Tag Archives: Athlone

Lough Ree Distillery, The Bridge Series, Dead Centre No 1, 43% & No 2, 46%, Irish Whiskey

A visit to the fabulous Dead Centre Brewery in the heart of Ireland overlooking the mighty River Shannon was on my mind.

I’d heard a collaborative Irish Whiskey – whiskey barrels from Lough Ree had been loaned to Dead Centre to create a beer – Here Right Now – then given back to Lough Ree to finish a whiskey in – Dead Centre No 1 & No 2 were now available at the bar.

Known primarily for their excellent range of craft beer Dead Centre Brewing now boast a pair of Single Cask, Single Malt Irish Whiskey proudly displayed behind the bar.

A serving of each was duly ordered – & I retired to the outside decking above the Shannon to sample the results.

The Bridge Series is an apt name. For Lough Ree Distillery it denotes the journey between setting up the company using sourced whiskey – GND for Dead Centre – before their own distillate arrives.

It also marks a journey of discovery, collaboration & connection – not only with fellow drinks producers & marketeers to get the whiskey on the shelves – but also for the consumers to enjoy the variety of flavours & styles on show.

Additionally there’s the physical journey from my riverside perch overlooking Athlone town bridge at the bottom of Lough Ree itself to the bridge at Lanesborough beside Lough Ree Distillery’s site. A trip well worth doing by boat!

Today my journey however was one of taste.

Dead Centre No 1, 43%

Clean, crisp & soft aromas augmented with a touch of depth. The whiskey greats you with a warm embrace. Offers up a subtle depth complete with a long lasting slightly dry finish topped off with a sprinkling of prickly spice.

Very nice!

Dead Centre No 2, 46%

If anything – slightly cleaner & crisper. Found No 2 had a smoother delivery with a bigger embrace of warmth from those rich toffee like notes. The spice on the finish correspondingly was a little more subdued offering a rounder tasting appeal.

Equally engaging!

Thoughts

Trying to pick out the minutiae of variation between 2 single cask Irish Whiskey by the banks of the Shannon is a bit of a nerdy exercise.

Both are lovely exemplar of beer barrel finished whiskey aided by Lough Ree’s policy of presenting the liquid non chill filtered & natural colour to allow the flavours to shine.

I have to confess a certain degree of local pride in these whiskey. Knowing the players behind both of these drinks businesses & sharing their journeys as they successfully produce highly entertaining liquid as well as enjoyable destinations for visitors to the area is a joy to witness & partake in.

Why don’t you partake for yourself?

I’d recommend Dead Centre Brewing as a suitable venue – & if you message me I might be encouraged to join you savouring the liquid delights within!

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Lough Ree Distillery website here.

Dead Centre Brewing website here.

Dead Centre, Que Chido, Tequila & Lime Gose, 5.5%

I gotta hand it to Dead Centre Brewing – they sure know how to brew up some tasty beers for special occasions.

Image courtesy Dead Centre Brewing

This Tequila & Lime Gose was for Cinco De Mayo.

I popped down on a sunny Friday afternoon for a quick one – & was very pleased I did.

Quite light, very refreshing, with subtle hints of earthy agave complimented by a tart sourness.

A lovely sup by the Shannon!

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Another Athlone Pub Succumbs To Fire

The Grove Bar situated on the Connacht side of Athlone suffered intensive fire damage after the nearby chip shop erupted in flames.

The inferno quickly spread along a number of businesses sharing a common roof & engulfed a bookies shop, the chip shop itself, a Carry Out Off Licence & the Grove Bar too.

Firefighters worked to quell the flames from spreading to the nearby Texaco petrol filling station.

At the time of writing all the businesses affected have lost their premises & it will be sometime before they can re-establish themselves either on the same site or at another location.

Charlies Bar on the east side of town Athlone was also destroyed by fire – but planning permission is already being sought to rebuild.

Video of the Grove fire can be viewed courtesy local newspaper Westmeath Independent here.

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All images authors own.

Has Athlone lost another bar?

A fire gutted Charlie’s Bar on Athlone’s Dublin Road recently.

Burnt Charlie c/othewhiskeynut

It’s not a venue I’d frequented myself – but being close to Athlone IT ensured it’s popularity among the student cohort.

Having only re-opened after COVID, this is a blow to the staff, owners & clientele of the establishment.

Pledged to re-build, Charlie’s joins another pair of bars in Athlone that unfortunately also went up in flames & sadly are no more.

An empty space where O’Neill’s once stood c/othewhiskeynut

O’Neill’s Bar in the centre of town spectacularly burnt down during the big freeze of 2010. All that remains is a vacant plot.

Live show at The Dell c/odiscogs.com

The Dell – a popular music venue in the 1970’s – faced a similar fate & was eventually bull-dozed into a new road scheme.

