I happened to be in Dublin myself that day – but as I (and a few other whiskey heads too) were busily judging the blended whiskey category for the upcoming Irish Whiskey Awards in another part of town – the alcohol took it’s toll on me and I was in no fit state for any distillery visit.
Luckily for me the next week provided a further opportunity in the single grain, single pot still & cask strength category judging at which I paced myself rather better with adequate water & food intake.
So by 4pm I happily had the chance to be shown round the week old distillery by the friendly & informative guide – sorry – storyteller – Bernard.
The distillery is highly unusual in that it is housed in an old church – complete with graveyard dating from the 1100’s!
Bernard himself did a sterling job exploring some of the many stories that make up both the past, present and future of the current whiskey distillery.
The stories continued inside the distillery building that had the wonderfully gleaming copper pot stills placed in the old alter area surrounded with stunning stained glass windows.
The pot stills themselves are a rather unusual design for Irish whiskey. To begin with there are only 2. Mighty Molly – the larger wash still and Little Lizzie – the spirit still – which along with the familiar bulbous pot also has a rectifying column on top.
Both were manufactured by Vendome in Louisville, Kentucky, where Pearse Lyons has his Town Branch Distillery. Interestingly, these stills were previously used in County Carlow to produce some of the whiskey that ended up in Pearse Whiskey blends – which we got to taste later in the all important sampling – where all good distillery tours finish – in tasting the actual produce.
Pearse Irish Whiskey comes in 4 styles & flavours – all presented at 42%
There are 3 blends. Blends are whiskeys that contain both grain whiskey and malt whiskey. 2 of the Pearse blends contain malt that has been made using the stills now situated in the former church.
The Original started off our introduction to the Pearse family whiskeys.
Aged in bourbon barrels for 3 to 5 years this light whiskey came across crisp & clear to me – very enjoyable & approachable – even after the single pot stills I’d enjoyed earlier in the day.
The Distiller’s Choice is also a blend using slightly older malt & grain components with final maturation in sherry casks. This gives the whiskey a slightly sweeter taste which I must admit didn’t wow me as much as The Original.
The final offering was the Founder’s Choice. A 12 year old single malt from an un-named source. This also had the fairly soft, light & approachable character of an Irish bourbon cask matured single malt.
By now I was chatting with fellow distillery tourists to find out which expressions they enjoyed. We did ask about the last bottle – the Cooper’s Select – and despite being on sale in the distillery – it wasn’t offered for tasting.
A plan was hatched. My new whiskey buddies – a young American & an English couple would meet there after our distillery purchases.
Now McCann’s is currently hidden behind scaffolding & hoardings as the whole block is undergoing renovation as part of the Pearse Lyons Distillery project – I can’t wait to see the final result of the refurbishment to this fine old bar,
Inside were a large crowd of regulars enjoying the craic & watching the late afternoon sport on the telly. My new american friend was already enjoying a Guinness – well the brewery is just next door! – but I insisted on ordering some Cooper’s Choice.
Cooper’s Choice is an aged blend matured in bourbon barrels with final maturation in sherry casks. It’s also a sourced whiskey while Pearse Lyons own distillate is quietly resting in wooden barrels.
I really enjoyed this one. As did my friend who was now joined by the English couple.
Spotting the bar also stocked the output from Pearse’s Town Branch Distillery I couldn’t resist the Town Branch Rye.
At 50% it delivers that powerful peppery spice kick on both the nose & mouth that I simply can’t get enough of – big, bad, beautiful & bold. Lovely!
Meanwhile one of the chatty locals insisted we had some traditional Irish whiskey – so a glass of Paddy’s it was.
Yes it was smooth & easy – but it lacked the full blown character & hit of the rye we just tried previously.
I could have stayed longer – but I had a train to catch – so made my way to the station with just enough time to grab an Iarnród Éireann cup of tea & sandwich to sober up.
Whiskey for me is a journey of discovery.
I discovered a lovely new Irish whiskey distillery along with some beautiful new expressions – and hopefully led others to discover more too.
Produced by West Cork Distillers for a 3rd party – this whiskey is a blend of Irish single malts & grain whiskey aged in ex-bourbon barrels before being finished in ex-rye casks from Tamworth Distilling, NH.
An American rye whiskey made with predominately american rye grain in charred virgin oak barrels by the FEW Distillery, Evanstown, Chicago.
I like to see a variation in the colour of the whiskeys I drink. It foretells of the different smells, flavours & overall drinking experiences to be enjoyed.
FEW came out the darkest – reflecting the use of charred virgin oak casks. There was a jump down then to the paler duo of PrizeFight & Brothership with Sunken Still coming in with an almost pale yellowy hue.
