Mindful of my own advice to not store whiskey too long before consumption, I looked into one of my storage cupboards – dark & at constant temperature – to find a shocking amount of bottles.
The Ballechin was one that attracted me.
It had a few things going for it.
To begin with – it was a small bottle that wouldn’t be around for long after opening. More pertinently it bore 3 phrases pleasing to my palate; unchill filtered, natural colour & heavily peated.
The nose was a mixture of peat smoke infused with dark stone fruits.
Rather than a dry ashy peatiness – a luscious smooth & engaging fruitiness eased me into a warming peat fire which wrapped me in it’s cosy embrace.
A gorgeously engaging whiskey to savor.
Emanating from Edradour Distilley in the Highlands – the Ballechin is a run of peated malt they do.
Interestingly, for the first 160 years of it’s existence from 1825, there were no single malt bottlings. All product was used for fillings in the highly successful blended scotch market. Only in 1986 did Edradour start releasing their own single malts when that category began to rise in popularity.
All this information was gleaned from Charles MaClean’s Whiskipedia book.
Which is a mine of information on Scottish Whisky Distilleries.
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.