Dropping the better half off at the airport the other week allowed me to explore the landside bar I knew existed but hadn’t actually visited.
As a musical accompaniment to the blog what else could I choose but…
Handily situated at the far end of the ground concourse below the Ryanair check-in desks – I was a little taken aback to see the name ‘The Angel’s Share‘ emblazoned above the wide entrance – together with a glass cabinet full of rare or hard to find Irish whiskeys.
For those that may not be aware – ‘the angel’s share’ is a whiskey term handily explained by reference to one of the bar walls inside this bright and airy establishment.
It’s also the title of an uplifting tragicomic movie by none other than Ken Loach which I’d wholeheartedly encourage you to see.
Now I know that the ‘piece de resistance’ in Dublin Airport is the magnificent Loop whiskey emporium on the airside duty free area – but for those not flying – or with a little time to spare – The Angel’s Share is a lovely spot to enjoy a glass of your favourite Irish Whiskey perhaps accompanied by a tasty meal or snack too.
Jameson’s fine Black Barrel release was ‘Whiskey Of The Month’ when I called – but as usual I was on the lookout for something I hadn’t had before. Sadly the rare cabinet whiskeys seemed to be for display only as a member of staff couldn’t recall them ever being opened!
The Angel’s Share had a good selection of Midleton expressions – Jameson – Powers – Spots and Paddy together with some Teeling and Hyde. Bourbons and Canadian Club also featured. What tickled my fancy however was a somewhat neglected Midleton release – Dunphys.
Dunphys Irish Whiskey was originally created in the 1950’s mainly for the American market. It became popular as a mixer – particularly in an Irish Coffee – but it’s star has now waned. Midleton’s sales force don’t seem to be pushing it either as many a pub I go into has a ‘Premium Whiskey Selection’ menu featuring only their own releases – in which I’ve yet to see Dunphys included.
Truth be told I wasn’t expecting much being treated as the black sheep of the Midleton family – but Dunphys proved to be a fairly rich tasting malty standard blend. At the price point it’s sold at it compares very favourably indeed. I suppose it has an old fashioned taste – if you can define old fashioned. I certainly enjoyed it and even wondered why it had been left out in the cold – Irish Coffee anyone?
Discovering this little haven of calm in a busy airport left me with a smile on my face.
Other customers were tucking into hot meals – their first or last decent pint of the black stuff depending on travel plans – or just enjoying a wee dram collecting or dropping off friends and family. Just be careful not to relax too much if you are flying however!
Whatever the reason – The Angel’s Share will certainly brighten up my visits to the airport.
Whilst he may know his IPA’s from his top fermenting ales – it seems his knowledge of single pot still whiskey and triple distillation were a little lacking.
That was until he attended a special Whiskey Tasting Class at Flanagan’s On The Lake hosted by Dan Miller – who bears an uncanny resemblance to whisky guru Charles MacLean – of the local whiskey club who meet regularly in Flanagan’s.
Absentmindedly listening to the radio one afternoon my ears pricked up at the mention of whiskey. Rick and his co-host Cormac were broadcasting from Flanagan’s On The Lake and I duly made a mental note to visit soon.
My opportunity arose the next day when my better half suggested we go out to take advantage of the sunshine which had just appeared after 3 days of rain!
Situated in the stunning twin towns of Ballina, Co Tipperary and Killaloe, Co Clare. Flanked by the majestic Slieve Bernagh hills to the West and the Arra Mountains to the East. Nestled at the foot of Lough Derg. Flanagan’s On The Lake sits on the banks of the mighty River Shannon overlooking the 18th Century stone bridge which joins the two sides at this point.
Before we had even reached Flanagan’s herself insisted on stopping to take some pictures and promptly sent them to friends in London just to make them jealous of the majestical scenery.
The restaurant/bar itself sits on the Ballina side of the Shannon. We could have cruised down in our motorboat and berthed at the adjoining moorings beside Flanagan’s beer garden from our base in Athlone. Perhaps even spotting some White-tailed Sea Eagles that nest in Lough Derg on the way. That’s if we actually had a boat!
