It’s always nice after being away for a short while to come home to an unexpected surprise. Especially when that surprise involves a new Irish whiskey!
Sean’s Bar in Athlone is firmly on the tourist trail.
As the oldest bar in Ireland – and possibly the world depending on your sources – mainly due to the old wattle & wicker wall contained within the bar’s structure – it has a steady stream of tourists, revellers & locals entering it’s doors.
Being one of my local bars it’s simply a short walk across the mighty River Shannon for me to enjoy the dimly lit snug like main bar as well as the extensive outside back bar which are often both crowded on a weekend.
Sean’s never had an extensive whiskey range – the usual suspects were to be had; Jameson, Bushmills, Tullamore, Connemara & the Pogues for example – but recently that has all changed.
Sean’s Bar Blended Whiskey has just been released & is available exclusively in the bar either by the glass or the full bottle if you desire.
I popped down on a damp Sunday afternoon to try it out.
Now I wasn’t expecting much from an entry level standard blend.
It has that caramalised nose feel and initially the taste is rather soft & mildly sweet. Very approachable & easy however.
What raises this whiskey slightly above the rest for me is a welcome warming spiciness on the finish – very reminiscent of a Powers Gold Blend.
Produced by West Cork Distillers on a limited run. Packaged in an attractive label with a bit of history on the back. It’s a good excuse as any to give Sean’s a visit!
Get in touch if you do – I might just join you for one!
It holds a certain draw for the both of us ever since we stumbled upon the event whilst up visiting friends & family.
Nestled as it is in the picturesque & historic fishing village of Pittenweem in the East Neuk Of Fife about an hours drive from Edinburgh – which is visible on a good day across the Firth Of Forth from the harbour walls.
Strolling through the numerous venues my eye was drawn by all the whiskey & beer connections within the varied art on display. Scotland after all is the world’s top whisky producing nation as well as having some fine beers.
A new venue for the festival opened this year just a short drive up the road from the village in a place called Ovenstone. Formerly a tractor showroom, the space is now the home to Ovenstone 109 Brewery – the East Neuk’s newest craft brewery!
For the duration of the festival there was a rich diversity of art on display – paintings, jewelry, sculpture & for my delight – craft beer. Well isn’t brewing an art?
I got chatting to Nick – the man behind the brewery – and the video above – and sampled his dark IPA beer. Now I have to admit IPA isn’t my style – but it was crisp, fresh & hoppy & went down well. It was so fresh it hadn’t even been bottled or canned such was the rush to get it out for the festival. I certainly look forward to developments in the years to come.
Back in Pittenweem itself we made our way to the harbour area & the always amusing and entertainingly attractive ceramic designs of Craig Mitchell. One of his pieces caught my eye.
I’ve seen some micro distilleries in my time – but this one perched on the back of a scooter definitely takes it to a different level.
Just don’t drink & drive kids. It’s not big & it’s not clever – ceramic man might fall to pieces!
A little further along the shore Susan McGill had a stunning larger than life modern interpretation of the popular Oor Wullie cartoon character.
I just had to go in for a closer look!
Some of the intricate design work seemed familiar – then it dawned on me – that lovely bottle of dark, malty & heavy Scotch Ale I had the other night from the St Andrews Brewing Co?
Not only does Susan do the artwork for the brewery’s lovely range of beers – she has also collaborated with independent whisky bottlers D R Scotch Whisky to release Ae Fond Kiss. A whisky celebrating the writings of Scotland’s favourite national poet – Rabbie Burns.
And if you were in the market for some glasses to drink that whisky with – glass blower Elin Isaksson just happened to have a pair of hand blown chunky whisky glasses for the job. As well as her own whisky pairing to boot!
I didn’t indulge on this occasion – but all this art was making me thirsty. So we repaired to the nearby West End Bar for a display of the art of distillation!
Bowmore 12 won out in this contest.
I was expecting a peatier punch from this Islay single malt. What I got was a smooth, lightly smoky, sweetly sherried approachable dram. More of a kiss from Bowmore!