While too early to predict Charlie’s future – I worry Athlone has lost another bar.

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Dead Centre, Vivid Trinity, 9.5%

Imperial Stout Aged in ex-rum barrels.

Vivid Trinity c/othewhiskeynut

Rich, sweet dark molasses with a touch of coffee.

Slips down too easily for such a monster of a beer.

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Four months in rum barrels has added so much enjoyable flavour to the mix.

Yum yum rum! c/othewhiskeynut

Yet more delights from Dead Centre Brewing!

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Dead Centre, Preciou2 Cargo, Sherry Barrel Aged Belgian Tripel, 9.2%

I never got hold of Preciou1 Cargo – but popping down to the Dead Centre Brewery to collect my tasty takeaway pizza – Preciou2 was on display.

So I bought it.

Combining 2 of my favourite styles of beer – barrel aged – sherry this time – and Belgian Tripel – the results were a delight.

Despite the 9.2% ABV this is seductively easy to drink.

Starting off with a beguiling lightness on the palate, heavier rich notes of maltiness & treacly undertones develop.

A touch of nuttiness on the finish only adds to the experience.

Preciou2 Cargo was brewed to celebrate Dead Centre’s 2nd Birthday.

With beer this good – let there be many more!

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Sean’s, Clonmacnoise Irish Whiskey, Single Malt, 40%

I like a whiskey that takes you on a journey.

A journey of taste – as well as history.

Sean’s Clonmacnoise Single Malt Irish Whiskey does this in bundles.

A short boat ride down the mighty River Shannon from just outside Sean’s Bar’s beer garden in Athlone – is the monastic settlement of Clonmacnoise

The art of distillation is often attributed to monks bringing back the knowledge from the middle east. The route they would have traveled into the heart of Ireland is the very same River Shannon.

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Sean’s Clonmacnoise Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

The earliest written record of  aqua vitae, or uisce beatha, or whiskey as we now know it – was written in the Annuls Of Clonmacnoise in 1405. It regales the story of an unfortunate local chieftain who died of a ‘surfeit of aqua vitae’ during festivities.

Meanwhile I was fortunate enough to receive an advance bottle of Clonmacnoise by Sean’s for appraisal – & more sensible drinking.

Now I’m a fan of pubs releasing their own whiskey brands. It harks back to the days when licensed premises would have had a barrel of whiskey propped up at the bar from which they would have dispensed the spirits inside.

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Sean’s, Ireland’s Oldest Bar c/othewhiskeynut

The degree of individuality, diversity & tastes experienced when going from bar to bar would have been vast – and to a certain extent bars releasing their own brands today reflects that history.

Nowadays the whiskey is usually sourced from a number of distilleries and bottled for the bar.

Sean’s happens to have been sourced at West Cork Distillers (WCD) – and I must admit to being a fan of this slightly unconventional distillery founded by three friends who were mainly previously involved in the fishing industry.

So how did I find Clonmacnoise Whiskey?

Well the colour is a lovely dark amber. Suggestive of charred casks – which WCD do a lot of – or perhaps a sherry finish.

The nose is quite youthful & invigorating – with a warm & inviting depth to it. There’s some dark fruity notes & an intriguing soft hint of smoke.

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Sean’s Bar Athlone c/othewhiskeynut

It starts off light & easy. Very accessible & gently warming – but then it takes you on a journey – slowly developing layers of enjoyable flavours & complexity before a lovely dry spiciness with subtle hints of smoke finishes of this characterful little number.

Sean’s Clonmacnoise captures both the modern rebirth of Irish Whiskey with it’s youthful vitality & modern style – as well as remembering the long historic legacy of Irish Whiskey that has journeyed so far from it’s original birthplace.

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The Viking Ship on the mighty River Shannon at Athlone c/othewhiskeynut

You too can take that journey – by having a glass of Sean’s Clonmacnoise Whiskey in the Oldest Bar In Ireland – Guinness Book Of World Records certified – as well as journeying down river on the Viking Ship from Athlone to visit Clonmacnoise Monastery – home of the earliest written record of whiskey in the world.

Just go easy – don’t end up like the poor old chieftain!

Sláinte

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A Whiskey Cruise On The Shannon

The connections with whiskey and the mighty River Shannon go back a long way.

You could say the Shannon provided the route into Europe for whiskey around 500 to 600AD when Irish Monks brought back the art of distillation from it’s Middle Eastern birthplace.

The earliest written record of whiskey – or aqua vitae as the original clear distilled liquid was known as – is found in the Annals Of Clonmacnoise – that great seat of learning situated on a bend in the Shannon just South of Athlone – written in 1405.

In the Annuls it mentions a certain ‘Richard MacGrannell Chieftain of Moyntyrealas’ who died at Christmas from a ‘surfeit of aqua vitae’.