Architecturally the building was rather ‘Celtic Tigeresque‘ to me. It’s actually an old railway freight depot that’s been extensively remodeled in 2007. I wouldn’t be the biggest fan of all that was put up during those years – but the location is simply stupendous.
Inside was a hive of activity. The afternoon sun had brought out families and friends – all of whom were enjoying the diner service at Flanagan’s. Before I could even browse the extensive range of whiskeys displayed behind the bar we were ushered to our table. The view outside was a little curtailed and Flanagan’s could have been improved by the floor to ceiling glass walls that adorn our local Ritz Gastropub which allow you to feel part of the scenery beyond. I did think of suggesting we sit outside in the large beer garden – but as the rain had started again – I kept quiet.
Herself had a whole Sea Bass from the A La Carte menu whilst I plumped for the traditional Fish and Chips. Two large plates of tasty food soon arrived along with some wine from the funky looking glass wine-store. We shared a dessert too before retiring to the more relaxed and congenial surroundings of the Whiskey Tower area.
Sat in the luxurious leather seats a whiskey suitable for the setting was deemed necessary from the 140 plus expressions on offer. Luckily I’d spotted just the one I wanted when I entered.
Hibernia Distiller’s Hyde No.3 1916 Single Grain release is the latest whiskey from the award winning company. The No. 1 Single Malt Presidential Cask’s subtle sherry influence has grown on me whilst the No. 2 Rum Finished offering struck me immediately with it’s powerful nose.
Now I know single grain doesn’t have the same kudos as a single malt. Grain is usually seen as a lighter more sweeter spirit commonly used in blended whiskey and caused consternation among more traditional single pot still distillers when the Coffey Still first appeared in the 1830’s. Not being put off by such tattle and in the name of variety I eagerly seek out the exceptions and have found a trio of tasty Irish single grains to tempt the palate.
From the very first nosing of 1916 – I knew this was something special. A rich sweet bourbon influenced aroma greeted me emanating from the first re-fill Jack Daniel barrels used for maturation. A warm unexpectededly heavy mouthfeel excited me followed through by a slight spice on the long finish. Such a robust feeling whiskey was not quiet what I thought a single grain tasted like but nonetheless the Hyde 1916 release seems to have just done that. Bottled at 46% and un-chill filtered I would be so rash to say that for all the Hyde whiskeys – as in the Hot Chocolate hit – Every Ones A Winner
Flanagan’s On The Lake conduct whiskey tasting classes in the sumptuous upstairs snug of The Whiskey Tower. There are even more mouth-watering varieties of whiskey housed in glass cabinets including a fine array of bourbons – some rye – a bit of Japaneses, Canadian and of course Scottish. Somebody else will be the driver on my next visit!
Flanagan’s On The Lake is a winner too.
The whiskeys, the food and above all the absolutely stunning scenery.
Do yourselves a favour and give them a visit.
Preferably when the sun is shining so you can sit outside drinking a fine whiskey as well as drinking in the views.
Unlike The Brewery Tap – I’ve actually visited Kelly’s before for a few drinks – but as it was in my pre-whiskey days – I can’t remember what I was on.
The ‘piece de resistance’ in Kelly’s Bar is the wall of whiskey – well all 2 of them really!
The first is a very impressive wooden shelf display behind the bar showcasing a fine range of whiskeys for sale – whilst the other is a room divider proudly emblazoned Uisce Beata with barrel tops highlighting various Irish Distilleries both past and present.
I’m afraid to say that despite the wide choice on offer – I partook of nothing stronger than a hot cup of tea during my visit to this welcoming and homely establishment as I was on driving duty. But I did scan my photos later and spotted a few tasty drams I wouldn’t mind trying out!