If you haven’t been to the Pittenweem Arts Festival before – do visit.
1 – Caribou, a four legged animal prone to herding during annual migrations across it’s North American range. Mainly eats lichens.
2 – Caribou, a recently opened bar in the Wood Quay area of Galway that stocks an amazing array of craft beers, gins & whiskeys.
Pick your poison.
a) Craft Beer as in Commotion Lotion.
A delightfully fruity easy summer drinking lager from the Wexford based Yellow Belly Beer in collaboration with pop punksters King Kong Company.
b) Whisky as in Scapa Skiren.
A sweet, smooth honey laden single malt from the Orkney Islands in the far north of Scotland.
Throw in a hard working yet friendly & informative bar crew.
Fill with an eclectic mix of;
i – Herds of bearded hipsters gathering – like the aforementioned Caribou – to graze on the amber nectar of craft beers along with their tattooed love birds.
ii – Whiskey geeks discussing the merits of non-chilled filtration & the de-merits of added caramel whilst sniffing, nosing & actually getting round to drinking the expressions before them!
iii – Music fans chilling out to the funky tunes played on the sound system contrasting the perfectly professional yet perfunctory performance of Radiohead at Glastonbury with the wild youthful exuberance of Otherkin at Slane.
Finish with a solid wooden bar filled with craft beer taps, comfortable tables, chairs & the odd sofa to relax in, board games to play with & a lovely floral display outside.
I choose Caribou – the bar.
I choose to sample both poisons – and more from an excellent range.
I choose to go back after my first visit on the ‘Hit The North‘ whiskey distillery tour.
I choose to be that whiskey geek accompanied by the music maestro enjoying the best Caribou has to offer.
I got fierce excited about a 138 million euro proposal to develop a whiskey maturation & filling facility near the village of Moyvore – only a half hour from my home in Westmeath.
It’s the less ‘sexy’ side of the whiskey industry whose main attractions are the actual distilleries with their gleaming copper pot stills.
Whiskey maturation warehouses are simply that – warehouses – but they do smell nice with all that wood & slow release of whiskey to the angel’s share!
Project Vault plans to offer a service to Irish whiskey distilleries whereby the clear new make spirit is transferred to Moyvore – probably by road tanker – carefully filled into wooden casks and then put on the shelves for the minimum 3 years period to slowly take in all the tastes, flavours & colours of the wood before it becomes that fabulous brown spirit I love – whiskey.
Most of the new whiskey distilleries that are currently being built have no storage facilities on site.
The current Dublin distilleries of Teeling, Pearse Lyons, Diageo & Dublin Liberties have no choice. Ever since the infamous 1875 Liberties whiskey fire – no whiskey has been allowed to mature within the confines of Dublin City.
The established distilleries of Bushmills & Midleton are currently expanding their storage capacity on lands adjacent to or nearby their present sites.
Westmeath’s own Kilbeggan Distillery – along with it’s sister Cooley Distillery in Co. Louth – now owned by US giant Brown-Forman is also running out of space due to the increased demand for Irish whiskey throughout the world.
It’s this demand and welcome worldwide growth in Irish whiskey sales that local businessman Alan Wright is trying to satisfy in developing this much needed facility in his home county of Westmeath.
A public meeting to discuss the proposal was recently held in the St Oliver’s Community Centre in Moyvore itself. Excited to hear what the full plans were – I went along.
Cars were strung along the R392 road as the community hall was filled by over 100 local residents. On the top table were Alan Wright himself flanked by Robert Allen – a structural/civil engineer with 35 years experience who works with Allen Barber Ltd engineers who have been commissioned to design & build the facility – and Dr George Smith – an eminent ecologist with Blackthorn Ecology who will be overseeing the environmental impact of the development & it’s ongoing lifespan.
I must confess to bumping into Dr Smith on a number of occasions. The most recent being engaged on an environmental BioBlitz on the beautiful Clare Island where despite the frenzied wildlife finding activities, time was found to enjoy a few whiskeys in the fabulous Sailors Bar!