Brothership kicks off with a soft barley sweetness before developing muted rye spice. PrizeFight comes across with a more fresher, clearer nose & an equally enjoyable spice. Sunken Still has a wonderfully aromatic floral bouquet whilst FEW delivers a classic peppery rye punch.
The soft smooth delivery of Brothership quickly develops into a lovely rich dry spice. PrizeFight has a cleaner palate with a slightly less intense rye spice.
Meanwhile the Sunken Still’s fragrant bouquet flows through into a wonderful cornucopia of taste on the tongue with a rich dry spice that is simply divine. Beautiful.
The FEW doesn’t disappoint either. To start there is that caramel/vanilla bourbon like feel followed by an almost classic rich peppery spice that tingles & teases as it drys the palate.
PrizeFight’s lovely spice fades slowly, only marginally beaten by the warmer, drier spice of Brothership. FEW lasts the longest whilst Sunken Still manages that dry floral spice right to the end.
What stands out to me is that whilst having no rye grain in the original mix – the rich dry spicy notes of a decent rye whiskey still come through in the PrizeFight whiskey simply by it’s time in the ex-rye casks. It may lack the overall dry mouthfeel of a true rye – but it certainly makes a worthy addition to the rye cannon.
Brothership benefits by the addition of a real rye whiskey in the mix which heightens the rich dry rye spiciness on both the taste & finish which is not initially apparent on the sweet barely nose.
The FEW could almost set the benchmark of what a good rye whiskey should be. A straight forward crisp peppery spice with a marvelously long dry finish. Superb.
Sunken Still adds something extra to that dry spice by giving it a floral display of flavours.
For taking rye whiskey the extra mile – Sunken Still from Belgium comes out tops in this taste-off.
FEW from America comes in a close second
The Irish-American hybrid that is Brothership follows closely behind – leaving Ireland’s PrizeFight bringing up the rear.
I would commend PrizeFight for being able to hold it’s own among such worthy competition in that they all contain rye in their original mix.
It just goes to prove the powerful influence the maturation in wood has to the overall taste.
Flying in from a town whose tallest building is the 12 story Sheraton Hotel – staying in a 9th floor hotel room held a certain appeal.
Sadly the views I expected were obscured by even larger skyscrapers that we couldn’t see the tops of despite craning our necks through the permanently closed bedroom window.
Welcome to New York!
I still harboured high hopes for the hotel’s 14th floor roof top bar – Vu Bar – quietly enjoying a few drinks with a panoramic view of downtown NY below.
A cold blustery windswept veranda overlooked by even taller buildings was the reality. Well – it was March – and the building that dominated all – including our bedroom window vista – was in fact the Empire State Building!
The bar had a lovely collection of whiskey to sample however & a friendly bartender in Emilio.
I started with Maker’s Mark 46. It’s a mainly corn based bourbon with some wheat & barley in the mash bill which imparts a relatively soft, smooth & sweet overall experience to the taste despite it’s 47% strength. It goes down very easily – but didn’t really do anything for me & my penchant for bolder flavours. It definitely is a better dram than the standard Maker’s Mark which I tasted earlier on in the day though.
The darker colouring & slight dry spice on the nose indicated a high rye content in this 50% bourbon which was much more agreeable to my tastes.
Emilio mentioned a sister bar on the opposite side of the street – so the next evening after a busy day sightseeing & an enjoyable tasty meal washed down by the amusingly named Kloud lager – which had a lovely malty flavour – in a local Korean restaurant – we headed up to the 17th floor Cloud Social bar.
The views were far more impressive from up here. It would certainly make for a cool place to hang out on a warm summers day – but with temperatures below zero & a light dusting of snow it was back into the bar area for some warming whiskeys after a few snaps.
Again I was pleasantly surprised by the array of whiskeys before me. One that took my eye was Lot 40.
Now I’d heard great things about this Canadian Rye so on spotting a bottle I just had to try it.
Soft ,sweet, hardly any spice. A very smooth easy drinking bourbon style of whiskey.
Not what I was expecting at all from this 43% rye. What I experienced bore no resemblance to the reviews I read before or after – so I just don’t know.
To counteract my disappointment I went for a Knob Creek Rye.
The full on rich dry peppery spice bowled me over after my previous drink. In fact it was almost overwhelming after the soft sweetness of Lot 40 as my palate struggled to come to terms with that lovely rye punch I crave in this full on 50% whiskey.
If anything – I think the Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon – with it’s initial rich vanilla & caramel notes flowing through to a lovely balanced rye spice – came out tops for the 4 whiskeys I tried out up in the clouds of New York’s rooftop bars!
