National Heritage Week and Whiskey

National Heritage Week in Ireland for 2016 runs from the 20th to 28th August.

It’s a celebration of the rich cultural, natural, creative, architectural and industrial heritage of the island of Ireland which takes the form of a range of events organised locally throughout the country.

My contribution to Heritage Week was to lead a Tullamore Town Whiskey Walk.

But what’s whiskey got to do with heritage?  you may ask.

Well – in The Annuls of Clonmacnoise from 1405 there is a reference to a certain chieftain who imbibed a bit too much “aqua vitae” and subsequently died.

Quite clearly Ireland’s relationship to aqua vitae or uisce beatha or whiskey as we now know it has – for better or worse – a long cultural heritage.

Tullamore’s connection with whiskey dates back to at least the 1700’s.

An unfortunate collision with a chimney – believed to be a distillery chimney – led to the world’s first air disaster when a hot air balloon set fire to the town in 1785!

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The Phoenix c/othewhiskeynut

There are still Phoenix emblems on lamp posts on Colmcille St to remember the rebirth of the town after this catastrophe – along with a Tullamore DEW expression of the same name which can either be taken to note the fire – or the beginning of whiskey distilling in Tullamore after a 50 year hiatus when William Grant & Sons opened the new Tullamore Distillery on the outskirts of the town in 2014.

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The new Tullamore Distillery c/othewhiskeynut

St Patrick St in the centre of town was largely destroyed in the fire. There were a few buildings that survived. One of these buildings is the Tullamore DEW managers office which still proudly displays the name of it’s most famous manager – Daniel E Williams who coined the  “Give Everyman His DEW”  advertising tag.

Directly opposite are the original distillery entrance gates which bear the name B Daly Company Ltd Tullamore Distillery – Bernard Daly being a previous manager to Daniel Williams.

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Bob Smyths & Tullamore Distillery Gates c/othewhiskeynut

The gates abut a public house by the name of Bob Smyths. This was formerly a mill house owned by Michael Molloy who happened to be the founder of Tullamore Distillery in 1829. It should come as no surprise the mill was incorporated into the distillery whose main works were just behind. We decided to raise a glass to Tullamore Distillery at this juncture of the walk.

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A toast to Tullamore Whiskey Heritage c/othewhiskeynut

Much of Tullamore’s wealth was generated on the back of the drinks industry. In the early 1800’s there happened to be 2 distilleries, 2 breweries and extensive malting houses in the town. The 3 biggest employers during this period were Tullamore DEW itself, P&H Egans general merchants wine & spirit bonders and Tarleton maltsters.

The heritage of the past shapes the present.

Tullamore DEW is still a world recognised whiskey brand and the original 1897 Old Bonded Warehouse attracts many visitors now it’s a very enjoyable whiskey tourist attraction.

P&H Egans – who originally built the fine Bridge House which still stands today – have a recently released 10 year old single malt bearing the Bridge House on the front of the label. Descendants of the original family are behind the new revived brand and artwork from their forefathers can be seen in The Brewery Tap pub – which happens to be the site of one of the former breweries.

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Egan’s Whiskey from the heart of Ireland c/othewhiskeynut

Tarleton seem to be gone but the fertile soils of the Midlands still produce barley for the malting industry to this day. Many of the shops and apartments at the bottom of Harbour St are housed in the old warehouses and malting floors of that former malting industry giant.

Whiskey is still a presence in Tullamore today. It may not employ as many people as in the past but the legacy lives on.

One of several whiskey bars in town – as arbitrarily defined by a previous blog here – has it’s own bottling! We enjoyed a glass of the yet to be launched Hugh Lynch’s Irish Whiskey in the pub that commissioned it. What better way to end the walk.

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Hugh Lynch’s Irish Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

So why don’t you give Tullamore a visit?

The combination of the old original buildings with their rich history – the new whiskey expressions with their exciting flavours – an exciting re-birth of whiskey distilling quietly maturing in oak barrels at the modern Tullamore Distillery – neatly encapsulates the past – present and yet to be written whiskey heritage of Tullamore.

I’ll drink to that!

Slainte.

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The Mania in Tasmania was fierce

No whisky trip to Australia would be complete without a visit to Tasmania. The island off the bottom right hand corner of the continent is home to the tastiest and most lauded single malts Australia has to offer.

It’s also where the modern rebirth of whisky down under began. Bill Lark lobbied to get outdated liquor laws changed to allow the legal distillation of spirits to begin back in 1992.

Since those early amatuer days the industry has grown to produce many fine single malts. The pinnacle undoubtedly was Sullivans Cove winning Best Single Malt of the year in 2014.

My visit only scratched the surface of the stunning scenery, endemic wildlife, fine food and fabulous whisky that Tasmania has to offer – and the combination of it all left us – well – Thunderstruck!

The short flight from Melbourne soon had us looking down on the heavily wooded and indented coastline near Hobart. As the sun shone brightly – albeit with a cool breeze – we decided to head straight down the Tasman Peninsular to take advantage of the lovely weather.

Soon immersed in the awe inspiring landscape we quickly passed by some distilleries;

Nonesuch Distillery, makers of Dry Gin, Sloe Gin and Sloe Malt , had their closed sign up at the entrance.

Port Arthur Lavender, a distillery making perfumed products. Open but passed this by.