A short video introduced the project to us.
It laid out the rise of Irish whiskey & the need for more maturation sites. The process by which the site at Moyvore was chosen over & above about a dozen other sites around Ireland. – It should be noted here that to be labelled as Irish Whiskey the spirit has to be both distilled AND matured on the Island of Ireland. – The various land surveys, ecological surveys, transport links & other health & safety requirements that had to be met before even the first sod of turf could be turned on the site. How the developers wanted to work with the local community in allaying any fears or worries about the project & how they wished to consult over any issues that could arise during any phase of the plan.
I considered the presentation a rather thorough explanation as to what was planned, what had been done to date & what would be done in the future to ensure the safe operation of the site for both the workers within, the wider community around and the bio-diversity of the habitat too.
From the outset it became clear the mood was decidedly negative.
Speaker after speaker after speaker voiced their fears about how the development was a threat to the community. Issues were raised over the risk of fire & explosion, increased traffic problems, the threat of black fungus & even a potential terrorist target!
The top table calmly & clearly attempted to explain the actions they had instituted to allay theses issues. Mr Allen said that the safety requirements in the building far exceeded those of the recent American explosion & that a large water storage tank on site to feed a water sprinkling system would extinguish any potential fire within thirty minutes.
The mere mention of a large water storage tank in turn prompted fears of flooding.
Dr Smith outlined they were aware of the black fungus – or angel’s share fungus – which is a particular type of fungus common to distillery sites which creates dis-colouration on nearby vegetation & buildings. There wasn’t much actual research on this species – and certainly I think the whiskey industry ought to do more – but that a planned 100 to 150 metre zone within the site would be planted with a ring of trees to prevent any outbreak from reaching close neighbours.
None of the comments seemed to appease the angry & clearly passionate opposition.
I was taken aback!
No one seemed to think of the increased opportunities for jobs created by such a venture especially given that nearby Longford has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.
No one seemed to see the potential tourist development given the nearby Center Parcs site as well as the 40,000 people that visited the Kilbeggan Distillery – that would certainly be a boost to McCawley’s, the only pub & shop in the town!
No one seemed to comment on the growing spend of the Irish whiskey industry both directly & indirectly into the Irish economy of up to 45 million per annum . Maybe some of that money could be used to improve the local roads.
When one of the commentators mentioned there would be no jobs for locals I just had to butt in.
‘I live only a half hour away & I’m a fully qualified haz-chem driver & I’d love to drive a tanker of whiskey up and down the local roads.
Irish whiskey is a growing & well respected product throughout the world. Having such a facility in Moyvore would put it on the world map & lead to a growing tourist industry.
I’m fully in favour of the development.’
Or words to that effect.
Unexpectedly I received a round of applause – almost as loud as that garnished by opponents to the scheme. At the end of the day I was the only person from the floor to voice a positive attitude to the development.
Clearly Project Vault have a hard job to do to convince a divided community of the merits of such a development within their midst. The meeting was certainly an eye-opener to me of all the hard work that often goes on unseen to build the infrastructure that produces the liquid I so enjoy.
I hope Project Vault gets the go ahead.
Irish Whiskey used to be number 1 in the world in terms of sales & quality up to the early 1900’s.
It has the potential to win back that title in the future.
Moyvore is an essential part of that future and I wish all those involved future success.
I should point out I’m an independent blogger passionate about all things whiskey.
All views are my own and I am not connected in any way to the proposers of this plan nor the whiskey industry in general.
The residents of Moyvore have voiced legitimate concerns that I feel can be addressed by the Project Vault team in whom I credit a degree of trust & faith that they can deliver a state of the art facility that is safe, clean and efficient both for the needs of the whiskey industry and the nearby communities.
The Chapel Gates I’m referring to are not the ones in the song of emigration & belonging.
I worship a different kind of spirit.
It too travels all over the world – yet also has a belonging. A place called home – from where it was born – and where all those imbued relationships & history can be awoken by taking a relaxing drink of the noble liquid.
