A land of 190 million souls – 3 Guinness Breweries and a variety of local whiskies.
I say ‘local’ as a quick internet search failed to find any Nigerian whisky distillery. It did find however a selection of whisky brands that are sold in Nigeria – but have been sourced elsewhere – namely India in this instance.
I managed to get my hands on Royal Circle Whisky via a friend who kindly brought me back some samples whilst working in Lagos. A trip to the local Spar shop did the trick.
Packaged in an attractive dumpy bottle with a logo that reminded me of Chivas Regal – Royal Circle is presented at 42.8% and hails from the Khemani Distillery in Daman, India.
It’s a blend of ‘Selected Malt Whiskies’ as it says on the label. Probably imported Scotch and locally produced ethyl alcohol as a lot of these Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) brands are commonly made from.
The IMFL category interests me. They represent THE BIGGEST selling whisky brands in the world – they contain Scotch whisky (which must feed back into profits for those involved) – and yet they are mostly ignored.
Meanwhile – I jump straight in.
A healthy dose of caramel assaults the nose along with a rather spirity aroma.
After working through the cloying artificial tasting sweetness, a muted soft malt briefly appears before a rather robust alcoholic hit warms the palate.
The heat – which I must say is the most attractive part of this otherwise characterless expression – slowly fades away.
Nothing unpleasant – just devoid of any real flavours other than the dreaded caramel.
An entry level drinking experience with which I celebrated the New Year.
This blog sends out congratulations to the very happy marriage and highly enjoyable ceremony of Paul and Shazan.
A uniting of two people from diverse backgrounds and countries whose combination is greater than the sum of their individual parts.
In attending the joyous event, I brought along something OLD for the occasion – and how older can you get than a specially bottled whiskey from the oldest working distillery in the world?
Like a good marriage – a good blended whiskey brings together diverse spirits – in this case single malt and single grain – that when combined bring about a happy taste experience. The flag bearing Kilbeggan Blend from the Kilbeggan/Cooley distilleries certainly does that in style!
Something NEW is the superbly redesigned Whiskey Shop at the Loop Dublin Airport. I felt like a little kid let loose in the chocolate factory! There was so much whiskey on offer I didn’t know where to begin. From what I can see all the Irish whiskey expressions currently on release were on display – along with a very impressive range of the big four – Scotland, USA, Japan and Canada. There were also some very welcome releases from World Whisky ie,, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Australia, New Zealand, France and India to name a few. But what to chose?
Luckily – a representative from Walsh Whiskey Distillery was at hand with their very impressive range to sample. I spent a happy half hour sampling as well as being informed on the merits of each expression on offer.
First up was the Irishman Founders Reserve. This is the standard blend of the Irishman range but it is no ordinary blend! It is a combination of single malt and single pot still with no grain whiskey in sight that gives it a lovely spicy palate characteristic of a single pot still expression. I really enjoyed this tipple.
This was followed up by the Irishman Single Malt which is very smooth and palatable – so much so I’ve a bottle at home already.
The Irishman 12 yo Single Malt was an even smoother more complex dram,
and the Irishman Cask Strength certainly knocked the socks of me.
To finish off there was the delightful Writer’s Tears blend. A popular expression – again with a single malt and single pot still mix which gives it a punchy palate.
I’ve tried a few of these whiskeys before and found them very agreeable – but never back to back. I must admit the Irishman Founders Reserve impressed me the most on this occasion. Good luck to all at Walsh Whiskey in building their new distillery in Co. Carlow, based on my tasting experience – they have a bright future.
The BORROWED element came in the form of the wedding venue – The London Irish Centre in Camden Square, London. During the course of the festivities I acquainted myself with the fine array of Irish whiskey behind the bar and introduced a fellow guest to the delights therein. It’s a pity the range of Irish craft beer on offer wasn’t also represented at the venue.
Two sampling trays together with tasting notes were duly despatched to our table which included;
Connemara Peated Single Malt. An Irish peated whiskey that has picked up many awards in it’s time and another fine Kilbeggan/Cooley expression.
