In what felt like the ‘last hurrah’ before impending restrictions increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic – Sonny Molloy’s Bar in Galway held an impressive evening celebrating the launch of the highly esteemed Redbreast Whiskey range’s latest addition – the 27 Year Old.
The numbers attending were slightly reduced from previous events – and a certain awkwardness regards hand shaking & social distancing were always in the background – yet the company, the whiskey and the gorgeous food won out!
There were 3 whiskeys on offer. All introduced by the Irish Distillers Brand Ambassador – Ger Garland.
The first one was a bit of a mystery.
Very sweet on the nose – almost liqueur territory here – quite light on the palate – someone suggested cream soda – before the cask strength made it’s presence felt – leaving the pleasant softer flavours dancing away on the finish.
I was very pleased to hear it was an oat whiskey!
Oats were formerly a common ingredient in Irish Whiskey and it’s marvelous to see it’s return into offerings such as Kilbeggan SPS, Drumshanbo Inaugural – as well as experimentation at Killowen Distillery – and quite clearly at Midleton too!
Just how the results of this experimentation will end up in an actual final product are yet to be decided – but clearly exciting times indeed!
The second offering – also at cask strength – was a much more contemporary affair.
Midleton Dair Ghaelach, Knockrath Wood, Tree 3, 56.6%.
The use of virgin Irish Oak casks – as well as ex-bourbon casks – had accentuated the dry tannic spiciness over and above the initial rich warming vanilla notes to the front capped off by a prickly tingling from the high ABV.
I really enjoyed this one.
The grand finalé?
Redbreast 27 Year Old, 54.6%.
Unlike other Redbreasts – the 27 has seen maturation in ruby port casks.
This has given it a darker, even richer fruitiness. I’m thinking plums, figs & raisins here. The high ABV kicked in at this point & I’d need the addition of water to calm things down a touch.
To be honest – I wasn’t bowled over.
I didn’t find it an easy whiskey to appreciate – and I’m not just talking about it’s €495 price tag. I found it a bit of a challenge.
Redbreast 27 – not for me.
I’d like to thank all at Sonny Molloy’s for the warm hospitality on the evening.
Dublin Whiskey Tours offer a variety of guided pub walks highlighting the history, culture and sampling the present day flavours of Irish whiskey expressions. Depending on which type of tour you choose, there are also some tasty food pairings too!
I happened to be the lucky winner of a prize draw from the excellent Irish Whiskey Magazine when I took out an annual subscription at last years Whiskey Live Dublin event. This gave myself & a fellow friend a day out in Dublin to sample some amazing Irish whiskey.
Dublin Whiskey Tours have a visually attractive & informative website through which up to 3 different types of whiskey tour can be easily booked and paid for.
My prize turned out to be the top level Deluxe Tour which includes tasting 5 premium Irish whiskeys accompanied with carefully selected food pairings in 2 of Dublin’s finest whiskey bars.
The starting point of our trip was the wonderful Dingle Whiskey Bar on Nassau St. I’ve happily selected a number of tasty whiskey treats from the extensive & varied range they proudly display in the groovy curved window on several occasions, so it’s charms are very welcome.
You,ll have to indulge me here, but everytime I mention Nassau St, a song pops into my head!
Our tour guide Justine shortly joined the 2 of us to begin the proceedings.
We were expecting a few others but as the festive season had just finished business was quiet. Tours are normally limited to 6 or 7 during busy periods to allow guests to chat, contribute & openly share their whiskey experiences
It wasn’t long before our first whiskey appeared before us.
Starting with one of the historical single pot still survivors of a time when whiskey distilleries didn’t bottle their own produce but instead sold it off in bulk to grocers & bonders to mature & bottle. Mitchell & Sons are the original creators of both Yellow Spot & Green Spot whiskey and are still going strong today! Sadly they are no longer able to store & mature their whiskey in the heart of Dublin so Irish Distillers – who supplied the original spirit – now do that at the Midleton Distillery carefully adhering to Mitchell & Son’s requirements.
The malted & unmalted barely used for a single pot still whiskey imparts a richer, oilier mouthfeel which is evident in Yellow Spot. A rich fruity taste from the sherry casks and ex-bourbon cask maturation definitely make this expression a flag bearer for Irish whiskey and sets a high standard for the rest of our tasting tour!
Knappogue Castle 16 Year Old arrived shortly after. This is also a sherry finished ex-bourbon cask matured whisky but in this instance a single malt. Justine informed us it is distilled in Bushmills Distillery for Castle Brands – an American based drinks company whose founding father owned the actual Knappogue Castle near Quinn in Co Mayo.
