After disembarking at Galway Docks from successfully launching The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey the entertainment continued into the wee small hours. We were whisked away to one of the founding members of The Galway Whiskey Trail‘s bars – Sonny Molloy’s.
Drinks soon flowed – wines for the non-whiskey drinking brigade – cocktails for the more youthful contingent – and yet more whiskey for myself.
Being in Sonny’s surrounded by a stunning display of whiskeys allowed me to further explore the wonderful world of peated Irish whiskey.
Peated Irish whiskey.
It’s not a category everyone seems to be aware of – let alone be familiar with.
Connemara is the most well known example of this style. A Beam/Suntory brand from the Cooley Distillery in County Louth. It’s a fairly light tasting peated whiskey in its original non-age statement (NAS) single malt bottling but is also available as a 12 year old, a stunning 22 year old, a cask strength and if you look for it – a Turf Mor expression too.
A few years ago I tasted the 22 year old at it’s launch during the 2014 Irish Whiskey Awards held in Kilbeggan Distillery. I’m afraid to say peat wasn’t my strong point at that time so it was lost on me – but I have since developed a palate for peat and should go back to re-taste it again.
Contrary to Iain Banks eminently enjoyable whisky book ‘Raw Spirit’ who likens peated whisky to Marmite in that you either love it – or hate it – I think the charms of peat have slowly grown on me.
Sonny’s also stock some lovely discontinued peated Irish whiskey.
Michael Collins 10 Year Old Single Malt is a lighty peated expression also from Cooley before the Beam takeover in 2011. Originally destined for the American market by Sidney Frank Importing Company lawsuits ensued after the loss of supply but luckily this brand may re-surface as part of the Sazerac portfolio. I certainly await it’s return – although I can still enjoy the odd dram now and then of the original in decent whiskey bars around Ireland.
The peated Irish whiskey that really tantalises my tastebuds however is Inishowen. It’s your standard entry level blend of young grain spirit mixed with peaty malt bottled at 40%. Cooley are responsible again for this delightfully smooth youthful yet fully peated whiskey.
I’d go so far to say this whiskey out performs the big Scottish guns of Johnnie Walker, Famous Grouse, Haig and Teachers et al – no sharp edges here with Inishowen. Just a wonderful aroma and taste of peat together with a lovely sweet refreshing grain finish. Pity it’s discontinued – as I love it’s simple charms – much like the youthful exuberance of my musical interlude.
In my merry state – I laid down 2 challenges.
1 – If any standard Scottish blend can match Inishowen I’d love to try it – I haven’t come across one yet.
2 – When will an Irish distillery release a blend to match Inishowen?
Now I know Teeling are already laying down peated distillate and Nephin Whiskey are planning a peated single malt – so I may not have to wait too long – but a plain ordinary everyday peated blend is what I’m looking for – not a premium product.
With my challenge set – I cheerily left what was developing into an Irish bloggers lovefest – rejoined Mrs Whiskey who had bonded with the wine drinking fraternity – and bid our farewells for the evening before things got messy.
I raise a glass of The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey as a toast of appreciation for the wonderful launch party
It’s not very often you get an invitation to the launch of a new whiskey.
So I wasted no time in replying to the RSVP of a ‘Sail With Us On Galway Bay’ for the official launch of The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey.
Mrs Whiskey – whilst not an imbiber of the uisce beatha herself has a very finely tuned nose in these matters – even asked if she could come along too!
So it came to pass that both of us high-tailed it West down the M6 motorway on a gloriously sunny Friday evening in the whiskey mobile to be at Galway Docks by the appointed time.
Now The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey is the brainchild of The Galway Whiskey Trail collective of 10 whiskey bars and 1 off-licence. They have forged an alliance to promote not only themselves – but the history and experience of Irish Whiskey within Galway City.
During the course of the evening it became apparent in talking to various members of The Galway Whiskey Trail that the passion and enthusiasm this collective has is driving the whiskey experience in Galway to a higher level.
We boarded the Aran Islands Ferry ‘Glor na Farraige’ – ‘Voice of the Sea’ – to begin our voyage escorted out of the docks by the iconic sails of several Galway Hookers. A glorious sight in the evening sunshine.
Padraig Breathnach was our engaging raconteur for the evening to introduce us to the hospitality, great festivals and poetry of Galway – all aided by the addition of a good whiskey!
Talented musicians in the shape of Sean Keane and Mairtin O’Connor also accompanied us. Together with some sean nos dancers which further added to the festival feel aboard ship.
