1 – Caribou, a four legged animal prone to herding during annual migrations across it’s North American range. Mainly eats lichens.
2 – Caribou, a recently opened bar in the Wood Quay area of Galway that stocks an amazing array of craft beers, gins & whiskeys.
Pick your poison.
a) Craft Beer as in Commotion Lotion.
A delightfully fruity easy summer drinking lager from the Wexford based Yellow Belly Beer in collaboration with pop punksters King Kong Company.
b) Whisky as in Scapa Skiren.
A sweet, smooth honey laden single malt from the Orkney Islands in the far north of Scotland.
Throw in a hard working yet friendly & informative bar crew.
Fill with an eclectic mix of;
i – Herds of bearded hipsters gathering – like the aforementioned Caribou – to graze on the amber nectar of craft beers along with their tattooed love birds.
ii – Whiskey geeks discussing the merits of non-chilled filtration & the de-merits of added caramel whilst sniffing, nosing & actually getting round to drinking the expressions before them!
iii – Music fans chilling out to the funky tunes played on the sound system contrasting the perfectly professional yet perfunctory performance of Radiohead at Glastonbury with the wild youthful exuberance of Otherkin at Slane.
Finish with a solid wooden bar filled with craft beer taps, comfortable tables, chairs & the odd sofa to relax in, board games to play with & a lovely floral display outside.
I choose Caribou – the bar.
I choose to sample both poisons – and more from an excellent range.
I choose to go back after my first visit on the ‘Hit The North‘ whiskey distillery tour.
I choose to be that whiskey geek accompanied by the music maestro enjoying the best Caribou has to offer.
Factories, farms, garden sheds or industrial units in which whiskey is manufactured.
They come in all shapes & sizes.
And they are as attractive to whiskey fans as bees are to honey.
To see them, feel them, touch them & smell them.
To experience the characters & the stories that lie behind them.
And to engage with them in their natural environment whether it be surrounded by fields of barley swaying in the wind, salt laden breezes on the wild Atlantic coast or gently rolling green countryside. The environment that ultimately shapes & molds the whiskey into the wonderful array of tastes & smells of the spirit in your favourite glass.
To this end I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to try and put together a trip encapsulating all the new, planned & existing whiskey distilleries in Ireland in one big tour.
Logistically & timescale wise this proved to be a bit of a whiskey marathon spaced out over a week – so a game of 2 halves was suggested.
Hit The North is the inaugural first half covering the Irish distilleries north of an arbitrary line from Dublin to Galway.
Look out for my future posts covering how the trip went!
Micil. A proper noun. (mick-ill) A person’s name. Specifically one who hails from the gaeltacht area of Galway and was employed in illicit alcohol production.
Poitin. A noun. (po-cheen) A formerly illegal distilled spirit. Usually clear in appearance. In this instance made by the above person – but now turned into a legal enterprise by his great, great, great grandson.
I encountered Micil Poitin whilst waiting for the start of my Dublin Whiskey Tour in the welcoming Dingle Whiskey Bar.
Surprisingly smooth on the palate with the familiar oiliness & hints of rotten fruit associated with what is essentially unaged raw whiskey.
The added locally foraged bogbean gave a few other soft notes contributing to a degree of terroir.
Micil Poitin is the taste of tradition.
A worthy addition to the growing Irish Poitin market.
We were gently awoken from our slumbers by the gurgling waters of the River Corrib that once powered the machinery of Persse Distillery on Nun’s Island. This long closed Galway distillery inspired the members of The Galway Whiskey Trail to successfully launch The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey at last evenings extravaganza.
If our hotel room had been around about 100 years ago we could have inhaled the rich malt aromas hovering in the air as the distillery was only a stones throw across the river.
As it happened it was the enticing smell of a freshly cooked breakfast that eventually got us out of the bed to face the day ahead.
Apart from a few drunkenly made arrangements to meet up with some of the launch party crew – which always seem a bit ambitious in the cold light of day – our time was free. Herself however had plans to purchase a new rig out for an upcoming wedding so out shopping it was. Luckily after a few boutiques I made my excuses and headed to another kind of shop more suitable for my tastes – McCambridges.
