I suppose it was wishful thinking expecting some existential answers to questions like ‘Why has whisky captured the human spirit?‘ or ‘ Candrinking whisky sooth a troubled soul?‘.
The Philosophy Of Whisky is however an easy – if brief – entertaining introduction into the growing global reach of distilling, maturing & enjoyment of the brown spirit.
Chapters covering the big 5 producers – Scotland, Ireland, USA, Canada & Japan – along with mentions on Sweden, Taiwan, India, Australia & Mexico to name a few – give a welcome & refreshing world view on this tasty beverage.
The author still appears to elevate Scotch above the others – even when world whisky is winning tasting awards – & fudges facts over the earliest written records for aqua vitae – the forerunner of whisky.
Yet for all that – anyone still restricting their whisky drinking to Scotch is missing out on a world of exciting tastes, flavours & growth.
Excuse me while I pour some Titanic Irish Whiskey!
There’s been a lot of publicity around Limavady Whiskey.
Not too surprising really – as Whistle Pig are partners in the venture.
Having said that – any liquid I’ve tasted from the Whistle Pig stable has been top notch – so I’m expecting similar high standards from Limavady Whiskey.
The bottle certainly stands out.
Embossed with ‘1750’ – the date of the original Limavady Distillery formerly ran by master distiller Darryl McNally’s ancestors – crowned with a leaping dog logo below an unusual bulbous top & a natty glass stopper.
The label displays Barrel & Bottle Numbers too.
Bodes well – so how does it taste?
A very appealing deep golden brown colour – no mention of added caramel or chill filtering.
A dark, richly inviting aroma of stone fruits, slight nuttiness & warm maltiness.
Clean, crisp & refreshing on the palate.
The finish comes alive displaying sweet juicy fruitiness contrasting with a lively & enjoyable prickliness dancing merrily around. Leaves a lovely drying sensation slowly fading away.
Well that’s one leaping dog having leapt on my palate to great effect!
All images authors own.
This bottle of Limavady was provided by their PR company.
This revealing book by James Morrissey focuses on the remarkable turn of events culminating in the Pernod-Ricard takeover of Irish Distillers.
The most sobering chapters however expose the dismal performance & inability of Irish Distillers to drive the category forward – the very reasons a speculative takeover war started.
Irish Whiskey was a monopoly in 1987.
Irish Distillers owned all the distilleries – 2, Midleton & Bushmills – & all the brands – 15 – & was losing sales.
Cooley Distillery in County Louth was just being founded & had yet to mature any whiskey.
Irish Distillers main sales in 1987 were the domestic market followed by bulk sales to places like Japan – whose blending practices have a long history of using non-Japanese stock.
Sales in the lucrative American market dwindled down to a low of around 250,000 cases – about the same as Conor MacGregor’s Proper Twelve sold alone in 2021 – yet Irish Distillers marketing strategies were effectively underfunded & ineffective.
Without the takeover of Pernod-Ricard & increased competition from Cooley who knows where Irish Whiskey would have ended up.
Irish Whiskey today is in a far more healthier situation.
New brands, new bottles & new distilleries are being announced on an almost weekly basis.
I welcome each and every single one of them as they collectively strive to rebuild Irish Whiskey.
A read of Hot Whiskey sobers you up as to how grim things were a mere 35 years ago.
Stripped of back stories, tales of terroir, pricing or provenance – only my palate decides.
This is what I found.
Teeling Blackpitts, Single Malt, 46%, Ireland
With only 1 sample exhibiting gorgeous peaty aromas there wasn’t much competition. Blackpitts was a clear winner bursting with fresh vitality & flavourful bouquets. Being Teeling’s own distillate just adds icing on the cake.
Suntory Toki, Blend, 43%, Japan
A fresh, clean engaging blend sporting lively grain elements with an enjoyable dry bite. A delightful offering.
Chivas Regal Extra, 13 Year Old, Blend, 40%, Scotland
A straightforward caramalised blend with a pleasing sherry finish. I find added caramel muddies the flavours & dulls them down a touch, loosing that fresh vitality along the way.
Penderyn Icon Of Wales #3, Single Malt, 41%, Wales
Penderyn can be hit or miss with my palate. If it had been the fabulous peated Icon Of Wales #6, Royal Welsh – Blackpitts might have been under pressure! Dylan Thomas sadly just didn’t excite.
The journey began last year when I first became aware of World Whisky Day and thought – ‘Now I should do something for that day’. This led to me scrambling around finding a printer open on Friday night to laminate my hastily prepared posters – writing out a basic script for the day and posting some last minute social media posts.
