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.
Produced by West Cork Distillers for a 3rd party – this whiskey is a blend of Irish single malts & grain whiskey aged in ex-bourbon barrels before being finished in ex-rye casks from Tamworth Distilling, NH.
An American rye whiskey made with predominately american rye grain in charred virgin oak barrels by the FEW Distillery, Evanstown, Chicago.
I like to see a variation in the colour of the whiskeys I drink. It foretells of the different smells, flavours & overall drinking experiences to be enjoyed.
FEW came out the darkest – reflecting the use of charred virgin oak casks. There was a jump down then to the paler duo of PrizeFight & Brothership with Sunken Still coming in with an almost pale yellowy hue.
Brothership kicks off with a soft barley sweetness before developing muted rye spice. PrizeFight comes across with a more fresher, clearer nose & an equally enjoyable spice. Sunken Still has a wonderfully aromatic floral bouquet whilst FEW delivers a classic peppery rye punch.
The soft smooth delivery of Brothership quickly develops into a lovely rich dry spice. PrizeFight has a cleaner palate with a slightly less intense rye spice.
Meanwhile the Sunken Still’s fragrant bouquet flows through into a wonderful cornucopia of taste on the tongue with a rich dry spice that is simply divine. Beautiful.
The FEW doesn’t disappoint either. To start there is that caramel/vanilla bourbon like feel followed by an almost classic rich peppery spice that tingles & teases as it drys the palate.
PrizeFight’s lovely spice fades slowly, only marginally beaten by the warmer, drier spice of Brothership. FEW lasts the longest whilst Sunken Still manages that dry floral spice right to the end.
What stands out to me is that whilst having no rye grain in the original mix – the rich dry spicy notes of a decent rye whiskey still come through in the PrizeFight whiskey simply by it’s time in the ex-rye casks. It may lack the overall dry mouthfeel of a true rye – but it certainly makes a worthy addition to the rye cannon.
Brothership benefits by the addition of a real rye whiskey in the mix which heightens the rich dry rye spiciness on both the taste & finish which is not initially apparent on the sweet barely nose.
The FEW could almost set the benchmark of what a good rye whiskey should be. A straight forward crisp peppery spice with a marvelously long dry finish. Superb.
Sunken Still adds something extra to that dry spice by giving it a floral display of flavours.
For taking rye whiskey the extra mile – Sunken Still from Belgium comes out tops in this taste-off.
FEW from America comes in a close second
The Irish-American hybrid that is Brothership follows closely behind – leaving Ireland’s PrizeFight bringing up the rear.
I would commend PrizeFight for being able to hold it’s own among such worthy competition in that they all contain rye in their original mix.
It just goes to prove the powerful influence the maturation in wood has to the overall taste.
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!
Walking into the downstairs bar of The Dead Rabbit in New York was like stepping back across the Atlantic and entering a well stocked Irish whiskey bar on the Emerald Isle itself.
In fact there was so much Irish whiskey lining the shelves it would put many a respectable bar in Ireland to shame!
The wall hangings, drinks mirrors & assorted jumble of paraphernalia together with the dark wood finish were also a very familiar attribute in many an Irish bar – along with no food!
As Mrs Whiskey & myself had come in for a spot of grub we were directed up stairs to the middle bar which does serve food – only to find it temporarily closed being midway between the lunchtime menu & evening service – and so ended up on the top floor via a narrow staircase.
The bar here was a slightly smaller affair – yet still well stocked – with a comfortable bench along the back wall complete with high tables & chairs for casual diners & imbibers to sit back and enjoy the fair.
Being an Irish bar – I had to go for an Irish whiskey. Now Dead Rabbit do a selection of whiskey flights – but not including the specific whiskeys I was looking for – so I settled for a glass of Kinahan’s 10 year old single malt along with a burger & chips.
Kinahan’s are one of those sourced brands that are generally not available in Ireland. Mainly found in the American market – they were on my radar to try out. Coming in a blend and a 10 year old single malt they have a back story which you may choose to believe – or not – I found it entertaining.
The soft, smooth, charred ex-bourbon cask maturation taste sat well with my previous drinks yet developed into a clearer, more finely tuned fruity note together with a faint spice on the finish. A pretty fine example of an Irish barley single malt in contrast to the mixed corn, wheat, barley & rye american bourbon mash bills. It perfectly accompanied my rather large burger.
For afters I decided to go native.
A very attractively designed bottle of Angels Envy took my eye.
Hailing from Louisville Distilling in Kentucky with a corn, barley & rye mash bill – the expression I had is aged for up to 6 years & unusually – for American bourbon anyway – finished in ruby port casks.
