Tag Archives: Galway Whiskey Trail

Garavan’s Grocer’s Choice 10 Year Old Single Malt, 46%

Only the other day I was remarking there would be an increase in bars releasing their own label whiskey when;

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Out of the hat pops the Dead Rabbit whiskey.

Dead Rabbit Whiskey
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Shortly followed by a Garavan’s 10yo single malt!

I get as excited as a kid at Christmas with every new Irish whiskey release. In this instance it was a lot easier to visit a pub only an hour down the road – rather than a trans-atlantic flight across the pond – for me to sample one of these bottles!

Garavan’s is a gem of a whiskey bar. One of the 12 venues on the Galway Whiskey Trail. It has warm wooden snugs & paneling, loads of whiskey coupled with friendly welcoming & informed staff. What more could a whiskey fan ask for?

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Garavan’s Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

I ordered up my Garavan’s Grocer’s Choice 10 Year Old Irish Whiskey – neat as is my way – & awaited the joys that were within.

The nose opened up with some playful fruity notes – this whiskey isn’t shy about coming forward – with some rich vanilla & caramel from the bourbon cask maturation.

The taste was a delight. No holding back here either. Clear, crisp & fresh. More of that warming bourbon influence with a soft prickly spice too.

The finish was suitably long & mellow – yet left a satisfying lingering heat. Time for a tune for the recently departed.

I liked the no nonsense label too. It harks back to bygone days when brown paper bags were the norm – deliveries were done on a bone shaker & each grocer had their own whiskey – from sourced distilleries!

There is no mention on the bottle as to the origin of the spirit within. Under both Irish and Scottish whiskey rules there is no legal requirement to do so – and I’m happy with that.

I don’t judge a whiskey by the cover.

I judge by the contents.

And the contents taste lovely!

Only when I blew up the photos  – I’m of an age when all of a sudden the small print has become a bit of a blur – did I see some of the reasons why.

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And the magic number is… c/othewhiskeynut

46% in whiskey terms is a magic number. It usually denotes non chill filtration. On my palate at least that means bigger & bolder flavours – more taste sensation & more warming heat. All of which Garavan’s Grocer’s Choice possesses in spades.

There is no mention of added caramel – but the bold clarity of the flavours suggests not.

There are plans to release the whiskey for retail – but in the meantime it’s only available at Garavan’s bar.  For me – it’s the best place to experience this fabulous new Irish whiskey – having the craic & sharing the friendly banter with both regular customers and welcoming bar staff.

Sure what are you waiting for?

Time to head West.

Sláinte.

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The Wild Atlantic Whiskey Way – Day 3

We’d actually been on the Wild Atlantic Way since Derry – and the sea views from the North Mayo coast road raised our spirits in the early morning light.

But to begin with we ventured on a little detour!

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Site of new distillery? c/othewhiskeynut

Whilst in the bar the previous evening tales were told of a distillery in Sligo. We drove to the site in Hazelwood House but found little to confirm nor deny those tales. An internet search did reveal planning permission had been granted in 2016 – so if anyone has more information then please get in touch!

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Connacht Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Our first planned visit meanwhile was Connacht Distillery in Ballina. A guided tour of the recently opened & fabulous looking shiny new facility by the banks of the River Moy had been arranged. Lyndsey kindly agreed to an early start to show us round the gleaming pot stills & lovely wooden lined tasting room of the spacious site. Like most new distilleries Connacht have a range of sourced products they sell until their own actual spirit is flowing.

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Straw Boys Poitin & Vodka c/othewhiskeynut

Interestingly one of the freshly filled barrels of Connacht new make single malt recently made it’s way over to the beautiful scenery of Clare Island to quietly see out it’s maturation time in the stunning coastal location there. No doubt a large party will be in order when that barrel is finally bottled!

The Straw Boys Poitin – which is now Connacht’s own spirit – & Spade & Bushel Single Malt made an impact this early in the day – but what interested me was the Brothership Irish-American Whiskey. It’s a blend of 10 year old American rye whiskey with similarly aged Irish whiskey and is one of many new expressions currently going down this hybrid whiskey style to either much applause – or disdain.

