Tag Archives: Nephin Whiskey

Craoi na Mona, Single Malt, 40%

Craoi na Mona translates into Heart of the bog.

Living in the Heart of Ireland next door to the Bog of Allen – the largest peat bog in Ireland covering 950 square kms across 9 counties – I just had to try out this Irish Single Malt from Berry Bros & Rudd.

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A glass of the best. c/othewhiskeynut

It celebrates the rich cultural & historical ties Ireland has with these boglands on my doorstep. During the seasons I can smell the burning turf from chimneys on my street, I can see the sods of turf drying in ricks from the motorway as well as a steady stream of tractors & trailers bringing it back home from the bog before the winter sets in.

There are 2 peat – or turf as it is called in Ireland – fired power stations within an hour of my house. A local politician was elected to office on the back of a Turf Cutter’s Association protest over restrictions to bog cutting.

Bogs are the very DNA of Midlands Ireland.

There were 2 whiskey distilleries in Athlone. 2  each in Tullamore, Kilbeggan and Banagher. Birr had up to 4 working distilleries. All within a 30 mile radius and all surrounding the bog with it’s readily available fuel source.

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Turf or peat? c/othewhiskeynut

Turf would have been used in the whiskey making process – either to directly fire the stills and/ or to dry the malted barley – thus influencing the character & taste profile of that whiskey.

By the mid 20th century – all of those distilleries closed. Only one kept it’s licence  – Kilbeggan – and is now back in production after John Teeling & others started the Cooley Distillery back in 1987.

Cooley Distillery reintroduced peat into the Irish whiskey scene with it’s own Connemara range – as well as many third party bottlings.

Sadly by that time – there were no maltsters producing Irish turf dried barley – nor used Irish turf barrels at hand. All who previously did so were long gone. Such raw materials had to be imported from abroad – usually Scotland.

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Sods of turf drying in the sun. c/othewhiskeynut

Craoi na Mona is one such reintroduction.

On the nose there is only a slight welcome waft of smoke on the soft sweet & fruity barley malt.

It’s on tasting a warm roaring turf fire becomes apparent, perfectly balanced by softer fresh fruity notes which start off slightly oily before drifting into a prickly dry sensation.

The smoke lingered like a softly glowing fire at home after an evenings entertainment.

This is a delightfully fresh & almost youthful expression that pleased me no end. I could have stayed all day to embrace it’s charms.

It’s a pity it takes an outside independent bottler to salute the history & tradition of turf cutting in Ireland – but it’s one I’m glad to see.

I just can’t wait for a bottle of Irish whiskey made using Irish turf. Due to the different species of plant that make up that turf – the resultant taste profile will not be the same as Scottish peat – nor Tasmanian peat for that matter – as I found out when I visited that wonderful island here. It’s what’s called ‘terroir’ – and has sadly been missing for a while. Thankfully Nephin Whiskey in Mayo are planning to malt Irish barley with Irish peat as their inaugural release.

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Nephin barrel top c/othewhiskeynut

Craoi na Mona has been out for a number of years in various expressions. It’s not commonly encountered. But if you do come across it – go for it!

The heart of Ireland – in a bottle.

Sláinte.

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The Wild Atlantic Whiskey Way – Day 3

We’d actually been on the Wild Atlantic Way since Derry – and the sea views from the North Mayo coast road raised our spirits in the early morning light.

But to begin with we ventured on a little detour!

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Site of new distillery? c/othewhiskeynut

Whilst in the bar the previous evening tales were told of a distillery in Sligo. We drove to the site in Hazelwood House but found little to confirm nor deny those tales. An internet search did reveal planning permission had been granted in 2016 – so if anyone has more information then please get in touch!

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Connacht Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Our first planned visit meanwhile was Connacht Distillery in Ballina. A guided tour of the recently opened & fabulous looking shiny new facility by the banks of the River Moy had been arranged. Lyndsey kindly agreed to an early start to show us round the gleaming pot stills & lovely wooden lined tasting room of the spacious site. Like most new distilleries Connacht have a range of sourced products they sell until their own actual spirit is flowing.