As is almost a default position – and my cue for a musical interlude –
Any self respecting bar in Tullamore cannot get by without a large selection of DEW expressions. Kelly’s certainly doesn’t disappoint in that department. The obligatory Egan’s also featured along with Kilbeggan from the nearby distillery of the same name. Just a short trip up the N52 if you want to visit. Midleton – Bushmill and Irishman releases were available too along with a decent array of Scotch and bourbon – although I didn’t spot any rye – my preferred option from the USA
All this was wrapped up in a friendly bar adorned with whiskey paraphernalia – old photographs, mirrors, empty cartons and bottles in the public bar – as well as hundreds of beer tankards attached to the ceiling beams in the lounge area.
Talking about beer – I was pleased to see a trio of craft beers from the Boyne Valley Brewery on show. Aine O’Hara is not only the head brewer at this new facility – she is also the master distiller too! I’ll look forward to tasting some Boann Distillery Whiskey in the next few years!
Kelly’s Bar is situated beside the Grand Canal only a short walk from the Tullamore DEW Visitors Centre. The canal aided the whiskey distilling trade in 1820’s Tullamore when barley, peat and coal was shipped in to the 2 working distilleries – with the whiskey produced going out to Dublin or Limerick for onward distribution.
The canal makes a very pleasant walk in fine weather. Perhaps best undertook before you indulge a little in Kelly’s!
The Brewery Tap is one of those pubs that I’ve passed by on numerous occasions – mainly during my day job as a truck driver – but never managed to actually get inside – until now.
Situated opposite the busy O’Connor Square area in the heart of Tullamore town The Brewery Tap is only a stone’s throw from The Bridge Centre shopping complex and the popular Bridge House Hotel – both premises built on or around the old Tullamore Distillery which closed it’s doors in 1954.
Remnants of the distillery can still be seen on nearby Patrick Street where the manager, Daniel E Williams – whose initials formed the DEW element – sat in his office which still proudly displays his name today on one side of the street overlooking the elaborate and well cared for iron gates which formed part of the entrance to the original distillery on the other.
It should come as no surprise then that The Brewery Tap strongly features the entire Tullamore DEW range of tasty whiskeys inside it’s warm and welcoming interior.
Having missed the opportunity to try out the 14 Year Old Single Malt when I last visited The Old Bonded Warehouse – itself only a 5 minute walk away – I wasn’t going to let this chance go by – and in memory of the recently departed George Martin – a Beatles track.
Now on the blind tasting I did some time ago a few Tullamore DEW expressions stood out from the crowd. Both The Phoenix and Cider Cask releases scored very well so when I first gently nosed the 14 to be greeted by some wonderful aromas I knew I was in for a treat.
The silky smooth dram tantalised my taste buds with it’s warm sweetness combined in a delicate balance of the bourbon – port – oloroso and madeira barrels used for maturation.
Triple distilled – quadruple matured – quintuple the taste!
To paraphrase an advertising slogan for my own experience in drinking this lovely whiskey.
This may be my best Tullamore DEW yet!
Other whiskeys on offer at The Brewery Tap included the Egan’s Single Malt. Judging from the amount of P&H Egan advertising materiel adorning the walls of the bar there’s plenty of scope for the new company to expand their drinks portfolio. Ales – ginger beer and liqueurs all featured in the ads from yesteryears. I just wonder what they all tasted like in their heyday?
Outside of lunchtimes The Brewery Tap only serves crisps and nuts. There is a regular itinerary of musical evenings and other lively events both mid-week and at the weekend. It’s also rumoured that many of the Tullamore DEW executives pop in for some down time to enjoy the fruits of their own labours – and who can blame them?
With a warm glowing fire – friendly staff – comfortable seats and cushioned benches as well as whiskey aplenty – who wouldn’t enjoy the atmosphere in such a fine establishment.
I just hope my next visit won’t be as long in coming as my first!
A short 2 minute walk from the impressive Old Bonded Warehouse of the Tullamore DEW Visitors Centre brings you to the rather unassuming windowless facade of Hugh Lynch’s Bar.
On entering – it’s a different story.
A busy public area bustles with regulars watching the sport on TV whilst a quieter lounge area is gently warmed by a glowing stove pumping out it’s welcome heat giving a warm tranquil cosy feel to the otherwise large space.
The main attraction for me however lay in the impressive display of whiskeys both behind the bar as well as tastefully shown in glass cabinets too.