The rye spice I love was very subdued by both the rich port influence as well as the high corn with added barley mixed mash. It did have depth & a complex nuance – but not that instant POW I was looking for. One to savour over I think.
Suitably sated – we ventured out for the South Ferry subway. Dead Rabbit is only a short walk from the very attractive Battery Park area where clear views of The Statue Of Liberty & Ellis Island can be enjoyed – along with the obligatory boat trips. As the temperatures were plummeting below zero we left the chance to embrace ourselves in the cultural & historic tales of Irish emigration for another day.
Dead Rabbit may not have been around when those early immigrants first arrived in America – but it’s a very welcome bolthole for the modern day traveller. Just be sure to get there early. We easily got a table when we arrived around 4ish – but later patrons had to wait for a while as the venue was packed out by the time we left.
Real whiskey geeks across the world are already booking their holidays & planning trips to coincide with an array of whiskey events that take place throughout the year globally.
I’ve been to a few of these events – and thoroughly recommend them.
A room full of whiskey for you to sample. Often staffed by the people that make it. Whiskies you’ve never even heard of or can’t afford to buy.
A room full of fellow whiskey enthusiasts. Chat, compare, contrast. Conversation is easy with like-minded folks.
A room full of tasty food pairings & bottled water. It’s bad form to get too drunk so keep well fed & hydrated.
And a room full of whiskey knowledge, whiskey talks & whiskey tales that would take a lifetime to amass on your own steam.
Need any more reasons?
Below is a short itinerary of shows around the world I’ve either been to – or would like to attend.
Looking forward to bumping into you at one of them!
Well it’s a bit late now – but Burns Night on 25th January is an annual celebration of the Scottish Poet accompanied with whiskey & haggis! There are many local events held throughout the world. Check press for details.
Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fair kicks off Dublin’s events. Although mainly craft beer – there are a smattering of distilleries showing. The main item this year will be the imminent opening of The Pearse Lyons Distillery in the Liberties. By the way – Pearse Lyons is a Dublin born business man who happens to be the founder & president of Alltech.
With low-cost airlines making a trip across to the UK affordable – I’m tempted by Whisky Birmingham. It’s only a stones throw away but from previous knowledge the range of whisky on offer is often different from that available in Ireland. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway – as well as an opportunity to see how a whisky club manages to put on a big show!
Whisky Live bills itself as ‘The Worlds Premier Whisky Tasting Show’ and is a global event taking place in prestigious venues across the globe throughout the year.
The Whisky Live roadshow continues it’s global reach down under in Sydney on 5th to 6th May and Canberra on 26th to 27th May. I managed to catch the Melbourne show last year.
Bloom is all about gardening – but there was a fabulous beer & whiskey tent last year!
Whiskey In Summer is a new event to Dublin on 30th June. I’ve teamed up with them to secure 3 Whiskey & Food tickets for only 13 euro each. Contact me if you would like to join myself & others in attending this new show.
If you want fabulous whisky in a fabulous setting – Whisky Live Hobart is the place to be! Award winning whiskies & stunning scenery.
One of the joys of attending a masterclass at Whiskey Live Dublin is gaining access to some of the movers & shakers and characters of the Irish Whiskey scene.
Darryl McNally – master distiller at the Dublin Whiskey Company – is certainly an engaging as well as entertaining character who led a highly enjoyable talk about his new Irish whiskey adventure.
Darryl regaled us with stories from his time at Bushmills. Originally with Irish Distillers, then Diageo and now Jose Cuervo before he decided to go his own way with the Quintessential Brands owned Dublin Whiskey Company.
Being a new player in the market doesn’t mean bringing a lack of knowledge or experience to the table. Darryl has an abundance of those qualities – as well as a knack of casually throwing in some whiskey stories from his many years in the industry.
In his early days at Bushmills he was intrigued by a tap marked 2D and 3D. Eventually plucking up the courage to ask someone, it turned out to be a flow valve for double distilled or triple distilled spirit. The distillery could – and probably still does – have the ability to produce either.
During the Diageo owned days the 2D was switched off to concentrate on the production of 3D spirit to fit in with the marketing strategy at the time.
The 2D stock that had accumulated beforehand no longer fitted the ‘core brand story’ and was subsequently off loaded.
Jack Teeling happened to have some ready cash from the Cooley sale to Beam and – as the story goes – 10 million worth of 2D stock now forms the bulk of current Teeling whiskey expressions having been selected and finished to Alex Chasko’s exacting standards.
Ironically the site chosen for the soon to be developed Dublin Whiskey Distillery is Mill Street in the Liberties area of Dublin – right behind the award winning Teeling Distillery!
