One of the last bars I entered before the COVID19 shutdown was Garavan’s in Galway.
There on the shelves was an old acquaintance of mine – Michael Collins Whiskey.
Michael Collins is an iconic figure in Irish history. To name a whiskey brand after him celebrates that history.
When having a glass I not only enjoy the whiskey – I also wonder at the momentous changes Michael Collins witnessed – and eagerly participated in – a hundred years ago. There is a similarity to the current changes we are living through with the pandemic.
I ponder at the beauty and longevity of a brand too.
It can outlive changes in distilleries that supply the spirit.
It can overcome changes in ownership.
It can constantly change & adapt to the availability of casks – altering the blending ratios accordingly to produce the finished product.
Yet it’s still remains the same brand.
The Single Malt version before me was the old ‘baseball bat’ shaped bottle originally commissioned by Sidney Frank Importing Co. There is no age statement with this one.
It had a smooth honeyed maltiness to begin with. A characterful bite followed by a touch of dryness on the finish – perhaps reflecting a smidge of smokiness – which is more evident in the 10 Year Old Single Malt offering.
The minute you walk inside Garavan’s – located on the busy pedestrianised thoroughfare of William St/Shop St in Galway – you realise this pub is something special.
The well worn wooden snugs busily occupied by softly chatting customers – the small bar area dominated by a bewildering array of whiskeys behind it – the discrete TV in the corner with the sound down low to not disrupt the conversation – but not too low for the sports fans gathered around it – the regulars coming in and being served their favourite tipple with ne’r a word being said when a nod to the bartender will suffice.
Yes – this place is the real deal.
And that’s before you even get started on those whiskeys!
Old Comber – Hewitts – Dungourney 1964 – old and rare brands each with a different story to tell. I’d only read about them in books and yet here they were all on display – and if you’re willing to pay the price – drink.
My Galway Whiskey Trail adventure plans budget hadn’t anticipated such delights so my drink of choice was much more affordable – one of many third party whiskeys that Cooley distillery produced prior to the Beam takeover in 2012 and which are now increasingly difficult to get hold off – Shanahan’s Single Malt.
Made exclusively for Shanahan’s Steak House in Dublin – it proved to be another of my false starts as the Garavan’s bottle was decidedly empty when retrieved from the shelves!
Ah well – I’m getting used to this – try again with Slane Castle Whiskey from the same source.
Now I’m not talking about the new Slane Castle brand owned by US giants Brown-Forman – I’m talking about the original blend launched by the Connyingham family in 2009.
The reviews didn’t exactly give this expression great acclaim – but I was intrigued and excited enough to order a glass – after all – it is now part of the growing Irish whiskey heritage – even if it’s very recent heritage at that.
A slightly sweet sharpish grainy nose follows through to a similarly light grainy taste offering very little in the way of depth or flavour rounded off with a short finish sums it up.
The reports were true – not much going on here – a fairly standard entry blend no more no less – but I’m glad to have had the opportunity to try it.
I enquired about tasting trays – and despite seemingly single handedly running the bar – Brian the bartender – as it was himself that was on duty when I visited – very helpfully showed me the delightful wooden platter complete with a pretty little glass water jug and 3 Glencairn glasses – all embossed with Garavan’s logo across them no less – together with an envelope containing the tasting notes of the particular tray you’d selected – there are several available – just shows the attention to detail that explains why Garavan’s are deserving winners of The Best Whiskey Bar In Connacht for 2 years running!
The extensive whiskey menu leaves you salivating at all that is on offer.
I could come back again and again to this lovely bar and still not get over all the expressions!
Truly a marvellous spot for any whiskey afficiado.