Founder Louise McGuane – like many other Clare folks – left her homeland to seek a career. Now she has returned to the family farm & resurrected the old Irish tradition of whiskey bonding by naming her soon to be released blended whiskey after local grocers J.J. Corry.
An advert for the original – now long defunct – grocers still hangs proudly in the lovely local Crotty’s Pub in Kilrush.
Mrs Whiskey and myself took a trip down to Cooraclare to drop off a few items – and in return received a guided tour of the premises & generous sampling of some whiskey casks.
Whiskey bonding used to be the normal way the brown spirit travelled from the distilleries to the consumer.
Distilleries would sell the spirit to the bonder – usually a grocer – who would then mature that spirit in casks of their own choosing before blending & bottling the results under their own brand names for the ultimate satisfaction of the drinker.
Louise has been quietly buying up her stocks of whiskey for the last few years. Some of it came already casked & others she filled in casks sourced by herself through contacts built up over many years in the drinks industry.
My first sample was from one of those casks.
New make spirit – Louise has & is buying new make from a number of new Irish distilleries – was put into a ‘juicy’ 1st fill bourbon barrel for 1 year. After removing the bung & using a valinch – or whiskey thief – to transfer some of the softly golden liquid into a glass I took a sniff.
At 63% this was powerful stuff indeed. Yet the the rich vanilla & caramel notes from the bourbon cask came through clearly & the overall experience immediately captivated me.
It was certainly youthful & punchy – but there was no nasty burn or smell of rotten fruit I associate with new make spirit – and I’d have bought a bottle as it is. But as 3 years is the minimum age for whiskey in Ireland – it will have to mature for another 2 years. This will alter that initial hit of sweet vanilla & honey with more woody & balanced notes that longer maturation develops – for a bit of explanation read here.
We then moved onto a single grain cask. I got my chance to pull out the bung & fill the glass but compared to Louise’s easy looking example earlier – I broke the bung & left a lot of the precious liquid for the angels to share before getting it in the glass.
The single grain was an altogether softer, fruitier & more balanced tipple still with a healthy bourbon barrel flavour flowing through it. Even Mrs Whiskey enjoyed this one!
On the other side of the rackhouse were some more mature barrels.
An 18 year old aged & worn looking sherry hogshead produced a very fine well balanced mature sherry single cask whiskey – a bit too well defined for my tastes – although Louise said this was one of her favourites. She did profess to knowing the flavour profile of each and every single one of the casks in the shed individually & had even developed a relationship with them all. She would find it hard to part with them for her upcoming Gael blending session the very next day!
My final tasting was from an ex-Bushmills cask acquired from John Teeling at GND in Dundalk. At 26 years old the exact history of the cask was unknown – but clearly peat had played a part as that familiar waft of smokiness made it’s presence felt even before the sample entered the tasting glass.
Rich, warm & well balanced. The soft smokiness never dominated the more subtle flavours yet left a wonderfully long finish on this fabulous malt.
Unlike the brashness of the youthful 1 year old which enthralled me with it’s loud delivery of a few notes – this 26 year old gently developed a full orchestra of flavours to amuse & entertain my palate.
Like the fabulous spirit – the building which contain the casks is a combination of old & new materials uniting to create a thoroughly modern example of an old tradition.
The nearby visitors reception & office are still being finalised from the old cattle sheds of the farm by using the original walls & fittings yet containing up to date facilities & warm hospitality.
The energy, drive, enthusiasm & above all passion for whiskey which Louise exhibits is clearly evident in her ability to create such a wonderful facility in the beautiful Clare countryside of her birth. At times it has been an up-hill struggle to almost re-invent the wheel of whiskey bonding that once was such an intrinsic part of the industry. The current generation of tax inspectors, coopers, blenders & bottlers, town planners & developers are re-learning the skills of a generation that went before.
When JJ Corry The Gael is eventually released in September – it too will encapsulate all that lost history, taste & sense of belonging.
