Coming on the back of St Patrick’s Day it’s often amusing to point out that the man himself wasn’t actually Irish!
Controversy still reigns as to his actual birthplace. Some say Scotland, some say France and some say Wales. What is clear is that he certainly visited these countries during his lifetime. What is also interesting for the sake of this blog is that all these countries are whisky producers!
Scotch Whisky is firmly Numero Uno in the whisky world. French Whisky is a relative newcomer but has many exciting brands and expressions. This humble blogger has tried a few which were grand. The Champagne finished single malt from Guillon Distillery being one of them. Welsh Whisky is also a relative newcomer to the scene – despite a rich distilling history in Wales, there is only one distillery in operation today. A fine distillery it is too!
My first entry into the Welsh Whisky world came via it’s wonderfully named Red Flag expression. Now, many Irish whiskeys are named after places as in; Kilbeggan, Greenore, Slane Castle, Glendalough and Nephin for starters. In Scotland, many whiskies take the names of royalty, or at least the well heeled, to bask in the exclusivity or prestige associated as in; Imperial, Royal Lochnagar, Chivas Regal, Chequers and King Of Scots. Penderyn Distillery has bucked all that to name it’s first Icon Of Wales bottling after a workers uprising in 1831 where the red flag was raised as a symbol of protest. Very refreshing indeed!
The whisky itself lives up to the heroic struggles of it’s namesake. A single malt finished in madeira casks bottled non chill-filtered at 41%, it gives a very rich aroma backed up by a satisfying taste a with long finish. Definitely an A class whiskey, if not A+ in my book! As this whisky is a limited expression, it may sell out, but Penderyn release a single malt madeira finish in their standard range bottled at 46% which may also be very good. I can’t wait to taste the other bottles which include sherrywood finish, peated and single cask expressions. Penderyn have already won awards since launching in 2004 so this is a distillery to watch out for.
For the day that’s in it, Phil Lynott is yer man.
Quite how Paddy’s Day came to be associated with drinking both in Ireland and abroad is a bit of a mystery. Suffice to say other countries national days also have this reputation – noticeably Scotland’s Burn’s Night which focuses on drinking whisky as well as eating haggis – which is a lovely combination if you haven’t already tried it.
Letting the train take the strain, I set off on a bright crisp sunny morning from Athlone and arrive in a cloudy overcast Dublin.
My 1st port of call was the Old Jameson Distillery in Smithfield. This distillery closed in 1971 as part of the amalgamation of Paddy, Powers and Jamesons into the formation of Irish Distillers in 1966. Production of all brands moved to the New Midleton Distillery which opened in 1975 and production of all 3 brands continues there today.
Not having booked on-line I got rather worried at the sea of tourists queuing up and taking pictures. My fears were confirmed as all the tours were booked out for the next few hours. The reception area, bar and shop were all very well decked out with two lovely whiskey bottle chandeliers dominating the scene but as I had other fish to fry, and the bar was not yet open,I left amidst a flock of Frenchmen topped with green hats, I only hoped they had advance tickets!
The recently opened Irish Whiskey Museum beckoned as my 2nd destination. It’s new clean lined decor and whisky memorabilia shop with adjoining bar and friendly staff impressed me. The guide informatively, enthusiastically and humorously led us through a potted history of Irish Whiskey with the aid of tastefully done set scenes and clever audio visual displays including actors in period costumes to bring the story alive. Interestingly one of the actors was Fr Jack of Father Ted fame, Frank Kelly. I didn’t recognize the others. A stunning display of old Irish whiskey bottles mirrored the rise, fall and subsequent current re-birth of the Irish whiskey industry before being led to the all important tasting session.
Not being tied to any manufacture allows the Irish Whiskey Museum to give a broad range of whiskeys for it’s customers to sample. The 4 offered on my tour are subject to change and may not represent future or past tours. This is very refreshing as it allows for new entrants into the market.
Powers Gold Label Blend – I wasn’t expecting much from this entry level blended whiskey but was pleasantly surprised by it’s slightly spicy taste and warm finish. B+
Teeling Small Batch – All Teeling expressions are very good and this blended whiskey shows what a finishing cask can add to the mix. B+
Tullamore Dew 12 yo Special Reserve – Despite being aged for 12 years Bourbon and Oloroso casks this blend failed to ignite my tastebuds. Smooth but not enough oomph. B
Not surprisingly personal taste prevailed when asked to name the favorite tipple. A Spanish couple opted for the stronger and fuller flavoured Teeling, a German couple opted for the Irishman whilst I went for the unexpectedly good Powers.
Suitably warmed up it was on to my 3rd stop of the day in the famous Celtic Whiskey Shop. A true cornucopia of whiskey of all descriptions with a mouth watering display for the eyes to feast on. I could have spent hours going through every bottle possibly sampling it’s contents but thankfully for the staff (who would prefer buyers to browsers, although both are welcomed) and my health (I wouldn’t be able for so much Whiskey) I already had a bottle in mind. The shop, through it’s owner Ally Alpine, also runs The Celtic Whiskey Club which conducts whiskey tastings, mails out samples for on-line discussion and offers Whiskey Of The Week to members. Today was the chance for the Hyde 10 yo Single Malt to shine. With a sample taste I duly bought a bottle along with a miniature of which the shop has a fantastic selection. This is a great idea as for the price of one full sized bottle you can sample 6 or 7 of these handy 5cl bottles to try out first at your leisure.