McHenry Distillery, actual whisky distillers! Along with gin and vodka – but closed due to construction of a visitors centre. Despite coming across their new single malt on Brooke Street Pier in Hobart it was only available by the bottle – so I never did get a taster of the contents.

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McHenry Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

We also came across a small flock of Green Rosellas feeding on the ground. These very colourful birds -along with about a dozen other species – are only found in Tasmania and it was a joy to see them.

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Green Rosella c/othewhiskeynut

Our destination of the day at Port Arthur Penal Colony encapsulated the historic beginnings of modern Tasmania in all it’s  gory detail – yet set in stunning scenery. Gently ambling around we soon heard and later spotted our first Kookaburra of the trip.

Getting dark at about 5pm in the Australian winter came as a shock after leaving the Irish summer where 11pm was lights out. We still had to check in at our hotel. Phone coverage wasn’t great so we hightailed it back to Hobart – thankfully not encountering any wildlife along the way to add to the roadkill we saw in the sunshine.

The sparkling lights of Hobart glittering on the hillside beyond were a beautiful sight as we drove over the graceful Tasman Bridge. Very soon afterwards we felt the warm embrace of The Customs House Hotel.

I felt an even warmer embrace after enjoying a lovely meal in the cosy dining area heated by a homely open fire overlooking Hobart’s docklands – especially as the meal was washed down by some tasty Tassie whisky!

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Some Customs House Hotel whisky c/othewhiskeynut

Having previously tasted the Hellyers Road Peated expression – which I enjoyed very much – I kicked off with their 10 year old Original bottling. Aged in ex-bourbon casks, non chill-filtered at 46.2% this is a lovely smooth and rich example of a decent single malt. It just didn’t have the peat bite I liked.

Overeem Sherry Cask was my night cap. Distilled in nearby Blackmans Bay – a suburb of Hobart – this offering also had a rich taste with a  more heavy mouthfeel. It was less sweet than the Hellyers – which suited me fine.

The mania of Tasmania continued over the next few days. We crammed in as much sights and sounds as we could manage before rushing back in the dark to the warm delights of Hobart.

One of the crowning glories of our time in Tasmania – outside of the fabulous whiskies – were the wonderful breakfasts at The Customs House Hotel. These set the benchmark for the rest of our trip which was only matched by a hearty brunch in an eaterie up the wonderful laneway that is Centre Place in Melbourne.

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Breakfast at Customs House Hotel c/othewhiskeynut

When part of your itinerary  is tasting Tassie whisky – you need something substantial to set yourself up – and a good solid breakfast certainly starts the day off on the right path!

Oh to be back in Hobart.

Slainte.

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The Aussie Whisky Scene – Curious brands for the local market!

One of the joys about travelling to a different country (Australia in this example) is not just tasting the award winning single malts that are produced there – of which there are plenty – but also sampling some of the everyday blends, brands and bourbons not normally found in my home market of Ireland.

My musical interlude comes from a giant of Australian music – and in the context of a wedding – the response is  ….I do.

The wedding itself – our reason for travelling in the first place – took place in The Willows on St Kilda Rd. Arriving early to the venue for a pre-event drink we were politely refused entry and sent around the corner to a nearby cafe/bar. Unlike in Ireland where the wedding venue would gladly have you in before and after the event – in Australia the custom is to strictly adhere to the booked times. Que sera sera.

At the nearby Hunters Kitchen we were warmly greeted and soon furnished with a tasty snack of warm olives and bread together with a lovely wine for herself and a whisky for myself.

Now my default position would be to go for an Aussie whisky – but as there wasn’t any on offer – the next best thing I could see was a familiar brand but an expression I hadn’t come across before and isn’t generally available in Ireland.

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Canadian Club Classic 12 Year Old c/othewhiskyexchange

I’d found the standard Canadian Club a tad sweet with a soft rye spice finish. I expected a bit more punch off the 12 year old but it didn’t seem to deliver. Smoother and more complex notwithstanding – the extra years didn’t provide a knockout dram.

Back at the wedding – a lovely union between a Tullamore lad and a Melbourne lassie – the drinks flowed, speeches were made and food & festivities abounded. Again the whisky menu was rather limited but I had to try a Cougar to celebrate the coming together of two wonderful people!

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Cougar 5 c/othewhiskeynut

A fairly standard bourbon experience was enjoyed – nothing out of the ordinary here – but on talking to a few of the other guests I did think this bourbon was very much a local brand.

My suspicions proved correct the next day when I called in at the local Liquorland store for a chat with the friendly and helpful staff. Just the same way as Lidl, Aldi, Tesco and others do here in Ireland – Coles, Woolworths and others do in Australia. They order up bourbon, gin, brandy or whisky and bottle it under there own brand names. I even found an article on it here

Curiously Cougar is bottled at 37% – which is allowed under Aussie rules. Jim Beam is also at 37% whilst Jack stays at 40% – so check the ABV of your favourite brand before you buy as it may not be the same strength as back home.

I came across a few other of these home brands on my travels.

Whilst doing the Great Ocean Road a few weeks later we stayed in the lovely town of Port Campbell and enjoyed a hearty and enjoyable meal in the local hotel of the same name.

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Port Campbell Hotel c/othewhiskeynut

A whisky accompanied the meal – and another ordered at the bar for good measure. It wasn’t too bad. Just a standard Scottish blend by the name of McAllister.  Inver House Distillers seem to be the origin of this Australian brand.