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Straw Boys Poitin & Vodka c/othewhiskeynut

Interestingly one of the freshly filled barrels of Connacht new make single malt recently made it’s way over to the beautiful scenery of Clare Island to quietly see out it’s maturation time in the stunning coastal location there. No doubt a large party will be in order when that barrel is finally bottled!

The Straw Boys Poitin – which is now Connacht’s own spirit – & Spade & Bushel Single Malt made an impact this early in the day – but what interested me was the Brothership Irish-American Whiskey. It’s a blend of 10 year old American rye whiskey with similarly aged Irish whiskey and is one of many new expressions currently going down this hybrid whiskey style to either much applause – or disdain.

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Brothership Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Personally I think it’s a great idea & has sold out fast! I managed to get my hands on the last bottle before a new label adorns the expression to comply with Irish whiskey regulations. The rye certainly comes through in the mix which pleased me no end.

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Nephin barrel top c/othewhiskeynut

Only a short drive down the road is Nephin Distilery. Nestled in the pretty village of Lahardaun under the towering bulk of Nephin mountain,  Nephin Whiskey have chosen not to release any spirit until their own peated single malt is matured. Using locally grown barley & locally sourced peat – or turf as it’s called in Ireland – this will be a malt with some terroir. My name is already down on the list for the Reserved First Bottles offer!

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Artists drawing of Nephin distillery. c/othewhiskeynut

Nephin have very ambitious & well thought out plans for an attractive distillery in the town along with a malting floor too! Wonderful news. The site is empty at present but everything is going according to plan for this forward looking company. Construction is due soon & expected to be complete by 2018. More power to them.

A long drive through counties Mayo & Galway was eased by the stunning scenery – as well local lads Saw Doctors singing their songs on the car  stereo.

The busy crowds of Galway City slowed down our progress as we made our way to the home of Micil Poitin in the popular spot of Salthill.

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The still & the poitin. c/othewhiskeynut

The enthusiastic founder Pádraic Ó Griallais met us in his micro distillery behind the Oslo Bar where just like his ancestors, Pádraic makes 100% Irish grain Poitin infused with locally sourced bogbean botanicals. The results are a soft, smooth yet slightly spicy refreshing drink which is often used as a base for cocktails.

He also hoped to do a gin soon – and whiskey was on the cards too! But the timescale wasn’t finalised. Nonetheless his Micil Poitin went down very smoothly. We even sampled a taster at 80% which despite my initial misgivings actually proved to be quite palatable. You could still taste the attractive flavour through the powerful alcoholic kick!

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The Micil story c/othewhiskeynut

The Oslo Bar is also the original home of Galway Bay Brewery – who have since moved onto larger premises in Ballybrit – and is a lovely gastropub serving delicious food & snacks on the popular Salthill promenade which was thronged with folks enjoying the wonderful sunshine.

Later on in the evening we also ventured out into the sunshine on the famous Galway Whiskey Trail to sample the Galway Bay Irish Whiskey that is only available in the 10 pubs & 1 off-licence that make up the trail. We settled on Freeny’s in the end with it’s marvelous selection of Irish whiskey on display.

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Beer of the day c/oLeoPhelan

Being Saturday night the bars were packed with revellers – but we did find space in the newly opened Caribou bar who stocked an impressive array of craft beers, gins & whiskeys. I couldn’t resist a can of Commotion Lotion. A collaboration between pop act King Kong Company & YellowBelly Beer. A tasty & fun beer to end the day!

Dram of the day?

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Neck detail c/othewhiskeynut

The blended expression of Irish whiskey & American rye that is Brothership.

Well done Connacht Whiskey!

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Peated Irish Whiskey

After disembarking at Galway Docks from successfully launching The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey the entertainment continued into the wee small hours. We were whisked away to one of the founding members of The Galway Whiskey Trail‘s bars – Sonny Molloy’s.

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Whiskey sours c/o@yummymummy

Drinks soon flowed – wines for the non-whiskey drinking brigade – cocktails for the more youthful contingent – and yet more whiskey for myself.