A very large bottle of Tullamore DEW Original dominates the bar mainly due to it’s size! Fellow Tullamore DEW releases were obviously in no short supply either – including a few that are now discontinued like the Black 43.
What took my eye though was another whiskey claiming to hail from Tullamore – Egan’s Irish Whiskey.
Egan’s is a 10 year old single malt and like Tullamore DEW isn’t actually made in the town of Tullamore. Both whiskeys are produced at one or more (in the case of blends) of the 3 large distilleries that currently have stock matured for long enough to be labelled as whiskey. They are Bushmills, Cooley and Midleton.
The new distillery opened in Tullamore by William Grant & Sons in 2014 won’t be able to release it’s first expression until 2017.
P&H Egan’s were a famous grocers in Tullamore who bottled and sold whiskey in times gone by and the name has now been revived by this new release.
As I missed out on tasting it on my Galway Whiskey Trail adventure I couldn’t refuse the opportunity again!
A rich golden coloured dram soon stood before me and despite being a 46% non-chill filtered release a surprisingly smooth rich nose warmed me to the drink.
The taste pleased me very much. I found it full-bodied and fruity with a lovely warm mouthfeel followed through by a long lingering finish.
Very nice indeed!
It didn’t surprise me to hear the whiskey has already won awards and Pat the bartender informed me it’s a popular seller both in the bar and the off-licence which is also part of the premises.
Lynch’s also features a cafe where decent pub grub can be enjoyed – a large hall at the back for private functions – as well as a regular music nights with a varied selection of bands or comedians hosted upstairs. It’s certainly a busy spot!
I’ll certainly be back to sample some more of the varied whiskeys on offer from countries both near and far. Millars and Shanahans from Ireland I’ve yet to try . Scapa from Scotland and a sprinkling of bourbons from America too.
Being only a half hour train journey from my home in Athlone – I don’t think that visit will be long in the making either!
A high pressure weather system had been sitting over Ireland for a few days bringing with it a welcome dose of sunshine after months of wet, dank, grey days.
My first thought was to ‘Run To The Hills’. More in a hiking boots and compass kind off way rather than a leather and studs Iron Maiden rock out!
But herself had other plans. A weekend of gardening was the order of the day.
By Sunday afternoon the lawn had been cut. Hedges had been trimmed and all the mess tidied up so lunch out was proposed.
A suggestion of a meal at the Tullamore DEW Visitors Centre was accepted. Despite herself having worked in Tullamore for a few years – she had never visited the Old Bonded Warehouse by the Grand Canal and I thought it would be a great place to show her.
The sun was still shining a half hour later when we arrived and the solid wooden benches on the boardwalk outside the centre were very attractive – just a shame there was still a spring chill in the air. We decided to head indoors.
The warmly wooded interior complete with whiskey barrels adorning the walls together with Tullamore DEW mirrors and old photographs was very impressive. We both took a few pictures before the friendly and helpful staff greeted us .
The tempting food menu soon appeared and we ordered up a few tasty treats.
This gave me an opportunity to check out the gift shop where the entire range of Tullamore DEW whiskeys were on show.
Pride of place was given to the relatively new 14 Year Old Single Malt. A triple distilled offering finished in Bourbon – Oloroso – Madiera and Port barrels.
As I was the designated driver I didn’t indulge but did get the sales talk from the crew.
Also on show were;
The flagship Tullamore DEW Original. Triple distilled – triple blended using 3 types of grain – and triple cask matured too.
Tullamore Dew Trilogy 15 Year Old. A blend additionally finished in rum casks.
All of these were available at the bar too where a selection of wines – craft beers and ciders – plus a sprinkling of Scottish whiskies from the parent group William Grant & Sons included Glenfiddich – Grants – Monkey Shoulder and a Balvenie 12.
A shout from my wife alerted me to our meal. I enjoyed my beef steak with whiskey sauce whilst herself had a pulled pork bap and chips. Decent pub grub to enjoy a glass or two of the hard stuff if only I wasn’t driving!