Sailing out into Galway Bay itself flanked by Connemara on one side and the majestic limestone hills of The Burren on the other, we marvelled in the splendid scenery and even more splendid sunshine that embraced us.
Moored off Black Head Lighthouse the main event of the evening – the official launch of The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey – commenced with an introduction by Cyril Briscoe.
The whiskey itself is a 10 year old single malt from West Cork Distillers matured in port casks for a period of time and bottled at 43%. Cyril explained a nosing of grapes, apricots and bananas. A taste of toasted orange, toffee and cinnamon with a lingering finish of butterscotch sweetness.
Invited to raise a glass for ourselves – I got a rich nosing. A satisfying mouthfeel with only a hint of the port finish together with a pleasantly warming finish. Not bad at all!
Available only at The Galway Whiskey Trail outlets this expression is the proud achievement of the hard work and dedication all the venues have put into the project. It’s a worthy whiskey to take that passion into a shared experience by those who go on the trail and sample it’s delights.
Whilst many of us went on board the ferry as strangers. We were warmly greeted by the hosts and encouraged by a shared enjoyment of the stunning landscapes, warm sunshine, convivial company, entertaining music, fine food and excellent whiskey into a family of friends by the time we disembarked.
To me it encapsulates what whiskey drinking is all about – and what I felt on The Galway Whiskey Trail back on a cold dreary January day earlier this year.
It’s not just about the whiskey.
It’s about the people you share that whiskey with.
The craic and divilment that flows from drinking the whiskey.
The places and characters you meet along the way.
Whiskey is a journey.
I’m glad I made that journey on Galway Bay.
And I’m glad the people behind The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey made it all possible for me to share that journey with them.
My thanks to all the wonderful people who made the whole event a beautiful evening.
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.
On 16th January 1920 the 18th amendment came into law bringing about 13 years of drought as prohibition of alcohol started in America.
On 16th January 2016 I loitered outside Garvey’s in Eyre Square, Galway on a cold damp Saturday morning waiting for the doors to open so I could down a warming whiskey as part of my Galway Whiskey Trail tour.
The plan was to have a glass of the uisce beatha in each of the 10 pubs on the trail – with the added bonus of each being a new whiskey for me! This proved to be a relatively easy exercise in terms of new expressions – but more problematic in terms of total alcohol consumption!
There was only one Galway Girl – like Steve Earl – I had eyes for however on that morning,
and it wasn’t Grainne – however much very nice she is. I had my eyes set on some Craic & Divilment – a new fun expression labelled as Buckfast Barrel Finnished Irish Whiskey.
The second pub I entered – An Pucan just round the corner on Forster Street – had just the bottle I was looking for and a dram was duly served in a Glencairn glass to boot!
Now I’m not one for doing a review – but for this I think I’ll make an exception.
The clouds that sweep in off the Atlantic deposit their rain on the Twelve Bens of Connemara. Percolating down through the quartzite rock and bogs the water makes it’s way into magical Lough Corrib before entering the sea in Galway City. Below Persse‘s Old Distillery the River Corrib foams and churns in the narrow rapids.
This is the Colour of Craic & Divilment.
Remnants of heather clinging to the rugged landscape. Salmon swimming in the Corrib. Vanilla from the bourbon casks also brought across the Atlantic. Sweet almost sticky notes from the tonic wine along with the monk’s damp habits from Buckfast Abbey.
This is the Nose of Craic & Divilment.
Rich, smooth, sweet and warming.
A whiskey finished in an additional barrel for extra flavour and taste can be ‘undercooked’ if by not having spent enough time imbuing the aromas in the wood the results are too subtle or weak to be detected.
An ‘overcooked’ finish can unbalance the whiskey drowning out and overwhelming the original spirit character. This is ‘Overkill’ and whilst the sadly departed Lemmy did a marvelous job of it below
Craic & Divilment did not go down this route and instead produced a finely tuned marriage of whiskey and buckfast tonic adding that je ne sais quoi to the dram.
As Dr Spock used to say; ” It’s whiskey Jim, But not as we know it” and he wasn’t referring to Jim Murray either.
This is the Taste of Craic & Divilment.
The long lingering finish allows you to close your eyes to follow the journey the rain makes across the Atlantic – down the Connemara mountains and bogs, into Lough Corrib and out into Galway Bay.
This is the Finish of Craic & Divilment.
But who said anything about finishing? Sure isn’t the bottle only just opened? Grab another chair there and get a few glasses. We’ll have a grand old time getting to know this delightful little beauty. Let’s get it started!