Elite role in Britain for Portstewart Irish whiskey expert blender Helen Mulholland

Respected Irish whiskey master blender Helen Mulholland has won major recognition in Britain for her outstanding achievements that included more than three decades in senior roles at Old Bushmills.
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Now master lender at Lough Gill Distillery in Sligo, which is part of Sazerac, the US bourbon business that owns Paddy Irish Whiskey, Portstewart woman Helen has been appointed to The Last Drop Distillers’ Assembly in London, as its newest member of the elite whiskey body.

The appointment is a recognition of the remarkable progress of the whiskey industry in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and of Helen’s remarkable contribution. Helen is the first to be appointed from Ireland.

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The London distillery’s assembly is based on a group of distilling industry experts and has been described as “a forum which promotes and encourages the exchange of knowledge and experience from many industries, bringing in fresh ideas and inspiration”.

Helen Mulholland has joined the famed Last Drop Assembly in London. Credit Sam ButlerHelen Mulholland has joined the famed Last Drop Assembly in London. Credit Sam Butler
Helen Mulholland has joined the famed Last Drop Assembly in London. Credit Sam Butler

Helen is currently master blender of Lough Gill Distillery in Sligo. She is a member of the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame into which she was inducted in 2019. She has previously collaborated with the Last Drop on the distillery’s first Irish whiskey release, a 32-year-old single malt by Louise McGuane of JJ Corry distillery in Co Clare.

Helen, commenting on her appointment, said: “Joining the Last Drop Distillers’ Assembly is a great honour. I feel a great affinity with the work of the company and their quest for ‘the remarkable’ and look forward to collaborating closely with the Last Drop team and colleagues in the Assembly.

“Working in Irish whiskey is an incredible privilege, and being able to interact with the special casks that the Last Drop has put together will be very special. There is a feeling and connection inherent in whiskey, like spending time with a family member or entering an old house, and I look forward to sharing my love and enjoyment of the spirit with the Assembly.”

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Helen’s expertise and remarkable track record at Bushmills led to her being justifiably named by the influential Whisky Magazine as the first woman in its Hall of Fame, in 2018. Her expertise in casks, different woods and innovative malts and blends is unrivalled.

“I am passionate about different types of wood and was attracted to acacia, a hard wood which provides a whole different flavour of whiskey. It’s also a good example of my focus on continuously exploring the nuances that different casks impart on our whiskey,” Helen explains.

Born in Portstewart, Helen began working in the small laboratory at Bushmills after leaving school and continued as part of her food technology degree course at Northern Ireland’s College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise. She then gained a masters degree on Food Technology from the University of Reading on whiskey maturation and returned to Bushmills to a full-time post in the lab testing ingredients at the very start of the distillation process.

It was in the lab, which ran a small scale distillery, where Helen began her journey to the influential role of master blender. The lab produced a spirit from malted barley to see how it would work in the main distillery.