Absolutely outstanding example of a rare type of large stoneware Irish Whiskey Flagon .This huge flagon from the Watt & Co Letterkenny Co Donegal Branch of the family distilling business,which was mainly centred in Derry and Belfast.In extraordinarily good condition with no chips or cracks and is estimated to date from the late 1880s.
The Watt Distillery, dates back to 1762. The Tyrconnell was their flagship brand, and was named after a racehorse owned by Andrew Alexander Watt. The horse was a chestnut colt that won at 100 to 1 odds in 1876 in the Irish horse race called The National Produce Stakes.The actual horse race is depicted on the label.
Tír Chonaill in the Irish Language comes from Tír meaning “Land of” and Chonaill which was the name of an ancient 5th Century High King of the North West of Ireland in the 5th century who was a son of the famous Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tyrconnell was therefore the name of this ancient North West Irish Kingdom and is still to this day used as the Irish language name of Donegal in the North West of Ireland.
Tír Chonaill would have encompassed the modern county of Donegal and much of her neighbouring counties of Sligo, Leitrim, Fermanagh and Tyrone. The Kingdom survived until 1601.
In 1876, the Donegal – Derry based Watt family who owned one of the largest whiskey distilleries in Ireland entered a racehorse called “Tyrconnell” (after the local ancient kingdom) in the Irish Classic “National Produce Stakes” where it won against all the odds at an incredible 100 to 1. This spectacular achievement inspired the Watt whiskey distillery in Derry to celebrate the occasion with a special commemorative Tyrconnell Irish whiskey label. The Tyrconnell was, before American prohibition, one of the biggest selling whiskey brands in the United States. Pre-prohibition photos taken in Yankee Stadium in New York show Tyrconnell Irish Whiskey billboards in positions of prominence at the venue. All three of the company’s whiskey brands enjoyed great success in the export sector. Sales in England, Canada, Australia, Nigeria and the West Indies and the U.S. put Derry on the commercial map as never before. Unfortunately, with the decline of Irish Whiskey after prohibition, Watts distillery and Tyrconnell whiskey faded and died like the majority of Irish whiskey distilleries and brands of the time.
When the Cooley Irish Whiskey Distillery was recommissioned by Dr. John Teeling a few years ago, Tyrconnell was one of the old iconic Irish whiskey brands that Cooley brought back to life. Cooley Distillery and the Cooley Irish Whiskey brands are now owned by the Japanese – American whiskey giant Beam Suntory. Today, Tyrconnell whiskey is available as a standard 10 Year Old Cooley Single Malt and is also available through the Tyrconnell Irish Whiskey Finishes Collection in Port Pipe, Madeira Cask and Sherry Butt finishes at 46% abv as well as a 15 Year Old Single Cask expression.
Andrew Watt (4 November 1853 – 11 October 1928) was an Anglo-Irish businessman with a net worth of over £900,000 at his death in 1928, worth £51.8 million in 2016.He was born in 1853 to Samuel Watt of Thornhill and his wife Jane Newman, daughter of Captain Robert Newman, R.N.. He was educated at Foyle College and then at home by tutors. His family were gentry who had arrived at Claragh in County Donegal during one of the Ulster Plantations.He was the owner of Watt’s Distillery, one of the largest distilleries in Ireland, and the creator of many whiskies including the famous Tyrconnell,which he named after his racehorse that won the National Produce Stakes against the odds of 100 to 1.
During industrial unrest of 1921, brought about by prohibition in the United States and the First World War, Watt’s workers at the distillery were made redundant after challenging his authority. Watt is said to have stood on a barrel outside the gates to his distillery in Bogside, whilst the workers were on strike, and shouted, ‘Well men, I shall put it to you like this …what is it to be? Will you open the gates?’ To which the workers retorted, ‘The gates stay shut!’ This prompted Watt to reply, ‘Shut they are, and shut they shall remain!’ Watt subsequently closed down the distillery at great economic expense.
On 7 October 1895, he married Violet Flora de Burgh, daughter of George de Burgh and Constance Matthews, with whom he had 4 sons and 2 daughters.He served as High Sheriff of County Londonderry from 1886 to 1887.He was a member of Boodle’s. He died at Easton Hall, where he lived in England after he left Ireland.
Below is an additional and very interesting article from the Derry Historical Journal chronicling the rise and fall, like so many other Irish Whiskey distilleries, of the once all conquering Watts “Tyrconnell” brand.
Origins : Co Donegal
Dimensions : cm x cm kg