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McAllister Scotch in Australia c/odanmurphys

I did spot an Irish whiskey in this segment too by the name of Finnlaigh. There shouldn’t be any surprises in reading the back of the bottle that Cooley were responsible for the distilling!  John Teeling’s Great Northern Distillery in Dundalk may soon be the new source.  I didn’t get round to sampling this expression.

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Finnlaigh on a Woolworths shelf c/othewhiskeynut

Now I wouldn’t be expecting star quality out of these brands. Many of them are price sensitive. They can often be very good value however and some have gone on to be quite highly rated in competitions so I’m quite happy to give them a trial run when I can.

Even in our last few hours on Aussie soil I still managed to come across another. We stopped off at The Savoy Tavern for a farewell bite to eat before catching the SkyBus at Southern Cross Station.

A lack of an Aussie single malt had me searching for an alternative which I found in a Jim Beam Rye. Didn’t I mention I like a rye now and then?

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Jim Beam Rye c/odanmurphys

A sweet mellow initial taste morphs into a warm spicy finish. Nothing too complex here -especially as it’s only a 37% release –  but very enjoyable nonetheless. I’m looking forward to a potential release in Ireland!

Whilst enjoying or meal – I did notice a sales rep approach the bar to try and push some whisky brand. Curiosity got the better of me and I enquired after the rep had gone what the brand was.

‘Pure Scot’ came the reply, ‘a Scottish blend made at Bladnoch for an Aussie company’.

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Pure Scot c/odanmurphys

It got me thinking.

How long will it be before a sales rep comes into a bar in Ireland pushing a brand called ‘Pure Oz’ to ride the surf of the growth and quality of Australian whisky?

Judging on my experiences of tasting Aussie whisky – it may be sooner than you think.

Slainte

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Whiskey Nut Down Under

An invitation to a wedding in Melbourne was just the hook to lure me into a 3 week discovery of the award winning world of Australian whisky.

To accompany this inaugural  blog of my travels down under – the musical interlude should come as no surprise;

The first couple of days were spent sightseeing in and around the city centre. By chance we ended up doing a river cruise down the Yarra River – which is a wonderful way to see the marvellous sights of Melbourne as well as listen to some historical tales and stories from the entertaining and informative captain of the river cruiser.

Light refreshments were in order afterwards so one of the many Federation Wharf cafe/bars provided the respite. Luckily for me they stocked some Australian whisky – along with a sprinkling of more familiar Irish brands too.

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Whisky selection by the Yarra c/othewhiskeynut

As we were meeting friends later I went straight for the sole Aussie whisky on offer – an award winning Sullivans Cove bottle.

The Double Cask release from Sullivans Cove wasn’t the bottle that won World’s Best Single Malt Whisky in 2014 – but it sure tasted fine to me. Matured in ex-bourbon and French oak casks this delightful single malt from Tasmania was a gentle introduction to the high standard that Australian whisky has reached in only a short period of time.

On leaving the wharf area I noticed one of the bars had advertised an evening with Starward Whisky – along with a small selection of yet more Aussie whisky – my mind urged me to return again soon.

My opportunity arose on the day of the wedding. Herself wanted to rest a while at the Airbnb allowing me to amble down to the Pilgrim Bar with the intention of sampling a few of the expressions on offer in the lovely surroundings overlooking the Yarra.

Of the 5 Aussie whiskeys on display I’d already tasted from 2 of the distilleries so a flight of the remaining 3 was soon arranged along with an entertaining food pairings of peanut butter filled pretzels and red hummus with warm focaccia.

The helpful and informative bar manager Michael soon had the bottles at my table and explained where, whom and how the various expressions had came about before leaving me to enjoy both the food and whisky in the lovely afternoon sun.

In no particular order my tasting trio consisted of;

Raymond B 100% Corn Mash Whiskey hailing from the Hoochery Distillery in Kununurra in Western Australia close to the border with the Northern Territory.

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Raymond B Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Belgrove Rye coming from the whisky heartland of Tasmania and the truly home made distillery of Peter Bignell in Kempton.

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Belgrove Rye c/othewhiskeynut

Hellyers Road Peated Single Malt also from Tasmania but on the northern shores near Burnie.

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Hellyers Road Peated c/othewhiskeynut

Unlike my rather mixed feelings towards bourbon – Australians love it. They are even bigger consumers of the spirit than the USA!  Raymond B’s Corn Mash is a pretty sweet and smooth representation of this category which certainly went down well with me even although it wouldn’t be my preferred style.

Belgrove Rye however is a different kettle of fish altogether. Rye would be my go-to bourbon for it’s more robust taste and lovely spice finish. Belgrove is not like the more mainstream ryes I’ve had. Despite having a pleasingly soft sweet rye nose – there is none of the associated robustness. A more delicate bouquet of flavours swirl around the mouth before a gentle hint of spice wafts through on the finish. Very engaging. I must try out some more releases from this distillery.

Hellyers Road Peated proved to be a more familiar style of whisky in that a powerful peat punch assaulted the nose before the first taste. Despite Tasmania having it’s own peat bogs just like Ireland – Hellyers Road don’t have access to them due to a lack of a mining licence – and so have to import peated barley from Scotland. What makes this whisky standout however is it’s soft, almost fruity finish coming through the peat smoke. Very nice indeed.

