Tag Archives: The Saw Doctors

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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The Craic was mighty on Clare Island

My first visit to the wonderful scenery that is Clare Island – sitting at the head of Clew Bay near Westport – Ireland – was about four years ago – and who better to give us a song than the Saw Doctors.

The warm, friendly and welcoming reception I received then stayed with me – so when an opportunity arose to call again came my way – I jumped at the chance.

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The Signal Tower with Knockmore behind c/othewhiskeynut

After a long traverse of the island from the Napoleonic Signal Tower on the majestic western cliffs – scaling the high points of Knockmore and the slightly lower Knocknaveen – then descending back down into the picturesque harbour area – I was in need of a stiff drink.

Meeting up with others in the Sailor’s Bar I was pleasantly surprised by the fine range of whiskeys on offer.

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Some of the Sailor’s Bar whiskeys c/othewhiskeynut

Now it doesn’t quite reach whiskey bar status – but for a small island – this was a lovely find!

A good array of Irish expressions from the big three distilleries – Midleton – Bushmills and Kilbegan/Cooley – together with some big brand Scotch and a bit of bourbon too – brought the total up to a respectable 30 or so different bottles.

As is my wont – I started out with something I’d never tried before – Loch Lomond Single Malt.

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Loch Lomond Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

Hailing from the respected Loch Lomond Group – an independent distiller and bottler based just within the Scottish Highland whisky region with many expressions on offer – this particular entry level non-age statement single malt has the old design prior to being revamped with more snazzy packaging.

I found it a fairly smooth and sweet non-peaty pleasant dram offering a decent taste experience with few surprises. It whetted my appetite for something more bolder so a Connemara followed with it’s satisfyingly rich peaty smoke.

Loch Lomond Group also do an entry level blend which isn’t too bad either.

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High Commissioner from The Loch Lomond Group c/othewhiskeynut

Mrs Whiskey joined me later and together we dined on some very tasty seafood dishes which we enjoyed immensely  – especially as the bar looks out onto a stunning view of the Atlantic with County Mayo’s hills in the near distance.

My goodness! This place is a real find. Stunning scenery, fine whiskey, excellent food, friendly staff and to top it all – some local craft beer too!

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Mescan’s Westport Red Tripel c/othewhiskeynut

Mescan Brewery are based on the lower slopes of the mighty Croagh Patrick whose massive bulk dominates the skyline to the South East of Clare Island. I couldn’t resist pairing their Westport Red Tripel offering with my meal.

Over the course of two very enjoyable evenings the warm welcome we received on our first visit was further enhanced by yet more marvelous ceol agus craic!

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Clare Island Community Centre Bar c/othewhiskeynut

We stayed at a lovely local B&B and along with the lively Sailor’s Bar also frequented the Community Centre which doubles as another bar – albeit with a slightly diminished whiskey range. A Teachers Original was chosen at this premises – but Inishowen still wins out for me.

During our short stay the entertainment was non-stop.

A stag party one evening followed by a hen party the next.

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Teannas and some hens! c/oMrsWhiskey

Live music on both nights provided by some talented young musicians called Teannas – one of whose videos is below.

A Pier To Pier charity swim across the 3 miles separating Clare Island from Roonagh Pier on the mainland together with a dancing competition, a wildlife festival and some hilarious community games including a sheep race, a potato picking race and a horse dumping betting competition!

I kid you not – Clare Island is buzzing!

Our time on Clare was so limited I didn’t have time to go through all the whiskey in the bar.

Perhaps another visit is necessary!

Sláinte

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Eddie’s Bar, Clonbur

The immense bulk of Mount Gable looms over the picturesque town of Clonbur as you approach from the East. It’s a popular destination for the fishing fraternity due to being sandwiched by Lough Mask to the North and the mighty Lough Corrib to the South.

Straddling the Galway/Mayo border Clonbur also provides easy access to a range of stunning mountain scenery including the Maumturks, The Twelve Bens, Maumtransa and the Partry/Joyce Mountains – which conveniently leads me to the musical interlude provided by local lads The Saw Doctors.

Having just got down from scaling one of the minor Joyce hills to stretch my legs and enjoy the views – I was in need of some sustenance. I knew Eddie’s sported some whiskey from a previous visit I’d made but now I had the opportunity to actually enjoy one!

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Eddie’s sandwich board c/othewhiskeynut

Suitably seated at the bar I ordered up a hot toasted ham sandwich. My choice of whiskey was a bit more difficult to make with a bewildering array of over 170 bottles on offer. Luckily a whiskey menu was at hand.

I eventually settled on an Islay release from the Bunnahabhain distillery seeing as I was in a gealtacht area.

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A lovely malt! c/othewhiskeynut

Originally destined for the travel retail market – the Durach Ur bottling is a 46.2% non-chill filtered – non age statement single malt. Unlike some of it’s near neighbours – Durach Ur is a lighly peated well balanced whisky with a full bodied malty taste oozing flavour. Just the right pick-me-up after my sorte out in the rather cold and windy spring weather.

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Some of Eddie’s whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

The bar shelves groaned with an impressive display of whiskeys. Irish releases were well represented but Scottish expressions seemed to match – if not outnumber – the local varieties. A few token bourbons and a lone Japanese brought up the remainder.

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Bar adornments c/othewhiskeynut

 

Whiskey tasting platters can be arranged and there is plenty of memorabilia scattered throughout the welcoming bar. An outside seating area catches the sun – when it shines – and is where I enjoyed a hearty  al fresco meal on my previous visit watching the comings and goings of this popular little spot.

Eddie’s Bar together with the adjoining Fairhill House Hotel have won awards for their tasty meals so there should be no surprise in finding an empty tourbus or two clogging up the carpark whilst their passengers enjoy the refreshments inside.

I’m certainly planning my next hill-walking adventure as an excuse to call in on Eddie’s again for yet another lovely dram and tasty snack.

Slainte

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