As it had already gone 1pm my stomach was in need of more substantial fare. My prime objective and final port of call was the Irish Beer and Whiskey Fest in the RDS where I knew the Pieman would have their stall. On entering the hall I made a beeline for the wonderful Pieman who didn’t disappoint with a Chicken & Mushroom pie with added Teeling Whiskey for flavour. This was washed down with Porterhouse Red Ale, a delightful combination.
One of the lovely things about the festival are the communal tables and chairs dotted about the place for folks to sit, eat , drink and chat. During the course of my visit I met a South African truck driver now residing in Tullamore, a retired Dublin gent, a young American couple living in Germany and a gaggle of Dublin based Brazilians with a French woman in tow. Conversation flowed easily over what drinks were liked, tips on which beer to go for next and general chat all conducted in a colourful camaraderie of common consumption!
Lunch over I was now on the lookout for desert. The Irish Single Pot Still display provided it as well as making up for missing the Jameson tour earlier in the day.
Whilst browsing in the whiskey shop at the Loop in Dublin Airport last month I noticed a 4 pack miniature box of Irish Pot Still Whiskeys. As these are the very whiskeys which made Irish Whiskey number 1 back in the late 1800’s before the rise of Scotch, I was intrigued. Now I had my chance to try them out!
The staff very friendly made up the 4 samples and gave me a running commentary as I nosed then tasted each one. At this stage of the game my memory and tasting notes were a little muddled by the rich, complex and powerful flavours these whiskeys possess. Greenspot, Redbreast. Powers John Lane and Barry Crockett Legacy truly deserve the marketing campaign that is underway to rebuild the status these whiskeys once held. Again I chose the Powers expression for a full measure shot due to the rich body coupled with a spicy taste. I enjoyed the drink so much I missed the whiskey talk due to be delivered by John Teeling which was a bit of a shame.
I did however make an earlier informal chat with 3 passionate beer makers as part of the Meet The Brewers talk. Kinnegar of Donegal, Mountain Man of Cork and Black Donkey of Roscommon. All told anecdotes about small brewers trying to survive in the market place. I just can’t wait for Black Donkey’s brilliant new advertising idea to bear fruit!
Unfortunately I had a train to catch, so my last whiskeys were a taste off between the Pearse Lyon Reserve and the Town Branch Rye at the Alltech stand. The Rye won out with it’s stronger more robust taste and a generous enjoyable shot delayed my departure resulting in a dash with only minutes to spare.
I was tempted to open my Pig’s Nose miniature on the train but quit when I was ahead to opt for tea and crisps from the trolley service. I also erred on the side of caution and went for a Crafty Irish Red Ale which is part of the Rye River portfolio from Kilcock to accompany the evening meal.
That brought my very satisfying pre-Paddy’s Day celebrations to a happy end. I do hope you enjoy your day as much as I did mine.
I’ll be sober for the actual event – I’m the driver.
It’s a delightful aromatic , flavoursome little tipple to be enjoyed beside a warming fire with good company.
It has several hundred years of eventful history and culture with it’s birth roots in Ireland .
It’s a drink staging a renaissance on a worldwide basis with Ireland witnessing a rebirth of working distilleries.
All journeys start from home and Westmeath is home to both this humble scribe and The Kilbeggan Distilling Company. 1757 is when this distillery first (legally) made and sold whiskey. From that date on, it has witnessed the ups and downs of Irish Whiskey, weathered the tough years and played it’s part in the current rise of whiskey. Kilbeggan Distillery encapsulates the history of Irish Whiskey within it’s four walls. Her story mirrors that of other distilleries that are now silent, as well as burgeoning the new ones that are beginning to find their voice.
Why the World?
It’s the only place we humans currently live – as yet – and it’s where Irish Whiskey is made, exported and enjoyed. Ireland used to be the Number 1 whiskey producer in the world. That position is now firmly in Scottish hands. However whisky is currently produced in over 25 countries around the world from Belguim to Bhutan, Taiwan and a lovely distillery in Wales.
As a relatively new convert to the world of whiskey, I’m inviting you to join me on a shared journey in taste, style and aroma by sampling the wide range of whiskey products that are out there.
I’m no expert, but hopefully I will enliven your taste buds and excite your palate with tempting tipples
Join me and together we can taste the world!
A journey into Irish Whiskey Distilling
Reviews and rants of whisky, whiskey, scotch and more
My Irish Whiskey Journey
One Irishman's battle to bring his love for whiskey to the world.
Reviewing whiskey, bourbon, rye, Scotch, Irish and Canadian whiskeys.
Imported Whisky, Premium Whisky
The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.
Whiskey reviews of restaurants, tours, types, distilleries, ect...
A journey through whiskey!
LIVING THE DRAM
i owe it to the sea!
Everything Scotch Single Malt Whisky
Farmhouse beers from Donegal
Nerd Style Whisky Knowledge, Est. 2015