Being a member of The Galway Whiskey Trail – which I’d previously visited in January – I knew they had an extensive range of whiskeys in their off-licence department. Also knowing The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey hailed from West Cork Distillers – I was curious to find out what their own label West Cork 10 Year Old Single Malt tasted like in comparison.
McCambridges had plenty of Galway Bay in stock but had sold out of West Cork. Luckily there was still some spirit left in the sample bottle so a small taster soon appeared before me.
Now a 10 year old aged in ex-bourbon casks is going to be a bit vanilla sweet – but this was way too sweet.
A look at the small print on the back confirmed my suspicions – E150 – or added caramel to you and me.
I’ve read that added caramel is a tried and tested practice mainly used to darken light coloured blends to give a uniform colour across many barrels and vats.
I’ve read that in small quantities you can’t taste it.
I’m afraid to say – as Heather Greene implies in her highly informative book “Whisk(e)y Distilled” – that as you’re palate develops you can.
There’s just too much added caramel in this single malt for my liking which gives it an unbalanced taste experience. It may have been a perfectly fine whiskey without E150 so why add it?
West Cork Distillers seem to quite like using caramel. They are not alone.
Just the other day I bought a bottle of budget price Scotch by the name of Glen Orchy from a German Supermarket. On tasting some I immediately thought it had the flavour profile of a Richard ‘The Nose‘ Paterson blend all over it. Soft, mellow and caramel sweetness. On doing some research into it’s origins I found it shared the common Glasgow postcode with many other whisky brands – G2 5RG. Suffice to say the headquarters of Whyte & Mackay are based here too – along with Dalmore, Jura and 30 others.
I’m sure there is caramel in Galway Bay – but the port finish gives it a much more balanced result.
1 nil to Galway Bay.
Satisfaction piqued – I met up with Mrs Whiskey. A tentative suggestion of drinks and a snack in the warm sunshine outside one of the Galway Whiskey Trail venues was accepted so Tigh Neachtain‘s won out in this instance.
A white wine for the lady was duly ordered along with the appealingly named Bogman Irish Craft Ale I hadn’t encountered before.
Bogman turned out to be very enjoyable indeed. Not too strong at 4.9% ABV with a satisfying malty flavour. Good work from those at Spiddal River Brewery. Herself enjoyed her wine too!
We wondered if anyone else would bother to turn up from the night before – and then one appeared – followed shortly by another!
There were warm greetings all round with banter about the Galway Bay launch where we had all met followed by yet more drinks – and a tasty lunchtime meal.
I had another whiskey this time. Te Bheag is an entry level peated Scottish blend from Skye which I’d previously encountered at Whiskey Live Dublin. My palate has obviously developed as unlike my previous tasting – I got a dose of added caramel sweetness this time round.
Having the craic and shooting the breeze couldn’t have been more enjoyable. During the course of our stay on this busy pedestrian intersection many people came and went. An immaculately groomed – both male and female – wedding party stopped by for a pint and some photos. I had a chance to chat with the barman after walking out without paying on my last visit! We met one of The Galway Hooker skippers from the whiskey launch lastnight and to crown it all – a stunningly blue eyed musician serenaded one of our party after a throw away comment.
Turns out Thomas Wesley Stern are a travelling band from the Pine Barrens region of New Jeresy who had only arrived in town from Sligo and were heading to Lisdoonvarna later.
They soon had a small crowd of admirers outside Tigh Neachtain’s and garnished much applause – along with a pint for their troubles. Here they are singing a whiskey related song.
Alas a short downpour interrupted the proceedings and broke the spell.
Thoughts of returning to the real world with it’s attended chores clouded the mind and goodbyes with promises to stay in touch were exchanged.
The Galway Whiskey Trail certainly lives up to it’s description in providing an experience you cannot buy.
Together with the fabulous launch of The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey it had been an absolutely stunningly entertaining weekend.
The combination of festivities, friendliness and fun are what it’s all about.
When will you visit the trail to capture the craic for yourself?
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.