Despite not adhering to my Whiskey Bar criteria of an earlier blog – I do think the visitors centre is eligible for honorary membership of that club by virtue of it’s historic and picturesque location. Serving the in-house range of whiskeys plus parents selection too. And the general buzz of the place as visitors – who are generally all whiskey fans of one sort or another – congenially come and go before and after their guided tours.
You don’t have to go on the tour to enjoy the delights of the restaurant – bar or outside seating area. Just get there before the closing time of 5pm on Sundays and 6pm otherwise.
A final touch to our day was the tie-in with a local chocolate producer in nearby Ferbane who has infused their dark chocolate with Tullamore DEW whiskey to create a wonderfully rich sweet treat to finish off our enjoyable stay.
Do yourself a favour.
Choose a day when the sun is shining.
Sit outside by the banks of the tranquil Grand Canal where once the barges busily loaded the whiskey to transport it around the world in the early 1900’s.
Work your way through the tasty Tullamore Dew expressions fortified by a hearty meal and savour the sights – smells – aromas and experiences of Tullamore both past and present.
Ever since the invention of the electric guitar in the 1930’s there has been a close relationship between the world of music – as originally played by black bluesmen like John Lee Hooker – and the world of whiskey
Right through to the Jack Daniel’s fueled tales of the recently deceased Lemmy – though I would prefer the Mackmyra produced whisky bearing the Motorhead name,
And the alcoholic excesses of Irish band The Pogues who have also entered the Whiskey Hall Of Fame by having a tasty Irish blend named after them from West Cork Distillers,
Whiskey is associated with rock ‘n’ roll.
Meanwhile back in the 80’s a new musical phenomenon exploded on the scene inspired by a plastic box of electronic wizardry and a different type of drug.
The Roland 808 became a central plank in the development of dance music. So much so it has become an iconic instrument almost as revered as Lemmy’s Rickenbacker bass.
There is even a new film released featuring many of the famous artists who used the 808 in making their music.
The ever changing styles of music and drugs means there is an opening for the more traditional forms of intoxication – as the lyrics of The Far East Movement’s hit ‘Like A G6’ show.
A drinking culture obviously exists in the electronically inspired music scene too. A culture that needs to forge a new identity with new brands for it’s own fulfilment.
One company that’s trying to fill that need is 808drinks.
Now to many people – electronic music is soulless and lacks character.
Grain whisky – when it first appeared in the late 1800’s after the invention of the Coffey Still by Irishman Aeneas Coffey – was also similarly derided as ‘The Silent Spirit’ by the dominant distilleries of the time.
Oh how history is cruel on those who don’t adapt.
Grain whisky is the main ingredient in blended whisky which make sales of up to 90% of the market.
The overarching genre of dance music hasn’t reached that dominance over rock – but is did cross over into mainstream as shown by the 1986 Run DMC / Aerosmith hit collaboration.
808 Whisky is also a collaboration between established icons of Scottish Whisky like Jonathan Driver – formerly of Diageo but now at Whyte & Mackay – the massive North British Distillery in Edinburgh and long standing DJ Tommy D who helped create the sounds for many a famous artist.
Being made for a different audience 808 Whisky bucks the trend.
It’s a blended grain whisky.
It has ‘Chill Filtered For Purity’ emblazoned on it’s trendy designer label.
So can it live up to the ‘808 BOOM’ much loved by musicians?
To start with it’s a light straw colour. This is good in my book as there’s no obvious signs of added caramel.
For me – there wasn’t much going on in the nose however – apart from a subtle sweetness and that grainy smell. Again – no real surprise there.
The taste was rather soft – mellow – and surprisingly smooth. I’ve had many a cheap blend that burns your palate on the first mouthful. Not so with 808 Whisky. A delicate well balanced grain taste.
I actually enjoyed the warm feeling as it slid down.
This grain whisky is an easy to drink – inoffensive – light dram.
Many a distilleries standard blend would also fit this description – and they sell in their thousands – so it’s in good company here.
Personally I’d like something a bit more – well – ‘In Yer Face’ to allow me to showcase yet another 808 inspired tune.
