Dr Jack Ó’Sé

Dr Jack Ó’Sé: Irish whiskey's secret gem

05 May, 2021

“There aren’t many 70 year olds that get PhDs,” says Dr Jack Ó’Sé, one of the most understated members of the Irish whiskey industry.

In 2020 he was awarded his PhD in yeast production and fermentation and on top of that he has an MBA, BSc in biochemistry and an MSc in brewing & distilling, so it’s fair to say the guy knows what he’s talking about.

“The thing about studying was that I was usually travelling at the same time so most of my revision was done in airport lounges with a cup of coffee. It was always a challenge to balance the two but I got there in the end.”

Ó’Sé’s career in spirits began in 1979 with Ceimici Teoranta, which produced neutral spirit for various Irish creams, before he joined major US company Alltech at the turn of the century, where he provided products and solutions to the global spirits industry.

The veteran has also worked on yeast production in Serbia and Brazil and is well versed in virtually any variety of still put in front of him. In fact, Ó’Sé commissioned the pot still distillery for Pearse Lyons Irish whiskey and ran the process for several years as well as the Burren Distillery and the Achill Distillery, which he continues to supervise today.

However, with the travel restrictions implemented as a result of the Covid19 pandemic, the past year has seen a significant change in lifestyle for Ó’Sé. The homebound veteran found himself switching between working on whiskey development and looking after grandchildren.

Speaking from his home via Zoom, Ó’Sé adds: “On the one side of the room I have a cupboard full of whiskeys, and if I turned the camera around you’d see a load of kids’ toys. It’s certainly a different working environment but it’s good fun.

“At the start of last year I had loads of tasting jobs lined up across the west of Ireland, which of course all had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, so the restrictions on travel have been a huge problem.”

As one of Irish whiskey’s most experienced and knowledgeable members, Ó’Sé was recently brought in by Limerick-based independent bottler Sailor’s Home to develop its inaugural range, which launched in late 2020.


The three new blends – The Journey, The Haven and The Horizon – were sourced, aged, blended and finished by Ó’Sé and he used a wide range of cask types from all over the world for the maturation processes.

“We’ve created a range of three truly distinctive whiskeys made in Ireland but shaped by the world. It’s been amazing to work with these liquids, being adventurous with flavours is what Sailor’s Home is all about.

“I have lots of ideas for Sailor’s Home going forward and I have hundreds of projects I’d love to be running right now which could make whiskey even better – I just wish I still had access to a lab so I could play around with them.

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