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Brothership Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Personally I think it’s a great idea & has sold out fast! I managed to get my hands on the last bottle before a new label adorns the expression to comply with Irish whiskey regulations. The rye certainly comes through in the mix which pleased me no end.

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Nephin barrel top c/othewhiskeynut

Only a short drive down the road is Nephin Distilery. Nestled in the pretty village of Lahardaun under the towering bulk of Nephin mountain,  Nephin Whiskey have chosen not to release any spirit until their own peated single malt is matured. Using locally grown barley & locally sourced peat – or turf as it’s called in Ireland – this will be a malt with some terroir. My name is already down on the list for the Reserved First Bottles offer!

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Artists drawing of Nephin distillery. c/othewhiskeynut

Nephin have very ambitious & well thought out plans for an attractive distillery in the town along with a malting floor too! Wonderful news. The site is empty at present but everything is going according to plan for this forward looking company. Construction is due soon & expected to be complete by 2018. More power to them.

A long drive through counties Mayo & Galway was eased by the stunning scenery – as well local lads Saw Doctors singing their songs on the car  stereo.

The busy crowds of Galway City slowed down our progress as we made our way to the home of Micil Poitin in the popular spot of Salthill.

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The still & the poitin. c/othewhiskeynut

The enthusiastic founder Pádraic Ó Griallais met us in his micro distillery behind the Oslo Bar where just like his ancestors, Pádraic makes 100% Irish grain Poitin infused with locally sourced bogbean botanicals. The results are a soft, smooth yet slightly spicy refreshing drink which is often used as a base for cocktails.

He also hoped to do a gin soon – and whiskey was on the cards too! But the timescale wasn’t finalised. Nonetheless his Micil Poitin went down very smoothly. We even sampled a taster at 80% which despite my initial misgivings actually proved to be quite palatable. You could still taste the attractive flavour through the powerful alcoholic kick!

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The Micil story c/othewhiskeynut

The Oslo Bar is also the original home of Galway Bay Brewery – who have since moved onto larger premises in Ballybrit – and is a lovely gastropub serving delicious food & snacks on the popular Salthill promenade which was thronged with folks enjoying the wonderful sunshine.

Later on in the evening we also ventured out into the sunshine on the famous Galway Whiskey Trail to sample the Galway Bay Irish Whiskey that is only available in the 10 pubs & 1 off-licence that make up the trail. We settled on Freeny’s in the end with it’s marvelous selection of Irish whiskey on display.

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Beer of the day c/oLeoPhelan

Being Saturday night the bars were packed with revellers – but we did find space in the newly opened Caribou bar who stocked an impressive array of craft beers, gins & whiskeys. I couldn’t resist a can of Commotion Lotion. A collaboration between pop act King Kong Company & YellowBelly Beer. A tasty & fun beer to end the day!

Dram of the day?

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Neck detail c/othewhiskeynut

The blended expression of Irish whiskey & American rye that is Brothership.

Well done Connacht Whiskey!

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My Top 3 Whiskey Events of 2016

Looking back on 2016 with my whiskey glasses on has been a wonderful journey.

Events without the glasses on leave a lot to be desired.

It marked my 1st full calendar year – Jan to Dec – of the blog along with a growing audience, new friends, new events and above all – some lovely whiskey.

Picking out a few highlights from the many is no easy task. I’ve distilled it down to 3 events that were not only enjoyable at the time but I think will have an impact in the following year.

1 The launch of Galway Bay Irish Whiskey

A collaborative team from the 11 venues of The Galway Whiskey Trail selected this Gold Medal winning 10 year old single malt made at West Cork Distillers to be sold on the trail. I thoroughly enjoyed my day on the trail during an otherwise dull January day.

The launch night itself in May aboard the Aran Islands ferry on the stunning Galway Bay with wonderful company & beautiful scenery certainly deserves a Whiskey Nut Award for the best new whiskey launch of the year!

I’m definitely looking forward to a growing list of whiskey trails around Ireland. Especially as the Irish Whiskey Association aims to be a world leader in whiskey tourism.

And perhaps some new whiskeys specific to each trail?

2 The rebirth of rye in Irish Whiskey

Brian Nation’s speech at the Irish Whiskey Awards in Tullamore highlighted innovation within the industry.