But then I’m not part of the core customer profile this whisky is aiming at – which is possibly younger and more experimental than me.
808 Whisky would make an excellent mixer drink due to it’s soft mellow profile.
It would also make an excellent easy to drink shot to fuel your funkiest moves on the dance floor.
808 Whisky may not yet have the iconic status of it’s namesake synthesiser Roland 808 -but it does combine my passion for music and my passion for whiskey in a wonderful way.
I wish 808 Whisky all the best for it’s bold combination and unusual style resulting in an easy to drink smooth and satisfying blended grain whisky.
Now that’s ‘Something Good’ as Utah Saints used to say.
PS I’d just like to thank The Whisky Lady for bringing my attention to 808 Whisky and allowing me to indulge in my musical mayhem whilst enjoying a whisky or two.
Update: Since writing this blog 808 Whisky has morphed into a Single Grain Whisky. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to sample the new expression. Whiskey Nut 8/08/18
Lowry’s bar is an attractively fronted warm and friendly pub situated in the heart of the equally attractive town of Clifden in the West of Ireland.
Clifden itself is picturesquely situated at the foot of The Twelve Bens of Connemara on one side – with the wide Atlantic Ocean on the other.
About 100 years ago Clifden was at he cutting edge of technology as Marconi had the first commercial wireless station sending transmissions to America close to the town as well as Alcock & Brown touching down in a nearby bog after completing the first transatlantic flight. The internet and jumbo jets have both grown from these feats – or rather the Connemara bog nearby!
Smack bang in the middle of the Wild Atlantic Way which stretches from Cork down South to Donegal up North – what better place to take some time out and enjoy the uisce beatha.
That’s exactly what I did after indulging in one of my other passions – hill walking.
With over 100 expressions on offer it’s sometimes difficult to pick one out I haven’t tried before – but my eyes soon settled on a bottle of Dingle Gold from the recently established Dingle Distillery in Kerry – also on the Wild Atlantic Way.
A tuna melt toastie from the bar menu accompanied the whiskey as I settled my weary legs for a little pick-me-up.
Now Dingle Gold wasn’t actually made in Dingle. The distillery is too new to have matured it’s own stock yet. It’s a 3rd party offering whilst Dingle Distillery’s hotly anticipated and selling out fast exclusive first barrel release is just coming to market.
Dingle Gold is a blend of malt and grain spirits bottled at 46%.
There wasn’t much going on in the nose for me – but after a day being blasted by the wind and heather on the Connemara hills perhaps my senses had been dulled.
The taste was sweet and smooth with a slight bite that belied it’s 46% strength which followed through to a satisfyingly long finish.
A decent dram from the West – which leads me to my musical interlude of ‘Do You Believe In The Westworld’ by Theatre Of Hate.
I certainly do based on the delights of Lowry’s Bar.
In amongst the large array of Irish Whiskeys a trio of Connemara peated releases were prominently displayed which is only appropriate given the location. A good selection of Scotch and Bourbon was also available along with some tasty Swedish Mackmyra‘s and Japanese offerings too.
Damien – the helpful bartender informed me that whiskey tasting evenings were being arranged – so follow Lowry’s Bar social media for further information. They promise to be good nights!
In addition to the whiskey – there was also a selection of Irish Craft Beers too – a pleasant bonus not always found in a whiskey bar.
The cosy lounge area walls were festooned with whiskey mirrors – memorabilia and bottles arranged on shelves.
Lowry’s Bar would certainly be a wonderful place to spend the evening tasting some of the many whiskeys on offer.
After visiting a few self proclaimed Whiskey Bars in my time – especially on the Galway Whiskey Trail – I did ponder what exactly makes a Whiskey Bar – as opposed to simply a bar that sells whiskey?
I’ve distilled my thoughts down to 3 easy to digest items.
Bars that don’t attain these items are not in my book Whiskey Bars – but they can still be thoroughly enjoyable places to visit and even have interesting whiskeys to drink!
So what elevates a bar into a Whiskey Bar?