Suitably inspired by the lovely whisky – along with the remaining tasty snacks and a pleasingly soothing backdrop of reggae-dub being played on the sound system – I ventured on to a measure of Black Gate Whisky.

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Black Gate Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

Black Gate are a husband and wife team from New South Wales producing a range of distilled spirits. This rather young whisky – above 2 years and over in Australia is allowed to be called whisky – had a reassuringly non-peated whisky nose. There was a slight off note on the taste for me however and I wondered if the sherry casks used for maturation could have been the source of this. Pity – as it would have been thumbs up all round for my first Australian whisky tasting!

Michael the bar manager joined me for some more whisky chat and introduced a bottle of Starward Wine Cask by way of inviting me to the upcoming whisky Talk & Taste evening at the bar.

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Starward Wine Cask c/othewhiskeynut

The Starward Solera had excited me when I’d met up with friends in the 1806 Cocktail Bar so a quick taster of the Wine Cask release only confirmed me as a convert to the delights of this local distillery based at Essendon on the Melbourne outskirts.

Rich, full bodied with a lovely fruity notes too – this expression is made with Australian wine casks to give it a sense of terroir – it certainly struck a chord with me.

My time at the Pilgrim Bar – being able to sit outside admiring the views, tasting some fine whisky and food, attended to by friendly and helpful staff as well as relaxing to the background music – made up for the 2 days of travelling to get here!

Only a short walk from Flinders St Station – it’s a haven of calm in the heart of Melbourne.

Slainte.

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Bourbons for 4th July

Seeing as it’s Independence Day in America – and by a little twist of fate Britain also recently voted for it’s ‘Independence’ regarding the Brexit split from the European Union – I thought I’d celebrate/drown my sorrows – nothing like sitting on the fence on tricky subjects –  by opening a few bottles of bourbon to try out the contents.

America is the biggest export market for Irish whiskey. In return we get the used bourbon barrels to mature yet more whiskey in – as well as easy availability of famous bourbon brands in our pubs and off-licences.

Now bourbon has a whole set of rules and regulations – like Irish Whiskey – which define how it’s made  – matured and that all important mash bill – but I’l leave The Whisky Exchange blog here to explain all that.

To get the ball rolling I’ve started with the iconic Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 from Tennesse.

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Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 c/othewhiskeynut

I did think of using a Bruce Springsteen track to accompany this blog – but given revelations from Jack Daniel’s  themselves – perhaps Donna Summer is more appropriate?

Despite Jack being one of the biggest brands out there – I must admit to not liking it.

The combination of sticky sweet notes from the corn element together with a rough finish probably from the shorter maturation period leaves my palate a little strained. I can see why it’s usually drunk as a mixer rather than my preferred option of neat.

Undeterred I moved on.

Clarke’s Old Kentucky Straight Sour Mash Bourbon is a budget brand courtesy of the supermarket chain Aldi.

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Clarke’s 1866 Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Surprisingly this brand warmed to me as the initial sweetness evolved into a lovely soft spiciness which pleasingly lingered on the tongue to give a long finish.

Given that Aldi sourced this bourbon from an unknown Kentucky distillery – there is no Clarke from 1866 – they’ve done a pretty fine job in my book. It’s also won some awards too – so don’t just take my word.

To be fair to other supermarket brands – and on the strength of Clarke’s Bourbon – I purchased Tesco’s budget bourbon by the name of Old Samuel.

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Old Samuel c/othewhiskeynut

Billing itself as ‘Aged Kentucky Style Blended Bourbon’ the label also declares

‘Product of the USA. Blended and bottled in the Netherlands’

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International Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Intrigued I checked out the bottler and uncovered Toorank – a Dutch distilling company which does a successful business importing bulk bourbon from USA – along with whiskey from Ireland and Scotland – to blend for third party customers.

My bottle has been open for sometime now and is going down fast as once again I found this an easy bourbon to consume. Not too sweet, a smooth body and pleasant finish.

My final choice was bought from a well known internet whiskey site by the name of Flavair. Knowing my palate enjoys the more robust flavours and less sweet notes normally found in rye whiskey – I took advantage of an offer on FEW Rye Whiskey.

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FEW Rye c/othewhiskeynut

Bottled at 46.5% as opposed to the 40% of the others – this expression also bills itself as ‘handcrafted and small batched’ and hails from Chicago.

An initial sweetness soon gave way to a powerful spicy rye punch and a lingering dryness on the palate. Now this is more my thing!

Given a choice – I’d always go for a rye first. All of the admittedly very limited selection I’ve tasted so far suit my palate better than even the best bourbons.

It should come as no surprise then that FEW Rye comes out tops in my Independence Day tasting session.

Jack Daniel’s  I’m afraid flunks – to use an American phrase.

Whilst in the budget bourbon category Clarke’s comes in second because of it’s soft spice followed closely behind by Old Samuel.

As regards pricing. Both Clarke’s and Old Samuel came in at 16 euro. Jack Daniel’s can be got from 25 whilst FEW starts at 70 – when you can get hold of it.

Clarke’s Bourbon wins as the best buy.

So there you go.

I thoroughly enjoyed my exploration into american bourbons.

Enjoy your 4th July – and remember – don’t drink too much.

