other literary gems like Dubliners, A Portrait, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, and Carroll’s Alice books. His faithful rendering of the original’s labyrinthine intentions continues to captivate readers, leaving an indelible mark on Czech literary history.


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