Using only malted barley this single malt had a lighter cleaner feel than the Yellow Spot. I found it also lacked a bit of punch by the 40% chill-filtered presentation. We did have a little chat with the friendly bar staff who informed us despite experimenting with 46% non-chilled filtered expressions regular Knappogue Castle drinkers were somewhat put off by the cloudy appearance of fatty acids when water or ice is added to the drink.
This is not a problem I encounter as I generally take my whiskey neat, but would have preferred a higher strength variant for the added flavour & punch I felt was lacking.
Our time at Dingle Whiskey Bar concluded so still chatting away, we walked through the now busy Dublin streets a short distance to The Rag Trader on Drury St. The bar’s name comes from the historical importance of the textile trade to this area of Dublin and remnants of that industry are found in some of the fixtures & fittings within the bar.
Only opened in 2016, The Rag Trader was new to both myself and my whiskey companion who lives in Dublin.
On entering we were greeted by a quaint old fashioned fireplace complete with glowing fire – a gas fed faux fire to comply with clean air laws – which immediately had us remembering the old 1950’s style living rooms of our grandparents. I’ve used it as the heading photo at the top of the blog. A whiskey and a fire – luxury!
Our next whisky also had some fire!
Well not really fire. Beautifully pungent peat smoke on the nose follows through to a softly mellow balanced quiet ambers of a peat fire on tasting. Connemara whiskey from the Kilbeggan Distilling Co breaks all the mythical rules of Irish whiskey.
It’s very much peated.
It’s double distilled and
It’s very drinkable indeed!
It certainly holds it’s own when compared to the peated trio of Talisker, Laphroaig and Jura I enjoyed on a visit to Derry the previous weekend.
A welcome tasting tray of Irish crackers, Irish cheese from nearby Sheridans & some chocolates from Cocoa Atelier accompanied Bushmills flagship malt – the 21 Year Old. Full of complex flavours from the long maturation in a combination of ex bourbon, sherry & wine casks I initially found the 40% offering a little watery to begin with before the elegant finely balanced & delicate taste came through. Maybe the finely balanced soft flavours are just not my style as many a more extreme yet younger whiskey often grabs me.
We saved the chocolates for the final tasting.
And boy what a tasting it was!
The Redbreast 21 Year Old combination of a richer, bolder spirit as found in the single pot still production along with the 46% strength bottling ensured more pronounced notes of fresh fruits combined with a gentle spice finish which delightfully tingled on the tongue. The soft slight bitterness of the chocolates only enhanced this experience.
This effectively rounded up our Dublin Whiskey Tour on a high point – which after starting with the stunning Yellow Spot I didn’t think was possible.
We spent a very enjoyable & informative time with our host Justine. Exchanged whiskey tales from her time at Jameson Bow St Experience – along with many other non-whiskey anecdotes. Been talked through some excellent Irish whiskey expressions paired with lovely artisan food pairings as well as being introduced to the wonderful surroundings of 2 warm & friendly whiskey bars.
Despite this tour being a freebie, I think it’s good value if I’d paid.
The joy of whiskey is as much about the personal experience of drinking it as it is about sharing that joy with fellow drinkers in convivial discussion and a friendly & warm setting.
Dublin Whiskey Tours certainly provide the tasty whiskey,
The enjoyable company,
And the fabulous surroundings.
What more could you ask for?
My thanks to Irish Whiskey Magazine for picking me out of the hat in the prize draw, and to Dublin Whiskey Tours for my day out in Dublin.
This blog sends out congratulations to the very happy marriage and highly enjoyable ceremony of Paul and Shazan.
A uniting of two people from diverse backgrounds and countries whose combination is greater than the sum of their individual parts.
In attending the joyous event, I brought along something OLD for the occasion – and how older can you get than a specially bottled whiskey from the oldest working distillery in the world?
Like a good marriage – a good blended whiskey brings together diverse spirits – in this case single malt and single grain – that when combined bring about a happy taste experience. The flag bearing Kilbeggan Blend from the Kilbeggan/Cooley distilleries certainly does that in style!
Something NEW is the superbly redesigned Whiskey Shop at the Loop Dublin Airport. I felt like a little kid let loose in the chocolate factory! There was so much whiskey on offer I didn’t know where to begin. From what I can see all the Irish whiskey expressions currently on release were on display – along with a very impressive range of the big four – Scotland, USA, Japan and Canada. There were also some very welcome releases from World Whisky ie,, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Australia, New Zealand, France and India to name a few. But what to chose?
Luckily – a representative from Walsh Whiskey Distillery was at hand with their very impressive range to sample. I spent a happy half hour sampling as well as being informed on the merits of each expression on offer.
