Tag Archives: Islay

Over The Top – Day 2

Day 2 of our Irish Whiskey Distilleries Tour dawned rather dull & grey as we continued our journey North to Bushmills Distillery.

Proclaiming to be the world’s oldest distillery with a license to distill from 1608 – living in Westmeath I know Kilbeggan Distillery is actually the oldest working distillery with a continuous license housed in the same building from 1757. The Bushmills Distillery we took the tour in today wasn’t built until 1784.

Regardless of the history, Bushmills is currently owned by Jose Cuervo and the distillery produces an excellent array of age statement single malts along with some pleasing blends. The highlight of hour long tour – which went through the history, manufacturing & maturing process as well as the all important tasting at the end – was undoubtedly entering the extremely hot working still room crammed tight with the stills full of soon to be fresh distillate! Demand is so great there are plans to double the capacity by building a new stillroom on the expansive site.

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Bushmills Distillery Reserve c/othewhiskeynut

As this was the first distillery we visited that had their shop open a bottle of the 12 Year Old Distillery Reserve made it into the bag. A pleasant mainly sherry cask matured triple distilled malt presented at 40%

Oddly enough Bushmills malt is not peated unlike it’s nearest working distillery – Laphroaig on Islay – which is only a short sea crossing of 30 miles away or so. On a good day you can see the hills of Scotland from the nearby Giant’s Causeway coast. There is a new ferry service taking you on the short crossing if you wish called High Sea Spirits – now that would be an adventure!

As our car isn’t amphibious we took the road instead to Derry where Niche Drinks are building their Quiet Man Distillery in the former military barracks of Ebrington Square. We were kindly met by Ciaran Mulgrew – the managing director of Niche Drinks – who proudly showed us round the building site explaining how a modern & stylish distillery with an attractive visitors centre could be built within the old listed building and  yet still retain it’s history & integrity. He also told some wonderful stories of how cross party alliances which straddled the former divided city came together to get the project off the ground. Very impressive.

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View of Derry Peace Bridge from inside Quiet Man Distillery site. c/othewhiskeynut

What is also impressive is the award winning bar & restaurant that is Walled City Brewery handily adjacent to the distillery. Happily we had booked a tasty meal here & despite stocking Quiet Man whiskey – the allure of some tasty craft beer proved too much for some! Wonderful.

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On Tap in Walled City c/oLeoPhelan

The sun came out as we made our way down to Sliabh Liag Distillery. Situated just inland from the impressive sea cliffs  that it takes it’s name from. The actual distillery site hasn’t yet even started – but we were enthusiastically shown round by the highly  informative & engaging founder James Doherty.

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I’d like my new distillery here please! c/othewhiskeynut

He comes with a wealth of experience from his years in the drinks industry & his stories of that career mirrored the seanachai traditions of Donegal –   so we repaired to the local John The Miners Bar in Carrick where a glass of the Silkie blend awaited us. This sourced whiskey’s name recalls old stories of seals taking on human forms when ashore to befriend lonely menfolk – it certainly befriended us with it’s soft yet slightly spicy notes.

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The Silkie blend c/othewhiskeynut

We could have stayed for longer – but a long drive through the stunning coastal scenery to our hotel for the night in Sligo beckoned.

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Seanachai central! c/othewhiskeynut

A nightcap in Thomas Connolly’s Bar rounded off our extremely entertaining day covering the whiskey distilleries across the top of Ireland.

Dram of the day?

There wasn’t one to top the stories we heard from our day on the road & in the bar that evening!

Sláinte.

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Glen Marnoch, Islay Single Malt, 40%

I went looking for the much publicised Ben Bracken trio of single malts recently released by Lidl – but inadvertently walked into Aldi instead!

What confronted me were not only 3 single malts – Islay, Highland & Speyside – but also a 12 Year Old Speyside as well as 2 double casks –  one sherry finish & the other bourbon – all below £20.

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Aldi own brand whisky c/othewhiskynut

As I’m a fan of bolder flavours I went straight for the Islay Single Malt  to sample.

For the price – I wasn’t disappointed.

The nose was a pleasing mixture of Islay peat & muted caramelised vanilla notes.

For this category & price point, my assumed position is that caramel is added. You only need to look at some of the promotional photos of the different malts showing identical shades of golden brown for confirmation.