It seems Ireland’s – or the world’s – troubled relationship with alcohol is nothing new!

Whiskey distilleries sprung up all round the Midlands area of Ireland in the late 1700’s early 1800’s.  Athlone, Tullamore & Kilbeggan all had 2 whilst Birr managed 4! The proximity to a ready supply of power – the River Shannon & it’s tributaries – as well as waterborne transport of raw materials & produce and good farming ground were no doubt factors.

The recently held Shannon Festival in Athlone re-enacted those glory days with a delivery of kegs of porter & barrels of whiskey brought to the quayside door of Seans Bar by a pair of original Shannon Barges – 45M built in 1928 & 92E built in 1905 originally as Horse Boat 66.

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45M bringing home the whiskey! c/othewhiskeynut

Further whiskey related events were held by Midlands Whiskey Experiences in the town.

A Whiskey Tasting in The Malt House bar had the lovely Kilbeggan Single Grain paired with a milk chocolate made by  Kilbeggan Handmade Chocolate which went down a treat.

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A tasty trio in The Malt House c/othewhiskeynut

A Tullamore DEW 12 Year Old Special Reserve – triple casked, triple distilled & triple blended – was heightened by some dark chocolate.

The surprise of the day however was a Kilbeggan distilled 10 Year Old bourbon cask matured Single Malt drawn straight from the barrel by Global Brand Ambassador John Cashman himself as part of the Connoisseur Tour which is held occasionally. Fabulous stuff! Full of flavour with a powerful punch from the 58% ABV. A drop of water accentuated the richness within.

The highlight of the weekend however was a whiskey cruise on the Viking Boat up the Shannon itself.

The Vikings were regular marauders up the Shannon. Clonmacnoise was regularly a target and it’s suggested the Vikings used nearby Rindoon as a base on Lough Ree to conduct their raids from.

Our boat party meanwhile were more interested in some whiskey.

Egan’s Vintage Grain started the session off paired with more of that lovely chocolate. Egan’s is a family concern with deep roots in the Tullamore area. The Bridge House Hotel in the town was built for P&H Egan – and is proudly displayed on the bottle label – who did good business in the area finishing whiskey sourced from several distilleries to their own requirements. The current generation are resurrecting that tradition with tasty results.

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Egan’s Vintage Grain c/othewhiskeynut

Kilbeggan Whiskey is a lovely soft, slightly sweet easy drinking blend which contains a measure of malt from the boutique distillery at Kilbeggan – only a half hour away from Athlone.

Tullamore DEW were represented by their entry bottling – triple distilled, triple casked & triple blended – which was paired with a slice of green apple. This was a new experience for myself and I found it surprisingly enjoyable.

The final pour of the day was a personal favourite of mine – Locke’s 8 Year Old Single Malt. Named after the well respected distillery manager – John Locke – who ran the business for many years and after whom Locke’s Distillery was known as.

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Whiskey on the Viking Boat c/othewhiskeynut

This modern malt is now made at Cooley Distillery – the sister distillery to Kilbeggan – is double distilled & contains 10% peated malt. This adds a very pleasant soft smoke to the gentle oaky notes & leaves a wonderful dry mouthfeel at the end. Beautiful stuff.

With all this whiskey on board we rounded the cruise up with an impromptu ‘dance-off’ in a Father Ted caravan holiday style session to much hilarity & delight.

Spot prizes were awarded to the best performers – and it certainly was a performance at that!

If you’re looking for  a bit of whiskey history – some excellent whiskey & food pairings – as well as having a bit of craic too – a cruise up the Shannon with Midland Whiskey Experiences is a must.

And after sampling whiskey from the oldest continuously licenced distillery in the World – Kilbeggan 1757 – why not continue the fun with a drink in Sean’s Bar – the Oldest Pub In Ireland circa 900AD – just across the road!

Sláinte.

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O’Briens Summer Tasting, Athlone.

My local branch of O’Briens Wines in Athlone organised a Summer Tasting recently.

OBriens Tasting
O’Briens Summer Tasting promo

They invited a plethora of nearby craft beer producers – as well as a slightly more widespread coterie of spirits & whiskey distillers.

I simply had to go along!

Many familiar faces were encountered on the craft beer stalls.

Black Donkey were showcasing their latest limited edition release – Underworld. Savage Ale indeed.

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Savage Ale c/othewhiskeynut

12 Acres had their Single Malt lager. Dead Centre had some good news regarding planning permission for their town centre brewery/restaurant development. Boyne Brewhouse had some award winning beers. I even enjoyed a Miami J IPA from Rye River Brewing – despite not being an IPA fan – mainly as the hops were softer in the mix which accentuated the summer fruitiness.

Larkins from Wicklow were the only newcomers to me and I sampled some their interesting takes on the lager front.

