Columbus Irish: Welcoming a New Whiskey
By: Maureen Ginley
Columbus is a town that is no stranger to victory. From the championship-winning Buckeye football team to the often playoff-bound Blue Jackets, the people of Central Ohio know all about the joys of celebrating a long-fought win with friends and family.
Victory is not all about trophies and championship parades, though. It can be about the small wins – breaking through on a project at work or school, shaving a few seconds off a personal record on a run, and so much more. This idea is what the team behind Bua Irish Whiskey wants people to think of whenever they take a sip of the drink that hit Ohio shelves this at the beginning of this month.
To celebrate the whiskey’s release, I spoke with the dynamic duo who came up with Bua – Pat Byrne and Martin Kennedy. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Pat since joining the Shamrock Club (where both he and his wife Molly are past presidents), and I met Martin (an Ireland native and former Tullamore D.E.W. brand ambassador) one afternoon while enjoying a drink at Byrne’s Pub with a few friends.
From the first time the two showed me a bottle of Bua to now, I could tell they were passionate about this project. With so many different spirits on the market, they wanted to get something out there that is unique. And unique it is.
The idea for Bua was conceived in Columbus but made in Ireland. After many conversations between Pat and Martin about their shared appreciation for Irish culture, whiskey, and more, they thought, “Why don’t we do this ourselves?”Columbus and Ireland has been good to both of them, and they are both deeply, deeply proud of their culture; so why not take that pride, bottle it, and give it back to the community that’s supported them along the way?
When the Process Becomes Art
I learned that physically making whiskey was both a science and an art. To begin the process, one needs to brew a concoction of a liquid that’s essentially a beer using various grains. In Irish whiskey language, this is referred to as a “wash.” From here, the wash is distilled, which means that most of the water boils away, leaving a much higher proof spirit than the beginning of the process. Per Martin, “this is the point in the process that all bets are off, and the process becomes an art.”
Irish whiskey must be matured in some type of wood for at least three years. For this part of the process, Bua chose barrels from America, Portugal, Spain, and France – this Columbus-bred Irish whiskey sure has been an international project! Flavors from these barrels include caramel, honey, and apple – amongst others.
And let me tell you, the combination of flavors makes for a smooth, sweet, and delicious drink! Pat and Martin made the choices regarding these flavors carefully – the two love whiskey, and they wanted that passion to show in each and every part of the process.
The Irish community in Ohio is a strong and supportive one. It is, as Pat wrote in an email, “a rich state in Irish culture.” With numerous dance schools and yearly festivals; large Ancient Order of Hibernians divisions and other cultural/religious Irish organizations; and clubs such as Cleveland’s West Side IA and Irish American Club Eastside, Columbus’ Shamrock Club, and more, there is simply so much to do, see, and celebrate for the Irish in the Buckeye State.
For Pat, his life has been molded by this culture. For Martin, he has been adopted as one of Ohio’s own. When they set out in creating Bua, they didn’t want to create another “perfectly drinkable” Irish whiskey. They wanted to honor the community and culture that made them the men they are today.
Front and center of the Bua label is the tortoise and hare of fable fame. The story, which is about an underdog gaining a small win when they take the time to do what they set out to do (and do it right), perfectly encapsulates the meaning behind the Bua brand. The meaning of the word is victory, and it speaks to the small successes that are experienced every day.
Bua Irish Whiskey – a spirit that celebrates underdogs, small guys, hard workers, and never-give-uppers – is on shelves now. Get yourself a bottle soon and celebrate those victories – however big or small they may be.
*Maureen holds a B.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing from John Carroll University, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the NEOMFA Program. Hailing from Cleveland, she now lives in Columbus with her rescue dog Elvis. She can be reached at ma************@gm***.com.