The taste was a bit of a non event. Soft, sweet, slightly watery & muted no doubt by that caramel – but after swirling it around in the mouth for a while, a rich peaty smoke surfaced into a pleasingly warming burn on swallowing which proceeded to develop a lovely long afterglow.

A very inoffensive easy sipping entry level malt whisky at an affordable price with just enough character to make it interesting.

I’m not sure which markets it will surface in the pan-european Aldi store area – but it will certainly fly off the shelves. It makes a decent everyday single malt for the drinks cabinet.

For good measure I compared it to another store brand offering. This time from the Co-operative Group.

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Co-op Pure Malt c/othewhiskeynut

The 8 Year Old Pure Malt is a blend of,

‘carefully selected choice malt whiskies from the Highlands Islands and Lowlands of Scotland.’

so says the label.

The same label doesn’t say caramel is added – but it has that same cloying mouthfeel which dulls any freshness or sharpness in the flavours on tasting. There was a little smoke – but not enough to rise above the morass of caramel & vanilla smoothness.

A rather muted dram in comparison to the smoky punch of Islay peat.

Sláinte.

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Bruichladdich Octomore 10 Year Old, 2016 2nd Ltd Release, Single Malt, 57.3%

Octomore is my kind of whisky.

Big, bad, peaty & powerful.

And like the Steve Aoki song – I felt The Power Of Now.

At 57.3% it fills the mouth with an explosion of smoke sparked off by some surprisingly sweet notes & tasty flavours.

At first I suspected added caramel but no! Bruichladdich are emphatically against such practices. All the flavour results from the maturation in wooden barrels – in this instance ex-bourbon & French wine casks – hence the sweet notes to start with contrasting beautifully with the powerful – 167ppm – peat hit later into the fabulous tasting experience.

A stupendous dram!

Not all my fellow Whisky Birmingham attendees agreed.

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Port Charlotte 10, 2nd Edition c/othewhiskeynut

One preferred the Port Charlotte 10 Year Old 2nd Ltd Edition at only 50% & 40ppm. which I must admit I found harsher than the Octomore.

We agreed to differ on our findings,

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Sláinte! c/othewhiskeynut

But united on our love of whisky!

Sláinte.

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Tanyard Lane, Tullamore

I got a little tip-off there was a new kid in town.

The town is Tullamore.

The new kid is the Tanyard Lane bar on William Street.

Housed in the old Wolftrap building, Carrig Brewing Company have moved into running licensed premises in addition to craft beer brewing from their Leitrim base.

Mrs Whiskey and myself had an opportunity to call in on a Sunday evening for a night-cap.

The premises are large and roomy & spread out over 3 main areas.

A smallish snug area on the front left, a large lounge bar with dining area on the right with an attractive walled bar at the rear.

There is an extensive food menu, a large outside smoking area behind the snug, all equipped with a modern sound system & large sports screens which were thankfully turned down low when we visited.

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Tanyard whiskey shelf c/othewhiskeynut

Carrig craft beers were obviously to the fore. but a decent array of other beer brands featured too, along with an impressive display of gins, wines and over 40 whiskeys to choose from.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to walk into a bar & find a whiskey I’ve not tasted before. Tanyard Lane had a couple of Knappogue Castles to tempt me – but I settled on an Ardbeg 10 year old for a base-line Islay peat hit.

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Ardbeg 10 c/othewhiskeynut

At 46% & non chill filtered – as most Ardbeg releases are these days – I found the familiar satisfying peat hit to be the only show in town. Maybe I was expecting more from this award winning dram? In contrast, my earlier experience of the non age statement Uigeadail release sang to me on many levels & had a longer finish. It left the 10 year old rather one dimensional in my book.

The bar staff were very friendly & helpful and I got chatting with the bar manager Con who was keen to expand on his whiskey selection – which was music to my ears.

The walls were well adorned with pictures of old Tullamore, whiskey mirrors and old drinks adverts.

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Kinahan’s ad c/othewhiskeynut

Kinahan’s made an appearance, along with a Three Swallow ad for Powers and a blatantly sexist ad from Old Dublin Whiskey which you’ll have to visit to see as I refuse to reprint it here.

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Three Swallow c/othewhiskeynut

Whiskey drinking is for both men and women.

Thankfully both were well representing drinking & eating at Tanyard Lane.

A welcome addition to the Tullamore pub scene.

I wish Con & all the crew future success.

Sláinte.