Enjoy the tastes – flavours and good company – not the hangover.

Slainte.

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The Craic was mighty on Clare Island

My first visit to the wonderful scenery that is Clare Island – sitting at the head of Clew Bay near Westport – Ireland – was about four years ago – and who better to give us a song than the Saw Doctors.

The warm, friendly and welcoming reception I received then stayed with me – so when an opportunity arose to call again came my way – I jumped at the chance.

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The Signal Tower with Knockmore behind c/othewhiskeynut

After a long traverse of the island from the Napoleonic Signal Tower on the majestic western cliffs – scaling the high points of Knockmore and the slightly lower Knocknaveen – then descending back down into the picturesque harbour area – I was in need of a stiff drink.

Meeting up with others in the Sailor’s Bar I was pleasantly surprised by the fine range of whiskeys on offer.

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Some of the Sailor’s Bar whiskeys c/othewhiskeynut

Now it doesn’t quite reach whiskey bar status – but for a small island – this was a lovely find!

A good array of Irish expressions from the big three distilleries – Midleton – Bushmills and Kilbegan/Cooley – together with some big brand Scotch and a bit of bourbon too – brought the total up to a respectable 30 or so different bottles.

As is my wont – I started out with something I’d never tried before – Loch Lomond Single Malt.

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Loch Lomond Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

Hailing from the respected Loch Lomond Group – an independent distiller and bottler based just within the Scottish Highland whisky region with many expressions on offer – this particular entry level non-age statement single malt has the old design prior to being revamped with more snazzy packaging.

I found it a fairly smooth and sweet non-peaty pleasant dram offering a decent taste experience with few surprises. It whetted my appetite for something more bolder so a Connemara followed with it’s satisfyingly rich peaty smoke.

Loch Lomond Group also do an entry level blend which isn’t too bad either.

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High Commissioner from The Loch Lomond Group c/othewhiskeynut

Mrs Whiskey joined me later and together we dined on some very tasty seafood dishes which we enjoyed immensely  – especially as the bar looks out onto a stunning view of the Atlantic with County Mayo’s hills in the near distance.

My goodness! This place is a real find. Stunning scenery, fine whiskey, excellent food, friendly staff and to top it all – some local craft beer too!

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Mescan’s Westport Red Tripel c/othewhiskeynut

Mescan Brewery are based on the lower slopes of the mighty Croagh Patrick whose massive bulk dominates the skyline to the South East of Clare Island. I couldn’t resist pairing their Westport Red Tripel offering with my meal.

Over the course of two very enjoyable evenings the warm welcome we received on our first visit was further enhanced by yet more marvelous ceol agus craic!

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Clare Island Community Centre Bar c/othewhiskeynut

We stayed at a lovely local B&B and along with the lively Sailor’s Bar also frequented the Community Centre which doubles as another bar – albeit with a slightly diminished whiskey range. A Teachers Original was chosen at this premises – but Inishowen still wins out for me.

During our short stay the entertainment was non-stop.

A stag party one evening followed by a hen party the next.

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Teannas and some hens! c/oMrsWhiskey

Live music on both nights provided by some talented young musicians called Teannas – one of whose videos is below.

A Pier To Pier charity swim across the 3 miles separating Clare Island from Roonagh Pier on the mainland together with a dancing competition, a wildlife festival and some hilarious community games including a sheep race, a potato picking race and a horse dumping betting competition!

I kid you not – Clare Island is buzzing!

Our time on Clare was so limited I didn’t have time to go through all the whiskey in the bar.

Perhaps another visit is necessary!

Slainte

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E150- Caramel

We were gently awoken from our slumbers by the gurgling waters of the River Corrib that once powered the machinery of Persse Distillery on Nun’s Island. This long closed Galway distillery inspired the members of The Galway Whiskey Trail to successfully launch The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey at last evenings extravaganza.

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Persse Distillery c/oGalway Whiskey Trail

If our hotel room had been around about 100 years ago we could have inhaled the rich malt aromas hovering in the air as the distillery was only a stones throw across the river.

As it happened it was the enticing smell of a freshly cooked breakfast that eventually got us out of the bed to face the day ahead.

Apart from a few drunkenly made arrangements to meet up with some of the launch party crew – which always seem a bit ambitious in the cold light of day – our time was free. Herself however had plans to purchase a new rig out for an upcoming wedding so out shopping it was. Luckily after a few boutiques I made my excuses and headed to another kind of shop more suitable for my tastes – McCambridges.

Being a member of The Galway Whiskey Trail – which I’d previously visited in January – I knew they had an extensive range of whiskeys in their off-licence department. Also knowing The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey hailed from West Cork Distillers – I was curious to find out what their own label West Cork 10 Year Old Single Malt tasted like in comparison.

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West Cork Single Malt c/omalt-review

McCambridges had plenty of Galway Bay in stock but had sold out of West Cork. Luckily there was still some spirit left in the sample bottle so a small taster soon appeared before me.

Oh dear!

Now a 10 year old aged in ex-bourbon casks is going to be a bit vanilla sweet – but this was way too sweet.

A look at the small print on the back confirmed my suspicions – E150 – or added caramel to you and me.

I’ve read that added caramel is a tried and tested practice mainly used to darken light coloured blends to give a uniform colour across many barrels and vats.

I’ve read that in small quantities you can’t taste it.

