Herself was going to a play at the fabulous Galway International Arts Festival then on to meet mutual friends for a meal – so I tagged along.
Not being a thespian buff I thought I’d visit Mars – a sculpture on show at the former Persse Distillery – only to discover it had moved!
Ah well – time for a drink.
An Púcán provided the refreshments & as I scanned their extensive whiskey list for something I’d not tried before – Armorik Classic Single Malt fitted the bill.
It took sometime to locate the bottle as it was on show in one of the numerous display cabinets around the bar – but it did arrive.
The bottle read ‘non chill filtered, 46%‘ which is a good start. ‘caramel added’ is stated on the back – although according to Warenghem Distilley’s website they have since moved to ‘natural colour’ for their offerings.
The nose proved clean, fresh & inviting with hits of old leather.
Decent body, smooth mouthfeel displaying notes on the savoury, umami spectrum.
Finishes with a frisson of spice.
Armorik Classic comes over as a grounded whiskey showing it’s earthy agricultural roots – perhaps even a smidgen of terroir using French barley?
We were gently awoken from our slumbers by the gurgling waters of the River Corrib that once powered the machinery of Persse Distillery on Nun’s Island. This long closed Galway distillery inspired the members of The Galway Whiskey Trail to successfully launch The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey at last evenings extravaganza.
If our hotel room had been around about 100 years ago we could have inhaled the rich malt aromas hovering in the air as the distillery was only a stones throw across the river.
As it happened it was the enticing smell of a freshly cooked breakfast that eventually got us out of the bed to face the day ahead.
Apart from a few drunkenly made arrangements to meet up with some of the launch party crew – which always seem a bit ambitious in the cold light of day – our time was free. Herself however had plans to purchase a new rig out for an upcoming wedding so out shopping it was. Luckily after a few boutiques I made my excuses and headed to another kind of shop more suitable for my tastes – McCambridges.
Being a member of The Galway Whiskey Trail – which I’d previously visited in January – I knew they had an extensive range of whiskeys in their off-licence department. Also knowing The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey hailed from West Cork Distillers – I was curious to find out what their own label West Cork 10 Year Old Single Malt tasted like in comparison.
McCambridges had plenty of Galway Bay in stock but had sold out of West Cork. Luckily there was still some spirit left in the sample bottle so a small taster soon appeared before me.
Now a 10 year old aged in ex-bourbon casks is going to be a bit vanilla sweet – but this was way too sweet.
A look at the small print on the back confirmed my suspicions – E150 – or added caramel to you and me.
I’ve read that added caramel is a tried and tested practice mainly used to darken light coloured blends to give a uniform colour across many barrels and vats.
I’ve read that in small quantities you can’t taste it.
I’m afraid to say – as Heather Greene implies in her highly informative book “Whisk(e)y Distilled” – that as you’re palate develops you can.
There’s just too much added caramel in this single malt for my liking which gives it an unbalanced taste experience. It may have been a perfectly fine whiskey without E150 so why add it?
West Cork Distillers seem to quite like using caramel. They are not alone.
Just the other day I bought a bottle of budget price Scotch by the name of Glen Orchy from a German Supermarket. On tasting some I immediately thought it had the flavour profile of a Richard ‘The Nose‘ Paterson blend all over it. Soft, mellow and caramel sweetness. On doing some research into it’s origins I found it shared the common Glasgow postcode with many other whisky brands – G2 5RG. Suffice to say the headquarters of Whyte & Mackay are based here too – along with Dalmore, Jura and 30 others.
I’m sure there is caramel in Galway Bay – but the port finish gives it a much more balanced result.
1 nil to Galway Bay.
Satisfaction piqued – I met up with Mrs Whiskey. A tentative suggestion of drinks and a snack in the warm sunshine outside one of the Galway Whiskey Trail venues was accepted so Tigh Neachtain‘s won out in this instance.
A white wine for the lady was duly ordered along with the appealingly named Bogman Irish Craft Ale I hadn’t encountered before.
Bogman turned out to be very enjoyable indeed. Not too strong at 4.9% ABV with a satisfying malty flavour. Good work from those at Spiddal River Brewery. Herself enjoyed her wine too!
We wondered if anyone else would bother to turn up from the night before – and then one appeared – followed shortly by another!
There were warm greetings all round with banter about the Galway Bay launch where we had all met followed by yet more drinks – and a tasty lunchtime meal.
