Tag Archives: Robert Burns

Whisky At The End Of The Great Ocean Road

About a year ago it wasn’t the Wild Atlantic Way I drove around in search of whiskey distilleries – but the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia.

We’d picked up the Wicked Camper late in the afternoon & left the Melbourne cityscape heading West. Our first stop was the industrial town of Geelong – which happened to have a whisky distillery in the 1960’s producing spirit of dubious quality – to stock up on provisions.

Being wintertime in Oz, it got dark around 5pm. We just managed to catch the sunset over Port Philip Bay from the campsite in Portarlington – well, so near so far as the saying goes. The original Portarlington is only a half hour from our home in Ireland but lacked the sandy beach & pier of it’s Aussie sister.

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Portarlington Pier c/othewhiskeynut

The next day say us join the Great Ocean Road proper at Torquay – and only then did the stupendous views of heavily wooded steep hills cascading down into the wide blue ocean below enthrall us with it’s rugged beauty with every twist & turn of the road.

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On the Great Ocean Road c/othewhiskeynut

An overnight stay at Cape Otway found us shivering during the night away – we had underestimated the cold of an Australian winter – so a cabin was booked in Port Campbell the next evening to warm ourselves up!

This marked the end of the Great Ocean Road for us as we intended to double back & head out to the Eest of Melbourne for the remainder of the trip – but there was one destination I didn’t want to miss – Timboon Distillery.

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Timboon Distillery c/othewhiskeynut

Nestled as it is in the pleasant valley town of Timboon at the end of an old disused railway line – Timboon Distillery is part of the 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail. We both sat down for a tasty mid-morning snack of locally produced artisanal foods. I also got chatting to Josh – the master distiller & owner of the distillery and friendly eatery.

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Meet the maker. c/othewhiskeynut

The still was rather small compared to Irish & Scottish standards – but it was attractively situated in the corner of the restaurant along with some quarter casks aging the spirit. The mash for the distillate was provided by a local craft brewery Forrest Brewing. I sampled Timboon’s Port Cask offering at 41% & found it a lovely rich, dark & slightly heavy single malt – well I am always partial to a port cask finish. So much so I bought one of their 200ml bottles to take home with me.

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Timboon casks & still. c/othewhiskeynut

There happened to be a booklet which caught my eye as well.

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The Whiskey Trail c/othewhiskeynut

The Whiskey Trail. Illicit Whiskey Distillers in South West Victoria. I had to have it.

Inside are the stories of hardy frontier men & women who had fled poverty & starvation in their home countries of Britain & Ireland of the 1850’s to carve out a new life in Australia. They often faced hardship in that venture & many turned to illicit distilling to keep themselves afloat. Descendants of these settlers have produced this highly informative booklet & placed plaques at historical sites to make up a whiskey trail.

It just so happened our intended route took in a few!

Obviously Timboon Distillery is part of the trail – with a display on the wall showing the history.

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Cobden Whiskey Trail Plaque c/othewhiskeynut

Next stop was the former Cobden Police Station where many of the raids started from. It now happens to be an ‘op shop’ – or charity shop – where we handily picked up a duvet & pillows to make our nights in the Wicked camper more comfortable!

Lunch stop was in the agricultural town of Camperdown with it’s fine wide avenue. The old Courthouse happens to have a whiskey plaque on it – but the very helpful tourist information officer inside was unaware of it’s existence!

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Rabbie Burns in Oz! c/othewhiskeynut

We took her outside to show her when I eventually found it – and in return she informed us of the lifesize sculpture of Rabbie Burns!

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Snout In The Trough c/othewhiskeynut

And a lovely spot to eat at the Snout In The Trough food, wine & beer emporium!  Marvelous. Like Natalie Imbruglia sings – I’m ‘Wishing I Was There’ again.

The randomness of finding a whiskey trail founded on illicit distillers – some of whom were from Ireland – followed by a Scottish icon who enjoyed a drop or two but was actually employed as a tax inspector himself – all washed down by some gorgeous Aussie whisky – now I wasn’t expecting that at the end of The Great Ocean Road!

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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St Patrick’s Day – Irish Beer & Whiskey Fest

For the day that’s in it, Phil Lynott is yer man.

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.

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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.

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However, I choose not to abstain. I choose to drink the amber nectar, the uisce beatha, the aqua vitae, the water of life.

I choose whiskey.

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Whiskey Glass c/o photobucket

Letting the train take the strain, I set off on a bright crisp sunny morning from Athlone and arrive in a cloudy overcast Dublin.

My 1st port of call was the Old Jameson Distillery in Smithfield. This distillery closed in 1971 as part of the amalgamation of Paddy, Powers and Jamesons into the formation of Irish Distillers in 1966. Production of all brands moved to the New Midleton Distillery  which opened in 1975 and production of all 3 brands continues there today.

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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.

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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.

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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+

The Irishman Founders Reserve – A much smoother example of blended whiskey from Walsh Distillery who are currently building in Carlow. B and finally,

Tullamore Dew 12 yo Special Reserve – Despite being aged for 12 years Bourbon and Oloroso casks this blend failed to ignite my tastebuds. Smooth but not enough oomph. 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.

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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.

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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!

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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 Crockett Legacy 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!

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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.

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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.

Slainte.

Whiskey Nut.