Simply put – there has to be at least 50 expressions on offer.
Irish Whiskey releases available right now easily reach above 100. Add in a few discontinued or rare bottles and 150+ is possible.
Throw some Scotch and Bourbon into the mix and you’re into the 200+ territory. And I’ve not even started on India – Australia – New Zealand – Germany -France……
So yes – 50 is the bare minimum.
2 A Whiskey Menu
Bars can be crowded places. It may be difficult just getting served – let alone scanning the shelves for that prized Single Malt you’ve never tried before. A Whiskey Menu means you can browse the pages salivating at the tasty drams on offer knowing a glass of liquid gold will soon be yours.
Middleton has stolen a lead here.
It offers pubs a whiskey menu only featuring their releases.
Whilst this can often be a step up – I was very pleased when my local Radisson Hotel and Ritz Gastropub in Athlone first introduced this menu as the whiskeys on offer shot up to about 20 varieties – but really!
A decent Whiskey Bar will print up their own menu including a wide variety of brands – styles and countries together with tasting notes and possibly a brief history of Irish Whiskey for the icing on the cake.
3 Tasting Trays
A Whiskey Bar should offer a tasting tray of 3 or 4 small servings of whiskey for the customer to sample.
These can be a Single Grain – Single Malt and a blend for example.
Or a peated malt – a sherry finish and a rum finish.
The permutations are endless.
They can be from the same distillery – different distilleries or even different countries.
Whatever combination – the idea is to introduce the customer to the styles – tastes and variety of whiskeys out there. After they have sampled the tray they might have a better idea of which expression suits their palate and order up a standard serving to enjoy.
Whiskey can be a minefield for the uninitiated.
Tasting trays help both new and old aficionados develop their own understanding of the myriad of flavours found in a glass of uisce beatha.
So that’s my basic 3.
Anything less than the above is just a bar selling whiskey.
However many Whiskey Bars offer more.
4 Whiskey Glasses
When I was in Belgium recently I loved the way each beer came in it’s own style of glass. It may not have added anything to the flavour – but it did add to the occasion.
I think drinking whiskey is an occasion that also requires decent glassware.
To swirl the liquid around and release the aroma a circular shaped glass is a must. It can be stemmed like a copita glass – or without like a Glencairn. There are loads of styles about.
Sadly – a square tumbler just won’t do.
5 Whiskey Tasting Evenings
Whiskey tasting evenings are great fun. You don’t even have to be a Whiskey Bar to hold them. I’ve had a few very successful tastings in my house. But having one in a Whiskey Bar is even better.
And the ultimate crowning glory?
6 Own Brand Whiskey
Jack Ryan’s – The Palace Bar and An Pucan are a few bars that have raised the level of what it is to be a Whiskey Bar to the maximum.
They all have a whiskey expression exclusively made for them.
Where do you go from there?
I know where I’d go.
To the bar and order up a glass!
If you have a favourite whiskey bar that complies with the above criteria – tell me about it.
My second visit to the Teeling Whiskey Distillery happened to take place on Valentine’s Day.
Herself had decided we’d stay with old friends in Dublin and all 4 of us would go out for a joint meal together on the 13th. It was further decreed the ‘ladies’ would visit the National Botanical Gardens on the 14th – allowing the ‘men’ to visit the now fully opened award winning distillery located in Newmarket Square in the historic Liberties area of Dublin.
Now my first visit to this fine establishment included a guided tour by none other than the master distiller Alex Chasko who exuded much glee at soon being able to produce the first distillate for many a year within the city confines.
As the building wasn’t yet complete the dress of choice was hi-vis vests and hard hats – complete with the sounds of powered tools and much shouting.
As a paying customer this time round – it would be very interesting to compare my experiences.
Gone were the scaffolding – cranes -hoardings and ant like workers busily adding the final touches.
In was a nice clean facade aided by the cycle park outside the main entrance which enhanced the view. Instead of dirty workers there was a gathering of visitors who were as much excited by the short heavy hail shower that greeted our arrival as the golden liquid inside.