I’m afraid to say – as Heather Greene implies in her highly informative book “Whisk(e)y Distilled” – that as you’re palate develops you can.

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Whisk(e)y Distilled c/othewhiskeynut

There’s just too much added caramel in this single malt for my liking which gives it an unbalanced taste experience. It may have been a perfectly fine whiskey without E150 so why add it?

West Cork Distillers seem to quite like using caramel. They are not alone.

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Glen Orchy c/othewhiskeynut

Just the other day I bought a bottle of budget price Scotch by the name of Glen Orchy from a German Supermarket. On tasting some I immediately thought it had the flavour profile of a Richard ‘The Nose‘ Paterson blend all over it. Soft, mellow and caramel sweetness. On doing some research into it’s origins I found it shared the common Glasgow postcode with many other whisky brands – G2 5RG. Suffice to say the headquarters of Whyte & Mackay are based here too – along with Dalmore, Jura and 30 others.

I’m sure there is caramel in Galway Bay – but the port finish gives it a much more balanced result.

1 nil to Galway Bay.

Satisfaction piqued – I met up with Mrs Whiskey. A tentative suggestion of drinks and a snack in the warm sunshine outside one of the Galway Whiskey Trail venues was accepted so Tigh Neachtain‘s won out in this instance.

A white wine for the lady was duly ordered along with the appealingly named Bogman Irish Craft Ale I hadn’t encountered before.

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Bogman Ale c/othewhiskeynut

Bogman turned out to be very enjoyable indeed. Not too strong at 4.9% ABV with a satisfying malty flavour. Good work from those at Spiddal River Brewery. Herself enjoyed her wine too!

We wondered if anyone else would bother to turn up from the night before – and then one appeared – followed shortly by another!

There were warm greetings all round with banter about the Galway Bay launch where we had all met followed by yet more drinks – and a tasty lunchtime meal.

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Te Bheag blend from Gaelic Whisky c/o whiskeynut

I had another whiskey this time. Te Bheag is an entry level peated Scottish blend from Skye which I’d previously encountered at Whiskey Live Dublin. My palate has obviously developed as unlike my previous tasting – I got a dose of added caramel sweetness this time round.

Inishowen 1 – others nil.

Having the craic and shooting the breeze couldn’t have been more enjoyable. During the course of our stay on this busy pedestrian intersection many people came and went. An immaculately groomed – both male and female – wedding party stopped by for a pint and some photos. I had a chance to chat with the barman after walking out without paying on my last visit!  We met one of The Galway Hooker skippers from the whiskey launch lastnight and to crown it all – a stunningly blue eyed musician serenaded one of our party after a throw away comment.

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Thomas Wesley Stern in Galway c/othewhiskeynut

Turns out Thomas Wesley Stern are a travelling band from the Pine Barrens region of New Jeresy who had only arrived in town from Sligo and were heading to Lisdoonvarna later.

They soon had a small crowd of admirers outside Tigh Neachtain’s and garnished much applause – along with a pint for their troubles. Here they are singing a whiskey related song.

Alas a short downpour interrupted the proceedings and broke the spell.

Thoughts of returning to the real world with it’s attended chores clouded the mind and goodbyes with promises to stay in touch were exchanged.

The Galway Whiskey Trail certainly lives up to it’s description in providing an experience you cannot buy.

Together with the fabulous launch of The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey it had been an absolutely stunningly entertaining weekend.

The combination of festivities, friendliness and fun are what it’s all about.

When will you visit the trail to capture the craic for yourself?

Slainte.

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Peated Irish Whiskey

After disembarking at Galway Docks from successfully launching The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey the entertainment continued into the wee small hours. We were whisked away to one of the founding members of The Galway Whiskey Trail‘s bars – Sonny Molloy’s.

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Whiskey sours c/o@yummymummy

Drinks soon flowed – wines for the non-whiskey drinking brigade – cocktails for the more youthful contingent – and yet more whiskey for myself.

Being in Sonny’s surrounded by a stunning display of whiskeys allowed me to further explore the wonderful world of peated Irish whiskey.

That’s right.

Peated Irish whiskey.

It’s not a category everyone seems to be aware of – let alone be familiar with.

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Connemara Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Connemara is the most well known example of this style. A Beam/Suntory brand from the Cooley Distillery in County Louth. It’s a fairly light tasting peated whiskey in its original non-age statement (NAS) single malt bottling but is also available as a 12 year old, a stunning 22 year old, a cask strength and if you look for it – a Turf Mor expression too.

A few years ago I tasted the 22 year old at it’s launch during the 2014 Irish Whiskey Awards held in Kilbeggan Distillery. I’m afraid to say peat wasn’t my strong point at that time so it was lost on me – but I have since developed a palate for peat and should go back to re-taste it again.

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Raw Spirit c/othewhiskeynut

Contrary to Iain Banks eminently enjoyable whisky book ‘Raw Spirit’ who likens peated whisky to Marmite in that you either love it – or hate it – I think the charms of peat have slowly grown on me.

Sonny’s also stock some lovely discontinued peated Irish whiskey.

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Michael Collins Single Malt c/otheinternet

Michael Collins 10 Year Old Single Malt is a lighty peated expression also from Cooley before the Beam takeover in 2011. Originally destined for the American market by Sidney Frank Importing Company lawsuits ensued after the loss of supply but luckily this brand may re-surface as part of the Sazerac portfolio. I certainly await it’s return – although I can still enjoy the odd dram now and then of the original in decent whiskey bars around Ireland.

