Hopefully by the end of 2021 we’ll be able to freely walk into bars & enjoy ourselves without any worries – as I miss the unexpected encounters within.
Back in summer ’19 herself requested a trip to the seaside on a hot sunny day in contrast to the flat Midland’s bogs we normally frequent.
Afterwards, a spot of light refreshment at Keelings Bar in Donabate rounded off the day.
The whiskey shelves were scanned for a suitable selection & Shanahans Original stood out for me.
Being a commissioned malt from the Cooley Distillery for the famous Dublin based steakhouse – this was in the days before the Beam/Suntory takeover turned off the taps to 3rd parties – Shanahans is a slice of Irish Whiskey’s recent history I was keen to sample.
That lovely fresh citrusy & fruity malt aroma greeted me.
A delightfully light & easy whiskey with a touch of malty character – as well as an entertaining back story – to enjoy on a warms summers day in the beer garden of Keelings.
Oh to be able to experience those simple & unexpected pleasures again!
In what felt like the ‘last hurrah’ before impending restrictions increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic – Sonny Molloy’s Bar in Galway held an impressive evening celebrating the launch of the highly esteemed Redbreast Whiskey range’s latest addition – the 27 Year Old.
The numbers attending were slightly reduced from previous events – and a certain awkwardness regards hand shaking & social distancing were always in the background – yet the company, the whiskey and the gorgeous food won out!
There were 3 whiskeys on offer. All introduced by the Irish Distillers Brand Ambassador – Ger Garland.
The first one was a bit of a mystery.
Very sweet on the nose – almost liqueur territory here – quite light on the palate – someone suggested cream soda – before the cask strength made it’s presence felt – leaving the pleasant softer flavours dancing away on the finish.
I was very pleased to hear it was an oat whiskey!
Oats were formerly a common ingredient in Irish Whiskey and it’s marvelous to see it’s return into offerings such as Kilbeggan SPS, Drumshanbo Inaugural – as well as experimentation at Killowen Distillery – and quite clearly at Midleton too!
Just how the results of this experimentation will end up in an actual final product are yet to be decided – but clearly exciting times indeed!
The second offering – also at cask strength – was a much more contemporary affair.
Midleton Dair Ghaelach, Knockrath Wood, Tree 3, 56.6%.
The use of virgin Irish Oak casks – as well as ex-bourbon casks – had accentuated the dry tannic spiciness over and above the initial rich warming vanilla notes to the front capped off by a prickly tingling from the high ABV.
I really enjoyed this one.
The grand finalé?
Redbreast 27 Year Old, 54.6%.
Unlike other Redbreasts – the 27 has seen maturation in ruby port casks.
This has given it a darker, even richer fruitiness. I’m thinking plums, figs & raisins here. The high ABV kicked in at this point & I’d need the addition of water to calm things down a touch.
To be honest – I wasn’t bowled over.
I didn’t find it an easy whiskey to appreciate – and I’m not just talking about it’s €495 price tag. I found it a bit of a challenge.
Redbreast 27 – not for me.
I’d like to thank all at Sonny Molloy’s for the warm hospitality on the evening.
There’s always a frisson of excitement entering a bar for the first time.
You never know what you will encounter.
The best bars you enter as strangers – and depart as friends.
But in The Bank in Anstruther – I encountered an old friend.
Art Of The Blend #4.
Eden Mill are the next generation of Scottish brewers & distillers. Prior to their own whisky being released they experimented with sourced distillate under the Art Of The Blend label to hone their skills.
I enjoyed the results.
Presented at a stonking 51% this Port Cask finished blend packed a lively punch of sweet stone fruits.
The high ABV led to an explosion of flavour on the palate – yet it didn’t overpower.
A pleasing prickly heat faded gently with warming cherry notes dancing merrily into the distance.
Limited to 1100 bottles – I was glad to encounter my old friend again.
There was an article in the Irish Times the other day about rural development & Gort happened to feature.