After having had the opportunity to sample some of the raw ingredients – I’m sure it will be a stunner.
The limited run of 7,000 bottles will be non-chill filtered with no added caramel & presented at 46%. Most of the run is destined for America – with limited release to some choice outlets in Ireland.
I suggest you secure your bottle now – it won’t hang around for long!
My thanks to Louise McGuane for her hospitality in showing us round the rackhouse & generous samples.
We wish all at Chapel Gate Whiskey future success.
The last day of the Irish Whiskey Distilleries Tour started off a bit groggy as we made our way East along the M6 motorway to the oldest working whiskey distillery in the world – Kilbeggan Distillery.
Kilbeggan happens to be my local distillery so I have some attachment to it. Like a lot of Irish distilleries it has had a colourful past which you may wish to explore – but we took the Apprentice Tour with our cheerful guide Rebecca to explain all that to us.
Now owned by Beam/Suntory the distillery houses the old water wheel, working steam engine, micro distillery as well as maturing stocks in a nearby warehouse on the banks of the River Brosna. It makes for a very pretty attraction.
The core brands are the self named Kilbeggan, Tyrconnell, Locke’s & Connemara peated whiskey – just to break the myth that only Scotch is peated. Most are actually distilled in the sister Cooley Distillery with Kilbeggan’s small output ending up as part of the blends.
I wasn’t expecting any surprises on the tour having taken it before a few times – but when it came to the tasting, the Kilbeggan Single Grain looked distinctly different.
Not only has it been re-labelled – it’s had a re-make!
Now boasting some sherry finish influence & boosted to a 43% ABV. From the small sample I tasted I’d give it the thumbs up.
Tyrconnell also had a new label – although we were assured the single malt within is to the same recipe.
Kilbeggan happens to have a bar on the premises where the tastings are conducted – but it is also open to the public. Distillery exclusives can always be picked up here even if you don’t do the tour – which is handy – but as it was a Sunday when we visited the bar didn’t open until noon. So we pressed on.
Dublin was our last port of call. Specifically the Liberties area of the city which is fast becoming a mecca for the whiskey industry it once was in the past.
Teeling Distillery on Newmarket Square is leading this revival having opened in 2015. The founders Jack & Stephen Teeling – the sons of the aforementioned John Teeling who just happened to be visiting on the day we called! – are now carving out their own way in the whiskey world.
Teeling is currently the only working distillery in Dublin. The tour immerses you in the rich history, sights, sounds & smells of the vibrant whiskey making process together with some tasty samples of all that hard work in the trendy Bang Bang bar on the second floor. It’s fast becoming a must see attraction & advanced booking is advised to avoid disappointment.
In head distiller Alex Chasko, Teeling have a very innovative person who has released a wide range of award winning whiskeys under the Teeling brand. As yet they are all sourced from other distilleries – but the Spirit Of Dublin Poitin is interesting as the spice from the malted & unmalted mash-bill comes through on the triple distilled spirit. A company to look out for.
The last three distilleries are all in varying degrees of completion. All are in the historic Liberties area within 5 minutes of Teeling.
The Dublin Liberties Distillery is only a short walk to the rear of Teeling Distillery. In the safe hands of master distiller Darryl McNally – who spent many years in Diageo’s Bushmills learning his craft – they have released the Dubliner Irish Whiskey range along with the Oak Devil & Cooper Ally expressions. Building works are now in progress at the site.
One distillery whose building work is almost complete is the Pearse Lyons Distillery on Thomas Street. Pearse is the Dublin born founder of Alltech who has the money to indulge his dream of opening his own whiskey distillery – in a former church no less! The plan is to release an Irish single malt. Alltech already have the Town Branch Distillery in Lexington KY who have released a range of bourbon, single malt & rye whiskeys for your pleasure. I must admit to having a soft spot for the Town Branch Rye.