I managed to get my hands on one of those new breed of ryes from Belgium via the marvelously named Drankenwereld online bottle shop. Despite the alleged openness of the European Union – it still took a few emails to arrange a safe & prompt delivery.
Sunken Still Rye Whisky is a 4 year old rye matured in bourbon barrels from the Filliers Distillery in Belgium who also do the Goldlys whisky range.
I found the nose to have a curious honey sweetness with a spice that reminded me of cinnamon – almost into liqueur territory here.
Mrs Whiskey adored the nose & likened it to perfume.
Luckily the taste was clearer with the dry rye spice punching through the soft sweetness to give a long lasting finish.
A pleasant & fragrant Belgian slant on the rye flavour profile.
Arriving in New York City after a 7 hour flight, the first thing on my mind was a taste of American whiskey – and what better place to satisfy that desire than the eponymously named American Whiskey bar at 247 W 30th St.
Now I have to admit we had to push our way through the heavy throng of very loud & cheery office workers who were enjoying a post work drink before we managed to find an empty table at the rear of the bar. Even here we had to almost shout to make ourselves heard above the din – but were attended to very quickly.
Not being sure what to taste from a very comprehensive whiskey list – and being unable to view the bar (which I normally like to do) because of the crowds – I chose the Rye: Winter 2017 flight.
The presentation of the 4 rye whiskeys in Glencairn glasses set in a thick wooden tray complete with a tasting note card with room to leave you’re own notes on impressed me very much.
As did the very tasty burger & brussels when it arrived too.
Something whiskey bars in Ireland should emulate.
On my flight – which changes with the seasons – were 4 different ryes. In American terms this means they all contained a minimum of 51% rye grain in their mashbills to be legally allowed to be called a rye.
Kicking off the evening was Sagamore Rye from Baltimore at 83 proof.
This is a sourced rye for a new distillery that is currently being built in downtown Baltimore. It’s a blend of a ‘high’ and ‘low’ rye cut with water from the owners farm in Maryland and aged for around 2 years.
I found it had a very welcome strong rye kick with that dry spice making itself felt prominently. It’s youthful exuberance was refreshing – though lacked finesse.
Despite being softer & sweeter – it did morph into a rich dry rye on tasting & had a wonderfully long lasting rye finish. Part of the Wild Turkey range.
The final tasting was Whistle Pig 10 Year Old Rye at 100 proof.
Again I was expecting more – but what I got was soft, smooth & sweet. There was a slight rye kick but it faded far to quickly for me.
For my initial foray into rye I found the full on youthful kick of rye from Sagamore won out over the more refined & balanced age statement offerings.
Russell’s came in 2nd closely followed by Whistle Pig & High West at the rear.
Meantime the burger was going down well & the crowds were beginning to thin a little so another drink was ordered.
What else could I finish on other than Hudson Manhattan Rye? As I was happily sat in a bar in Manhattan near the banks of the Hudson River itself.
This too proved to be a heavy youthful rye hitter which was refreshing – but a bit of me preferred the surprising spice from their Baby Bourbon expression mixed with that rich bourbon mouthfeel. Something I’ll have to explore in more detail later.
Thankfully it was only a short walk a few blocks away to our hotel on W 32nd St.
American Whiskey was certainly loud – but the whiskey & food inside definitely made it an enjoyable experience.
I wish I could say ‘I’ll be back.’ – but as it’s about 25 years from my last US visit – somehow I doubt it.
A collaborative team from the 11 venues of The Galway Whiskey Trail selected this Gold Medal winning 10 year old single malt made at West Cork Distillers to be sold on the trail. I thoroughly enjoyed my day on the trail during an otherwise dull January day.
The launch night itself in May aboard the Aran Islands ferry on the stunning Galway Bay with wonderful company & beautiful scenery certainly deserves a Whiskey Nut Award for the best new whiskey launch of the year!
I’m definitely looking forward to a growing list of whiskey trails around Ireland. Especially as the Irish Whiskey Association aims to be a world leader in whiskey tourism.
And perhaps some new whiskeys specific to each trail?
Brian Nation’s speech at the Irish Whiskey Awards in Tullamore highlighted innovation within the industry.
I had tears of joy when he mentioned Irish Distillers are currently growing 140ha of rye near Enniscorthy for potential use in recreating old John Jameson recipes uncovered by the archive department that included rye in the mix.
Later in the evening some whiskey friends from America were sharing a bottle of Emerald American Whiskey.
Well I say American Whiskey as that’s where it was produced and matured.
But the recipe is based on an 1865 Irish Whiskey recorded for posterity by a British excise agent and includes both malted and unmalted barley along with some oats & rye.
It tasted divine.
Not long after that I came across Prize Fight Irish Whiskey at Whiskey Live Dublin.