Being in Sonny’s surrounded by a stunning display of whiskeys allowed me to further explore the wonderful world of peated Irish whiskey.

That’s right.

Peated Irish whiskey.

It’s not a category everyone seems to be aware of – let alone be familiar with.

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Connemara Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Connemara is the most well known example of this style. A Beam/Suntory brand from the Cooley Distillery in County Louth. It’s a fairly light tasting peated whiskey in its original non-age statement (NAS) single malt bottling but is also available as a 12 year old, a stunning 22 year old, a cask strength and if you look for it – a Turf Mor expression too.

A few years ago I tasted the 22 year old at it’s launch during the 2014 Irish Whiskey Awards held in Kilbeggan Distillery. I’m afraid to say peat wasn’t my strong point at that time so it was lost on me – but I have since developed a palate for peat and should go back to re-taste it again.

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Raw Spirit c/othewhiskeynut

Contrary to Iain Banks eminently enjoyable whisky book ‘Raw Spirit’ who likens peated whisky to Marmite in that you either love it – or hate it – I think the charms of peat have slowly grown on me.

Sonny’s also stock some lovely discontinued peated Irish whiskey.

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Michael Collins Single Malt c/otheinternet

Michael Collins 10 Year Old Single Malt is a lighty peated expression also from Cooley before the Beam takeover in 2011. Originally destined for the American market by Sidney Frank Importing Company lawsuits ensued after the loss of supply but luckily this brand may re-surface as part of the Sazerac portfolio. I certainly await it’s return – although I can still enjoy the odd dram now and then of the original in decent whiskey bars around Ireland.

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Inishowen Whiskey c/opinterest

The peated Irish whiskey that really tantalises my tastebuds however is Inishowen. It’s your standard entry level blend of young grain spirit mixed with peaty malt bottled at 40%. Cooley are responsible again for this delightfully smooth youthful yet fully peated whiskey.

I’d go so far to say this whiskey out performs the big Scottish guns of Johnnie Walker, Famous Grouse, Haig and Teachers et al – no sharp edges here with Inishowen. Just a wonderful aroma and taste of peat together with a lovely sweet refreshing grain finish. Pity it’s discontinued – as I love it’s simple charms – much like the youthful exuberance of my musical interlude.

In my merry state – I laid down 2 challenges.

1 – If any standard Scottish blend can match Inishowen I’d love to try it – I haven’t come across one yet.

2 – When will an Irish distillery release a blend to match Inishowen?

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Heavily peated barley c/o@JackTeeling

Now I know Teeling are already laying down peated distillate and Nephin Whiskey are planning a peated single malt – so I may not have to wait too long – but a plain ordinary everyday peated blend is what I’m looking for – not a premium product.

With my challenge set – I cheerily left what was developing into an Irish bloggers lovefest – rejoined Mrs Whiskey who had bonded with the wine drinking fraternity  – and bid our farewells for the evening before things got messy.

I raise a glass of The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey as a toast of appreciation for the wonderful launch party

And a toast to it’s success.

Sláinte

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Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fair 2016

The 4th annual Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fair was held in the lovely surroundings of the Dublin Convention Centre over the weekend of 5th to 7th February.

The event is partly the pet project of the Dundalk born – colourful and charismatic President of Alltech – Dr Pearse Lyons – who is currently building a whiskey distillery in James Street Dublin.

The opening Friday evening at the fair saw a new world record being set!

729 beer tasters together in the same venue got themselves into The Guinness World Records Book – a fantastic achievement!

Meanwhile I made my 2nd visit to the show on Sunday – where a few rough heads were about after all the festivities. Despite being dominated by the rise in craft beer – cider and food stalls – there was a sprinkling of spirit distillers present to make it a worthwhile event to attend.

On entering the grand atrium – there was the welcome addition of a beer garden behind the ticket stalls. I did find the lack of a suitable space for drinkers to sit and chat over their tipples a bit of a problem last year – but thankfully this has been overcome. I enjoyed a long chat with various show attendees in this area.

