Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Kinahan's 'Glenisle' and Lyle & Kinahan's 'Scotch Malt Very Old' - Scotch Whisky from Ireland, late 1800s?


I have been learning more recently about whisky. It’s not a specialist subject of mine but I do remember my mother keeping a bottle of Bushmills at the back of the cupboard to make up some whisky punch as a pacifier for my younger siblings. Maybe that’s illegal now!

Anyway, I have found that the Dublin-based Irish spirits producer Kinahan’s had a brand of Scotch whisky called Glenisle. Their Belfast rival with the ‘confusingly-similar’ name of Lyle & Kinahan, had a Scotch Malt called Very Old. Some adverts showing these are below.

The Dublin firm dates from the 1770s. Belfast’s Lyle & Kinahan was founded in 1850 by Samuel Lyle and Frederick Kinahan (1830-1902) of Lowwood, north Belfast, when they bought out William McClure & Son. He was the son of Rev John Kinahan, Rector of Knockbreda, and seemingly a nephew of the then-owners of the Dublin brand.

(Samuel Lyle lived at 23 University Square and was an elder of Fisherwick Place Presbyterian Church. He seems to have been a good deal older than Kinahan, and was a friend his rector father. Lyle and Rev Kinahan were committee members of the Ulster Society for Promoting the Education of the Deaf, Dumb and Blind. Lyle was also a donor to the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society, and an office-bearer in both the Belfast Town Mission and Belfast General Hospital. There are hints that Lyle may have become uncomfortable with the firm selling alcohol, but when Lyle died on 24 December 1856, Kinahan was very happy to scale it up).

The two companies got into a major legal tangle over trademarks and copyrights in 1906 (see documentation here). The Belfast firm was the winner, having been able to prove continuous use of the name since 1867.

As yet I don't know if these whiskies were distilled in Scotland, or here in Ulster/Ireland, but it’s an interesting geographical and branding overlap that would probably be impossible today given how regulated and protected the definitions of Scotch and Irish whiskys/whiskeys have become.

Kinahan’s was revived a few years ago and its ‘LL’ brand is back on the market again. As far as I know Lyle & Kinahan died out in the late twentieth century and its plant was bought over by Bass Ireland. (photo below from Facebook)

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