Another West Cork Distillers produced whiskey that has been finished in ex-rye barrels from Tamworth Distilling in New Hampshire.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much of the dry mouthfeel and rich spicy punch associated with a rye whiskey came through in this delightful blend. Wonderful!
To top it off Fionnan O’Connor wrote an excellent piece in the inaugural Irish Whiskey Magazine which delved in to the history of mash bills commonly used in Irish whisky production in the 1800’s and what do you know? Rye featured quite a bit to the extent that a certain Andrew Jameson went to the trouble of importing the grain as Irish sources were hard to come by .
My mouth is already watering in anticipation of future Irish rye releases.
My Australian adventure was ostensibly for a wedding but I used it to sample & taste as much Aussie whisky as I could come across on my travels.
The variety of styles, tastes & flavours had me enthralled.
Tasmania was undoubtedly the jewel in the crown. It’s home to a growing number of whiskey distilleries including Lark, Overeem, Hellyers Road and the wonderful Belgrove Distillery which produces some astounding rye whisky – well – what else would you expect? – combined with fabulous scenery, wildlife & fine dining.
The trend of countries not normally associated with whiskey production will continue as witnessed by Italy’s highly praised Puni Whisky.
My future holiday plans will always try and seek out new and exciting whiskey in whatever destination I end up in.
After a morning sampling Tasmanian single malts at the Lark Cellar Door Bar and Nant Whiskey Bar, Mrs Whiskey rang to say I had 10 minutes to make the pier for the ferry to MONA – Museum of Old And New Art- and our cultural afternoon out.
The ferry itself is a funky catamaran which has it’s own art installations in the shape of painted plastic sheep & a cow on the aft deck which amused the passengers very much.
Talking about funky – who remembers this slice of 80’s Aussie pop?
I was even more amused to find out the museum also produces it’s own wine and beer – how cool is that? – so what better way of enjoying the scenic boat trip up the Derwent River than with a glass of Moorilla wine or Moo Brew beer?
Coming in a very stylish wine-bottle shaped glass container with a trendy design – I just hoped the contents were equally as good. The Dark Ale didn’t disappoint. Rich, black & heavy with a noticeable malt content and sweet caramel notes on top – just my kind of art. Herself enjoyed the wine too!
Arriving at the rocky peninsular the museum is set on the rains luckily abated to allow us to view the outdoor exhibits. A life-size sculpture of a low loader truck & trailer complete with cement mixer on top stole centre stage. Having driven the real thing for my living the detail amazed me – along with my curious mind wondering how many tonnes of steel rod went into making it and how did they get it here?
Moving inside we descended down into the sandstone bedrock of the small hill the museum is sat on. A spectacular underground gallery awaits your exploration housing all sorts of weird, wonderful and thought provoking art in it’s myriad of forms.
A waterfall display spelled out random words against the bare walls using a giant inkjet type assembly – but with water – impressed us for starters. Very simple design – yet stunning to see and hear.
We wondered the labyrinth of rooms & spaces alternately gazing in awe – or being nonplussed – by the variety and cornucopia of art within. Some we loved – others we didn’t – but either way it instilled a reaction or questioning of what it was all about.
As usual a break was in order. This is where MONA excelled itself – at least in my eyes. The Void Bar on the basement floor set at the foot of the sandstone dungeon had a fine array of Tasmanian whisky to try!
Not what I was expecting in a museum.
How could I refuse?
Having driven past Peter Bignell’s distillery at Kempton the other day I just had to try his Belgrove White Rye expression. It’s an unaged new spirit – hence the clear liquid. At 40% the young alcohol content is noticeable but the nose is full of rotting fruit notes, sweet but enticing, and a slight rye spice too. The rye comes through more on the taste along with pleasing fruit & spice. Not what I’d expect from a new spirit. It’s different, it’s unique, it’s got terroir and provenance in abundance and it’s utterly enticing. I could have sat for the rest of the afternoon in this fabulous setting enjoying the fruits of Peter Bignell’s art of distillation!
Herself – despite enjoying the wine & nibbles we had – insisted we see some more of the real art before catching the ferry home.
The fat Porsche did take my eye – but most of the others passed me by as the cumulative affect of art overload together with some lovely whiskies was beginning to take it’s toll. I did wonder though how the human model remained so still displaying the tattoo art on his back and would have gone up to ask him were it not for the museum attended close by.
By the time we exited darkness was already falling. There was much to discuss on the ferry home as to what we had viewed and experienced at MONA.
The ferry ride?
For me it was a combination of all those things topped off with a Moo Brew ale and a stunning Tasmanian whisky that made the day.
What a fitting venue to enjoy the art of whisky distillation in!