The Liberties is once again gaining it’s former glory – or notoriety – of being the major whiskey production area of Ireland with the Pearse Lyons Distillery in nearby James’s Street almost complete.
The Dublin Liberties Irish Whiskey also happens to be the family brand name for a range of attractively designed expressions that cleverly combine the rich historical heritage of the Liberties area with a modern image and story.
My eye was immediately drawn to the bottle of Oak Devil I encountered last year in the lovely Dingle Whiskey Bar on Nassau Street. A glass duly sat in front of me for my pleasure – and it certainly was pleasing.
It had a rich malty, almost woody note to begin with followed by some lovely spices and a warming finish. It struck me as being a little bit different to the standard offerings of other blends out there and it struck a chord with me – just like the old Cult classic tune did as I quietly hummed it to myself whilst savouring the whiskey.
In the masterclass this 46% non-chill filtered blend was paired with some lovely salmon sushi from Yamamori – did I mention we were provided with some lovely food to compliment the tasty whiskey? – and Oak Devil only reaffirmed my enjoyable original tasting experience.
Copper Alley is the new release. Also at 46% non-chill filtered but this time a 10 year old single malt finished in 30 year old sherry casks. It’s a more refined smooth tasting whiskey than Oak Devil which despite the sherry influence still retains the lovely maltiness and spice I like. Lovely.
The Dubliner brand is also part of the portfolio and will make up the bulk of the Dublin Whiskey Company core sales.
The Dubliner Blend at 40% chill filtered proved to be a pretty decent standard entry expression with just enough spice to keep it entertaining. But I was blown away by the extremely tasty food pairing of a chocolate donut infused with Dubliner whiskey!
Still munching on the donut the Dubliner 10 year old single malt at 42% chill filtered matured in bourbon casks also went down very well. This release was paired with some beautiful tariyaki beef strips and concluded the session.
Asked for a favourite – I was about to shout out ‘The donut’ when Darryl joked that anyone who did so would be ejected from the show!
Oak Devil still won me over however with that blend of malt, spice and grain combined in a cool bottle wrapped up with a pleasing story.
I just can’t wait for the distillery in Mill St to be up and running so I can enjoy more donuts – sorry, whiskey! – whilst relaxing in the proposed visitors lounge overlooking the still room floor where all the action is.
Hugh Lynch’s Limited Edition Specially Blended Irish Whiskey was officially launched last night (7th Oct) at a well attended celebration in Hugh Lynch’s bar in Tullamore.
A large gathering of friends and well wishers assembled to toast to the success of both the whiskey and the continuation of the bar under the able stewardship of Hugh’s son Emmet.
Music, food agus craic were in great supply – along with plenty of the aforementioned whiskey!
The blended whiskey – bottled at 40% – is a product of West Cork Distillers in Skibbereen. Aged in bourbon casks it has a smooth taste with a hint of sherry and a slight spice on the lovely finish. A very approachable & pleasant blend that oiled the conversations throughout the enjoyable evening.
Hugh himself was a well respected publican in the area and was well known for sharing a story or two.
Raise a glass of Hugh Lynch’s Whiskey named in his memory and share a tale or two of your own.
The whiskey is a limited release of 1,000 bottles from 3 casks. It is available from Hugh Lynch’s pub Tullamore or via their online shop here.
Coming on the back of St Patrick’s Day it’s often amusing to point out that the man himself wasn’t actually Irish!
Controversy still reigns as to his actual birthplace. Some say Scotland, some say France and some say Wales. What is clear is that he certainly visited these countries during his lifetime. What is also interesting for the sake of this blog is that all these countries are whisky producers!
Scotch Whisky is firmly Numero Uno in the whisky world. French Whisky is a relative newcomer but has many exciting brands and expressions. This humble blogger has tried a few which were grand. The Champagne finished single malt from Guillon Distillery being one of them. Welsh Whisky is also a relative newcomer to the scene – despite a rich distilling history in Wales, there is only one distillery in operation today. A fine distillery it is too!
The whisky itself lives up to the heroic struggles of it’s namesake. A single malt finished in madeira casks bottled non chill-filtered at 41%, it gives a very rich aroma backed up by a satisfying taste a with long finish. Definitely an A class whiskey, if not A+ in my book! As this whisky is a limited expression, it may sell out, but Penderyn release a single malt madeira finish in their standard range bottled at 46% which may also be very good. I can’t wait to taste the other bottles which include sherrywood finish, peated and single cask expressions. Penderyn have already won awards since launching in 2004 so this is a distillery to watch out for.