Also on Thomas Street Diageo themselves – after an absence of a few years post their Bushmills sale to Cuervo – are back in the Irish whiskey scene with plans to redevelop the old Guinness Power Station. I happily got invited to their launch night a while ago & enjoyed the Roe & Co blend released in advance of the distillery being built.
Talking about Roe & Co – who remembers George Roe & Co? At the time one of the largest & most popular whiskey distilleries in the world based in the heart of Dublin. He wrote a book railng against the rise of ‘silent spirit’ as produced by the newly invented Coffey Still.
I wonder what he would have made of the modern whiskey industry – built as it is on the back of that ‘silent spirit’ in the manufacturing of what we now call blended whiskey. Especially when his name is being used for one of those blended whiskeys.
Sorry to say George Roe’s fortune declined in the early 1900’s as blended whiskey rose & the distillery is no more.
All that is left is the old windmill.
A testament to the foibles, follies, fortunes & mis-fortunes of whiskey making.
An apt way to end our Irish Whiskey Distilleries Tour.
We’d actually been on the Wild Atlantic Way since Derry – and the sea views from the North Mayo coast road raised our spirits in the early morning light.
But to begin with we ventured on a little detour!
Whilst in the bar the previous evening tales were told of a distillery in Sligo. We drove to the site in Hazelwood House but found little to confirm nor deny those tales. An internet search did reveal planning permission had been granted in 2016 – so if anyone has more information then please get in touch!
Our first planned visit meanwhile was Connacht Distillery in Ballina. A guided tour of the recently opened & fabulous looking shiny new facility by the banks of the River Moy had been arranged. Lyndsey kindly agreed to an early start to show us round the gleaming pot stills & lovely wooden lined tasting room of the spacious site. Like most new distilleries Connacht have a range of sourced products they sell until their own actual spirit is flowing.
Interestingly one of the freshly filled barrels of Connacht new make single malt recently made it’s way over to the beautiful scenery of Clare Island to quietly see out it’s maturation time in the stunning coastal location there. No doubt a large party will be in order when that barrel is finally bottled!
The Straw Boys Poitin – which is now Connacht’s own spirit – & Spade & Bushel Single Malt made an impact this early in the day – but what interested me was the Brothership Irish-American Whiskey. It’s a blend of 10 year old American rye whiskey with similarly aged Irish whiskey and is one of many new expressions currently going down this hybrid whiskey style to either much applause – or disdain.
Personally I think it’s a great idea & has sold out fast! I managed to get my hands on the last bottle before a new label adorns the expression to comply with Irish whiskey regulations. The rye certainly comes through in the mix which pleased me no end.
Only a short drive down the road is Nephin Distilery. Nestled in the pretty village of Lahardaun under the towering bulk of Nephin mountain, Nephin Whiskey have chosen not to release any spirit until their own peated single malt is matured. Using locally grown barley & locally sourced peat – or turf as it’s called in Ireland – this will be a malt with some terroir. My name is already down on the list for the Reserved First Bottles offer!
Nephin have very ambitious & well thought out plans for an attractive distillery in the town along with a malting floor too! Wonderful news. The site is empty at present but everything is going according to plan for this forward looking company. Construction is due soon & expected to be complete by 2018. More power to them.
A long drive through counties Mayo & Galway was eased by the stunning scenery – as well local lads Saw Doctors singing their songs on the car stereo.
The busy crowds of Galway City slowed down our progress as we made our way to the home of Micil Poitin in the popular spot of Salthill.
The enthusiastic founder Pádraic Ó Griallais met us in his micro distillery behind the Oslo Bar where just like his ancestors, Pádraic makes 100% Irish grain Poitin infused with locally sourced bogbean botanicals. The results are a soft, smooth yet slightly spicy refreshing drink which is often used as a base for cocktails.
He also hoped to do a gin soon – and whiskey was on the cards too! But the timescale wasn’t finalised. Nonetheless his Micil Poitin went down very smoothly. We even sampled a taster at 80% which despite my initial misgivings actually proved to be quite palatable. You could still taste the attractive flavour through the powerful alcoholic kick!