My choice of venue happened during the course of the year. Doing blogs on Whiskey Bars meant I eventually found some much closer to home than I had previously known. Couple this with an award winning whiskey visitors attraction in the shape of Tullarmore DEW Visitors Centre – some whiskey art – architecture and history and the die was set.
2pm on World Whisky Day found me at Bury Quay anxiously waiting for people to turn up.
We were greeted warmly by Shane who invited us in to a complimentary showing of the Tullamore DEW introductory video in the auditorium along with a glass of Tullamore DEW Original to get the day started!
Suitably warmed up despite the rather showery weather outside we made the short walk along the Grand Canal – which reached Tullamore in 1798 and aided the economic success of the brewing and distilling industry of the town – to our first whiskey bar of the day – Hugh Lynch’s.
A hard to find discontinued expression was chosen as drink of choice in this bar to demonstrate the fact good whiskey bars operate almost as whiskey libraries in that they stock many a bottle both old – new and potentially exclusive.
Tullamore DEW’s Black 43 went down well with the gathered clan of whiskey friends. It also demonstrated what an additional 11 months in sherry cask can add to a whiskey.
Onwards into town we went. Pausing to view the remnants of the original B. Daly 1829 distillery along with the wonderfully restored gates and Master Distillers Offices across the road.
Bob Smyths pub sits handily beside the Tullamore Distillery gates. It was once owned by Michael Molloy – who established the distillery – so despite not being a whiskey bar – we popped in for a glass of Paddy to acknowledge the brands sale to Sazerac.
Our next stop proved rather more contentious. Back in 1910 the large brewing, malting, bottling and general wholesellers of P&H Egan built what is now The Bridge House Hotel. Descendants of that family released Egan’s Irish Whiskey a few years ago but sadly it isn’t yet stocked at the bar.
We handed a short plea to the management of the hotel to please remedy this situation so Egan’s Irish Whiskey can be enjoyed in it’s true home. By a democratic vote the whiskey walk participants unanimously agreed to bypass this venue in favour of somewhere that did serve Egan’s.
Thankfully we didn’t have to walk far as one bar that does have Egan’s Irish Whiskey is the lovely Brewery Tap on Bridge Street where landlord Paul offered us a discount on the day to enjoy a glass of the lovely rich 10 year old single malt and toast to the future success of the Egan family.
One inquisitive member of the party suggested Egan’s was just a similar bottling to Tyrconnell – also a single malt – so a glass duly arrived for a taste comparison.
Another unanimous decision was reached. Tyrconnell is a smoother slightly more tasty whiskey than Egan’s. It must be stated however that both these expressions were far superiour to the blends we’d been having up to this point.
Back out on the streets our numbers began to diminish due to time constraints. A visit to the whiskey sculpture Pot Stills in Market Square was abandoned. Commissioned by Tullamore Town Council in recognition of the role the distilling trade had in prospering the town. The 3 pots were sculptor Eileen MacDonagh’s interpretation of the gleaming copper stills that currently produce the distillate which goes on to make whiskey in the new Tullamore Distillery on the outskirts of town as well as those at Kilbeggan Distillery only a 10 minute drive from here.
Market Square is also the site of a short-lived distillery built by Mr Manley which closed early in the 1800’s. However there are many fine building which previously housed the large malting trade Tullamore was famous for. Malt left Tullamore by barge to supply many a famous brewery and distillery in Dublin. These malt stores are now apartments’ shops and offices but you can imagine the hive of industry that once frequented the canal harbour in times gone.
Our last port of call was Kelly’s Bar just down the road from the Visitors Centre where we began. Kelly’s have a wide and varied range of fine whiskeys on offer so various expressions were tasted by several fellow whiskey walkers and opinions exchanged as to the merits – or lack off depending to individual taste – of the drams tried.
Our sole Scotch of the day – in recognition that Tullamore DEW is now owned by a Scottish firm – came via a 16 year old Lagavulin. Very tasty it was too.
Eugene the landlord had actually got this whisky in for one of his regular customers. Now that’s an example of a fine whiskey bar!
My thanks go out to all the fellow whiskey walkers who joined me in celebrating World Whisky Day. The publicans, bar staff and the Tullamore DEW Visitors Centre crew who made today a reality in giving generously of their time – and some whiskey too!
Thanks also to the Tullamore Tribune who publicised the event and sent down a reporter to take pictures and report on the days proceedings.