On the spirits & whiskey front I had some brief chats with the Teeling & Connacht stands having tasted most of their excellent product before. I was tempted by Connacht’s Concullin Oak Aged Gin – mainly because of the whiskey like appearance – and did discern some oak influence in among the unfamiliar to me at least gin flavours.

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Oak Aged Gin c/othewhiskeynut

Galway Gin Co were also in attendance – but for me the main attractions were the stalls offering whiskey I’d never tried before – like Ha’Penny Whiskey on the Pearse Lyons Distillery stand.

Now it was made clear Ha’Penny Whiskey – along with it’s stablemate Ha’Penny Gin & Mil Gin too – are all sourced spirits for the Pearse Distillery who market them to a different audience than the Pearse Whiskey range which was also on display.

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Ha’Penny Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

The Ha’Penny Whiskey had that very attractive warmth I associate with charred casks maturaton. Only on closer inspection of the label was it revealed 4 different types of cask were used to mature this very flavousome blend; port pipes, sherry butts, bourbon barrels & double charred.

Very nice results too. Giving it a richness of depth & flavour not usually found in an attractively priced blend.

Midleton happened to be next door with their Method & Madness range – well 3 of them at least. How could I resist a vertical taste test?

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A trio of tasty Method & Madness c/othewhiskeynut

The Single Grain continues to excite me with the warm notes of virgin oak contrasting with the clearer, fresher grain influence. The Single Malt doesn’t pull me in as much – but what’s this? – the latest Hungarian Oak matured Single Pot Still?

My my my!

Rich, warm and inviting. A softly growing spice to tantalise & tease. Great depth of flavour with a lovely long lasting finish to remind you of the beauty you’ve just enjoyed.

Now I could easily take this one home with me!

Great stuff!

O’Briens offered a reduction on certain items on the evening so I – and many others – availed of this service and didn’t go away empty handed.

Much appreciation to all the stall holders on the night.

And a BIG UP to all the O’Briens staff in Athlone for putting together such a wonderful showcase of the fabulous beers, spirits & whiskey that abounds in Ireland today.

Sláinte.

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Lambay Whiskey – A Taster – Small Batch Blend & Single Malt, 40%

Lambay Island

A small privately owned island off the East Coast of Ireland with a rich historical background and a thriving biodiversity.

Lambay Whiskey

A business venture by the current Lambay Island owners and French based drinks producer Camus to launch Ireland’s first Cognac cask finished Irish whiskeys.

Sean’s Bar Athlone

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Sean’s Bar Athlone c/othewhiskeynut

The Oldest Bar In Ireland. Also happens to be a local of mine where a tasting of the Lambay Whiskey range was held with their entertaining  & informative ambassador Calum.

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Lambay Small Batch Blend c/othewhiskeynut

Lambay Small Batch Blend

A small batch sourced blend – West Cork Distillers – of malt & grain Irish whiskeys triple distilled, matured in ex-bourbon barrels & finished in cognac casks.

I was looking forward to trying this one.

A lovely soft, sweet yet surprisingly fresh & lively grainy nose pulled you in to a fruity & floral mix complimented by some nutty, almondy notes – presumably from the cognac influence.

The taste was clean & crisp – very engaging. Even at the 40% presentation there was appreciable depth of flavour with more of those nutty notes slowly fading to give that lovely dry mouth feel I enjoy.

This small batch blend certainly introduces a new and exciting flavour profile to the Irish whiskey scene.

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Lambay Single Malt Story c/othewhiskeynut

Lambay Single Malt

Also sharing the same source and maturation as the small batch blend, the single malt spent a little while longer in the cognac casks. Some of them were even matured on Lambay Island itself in a small warehouse used for the cognac finishing.

A softer, more malty & rounded nose led to a very smooth vanilla & caramel taste from the ex-bourbon barrels before the deeper almost cherry fruit notes of the cognac casks came through.

The finish wasn’t as dry – which allowed more of the lovely flavours to linger on the palate.

Conclusion

Both of these new expressions bring a welcome additional taste & flavour to Irish whiskey. Cognac cask finishing is new to Ireland – and relatively new to the whiskey world in general. I congratulate Lambay Whiskey – and all their partners – in delivering a lovely pair of great tasting and exciting whiskeys to the market.

For what it’s worth – I enjoyed the youthful vitality of the blend over and above the smoother single malt. The grain element provided a pleasant kick which contrasted with the softer fruitier depth of the cognac cask influence. Very enjoyable indeed.

Sean’s Bar Whiskey Club

A friendly gathering of whiskey fans to meet, discuss & enjoy fine tasting whiskeys from around the world. For details of future events, membership & activities please email westmeathwhiskeyworld@eircom.net – or chat to a member of staff at Sean’s Bar, Athlone.

Sláinte.

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