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The Nephin Whiskey crew and stall c/othewhiskeynut

The Nephin Whiskey Distillery had a large stand before you entered the main hall. Unlike a lot of the new upcoming distilleries – Nephin have chosen not to go to a 3rd party supplier to release a whiskey before their own stocks have matured. To offset the financial cost this imposes – they have opened a working cooperage where you can see the skill involved in making wooden whiskey barrels by master cooper John. Barrels – casks and other wooden products can be made to order and supplied for your needs. John was on show over the weekend but sadly I missed the demonstration – I’ll maybe pay him a visit soon!

Inside the hall proper I wondered around to get my bearings. There were lots of familiar brands and faces behind the stalls – but a new one caught my attention. Jenlain from France inspired me with their enthusiasm and I couldn’t leave without a glass of Jenlain Or which was a lovely strongly flavoured ale at 8% – very nice.

But I was meant to be here for the whiskey!

Ah well – onto the next stall – Blacks of Kinsale – arch brewers of strongly hopped ales – but what was that at the front of their heavily award laden hand pumps? – a clear bottle of spirit?

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The lovely Blackmoon XXX c/othewhiskeynut

Partly persuaded by the cheerful chatty staff I accepted the offer of a shot of moonshine. Yes – you heard that right – moonshine. Blacks have decided to get into the distilling game and in the process of developing a gin – which was launched at the fair – they also experimented with a corn based moonshine.

I was expecting a sharp alcohol burn up my nose on the 1st sniff – but instead got a sweet smell of well – corn. The taste was also surprisingly smooth and palatable.

Goodness! I’ve had more burn from a cheap 40% blend than this moonshine at 50%!

This drink defied all my preconceived notions – so much so that when I bumped into friends and acquaintances later in the day – I just had to drag them back to Blacks to show them.

Trouble is – it’s a limited release and going fast. I’m just glad I got the chance to sample it. So Blacks don’t just know how to make a decent pint – they also do a decent shot too!

My 1st actual whiskey of the day was provided by St Patrick’s Distillery where I was reassuringly reacquainted with the wonderfully spiced finish of their Oak Aged Irish Whiskey.

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Tom from St Patrick’s with the whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Opposite St Patrick’s was The Town Branch Whiskey Lounge where the tasty trio of Town Branch Bourbon – Town Branch Rye and Pearse Lyons Reserve from the Alltech distillery in Lexington – Kentucky – graced the shelves.

I opted for my drink of choice when it comes to American whiskey – Rye. The soft nose – complex taste and lingering spicy finish welcomed me back into it’s fold yet again. I even convinced Barry from the previous stall to try it – surprisingly smooth for a 50% expression!

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Town Branch Whiskey Lounge c/othewhiskeynut

Barry in turn convinced me to try out a whiskey aged cider from the Dan Kelly stall.

Now I’ve had a few whiskey aged beers in my time – Ola Dubh being my favourite – and I’ve tasted Jameson’s Caskmate beer barrel aged whiskey along with Tullamore DEW’s cider cask release – which I rated quiet highly in a blind tasting I did last year – but I’ve not had a whiskey aged cider before!

A glass was duly ordered – together with a Beef & Stout pie from Skoffs -and I made my way to the beer garden to enjoy them both with a bit of a chat with fellow drinkers.

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Dan Kelly’s Whiskey Barrel Cider c/othewhiskeynut

The pie went down well – and so too did the dry apple cider. But I didn’t detect the whiskey influence. Others at the table did however – so maybe my palate had just been blasted by the shots I’d previously consumed! An interesting combination nonetheless – the more innovation and experimentation in the drinks industry to come up with new tastes and flavours the better in my book.

After my repast – I got waylaid by bumping into friends and acquaintances so didn’t get to call in on the Dingle DistilleryRuby Blue or Muldoon stands showcasing their vodka – gin and liqueur products.

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Drink Of The Day! c/othewhiskeynut

I did get drawn back to my drink of the day – Blackmoon XXX moonshine from Blacks of Kinsale. I had a couple more – along with a tasty sushi – and merrily made my way back to the train station for my journey home.

Slainte

 

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