The immense bulk of Mount Gable looms over the picturesque town of Clonbur as you approach from the East. It’s a popular destination for the fishing fraternity due to being sandwiched by Lough Mask to the North and the mighty Lough Corrib to the South.
Straddling the Galway/Mayo border Clonbur also provides easy access to a range of stunning mountain scenery including the Maumturks, The Twelve Bens, Maumtransa and the Partry/Joyce Mountains – which conveniently leads me to the musical interlude provided by local lads The Saw Doctors.
Having just got down from scaling one of the minor Joyce hills to stretch my legs and enjoy the views – I was in need of some sustenance. I knew Eddie’s sported some whiskey from a previous visit I’d made but now I had the opportunity to actually enjoy one!
Suitably seated at the bar I ordered up a hot toasted ham sandwich. My choice of whiskey was a bit more difficult to make with a bewildering array of over 170 bottles on offer. Luckily a whiskey menu was at hand.
I eventually settled on an Islay release from the Bunnahabhain distillery seeing as I was in a gealtacht area.
Originally destined for the travel retail market – the Durach Ur bottling is a 46.2% non-chill filtered – non age statement single malt. Unlike some of it’s near neighbours – Durach Ur is a lighly peated well balanced whisky with a full bodied malty taste oozing flavour. Just the right pick-me-up after my sorte out in the rather cold and windy spring weather.
The bar shelves groaned with an impressive display of whiskeys. Irish releases were well represented but Scottish expressions seemed to match – if not outnumber – the local varieties. A few token bourbons and a lone Japanese brought up the remainder.
Whiskey tasting platters can be arranged and there is plenty of memorabilia scattered throughout the welcoming bar. An outside seating area catches the sun – when it shines – and is where I enjoyed a hearty al fresco meal on my previous visit watching the comings and goings of this popular little spot.
Eddie’s Bar together with the adjoining Fairhill House Hotel have won awards for their tasty meals so there should be no surprise in finding an empty tourbus or two clogging up the carpark whilst their passengers enjoy the refreshments inside.
I’m certainly planning my next hill-walking adventure as an excuse to call in on Eddie’s again for yet another lovely dram and tasty snack.
O’Connell’s on Eyre Square is handily situated a stones throw from the railway station and my train home.
The outside of the premises looks like an old shop with the large open window at the front allowing a view into the bar inside.
Indeed O’Connell’s used to be a grocers – operating alongside the pub – which is still a feature of many a more traditional Irish bar. The grocery is long gone now – but a lovely patterned tiled floor remains to remind you of former times.
I’m surprised I could still hold the camera steady enough to capture a snap after all the great whiskey I’d had during my day on the Galway Whiskey Trail – and seeing as this was my last venue – I threw caution to the wind and went for 2 expressions from the fine array of bottles perched on wooden shelves behind the bar.
A Titanic was very quickly spotted with the friendly and informative staff giving me a brief lowdown on the heritage of this Cooley made discontinued brand.
As I’d previously met Peter Lavery – the brands owner – at the 2014 Irish Whiskey Awards – and turned down the Titanic in favour of Baileys Whiskey in Tigh Neachtain’s earlier – I loved the opportunity to plug the gap in my whiskey tasting experience.
Glass duly in hand I sat down below the front window on a long bench beside the growing number of customers to enjoy the lovely mellow and sweet – smooth tasting tipple from the Belfast Distillery Company. Such a delight. Pity it’s no longer around.
At times like this I do ponder if the mood and general wellbeing of the taster- as well as the ambience of the premises and conviviality of fellow drinkers – influences the resulting ratings given to any particular dram.
It wasn’t just the whiskey warming me to this lovely pub. The conversation was flowing too – and the heat was definitely on with warm air being pumped into the large bar area from under the bench.
You’ll have to excuse the musical interlude to commerorate the passing of yet another musical icon – Glen Frey.
O’Connell’s also boasts a more traditional lounge area at the back – along with a beer garden to compliment the rather unique setting of the front bar. I certainly enjoyed it. So much so that when I chatted to the staff and spotted a bottle of Crown Royal – I couldn’t pass it by.