Inishowen
Inishowen Whiskey c/opinterest

The peated Irish whiskey that really tantalises my tastebuds however is Inishowen. It’s your standard entry level blend of young grain spirit mixed with peaty malt bottled at 40%. Cooley are responsible again for this delightfully smooth youthful yet fully peated whiskey.

I’d go so far to say this whiskey out performs the big Scottish guns of Johnnie Walker, Famous Grouse, Haig and Teachers et al – no sharp edges here with Inishowen. Just a wonderful aroma and taste of peat together with a lovely sweet refreshing grain finish. Pity it’s discontinued – as I love it’s simple charms – much like the youthful exuberance of my musical interlude.

In my merry state – I laid down 2 challenges.

1 – If any standard Scottish blend can match Inishowen I’d love to try it – I haven’t come across one yet.

2 – When will an Irish distillery release a blend to match Inishowen?

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Heavily peated barley c/o@JackTeeling

Now I know Teeling are already laying down peated distillate and Nephin Whiskey are planning a peated single malt – so I may not have to wait too long – but a plain ordinary everyday peated blend is what I’m looking for – not a premium product.

With my challenge set – I cheerily left what was developing into an Irish bloggers lovefest – rejoined Mrs Whiskey who had bonded with the wine drinking fraternity  – and bid our farewells for the evening before things got messy.

I raise a glass of The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey as a toast of appreciation for the wonderful launch party

And a toast to it’s success.

Slainte

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The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey

It’s not very often you get an invitation to the launch of a new whiskey.

So I wasted no time in replying to the RSVP of a ‘Sail With Us On Galway Bay’ for the official launch of The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey.

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The invite to sail.

Mrs Whiskey – whilst not an imbiber of the uisce beatha herself has a very finely tuned nose  in these matters – even asked if she could come along too!

So it came to pass that both of us high-tailed it West down the M6 motorway on a gloriously sunny Friday evening in the whiskey mobile to be at Galway Docks by the appointed time.

Now The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey is the brainchild of The Galway Whiskey Trail collective of 10 whiskey bars and 1 off-licence. They have forged an alliance to promote not only themselves – but the history and experience of Irish Whiskey within Galway City.

During the course of the evening it became apparent in talking to various members of The Galway Whiskey Trail that the passion and enthusiasm this collective has is driving the whiskey experience in Galway to a higher level.

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Galway Hookers at play c/othewhiskeynut

We boarded the Aran Islands Ferry ‘Glor na Farraige’ – ‘Voice of the Sea’ – to begin our voyage escorted out of the docks by the iconic sails of several Galway Hookers. A glorious sight in the evening sunshine.

Padraig Breathnach was our engaging raconteur for the evening to introduce us to the hospitality, great festivals and poetry of Galway – all aided by the addition of a good whiskey!

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The Burren and our raconteurs c/othewhiskeynut

Talented musicians in the shape of Sean Keane and Mairtin O’Connor also accompanied us. Together with some sean nos dancers which further added to the festival feel aboard ship.

Sailing out into Galway Bay itself flanked by Connemara on one side and the majestic limestone hills of The Burren on the other, we marvelled in the splendid scenery and even more splendid sunshine that embraced us.

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The launch c/othewhiskeynut

Moored off Black Head Lighthouse the main event of the evening – the official launch of The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey – commenced with an introduction by Cyril Briscoe.

The whiskey itself is a 10 year old single malt from West Cork Distillers matured in port casks for a period of time and bottled at 43%. Cyril explained a nosing of grapes, apricots and bananas. A taste of toasted orange, toffee and cinnamon with a lingering finish of butterscotch sweetness.

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The pour c/othewhiskeynut

Invited to raise a glass for ourselves – I got a rich nosing. A satisfying mouthfeel with only a hint of the port finish together with a pleasantly warming finish. Not bad at all!

Available only at The Galway Whiskey Trail outlets this expression is the proud achievement of the hard work and dedication all the venues have put into the project. It’s a worthy whiskey to take that passion into a shared experience by those who go on the trail and sample it’s delights.

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The trail and it’s whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Whilst many of us went on board the ferry as strangers. We were warmly greeted by the hosts and encouraged by a shared enjoyment of the stunning landscapes, warm sunshine, convivial company, entertaining music, fine food and excellent whiskey into a family of friends by the time we disembarked.

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Galway Bay and it’s whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

To me it encapsulates what whiskey drinking is all about – and what I felt on The Galway Whiskey Trail back on a cold dreary January day earlier this year.

It’s not just about the whiskey.

It’s about the people you share that whiskey with.

The craic and divilment that flows from drinking the whiskey.

The places and characters you meet along the way.

Whiskey is a journey.

I’m glad I made that journey on Galway Bay.

And I’m glad the people behind The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey made it all possible for me to share that journey with them.

 

My thanks to all the wonderful people who made the whole event a beautiful evening.

Slainte

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World Whiskey Day in Tullamore

Yeah!

It’s World Whisky Day. Or really the end of it as I’m posting this blog after my Tullamore Town Whiskey Walk event. Conveniently this leads to my musical interlude.

