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Valentia Island Vermouth, 19%

I’ve never had vermouth before.

On learning an Irish company based on Valentia Island was making some – I thought I’d give it a go!

What is Vermouth?

According to my Wine, Beer & Spirits Encyclopedia vermouth is a fortified wine – a wine strengthened with spirits – given additional flavour with various botanicals.

Valentia Island Vermouth is made with locally foraged plants.

So how does it taste?

Colour wise it looks like a golden brown whiskey.

A very sweet – but not unattractive – nose greets me. Herbal, slightly bitter & sweet

Smooth & sweet on the palate – yet possesses a decent depth of body. Quite a pleasant bouquet of flavours going on.

Enjoying the flourish of bitterness on the finish.

An entertaining alternative to my regular Irish Whiskey!


Valentia Island Vermouth website here.


Whisky In Africa

Africa is often seen as a growing & untapped market for western based whisky companies to expand into.

Of far more interest to me is the emergence of an indigenous whisky industry within the continent itself to cater for it’s own citizens.

Three Ships c/othewhiskeynut

Bain’s/Three Ships Whisky from South Africa might be the only brand available in Ireland – and very nice it was too when I found it in Dick Mac’s – but a quick internet search reveals a few others.

Qualito Craft Distillery – also in South Africa – have a Limpopo Reserve Whisky.

Image courtesy Qualito

Rather than try to imitate Scotch – Limpopo Whisky proudly displays it’s origins in the name.

Helden Whisky are due to release a whisky that I’d love to try – African Bonfire Whisky.

Image courtesy Helden Distillery

I just love smoky flavours & the inclusion of African influences gives a degree of terroir to the table.

Further North in Nigeria there is a large market for whisky.

I’ve tried a few of their local brands over the years but mostly they appear to use imported Indian Whisky.

Eastern Distillers seem to have bucked that trend however with Whisky Elegamon.

Image courtesy Eastern Distillers

Have yet to try it out.

A country I didn’t expect to find a whisky distillery in was Ethiopia.

Image courtesy National Alcohol & Liquor Factory

An anecdotal conversation recently suggested there is a new distillery being set up – but an internet search revealed a Black Deer Whisky already being marketed in Addis Ababa on behalf of the National Alcohol & Liquor Factory.

If you’re looking some distillery tours Tripadvisor list numerous sites within South Africa offering, whisky, gin, rum & vodka to suit all tastes.

Now if I won the lotto – I’d be very tempted to explore the exciting flavours & scenery on show!

Irish Whiskey targets Africa for growth article here.

Bain’s/Three Ships Distillery website here.

Qualito Craft Distillery website here.

Helden Distillery website here.

Eastern Distillers website here.

National Alcohol & Liquor Company website here.

Trip Advisor South African Distillery tours here.

Pearse Lyons Distillery, The Liberties, Dublin

The Pearse Lyons Distillery officially opened it’s doors to the public on August 26th 2017.

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.

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Blind whiskey tasting in progress c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Now let’s go inside & have a whiskey! c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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The whiskey window c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Mighty Mollie & Little Lizzie c/othewhiskeynut

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.

PL Whiskey
The tasting trio c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Cooper’s Select c/othewhiskeynut

Would it be available in the nearby McCann’s Bar?

‘Probably’ came the reply.

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.

Town Branch Rye c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Paddy Irish Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Oh dear.

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.

My thanks to the Celtic Whiskey Club & Pearse Lyons Distillery for  a wonderful day out in Dublin.


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