I had another whiskey this time. Te Bheag is an entry level peated Scottish blend from Skye which I’d previously encountered at Whiskey Live Dublin. My palate has obviously developed as unlike my previous tasting – I got a dose of added caramel sweetness this time round.
Having the craic and shooting the breeze couldn’t have been more enjoyable. During the course of our stay on this busy pedestrian intersection many people came and went. An immaculately groomed – both male and female – wedding party stopped by for a pint and some photos. I had a chance to chat with the barman after walking out without paying on my last visit! We met one of The Galway Hooker skippers from the whiskey launch lastnight and to crown it all – a stunningly blue eyed musician serenaded one of our party after a throw away comment.
Turns out Thomas Wesley Stern are a travelling band from the Pine Barrens region of New Jeresy who had only arrived in town from Sligo and were heading to Lisdoonvarna later.
They soon had a small crowd of admirers outside Tigh Neachtain’s and garnished much applause – along with a pint for their troubles. Here they are singing a whiskey related song.
Alas a short downpour interrupted the proceedings and broke the spell.
Thoughts of returning to the real world with it’s attended chores clouded the mind and goodbyes with promises to stay in touch were exchanged.
The Galway Whiskey Trail certainly lives up to it’s description in providing an experience you cannot buy.
Together with the fabulous launch of The Famous Galway Bay Irish Whiskey it had been an absolutely stunningly entertaining weekend.
The combination of festivities, friendliness and fun are what it’s all about.
When will you visit the trail to capture the craic for yourself?
On 16th January 1920 the 18th amendment came into law bringing about 13 years of drought as prohibition of alcohol started in America.
On 16th January 2016 I loitered outside Garvey’s in Eyre Square, Galway on a cold damp Saturday morning waiting for the doors to open so I could down a warming whiskey as part of my Galway Whiskey Trail tour.
The plan was to have a glass of the uisce beatha in each of the 10 pubs on the trail – with the added bonus of each being a new whiskey for me! This proved to be a relatively easy exercise in terms of new expressions – but more problematic in terms of total alcohol consumption!
There was only one Galway Girl – like Steve Earl – I had eyes for however on that morning,
and it wasn’t Grainne – however much very nice she is. I had my eyes set on some Craic & Divilment – a new fun expression labelled as Buckfast Barrel Finnished Irish Whiskey.
The second pub I entered – An Pucan just round the corner on Forster Street – had just the bottle I was looking for and a dram was duly served in a Glencairn glass to boot!
Now I’m not one for doing a review – but for this I think I’ll make an exception.
The clouds that sweep in off the Atlantic deposit their rain on the Twelve Bens of Connemara. Percolating down through the quartzite rock and bogs the water makes it’s way into magical Lough Corrib before entering the sea in Galway City. Below Persse‘s Old Distillery the River Corrib foams and churns in the narrow rapids.
This is the Colour of Craic & Divilment.
Remnants of heather clinging to the rugged landscape. Salmon swimming in the Corrib. Vanilla from the bourbon casks also brought across the Atlantic. Sweet almost sticky notes from the tonic wine along with the monk’s damp habits from Buckfast Abbey.
This is the Nose of Craic & Divilment.
Rich, smooth, sweet and warming.
A whiskey finished in an additional barrel for extra flavour and taste can be ‘undercooked’ if by not having spent enough time imbuing the aromas in the wood the results are too subtle or weak to be detected.
An ‘overcooked’ finish can unbalance the whiskey drowning out and overwhelming the original spirit character. This is ‘Overkill’ and whilst the sadly departed Lemmy did a marvelous job of it below
Craic & Divilment did not go down this route and instead produced a finely tuned marriage of whiskey and buckfast tonic adding that je ne sais quoi to the dram.
As Dr Spock used to say; ” It’s whiskey Jim, But not as we know it” and he wasn’t referring to Jim Murray either.
This is the Taste of Craic & Divilment.
The long lingering finish allows you to close your eyes to follow the journey the rain makes across the Atlantic – down the Connemara mountains and bogs, into Lough Corrib and out into Galway Bay.
This is the Finish of Craic & Divilment.
But who said anything about finishing? Sure isn’t the bottle only just opened? Grab another chair there and get a few glasses. We’ll have a grand old time getting to know this delightful little beauty. Let’s get it started!