Picking up the paper in the town itself after an enjoyable evening topped off the experience.
The revelry started with a meal at The Gallery Cafe in the Square. A popular spot offering great food & some tasty beers to boot.
Kinnegar’s Rustbucket Rye Ale washed down my burger delightfully as we chatted outside on the terrace taking advantage of the warm evening sunshine.
A bar was selected afterwards & Cummins on Main Street suited us.
Garishly coloured on the outside & embazoned with GAA murals we entered into a trad session being played in the corner by a group of local musicians with a small gathering of drinkers happily tapping along.
The usual whiskey suspects lined the shelves, Powers, Paddys & Jameson being the standards – a Teacher’s was there too and I fancied a peat hit so went with it.
Teacher’s is a well established blend of Scotch Whisky. A bit on the rough & ready side, sweet peat & a little spirity, but you know what you’re getting.
Chatting away I scanned the shelves for something I’d not had before & spotted a couple of bottles half hidden behind others.
Highland Earl Special Reserve was duly ordered on the next round.
Now Highland Earl is an Aldi brand. An entry level one at that too – and I’d hesitated buying one after having a tad too many caramel laden blends in the past – but being in a bar is a fabulous way to sample it.
My first nosing raised a smile.
A decent waft of balanced peat greeted me.
Wasn’t expecting that!
The palate was more mellow & soothing than the Teacher’s. Yes there is added caramel & yes there is probably chill filtering – but then so has Teacher’s.
If anything Highland Earl lived up to it’s – admittedly low level – titled status by being a step up in enjoyment from the recognisable big brand.
Now the bar’s bottle seems to be an old offering. There is no age statement as with the current 3 Year Old release – and a tagline on the label proclaims it to be a 2010 IWSC Winner!
So I can’t vouch if what is on sale now matches the bottle I tried – but what I can say is the Earl entertained me for the rest of the evening!
Oh the joy of pubs & the simple pleasures of a decent peated blend!
What excites me about entering a bar for the first time is discovering the whiskey selection on their shelves.
What excites me even more is discovering a few new whiskeys to try out!
The Blackbird Bar in Ballycotton happened to be that bar – and 100 Pipers was the first new discovery.
This big volume Scottish blend has been around since the late 60’s. Now part of the Pernod Ricard empire – the bottle still displays Seagram’s on it from the original brand owners.
A rather dark blend – added caramel is expected for this category – there is that sweet vanilla & caramel going on. Towards the end a pleasing touch of peat smoke gives 100 Pipers a bit of character. An easy going softly smoked blend.
Next up was a Japanese Single Malt – Hakushu Distillers Reserve.
My drinking buddy ordered the Dingle Single Malt Batch 2 at the same time to compare & contrast.
I found the Hakushu clean & fresh. A lovely deep vanilla from bourbon cask maturation which then slowly morphed into a gorgeously drying soft ashy peaty spice which danced off the palate.
Really enjoyed this one.
The Dingle Single Malt Batch 2 was more rich with dark fruitiness from the added Oloroso & PX cask maturation – and made for an interesting taste comparison.
The bar recommended the final offering – Auchentoshan 12.
Now Auchentoshan are an anomaly in Scottish Whisky – they triple distill!
This bourbon & Oloroso cask matured Single Malt was a fine example of that style.
Smooth delivery, good depth of flavours with a touch of oakiness too – and an enjoyably long finish.
The Blackbird Bar also stock an extensive array of Midleton Distillery output – as befits a bar less than half an hour away from the distillery itself.
Having had them all before – I chose to go for a delightful trio of new acquaintances.
Out of the 3 – Hakushu would come out on top.
The combination of a clean, almost herbal yet fruity start growing into a drying soft spicy peat hit definitely had me hooked.
Just like the warm hospitality & great whiskey selection of the Blackbird Bar reeled me in.
Big shout out to Mossie & all the crew – a fabulous spot.