I had tears of joy when he mentioned Irish Distillers are currently growing 140ha of rye near Enniscorthy for potential use in recreating old John Jameson recipes uncovered by the archive department that included rye in the mix.

Later in the evening some whiskey friends from America were sharing a bottle of Emerald American Whiskey.

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The Emerald c/othewhiskeynut

Well I say American Whiskey as that’s where it was produced and matured.

But the recipe is based on an 1865 Irish Whiskey recorded for posterity by a British excise agent and includes both malted and unmalted barley along with some oats & rye.

It tasted divine.

Not long after that I came across Prize Fight Irish Whiskey at Whiskey Live Dublin.

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Prize Fight Irish Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Another West Cork Distillers produced whiskey that has been finished in ex-rye barrels from Tamworth Distilling in New Hampshire.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much of the dry mouthfeel and rich spicy punch associated with a rye whiskey came through in this delightful blend. Wonderful!

To top it off Fionnan O’Connor wrote an excellent piece in the inaugural Irish Whiskey Magazine which delved in to the history of mash bills commonly used in Irish whisky production in the 1800’s and what do you know? Rye featured quite a bit to the extent that a certain Andrew Jameson went to the trouble of importing the grain as Irish sources were hard to come by .

My mouth is already watering in anticipation of future Irish rye releases.

3 My trip to Tas

My Australian adventure was ostensibly for a wedding but I used it to sample & taste as much Aussie whisky as I could come across on my travels.

The variety of styles, tastes & flavours had me enthralled.

Tasmania was undoubtedly the jewel in the crown. It’s home to a growing number of whiskey distilleries including Lark, Overeem, Hellyers Road and the wonderful Belgrove Distillery which produces some astounding rye whisky – well – what else would you expect? – combined with fabulous scenery, wildlife & fine dining.

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Bruny Island Tasmania c/othewhiskeynut

The trend of countries not normally associated with whiskey production will continue as witnessed by Italy’s highly praised Puni Whisky.

My future holiday plans will always try and seek out new and exciting whiskey in whatever destination I end up in.

So what would be your whiskey highlights of 2016?

Drop me a line or post on my facebook or twitter accounts.

Many thanks for reading and a shout out to all those I’ve met along the way.

Happy dramming for 2017!

Slainte.

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West Cork Distillers

A  welcome addition to the exhibitors at this years Whiskey Live Dublin were West Cork Distillers.

Established in 2003 – originally at Union Hall in the stunning scenery of west Cork but now based in nearby Skibbereen since 2013 – West Cork Distillers have been quietly working away refining the art of whiskey making and releasing a very tasty portfolio of product often under the radar of the mainstream whiskey community.

West Cork Distillers have recently won Irish Whiskey Distillery Of The Year at the New York International Spirits Competition 2016 along with a Gold for their Pogues release and a Silver for the 12 year old rum cask single malt.

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The Pogues Irish Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

The Galway Bay Irish Whiskey – a 3rd party release by West Cork Distillers – also won a Gold Award at the Irish Whiskey Awards held in Tullamore so their star is certainly beginning to shine.

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Galway Bay Irish Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

The bold design of The Pogues Irish Whiskey immediately attracted me and I was rewarded by a pretty tasty blended whiskey when I got it home.

The Galway Bay Irish Whiskey – a rum finished 10 year old single malt – was produced for the Galway Whiskey Trail collective of 10 bars and 1 off-licence and launched to much fanfare at a fabulous event held on the stunning surroundings of Galway Bay itself.

On the stall at Whiskey Live Dublin meanwhile were several new releases under West Cork Distillers own label which I was ably guided through by their informative ambassador Liz.

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West Cork Distillers stall c/othewhiskeynut

I went straight for the cask finished trio of 12 year old single malts which encompassed a sherry, port and rum expressions.

All 3 expressions for me were far superior to the rather sweet tasting 10 year old offering. All gave a well balanced finish with extra flavour from the relevant finish which didn’t overpower the soft single malt base spirit. The port cask would be my best pick giving a slightly more heavy and rich feel than the other 2, but that’s just my preference as all were very palatable.

Bottled at 43%, they are a welcome addition to the growing West Cork range. They clearly demonstrate the effect different wood finishes have on the original single malt which makes a tasting of all 3 an interesting experience.