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Burns Night in Athlone

Robert Burns is Scotland’s National Poet.

Burns Night is celebrated with much gusto throughout the world and usually involves Scotch Whisky & haggis.

This lovely short video explains all.

I decided to celebrate Burns Night in The Malt House – my local in Athlone.

The agenda for the evening comprised of 4 differing styles of Scotch with 4 authentic Scottish food pairings – including some haggis!

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The tasting tray c/othewhiskeynut

808 Whisky kicked off the proceedings.

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808 Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

Marketed as ‘Whisky Remixed‘, this 40% chill filtered blended grain is the creation of DJ TommyD – hence being named after the famous Roland TR808 drum-machine that inspired modern dance music.

Soft & subtle with a faint spice at the end made this a very easy to drink whisky which went down well with almost all the tasters.

It’s whisky for the new generation – so we paired it with old generation traditional Scottish shortbread.

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Grand Old Parr c/othewhiskeynut

Next up was a far more heavier & peatier example of a Scottish whisky dating from the 1870’s – which makes this blend about the same age as the original ‘Old Parr’ who was allegedly the oldest man alive before he passed away at 152!

The peat content didn’t please everyone – but Grand Old Parr 12 Year Old was balanced by some soft sweet grain notes which smoothed down the overall experience. Scottish tablet complimented this gently chewy whisky.

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Laphroaig 10 c/othewhiskeynut

Laphroaig 10 is one of the big peat hitters from Islay. The smoke had a more intense hit than Old Parr & only the more seasoned whisky drinkers in the audience seemed to enjoy it!

A round of oatmeal biscuit soaked up the welcome fire from this famous single malt.

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Rabbie’s own! c/othewhiskeynut

The most refined and complex whisky of the evening was undoubtedly the exclusive Robert Burns single malt from Isle Of Arran Distillers.

Bottled at 43%, aged in a combination of ex bourbon & sherry casks, this malt gave a soft sweet palate of fresh fruits which followed through to mild spice on the long warm finish.

Haggis on a seaweed oatcake brought out a bout of tingling on the tongue as the pepper & spice of the pudding interacted with the spirit – very enjoyable.

There was no outbreak of Highland Dancing nor bagpiping or dubious tartan fashion statements as in The Bay City Rollers – but there was a little corner of Scotland in The Malt House to celebrate the poet.

My thanks to The Malt House for the hospitality & big thanks to all who came along to enjoy the evening.

I’ll leave Rabbie with the last word,

O Whisky! soul o’ plays and pranks!

Slainte.

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Whiskey And Popular Music

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!

Slainte

Whiskey Nut

Another New Irish Distillery

I like to think I have my finger on the pulse of Irish Whiskey – but every now and then a curve ball hits me just to let me know that in fact – I know nothing!

Islay Ship Wreck c/o IslayShipWrecks
Islay Ship Wreck c/o IslayShipWrecks

Islay is revered by whisky drinkers around the world as the holy grail of good quality whisky – generally of the peated kind that I find hard to get a handle on.

Laphroig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore, – do you want more?

Port Charlotte, Kilchoman, Bruichladdich, Gartbreck, Bunnahabhain, Port Ellen, if your taste buds haven’t exploded with the mere thought of tasting only a few of these esteemed distilleries expressions – then you’re on the wrong blog.

But what has all this got to do with Ireland?

Apart from the fact that Islay is visible from the Antrim coast – and depending on which way the wind blows – pleasant smells may also be experienced.

Connemara Peated Whiskey c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop
Connemara Peated Whiskey c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop

And in Connemara, Ireland has it’s own award winning peated whiskey to challenge those of Islay.

Nothing really.

That was until now.

Mark Reynier c/o The Spirit Business
Mark Reynier c/o The Spirit Business

Would it excite you if I said the former CEO of Bruichladdich was opening a distillery in Waterford?

After Mark Reynier’s successful turn around in the fortunes of that Islay distillery – the sale of Bruichladdich to Remy Cointreau – and the continued rise of whisky sales – is it any wonder he was on the lookout for a new venture?

Former Guinness Brewery Waterford c/o RTE
Former Guinness Brewery Waterford c/o RTE

Following on from the Scottish acquisition of Tullamore DEWWaterford now seems to be the happy recipient of the rise in Scottish whisky popularity.

I can’t wait to taste the results!

Slainte

Whiskey Nut