First up was the Irishman Founders Reserve. This is the standard blend of the Irishman range but it is no ordinary blend! It is a combination of single malt and single pot still with no grain whiskey in sight that gives it a lovely spicy palate characteristic of a single pot still expression. I really enjoyed this tipple.
This was followed up by the Irishman Single Malt which is very smooth and palatable – so much so I’ve a bottle at home already.
The Irishman 12 yo Single Malt was an even smoother more complex dram,
and the Irishman Cask Strength certainly knocked the socks of me.
To finish off there was the delightful Writer’s Tears blend. A popular expression – again with a single malt and single pot still mix which gives it a punchy palate.
I’ve tried a few of these whiskeys before and found them very agreeable – but never back to back. I must admit the Irishman Founders Reserve impressed me the most on this occasion. Good luck to all at Walsh Whiskey in building their new distillery in Co. Carlow, based on my tasting experience – they have a bright future.
The BORROWED element came in the form of the wedding venue – The London Irish Centre in Camden Square, London. During the course of the festivities I acquainted myself with the fine array of Irish whiskey behind the bar and introduced a fellow guest to the delights therein. It’s a pity the range of Irish craft beer on offer wasn’t also represented at the venue.
Two sampling trays together with tasting notes were duly despatched to our table which included;
Connemara Peated Single Malt. An Irish peated whiskey that has picked up many awards in it’s time and another fine Kilbeggan/Cooley expression.
Green Spot. An historical Single Pot Still whiskey that is at the forefront of the rise in interest in Irish whiskey as well as being a survivor of a period when independent wine merchants bottled a distilleries spirit under their own label and specifications. A fine dram indeed.
Redbreast 12 yo. A smooth, oloroso finished single pot still that clearly shows why it has won awards upon sampling a dram and,
Crested Ten. A favourite tipple of mine at home. Crested Ten has the honour of being the first whiskey Jameson sold under it’s own label in 1963 as opposed to the route of selling to independent bottlers as shown by Green Spot above, It’s a blend of single pot still and grain whiskey with some ageing in sherry casks which give it a more complex finish than the standard Jameson blend. Well worth looking for.
In this taste off – Redbreast clearly shone through with it’s smooth and complex taste with a long finish.
During the speeches a toast was raised to those absent from the ceremony. This constituted my BLUE element and what better to toast those departed than a shot of Wild Geese – a whiskey named after The Flight Of The Earls in 1607 but also to represent the long history of Irish emigration. Over 150 years ago the boats carrying people would have been the Irish fleeing famine across the Atlantic rather than Africans fleeing conflict in the Mediterranean today. I just wish that the compassion, care and help that Irish emigrants received then would be replicated for the modern day emigrants.
Wild Geese is another range coming out of the Kilbeggan/Cooley distillery and the dram I had proved to be a very smooth balanced dram. It’s a pity I don’t remember which expression it was but it came in a rectangular bottle so I’m guessing it was the Rare Blend release.
To wrap this blog up – what better than to toast the happy couple with a glass of Amrut Fusion whisky. A perfect blend of Indian and Scottish malts married together to create a very enjoyable and tasty dram.
Although Shazan is originally from India – the analogy falls with Paul as he isn’t from Scotland (although one of the guests was) – but nonetheless – their marriage is a perfect blend of two cultures coming together in unity.
Quite how Paddy’s Day came to be associated with drinking both in Ireland and abroad is a bit of a mystery. Suffice to say other countries national days also have this reputation – noticeably Scotland’s Burn’s Night which focuses on drinking whisky as well as eating haggis – which is a lovely combination if you haven’t already tried it.
Anyway, it’s wise to be Drink Aware on this day and point out there are many alternative exciting non-alcoholic events taking part around the world on Paddy’s Day to enjoy.
Not having booked on-line I got rather worried at the sea of tourists queuing up and taking pictures. My fears were confirmed as all the tours were booked out for the next few hours. The reception area, bar and shop were all very well decked out with two lovely whiskey bottle chandeliers dominating the scene but as I had other fish to fry, and the bar was not yet open,I left amidst a flock of Frenchmen topped with green hats, I only hoped they had advance tickets!
The recently opened Irish Whiskey Museum beckoned as my 2nd destination. It’s new clean lined decor and whisky memorabilia shop with adjoining bar and friendly staff impressed me. The guide informatively, enthusiastically and humorously led us through a potted history of Irish Whiskey with the aid of tastefully done set scenes and clever audio visual displays including actors in period costumes to bring the story alive. Interestingly one of the actors was Fr Jack of Father Ted fame, Frank Kelly. I didn’t recognize the others. A stunning display of old Irish whiskey bottles mirrored the rise, fall and subsequent current re-birth of the Irish whiskey industry before being led to the all important tasting session.