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Black Cask c/othecelticwhiskeyshop

In my haste to move on and sample as much whiskey as I could I failed to sample the Black Cask release! A blend finished in heavily charred oak barrels. I’ve heard through the grapevine that it’s pretty good – so I’m looking forward to sampling yet more tasty whiskey from West Cork Distillers in the near future!

Slàinte

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3 Things That Make A Whiskey Bar

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?

1 Numbers

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!

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Midleton menu c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Jack Ryan Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

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!

Slainte.

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PS.

If you have a favourite whiskey bar that complies with the above criteria – tell me about it.

The more I have to visit the better!

Garavan’s, Galway.

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!

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Would you like to taste these? c/othewhiskeynut

Old ComberHewittsDungourney 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.

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Brian at Garavan’s c/othewhiskeynut

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!

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Garavan’s winning trophy c/othewhiskeynut

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.

Sláinte.

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Garvey’s, Galway.

You can’t miss Garvey‘s.

It’s a large 4 story building topped with a clock spire which displayed the same time at the start of my Galway Whiskey Trail Day as at the end.

The premises is situated in the Eastern corner of Eyre Square directly outside the train station which made it a logical choice as the starting pub for my adventure – considering I’d just left the warm seat of the Dublin service for a rather dank and dismal Galway day and was looking forward to my first warming whiskey.

With a little time to spare before the 10.30am opening time I popped into the local Centra for a bottle of water and some Rennie‘s – just in case – then took the plunge.

It did cross my mind that it was a wee bit early to be having a dram – but then I’d been planning this trip for some time – and it was the anniversary of prohibition of alcohol in America – and whiskey is my love – and didn’t Bill Drummond and the crew in KLF used to sing,

“What Time Is Love?”

My plan was to have the first whiskey as an Irish Coffee – made with the brand originally famed by it’s invention – Dunphy’s – but despite there being an extensive array of Midleton expressions – Dunphy’s wasn’t one of them.

Trust me for choosing the missing release in a bar that has over 50 whiskeys on offer!

Slightly thrown by this incident I quickly scanned the heaving display and settled on the unusually named Sheep Dip.

Previously having tasted the equally unusual Pig’s Nose from the Spencerfield Spirit Company I was intrigued to find out what it’s stablemate was made off. The answer was pretty decent stuff indeed! A rich malty blend with a satisfyingly strong taste and long finish. If anything – this surpassed my experience of Pig’s Nose.

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Garvey’s bar with the black stuff and the uisce beatha c/othewhiskeynut

Sampling the whiskey allowed me to have a good look round the heavily wooded bar area. There were a few other customers present – even at this early hour. A gentleman in for a drop of the black stuff and a young american couple having breakfast after a day out on the Aran Islands.

At this juncture I’d just like a little time out for the demise of David Bowie.

And hope the young couple enjoyed their stay in Ireland.

Did I mention this Garvey’s was an hotel – complete with accommodation, restaurant and meals?  It also explained why I’d seen folks leaving the premises before opening time. As I’d made sure I had a hearty breakfast before I left home I didn’t order the Full Irish the visitors seemed to be enjoying.

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Garvey’s sandwich board c/othewhiskeynut

Along with the expected food menu there was also a whiskey menu complete with tasting notes. Sadly it exclusively featured releases from Midleton and didn’t included the likes of Tullamore DEW – Bushmills – Teeling – Kilbeggan or Knappogue Castle as well as others – all of which were on the shelves. There were also American Bourbon’s and of course some Scotch – of which Sheep Dip is one.

A handy place to pop into on your way to or from the rail and bus stations which are just across the road. The staff were very warm and friendly to boot.

As Arnie says ” I’ll be back!”

Sláinte

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Craic & Divilment Irish Whiskey

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!

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Craic & Divilment Irish Whiskey in An Pucan, Galway c/o thewhiskeynut

Now I’m not one for doing a review – but for this I think I’ll make an exception.

Colour 

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.

Nose

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.

Taste

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.

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Dr Spock on tasting Craic & Divilment c/o google

This is the Taste of Craic & Divilment.

Finish

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!

This is the Word of Whiskey Nut

Sláinte

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