The journey began last year when I first became aware of World Whisky Day and thought – ‘Now I should do something for that day’. This led to me scrambling around finding a printer open on Friday night to laminate my hastily prepared posters – writing out a basic script for the day and posting some last minute social media posts.

My choice of venue happened during the course of the year. Doing blogs on Whiskey Bars meant I eventually found some much closer to home than I had previously known. Couple this with an award winning whiskey visitors attraction in the shape of Tullarmore DEW Visitors Centre – some whiskey art – architecture and history and the die was set.

2pm on World Whisky Day found me at Bury Quay anxiously waiting for people to turn up.

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Bury Quay, Tullamore c/othewhiskeynut

We were greeted warmly by Shane who invited us in to a complimentary showing of the Tullamore DEW introductory video in the auditorium along with a glass of Tullamore DEW Original to get the day started!

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Tullamore DEW Original c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop

Suitably warmed up despite the rather showery weather outside we made the short walk along the Grand Canal – which reached Tullamore in 1798 and aided the economic success of the brewing and distilling industry of the town – to our first whiskey bar of the day – Hugh Lynch’s.

A hard to find discontinued expression was chosen as drink of choice in this bar to demonstrate the fact good whiskey bars operate almost as whiskey libraries in that they stock many a bottle both old  – new and potentially exclusive.

Tullamore DEW’s Black 43 went down well with the gathered clan of whiskey friends. It also demonstrated what an additional 11 months in sherry cask can add to a whiskey.

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Black 43 @ Hugh Lynch’s c/othewhiskeynut

Onwards into town we went. Pausing to view the remnants of the original B. Daly 1829 distillery along with the wonderfully restored gates and Master Distillers Offices across the road.

Bob Smyths pub sits handily beside the Tullamore Distillery gates. It was once owned by Michael Molloy – who established the distillery – so despite not being a whiskey bar – we popped in for a glass of Paddy to acknowledge the brands sale to Sazerac.

Bob Smyths Bar by David Wilson
Bob Smyths Bar & Distillery gates c/oDWilson

Our next stop proved rather more contentious. Back in 1910 the large brewing, malting, bottling and general wholesellers of P&H Egan built what is now The Bridge House Hotel. Descendants of that family released Egan’s Irish Whiskey a few years ago but sadly it isn’t yet stocked at the bar.

We handed a short plea to the management of the hotel to please remedy this situation so Egan’s Irish Whiskey can be enjoyed in it’s true home. By a democratic vote the whiskey walk participants unanimously agreed to bypass this venue in favour of somewhere that did serve Egan’s.

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Bring Egan’s Irish Whiskey Home plea c/othewhiskeynut

Thankfully we didn’t have to walk far as one bar that does have Egan’s Irish Whiskey is the lovely Brewery Tap on Bridge Street where landlord Paul offered us a discount on the day to enjoy a glass of the lovely rich 10 year old single malt and toast to the future success of the Egan family.

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Egan’s in the hand c/othewhiskeynut

One inquisitive member of the party suggested Egan’s was just a similar bottling to Tyrconnell – also a single malt – so a glass duly arrived for a taste comparison.

Another unanimous decision was reached. Tyrconnell is a smoother slightly more tasty whiskey than Egan’s. It must be stated however that both these expressions were far superiour to the blends we’d been having up to this point.

Back out on the streets our numbers began to diminish due to time constraints. A visit to the whiskey sculpture Pot Stills in Market Square was abandoned. Commissioned by Tullamore Town Council in recognition of the role the distilling trade had in prospering the town. The 3 pots were sculptor Eileen MacDonagh’s interpretation of the gleaming copper stills that currently produce the distillate which goes on to make whiskey in the new Tullamore Distillery on the outskirts of town as well as those at Kilbeggan Distillery only a 10 minute drive from here.

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Whiskey sculpture in Tullamore c/othewhiskeynut

Market Square is also the site of a short-lived distillery built by  Mr Manley which closed early in the 1800’s. However there are many fine building which previously housed the large malting trade Tullamore was famous for. Malt left Tullamore by barge to supply many a famous brewery and distillery in Dublin. These malt stores are now apartments’ shops and offices but you can imagine the hive of industry that once frequented the canal harbour in times gone.

Our last port of call was Kelly’s Bar  just down the road from the Visitors Centre where we began. Kelly’s have a wide and varied range of fine whiskeys on offer so various expressions were tasted by several fellow whiskey walkers and opinions exchanged as to the merits – or lack off depending to individual taste – of the drams tried.

Our sole Scotch of the day – in recognition that Tullamore DEW is now owned by a Scottish firm – came via a 16 year old Lagavulin.  Very tasty it was too.

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Lagavulin 16 c/othewhiskeynut

Eugene the landlord had actually got this whisky in for one of his regular customers. Now that’s an example of a fine whiskey bar!

My thanks go out to all the fellow whiskey walkers who joined me in celebrating World Whisky Day. The publicans, bar staff and the Tullamore DEW  Visitors Centre crew who made today a reality in giving generously of their time – and some whiskey too!

Thanks also to the Tullamore Tribune who publicised  the event and sent down a reporter to take pictures and report on the days proceedings.

Oh!

My highlight of the day?

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An original bottle of B.Daly whiskey! c/othewhiskeynut

May the road rise with you.

Slainte

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