Instead of Alex – Conor – one of the friendly and helpful Teeling branded staff was to be our guide today.
The ground floor contained a large cafe area serving delicious hot and cold foods along with teas – coffees and soft drinks for the kids. There were sofas and chairs to lounge in with large windows looking out into the square where many folks came to visit the neighbouring farmers market and food stalls which are a regular event.
Having been tagged at reception for the type of tasting experience you wished at the end of the tour – guests then entered a photographic display area along with whiskey memorabilia and associated artefacts whilst waiting for the tour to begin.
As is customary – a short video introduces the visitor to Irish Whiskey and Teeling Whiskey Distillery in particular before we are led into the main event – the working distillery itself!
The first thing that struck me upon entering the working distillery was the strong smell – and heat – of the malt in the mash tun. Such a warming and welcoming entrance to the building site I previously enjoyed.
The attention to detail was evident with the inclusion of a strategically based light above the inspection window to allow visitors – and staff – to see inside the large vessel.
The trio of copper stills had been cleaned up and were not only shining – but had been given names too!
And most importantly of all – the spirit safe had a steady flow of new spirit during the entire duration of our visit.
Conor gently informed us of the whole whiskey making process – from the delivery of malted and unmalted barley – to the mash tun and copper stills – to the spirit safe and on to the maturation period.
One thing I hadn’t previously thought about was that after the 1875 Liberties Whiskey Fire – the maturation of whiskey was banned from within the city and so to this day – all whiskey – including that made in Teeling’s – has to be transported out of Dublin to complete the minimum 3 years in a barrel before being able to call itself whiskey.
Teeling matures many of it’s expressions for a lot longer than that minimum requirement.
In fact at present – with the exception of Teeling Poitin – all Teeling expressions were distilled at the Cooley Distillery but have been matured to their own style by the master blender Alex Chasko.
We had the opportunity to taste some of these marvellous creations at the Bang Bang Bar after our tour.
I’d opted for the Teeling Master Class tasting – sure why else would you visit the distillery than to try out the best they had to offer?
My trio consisted of;
Teeling Single Malt
Part of the standard Teeling Trinity made up of the Small Batch and Single Grain releases – Single Malt is a lovely smooth yet sweet offering which belies it’s 46% non chill filtered strength.
Teeling 15 Year Old Revival
A recent offering matured and finished in rum casks. A far more fuller bodied expression with a hefty dose of rum throughout the nose and taste. I thoroughly enjoyed this dram.
Teeling 23 Year Old Sherry Cask
A beautifully dark liquid with distinctive sherry nose. The whiskey slips down so smoothly you’re unaware of it’s 52.5% ABV until a rich – softly spicy tingle reminds you of it’s true strength on the long and satisfying finish. A masterpiece!
This dram is definitely Louder – cue Kid Karate! An equally new – as Teeling – young upcoming band from Dublin.
This superb 23 yo expression is only available at the distillery which features the novel and exciting experience of bottling your own whiskey.
I was mindful the ‘ladies’ would be meeting us shortly in the cafe downstairs so a purchase of this magnitude for myself probably would’t be wise given the day that’s in it. An 11 yo crystal malt sherry cask is also offered for filling which is again a distillery exclusive.
Along with the usual array of branded clothes – glasses and bottles available to purchase in the roomy shop area there were a fine collection of books pertaining to both whiskey and Dublin too. I spotted Jim Murray’s 2016 Whisky Bible and after all the fuss made about his winning dram – I couldn’t resist buying a copy.
It pleased me very much that to date – Jim hadn’t yet rated the fabulous 23 yo Teeling – nor for that matter the fabulous Eschenbrenner Spessart Amber I’d purchased in Berlin!
I may be short of the 4000 plus samples he’s tasted but at least I’ve had a few he hasn’t!
I don’t know if Jim has visited Teeling’s yet. He won’t be disappointed when he does – and neither will you.
The staff are very friendly and informative. The food is great. The building has modern clean lines and the whiskeys are divine!
A working distillery in the heart of Dublin. There hasn’t been one for over 40 years.