Crown Royal Deluxe is the entry level blend from the now famous Canadian distiller whose Northern Rye expression is the Best Whisky In The World 2016 – according to Jim Murray. I was curious to see what the fuss was all about.
From the initial sweet aroma of the rye – the smooth creamy mouthfeel and complex taste together with the lovely warm finish – this is certainly a different flavour profile to the Irish whiskeys sampled before. I can see why Jim rates this brand and I’m sure I’ll seek out other opportunities to try it. I wasn’t disappointed!
A glance at the time roused me from my revelry. With less than 5 minutes before the last train home I hurriedly made my way to the station.
The ticket collector was already shouting out the imminent departure as I – and a few other stragglers – ran along the platform. I’d only got round to taking my jacket off before the train started rolling. Talk about cutting it fine!
At only half seven in the evening – I’d be having an early night – but considering my first whiskey was at half ten that morning – it would be welcome.
My Galway Whiskey Trail adventure was a wonderful experience.
So many pubs.
So many new expressions sampled and plenty more yet to taste.
So much help and advice from the friendly staff and so much craic from the customers.
I’d already walked passed the next venue of my Galway Whiskey Trail adventure earlier on in the day as I wasn’t exactly sure what it had to offer.
McCamdridge’s isn’t even a pub!
I know it more as a fine deli – cafe and classy restaurant where occasionally I’d meet herself – who is far more of a foodie than myself. She rates it very highly.
But my curiosity was pumped by my whiskey intake – or should I make that ‘Voodoo In My Blood’ – to enjoy a little musical interlude from the lovely Edinburgh based boys – Young Fathers – together with trip-hop heroes Massive Attack – currently on tour.
What greeted me inside was a very unexpected and impressive display of whiskeys for sale.
Turns out McCambridge’s is a rather fine off-license too!
A few of the expressions were unfamiliar to me. An interestingly old fashioned styled label proclaiming to be Egan’s from Tullamore took my eye – quickly followed by a bottle of Canadian Crown Royal bedecked in it’s trademark velvet bag – but I wasn’t here to buy.
“We do tastings as well.” the helpful staff member offered when he saw me looking.
Indeed they do.
A quick scan of the website reveals the whiskey tasting evenings are held upstairs in the restaurant. Sounds very inviting. Especially when those tastings are paired with the lovely food McCambridge’s is famous for.
They also plan to install a copper pot still style display where potential customers can try before they buy the excellent range stocked.
Now that’s my kinda shop!
A first class venue to purchase a bottle of that fine dram you tasted earlier in one of the Galway Whiskey Trail pubs.
I couldn’t count the number of expressions available – but there were plenty about.
After Jim Murray controversially gave a Crown Royal expression his top spot in 2016 – I don’t think the bottle I saw earlier will be on the shelf for long. Despite my whiskey soaked brain screaming BUY IT – somehow or other the voices in my head said NO – you’ll only drop it before you get home!
Conscious there was yet one more premises to attend – temptation was resisted.
Did I mention Heaven 17 played a blinding set at the Big Top in Galway a few years ago?
Obligatory photos were captured and the staff thanked for giving me the time for a little chat inbetween serving customers – even though I bought nothing myself!
I bid my farewell and headed off to Eyre Square for the final pub.
Unaware I’d just committed a crime against whiskey at Tigh Neachtain’s – I ambled up the High Street a short while to the lovely inviting entrance of Sonny Molloy’s.
The wooden snugs – lit up whiskey cabinets that encircled the bar and immediate seating area – friendly staff – together with my increasing mellowness brought on by the previous drams – endeared me to yet another special bar on the Galway Whiskey Trail.
An estimated 100 plus expressions on display made it a little difficult for me in my increasing alcoholic fuzz to pick out something I’d not tried before – but eventually a bottle of Tyrconnell Sherry was spotted.
Hailing from my local distillery in Westmeath – Kilbeggan – Tyrconnell is one of the old brands John Teeling revived back in the late 1980’s to build up his whiskey empire.
