New vintage in Slane with rock 'n' roll whiskey

There hasn"t so much been a change of the guard at Slane Castle recently, more a switching around of titles. The death in March of Frederick, the seventh Marquess Conyngham, meant that his son, Henry, Earl Mountcharles, became the eighth marquess. His son, Alex, formerly Viscount Slane, is now Alex Mountcharles, preferring to use the less formal version of the title. 'It can be confusing,' he says. 'Particularly as my father has such a high profile as Henry Mountcharles, and is now Henry Conyngham.' The three generations of the family, Alex, his father and late grandfather, were involved in the blending of a new whiskey, called Slane Castle Irish Whiskey, which will be launched at the Garden Party at this month"s concert. 'We wanted to come up with a product that would help secure the future of the castle,' Alex explains. His father had already created the brand of Slane through the concerts, and he had worked with Jameson in Australia, so they combined their expertise to create the whiskey which will be made by Cooley Distillers in Dundalk. 'Slane has become an icon, really, for so many different people for so many reasons, since that first concert in 1981,' Alex adds. 'You would meet people who had great concert experiences here, or got married here. We even had one request, which we agreed to, for somebody to scatter their ashes on the concert site, because of the good times they had at a Slane concert.' Young Mountcharles says that it is that type of thing which is needed to keep a place like Slane alive. 'You have to open it up, it"s what keeps it alive.' His first memories are of the Rolling Stones concert in 1982, when he was just seven. 'I remember lots of that, especially at the end when they released the balloons, and they floated across the castle, and I tried to catch one. I didn"t - my cousin did!' The build-ups to the concerts were very exciting, and there was always a positive atmosphere around the place. He recalls that they would have the albums before any concert and learn off all the songs from any act appearing, and be jumping around the place singing. 'Then, it was very exciting to watch the gates open and the crowd starting to come in,' he says. The Mountcharles children were drafted into action from a young age. 'We were put to work as kids - we had to escort those who flew in by helicopter to the castle. All these big acts thought it was great, rather quirkey, to see 12 or 13 year-old kids waiting for them, rather than big burly security. They enjoyed it and we loved it.' Each of the Slane concerts had special moments for him. One in particular was when Neil Young joined Pearl Jam on stage for a good part of the act. 'That was a great collaboration - I was such a fan of Pearl Jam.' He was also a big Guns 'n" Roses fan. 'Axl Rose was late arriving that time - there was concern for a while but when he did arrive onstage, it was something special.' And of course, the U2 shows were fantastic, especially as they had used the castle to record in before and Adam Clayton had become a good friend of the family. Alex was in England when the devastating fire struck the castle, and says he was lucky to have seen it in all its glory before the fire damage. 'We lost a lot of the contents in that - it"s a matter of slowly building it back to what it had before. The structure has been restored, but a lot of antiques and family material were lost.' Preparations are underway for this year"s 20th June concert. 'I"ve always been an Oasis fan,' he says. I know all the words of the 'Definitely Maybe" songs. There"s a video somewhere of me and a friend singing 'Wonderwall" on my 18th birthday.' He has also been a longtime fan of The Prodigy, but has never seen them live, so is looking forward to that. 'And we always have an Irish act, this year The Blizzards. We saw them at Oxygen last year and were impressed with their music and set, so included them on the bill this year. It"s always an important launch pad for Irish acts.' Alex and his wife, Carina, have a five month-old daughter, Laragh, who will be sampling her first Slane concert. 'We"ll have a family creche section this year for the first time,' he laughs. Tickets for the Slane Castle VIP Garden Party went on sale recently. The Garden Party is a VIP experience where ticket-holders can enjoy panoramic views of the concert and grounds from individual grandstand seating. Easy access is via reserved VIP parking and the grounds take on a true summer garden party atmosphere, with access to champagne restaurant, BBQ food court, coffee dock, cloakroom facilities and the VIP bar in the garden in the front of the castle. General admission tickets for the 20th June concert sold out within hours of going on release, and limited Garden Party tickets are available to purchase via the Slane Castle website or calling (041) 988 4400. For details on how to buy a ticket or for a chance to win VIP passes with a rock 'n" roll helicopter entrance for two, check out