Not being tied to any manufacture allows the Irish Whiskey Museum to give a broad range of whiskeys for it’s customers to sample. The 4 offered on my tour are subject to change and may not represent future or past tours. This is very refreshing as it allows for new entrants into the market.
Powers Gold Label Blend – I wasn’t expecting much from this entry level blended whiskey but was pleasantly surprised by it’s slightly spicy taste and warm finish. B+
Teeling Small Batch – All Teeling expressions are very good and this blended whiskey shows what a finishing cask can add to the mix. B+
Not surprisingly personal taste prevailed when asked to name the favorite tipple. A Spanish couple opted for the stronger and fuller flavoured Teeling, a German couple opted for the Irishman whilst I went for the unexpectedly good Powers.
Suitably warmed up it was on to my 3rd stop of the day in the famous Celtic Whiskey Shop. A true cornucopia of whiskey of all descriptions with a mouth watering display for the eyes to feast on. I could have spent hours going through every bottle possibly sampling it’s contents but thankfully for the staff (who would prefer buyers to browsers, although both are welcomed) and my health (I wouldn’t be able for so much Whiskey) I already had a bottle in mind. The shop, through it’s owner Ally Alpine, also runs The Celtic Whiskey Club which conducts whiskey tastings, mails out samples for on-line discussion and offers Whiskey Of The Week to members. Today was the chance for the Hyde 10 yo Single Malt to shine. With a sample taste I duly bought a bottle along with a miniature of which the shop has a fantastic selection. This is a great idea as for the price of one full sized bottle you can sample 6 or 7 of these handy 5cl bottles to try out first at your leisure.
As it had already gone 1pm my stomach was in need of more substantial fare. My prime objective and final port of call was the Irish Beer and Whiskey Fest in the RDS where I knew the Pieman would have their stall. On entering the hall I made a beeline for the wonderful Pieman who didn’t disappoint with a Chicken & Mushroom pie with added Teeling Whiskey for flavour. This was washed down with Porterhouse Red Ale, a delightful combination.
One of the lovely things about the festival are the communal tables and chairs dotted about the place for folks to sit, eat , drink and chat. During the course of my visit I met a South African truck driver now residing in Tullamore, a retired Dublin gent, a young American couple living in Germany and a gaggle of Dublin based Brazilians with a French woman in tow. Conversation flowed easily over what drinks were liked, tips on which beer to go for next and general chat all conducted in a colourful camaraderie of common consumption!
Lunch over I was now on the lookout for desert. The Irish Single Pot Still display provided it as well as making up for missing the Jameson tour earlier in the day.
Whilst browsing in the whiskey shop at the Loop in Dublin Airport last month I noticed a 4 pack miniature box of Irish Pot Still Whiskeys. As these are the very whiskeys which made Irish Whiskey number 1 back in the late 1800’s before the rise of Scotch, I was intrigued. Now I had my chance to try them out!
The staff very friendly made up the 4 samples and gave me a running commentary as I nosed then tasted each one. At this stage of the game my memory and tasting notes were a little muddled by the rich, complex and powerful flavours these whiskeys possess. Greenspot, Redbreast. Powers John Lane and Barry CrockettLegacy truly deserve the marketing campaign that is underway to rebuild the status these whiskeys once held. Again I chose the Powers expression for a full measure shot due to the rich body coupled with a spicy taste. I enjoyed the drink so much I missed the whiskey talk due to be delivered by John Teeling which was a bit of a shame.
I did however make an earlier informal chat with 3 passionate beer makers as part of the Meet The Brewers talk. Kinnegar of Donegal, Mountain Man of Cork and Black Donkey of Roscommon. All told anecdotes about small brewers trying to survive in the market place. I just can’t wait for Black Donkey’s brilliant new advertising idea to bear fruit!
Unfortunately I had a train to catch, so my last whiskeys were a taste off between the Pearse Lyon Reserve and the Town Branch Rye at the Alltech stand. The Rye won out with it’s stronger more robust taste and a generous enjoyable shot delayed my departure resulting in a dash with only minutes to spare.
I was tempted to open my Pig’s Nose miniature on the train but quit when I was ahead to opt for tea and crisps from the trolley service. I also erred on the side of caution and went for a Crafty Irish Red Ale which is part of the Rye River portfolio from Kilcock to accompany the evening meal.
That brought my very satisfying pre-Paddy’s Day celebrations to a happy end. I do hope you enjoy your day as much as I did mine.
I’ll be sober for the actual event – I’m the driver.