At 46% – as opposed to the mainly 40% drams I’d enjoyed earlier in the day – there is a much more noticeable spirity kick on the nose. This follows through to the taste before a warm sweet experience from the sherry influence is experienced which mellows the kick into a smooth and satisfying finish. The Sherry Finish is one of 4 Tyrconnell Single Malt releases available. There is the standard Single Malt itself bottled at 40% – and the 3 finishes of Port – Madeira and Sherry all bottled at 46%.
I’m currently working my way through them all and have to say the Port Finish sampled in Kilkenny is currently my favourite – but a blind tasting of all 4 back to back would certainly be an interesting experience if only to be able to discern the different barrel finishes have on the resulting whiskey. Mmm – must work on that one.
Sonny Molloy’s is another one of those establishments – like it’s sister pubs The Dail and Blake’s – that serves a comprehensive food menu and the early evening diners were beginning to come in after finishing their shopping. The atmosphere was warm and inviting and I began to relax knowing that I had enough time to complete my tour of the Galway Whiskey Trail – as well as feeling I wouldn’t keel over anytime soon!
The Saturday papers were scattered on the wooden shelves near the bar where I perched myself to enjoy the Tyrconnell so I fell in to reading them. An article on the reformation of LCD Soundsystem caught my eye. At one time I thought I was abreast of the music scene. Clearly I was now out of the loop as despite enjoying some of their tracks – I was unaware they had even split up in the first place! C’est la vie!
Thankfully I’m of an age the only drunk girls I need to worry about now are my rapidly maturing teenage grand daughters!
Sonny’s also had a fun and informative whiskey leaflet which could be stamped to say you’d raised a glass to Sonny Molloy. How could I resist?
A lovely little souvenir of my time on the trail!
I got chatting to the bar staff and it turns out the whiskey trail has brought a lot of tourists in – especially during summer. A further expansion of the whiskey display cabinets is envisaged to enhance this increased interest. They felt the trail has been a success in raising awareness of the fine whiskey bars present in Galway.
I would certainly concur with this sentiment.
A final sip of Tyrconnell was savoured before I thanked the staff for their time and hospitality – then I headed out for the remaining stops on the trail.
The King’s Head is only a short walk down the busy pedestrianised High Street from Garavan’s – but the contrast between the two pubs is marked.
Whilst Garavan’s doesn’t look much from the outside – on the inside it’s a quiet haven for the whiskey aficianado.
Meanwhile The King’s Head has a marvelous and prominent red medieval window facing out into the thoroughfare which draws in the tourists – sightseers – hungry shoppers and thirsty drinkers. It’s as busy inside the bar as it is on a sales day outside!
I maybe didn’t choose the best spot to sit by the bar as all the traffic passed by – queue a Jimi track – but at least I was close to the whiskey.
Nonetheless – there is a warm feel to the large premises – helped by the open fire burning brightly just inside the door.
Spread over 3 floors there is the bar area itself – a large dining area behind in which many shoppers were already tucking in to a meal – as well as upstairs. I didn’t venture any further than the downstairs today – but I’ve attended a private party held on the top floor where there is a comfortable lounge area complete with it’s own bar.
I was also pleased to see the inclusion of some craft beer too with Galway Hooker and my buddy Richard’s Sheep Stealer on tap. Whilst all the previous premises had plenty of whiskey expressions – their beer selection could be limited. Like the new whiskey distilleries – the rise of craft breweries in Ireland has brought about a taste and flavour explosion for the discerning drinker. Long may it last.
On this occasion my tipple of choice was from the Midleton distillery in the form of Paddy Centenary. Unlike the standard Paddy blended offering – Centenary is a single pot still bottling at 43%. The tasting notes accompanying the glass mentioned apples – spice and oily mouthfeel.
My palate isn’t the best – but I did get a hint of green apples – certainly the spices – and a long smooth finish. Gone is that grainy bite associated with the blend. A far superior whiskey indeed and worth the extra expense.
Pleased I’d reached my halfway point and was still relatively functioning well – despite a warm pleasant wooziness beginning to kick in – I finished my dram and moved on – and I couldn’t resist this – to the next whiskey bar – thanks to The Doors.