Green Spot. An historical Single Pot Still whiskey that is at the forefront of the rise in interest in Irish whiskey as well as being a survivor of a period when independent wine merchants bottled a distilleries spirit under their own label and specifications. A fine dram indeed.
Redbreast 12 yo. A smooth, oloroso finished single pot still that clearly shows why it has won awards upon sampling a dram and,
Crested Ten. A favourite tipple of mine at home. Crested Ten has the honour of being the first whiskey Jameson sold under it’s own label in 1963 as opposed to the route of selling to independent bottlers as shown by Green Spot above, It’s a blend of single pot still and grain whiskey with some ageing in sherry casks which give it a more complex finish than the standard Jameson blend. Well worth looking for.
In this taste off – Redbreast clearly shone through with it’s smooth and complex taste with a long finish.
During the speeches a toast was raised to those absent from the ceremony. This constituted my BLUE element and what better to toast those departed than a shot of Wild Geese – a whiskey named after The Flight Of The Earls in 1607 but also to represent the long history of Irish emigration. Over 150 years ago the boats carrying people would have been the Irish fleeing famine across the Atlantic rather than Africans fleeing conflict in the Mediterranean today. I just wish that the compassion, care and help that Irish emigrants received then would be replicated for the modern day emigrants.
Wild Geese is another range coming out of the Kilbeggan/Cooley distillery and the dram I had proved to be a very smooth balanced dram. It’s a pity I don’t remember which expression it was but it came in a rectangular bottle so I’m guessing it was the Rare Blend release.
To wrap this blog up – what better than to toast the happy couple with a glass of Amrut Fusion whisky. A perfect blend of Indian and Scottish malts married together to create a very enjoyable and tasty dram.
Although Shazan is originally from India – the analogy falls with Paul as he isn’t from Scotland (although one of the guests was) – but nonetheless – their marriage is a perfect blend of two cultures coming together in unity.
It’s no surprise that the joys of whiskey is a popular theme for many a singer – band – movie around the world.
A cursory scroll through the pages of YouTube throws up many interesting videos – tunes and snippets.
Kicking off in Ireland there is the world famous “Whiskey In The Jar” by Thin Lizzy. It’s a pity that lead singer Phil Lynott’s struggles with drink and drug issues ultimately led to his early demise.
A more traditional tone is set by Shane MacGowan – another person who has a long history of excessive alcohol consumption – and teeth to make a donkey proud. Talking of pride – “nancy” is a derogatory term for a gay man – but I’d like to state I’m proud to have played my part in making Ireland the 1st country to allow gay marriage – by a popular vote! Nancy Whiskey seems to be a song about the darker side of drink.
Drinking and it’s darker side is a universal theme as shown in this tune from Nigeria by Ice Prince.
Moving on to something a little heavier – rock music – where excess is the order of the day – a group of young Germans do a whole album of whisky.
Possibly not to everyone’s taste!
More mainstream rock is represented by this Southern group – Copperhead.
Which leads to Copperhead Road.
Which leads to Whiskey Friends – a lovely little video I enjoyed immensely!
If that’s all a bit too heavy – let Seasick Steve calm you down.
Moving on to a different genre of music – more contemporary and modern – Verse And Bishop.
And on to a different continent. I knew India was a big market for whiskey – as well as being a big producer too. Amrut Fusion being an award winning expression. But I was taken aback by the amount of popular cultural imagery around whiskey. Bollywood certainly does whiskey big style!
I must admit – the gratuitous use and objectification of the female body in this video was something I thought we had moved on from – but when my granddaughters pointed out recent tracks by Miley Cyrus – Britney and others – not to mention Madonna tracks from my youth – maybe it’s just me growing old. Rachana is walking a well trodden path.
Big dance routines seem to be the order of the day in this clip.
But I’ll wind up my Indian trip with this slightly comic track.
And move to Scotland – where Andy Stewart did cheeky songs for his career.
Not forgetting the film Whiskey Galore..The Daddy of a whiskey films. Loosely based on a true event.
Which is an apt spot at which to leave my brief look at whiskey in music – dance and movie.
I hope you enjoyed it.
Please send me your own favourites and suggestions – I had fun searching for the above!