The Oslo Bar is also the original home of Galway Bay Brewery – who have since moved onto larger premises in Ballybrit – and is a lovely gastropub serving delicious food & snacks on the popular Salthill promenade which was thronged with folks enjoying the wonderful sunshine.
Later on in the evening we also ventured out into the sunshine on the famous Galway Whiskey Trail to sample the Galway Bay Irish Whiskey that is only available in the 10 pubs & 1 off-licence that make up the trail. We settled on Freeny’s in the end with it’s marvelous selection of Irish whiskey on display.
Being Saturday night the bars were packed with revellers – but we did find space in the newly opened Caribou bar who stocked an impressive array of craft beers, gins & whiskeys. I couldn’t resist a can of Commotion Lotion. A collaboration between pop act King Kong Company & YellowBelly Beer. A tasty & fun beer to end the day!
Dram of the day?
The blended expression of Irish whiskey & American rye that is Brothership.
Day 2 of our Irish Whiskey Distilleries Tour dawned rather dull & grey as we continued our journey North to Bushmills Distillery.
Proclaiming to be the world’s oldest distillery with a license to distill from 1608 – living in Westmeath I know Kilbeggan Distillery is actually the oldest working distillery with a continuous license housed in the same building from 1757. The Bushmills Distillery we took the tour in today wasn’t built until 1784.
Regardless of the history, Bushmills is currently owned by Jose Cuervo and the distillery produces an excellent array of age statement single malts along with some pleasing blends. The highlight of hour long tour – which went through the history, manufacturing & maturing process as well as the all important tasting at the end – was undoubtedly entering the extremely hot working still room crammed tight with the stills full of soon to be fresh distillate! Demand is so great there are plans to double the capacity by building a new stillroom on the expansive site.
As this was the first distillery we visited that had their shop open a bottle of the 12 Year Old Distillery Reserve made it into the bag. A pleasant mainly sherry cask matured triple distilled malt presented at 40%
Oddly enough Bushmills malt is not peated unlike it’s nearest working distillery – Laphroaig on Islay – which is only a short sea crossing of 30 miles away or so. On a good day you can see the hills of Scotland from the nearby Giant’s Causeway coast. There is a new ferry service taking you on the short crossing if you wish called High Sea Spirits – now that would be an adventure!
As our car isn’t amphibious we took the road instead to Derry where Niche Drinks are building their Quiet Man Distillery in the former military barracks of Ebrington Square. We were kindly met by Ciaran Mulgrew – the managing director of Niche Drinks – who proudly showed us round the building site explaining how a modern & stylish distillery with an attractive visitors centre could be built within the old listed building and yet still retain it’s history & integrity. He also told some wonderful stories of how cross party alliances which straddled the former divided city came together to get the project off the ground. Very impressive.
What is also impressive is the award winning bar & restaurant that is Walled City Brewery handily adjacent to the distillery. Happily we had booked a tasty meal here & despite stocking Quiet Man whiskey – the allure of some tasty craft beer proved too much for some! Wonderful.
The sun came out as we made our way down to Sliabh Liag Distillery. Situated just inland from the impressive sea cliffs that it takes it’s name from. The actual distillery site hasn’t yet even started – but we were enthusiastically shown round by the highly informative & engaging founder James Doherty.
He comes with a wealth of experience from his years in the drinks industry & his stories of that career mirrored the seanachai traditions of Donegal – so we repaired to the local John The Miners Bar in Carrick where a glass of the Silkie blend awaited us. This sourced whiskey’s name recalls old stories of seals taking on human forms when ashore to befriend lonely menfolk – it certainly befriended us with it’s soft yet slightly spicy notes.
We could have stayed for longer – but a long drive through the stunning coastal scenery to our hotel for the night in Sligo beckoned.
A nightcap in Thomas Connolly’s Bar rounded off our extremely entertaining day covering the whiskey distilleries across the top of Ireland.
Dram of the day?
There wasn’t one to top the stories we heard from our day on the road & in the bar that evening!