It’s always wise to visibly scan the whiskey shelves of any bar you go into to see what they actually have in stock – even if you are familiar with the premises.
I’d not been in the Tullamore Court Hotel for a few months and was very pleasantly surprised by the improved array of fine whiskey before me.
Not only was there a veritable wall of Tullamore DEW expressions lining the front bar, which befits the hotel only being a mere mile away from the new Tullamore Distillery – but also plenty of The Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Monkey Shoulder & Grant’s bottles all from the William Grant & Sons – owners of the distillery – portfolio.
How about a tasty trio of Tullamore DEW to test your tastebuds?
Clearly the hotel is a popular watering hole & welcome bed for the night to many overseas staff and visitors to the Tullamore Distillery.
Meanwhile the side bar had also broadened to showcase the large selection of Irish whiskeys currently available on the market today.
The trio that caught my eyes however were the very distinctive & attractively packaged Method and Madness range recently released by Irish Distillers to much acclaim.
Comprising of a single grain, single malt and a single pot still – these whiskeys have pushed the envelope in terms of style, cask selection & innovation for Irish whiskey.
This happened to be my 1st encounter with them – so I started at the beginning with the single grain release.
Presented at 46%, matured in ex-bourbon casks & finished in charred virgin oak, the nose immediately captivated me with warm rich vanilla notes associated with the bourbon casks but heightened with added depth from the virgin oak.
This followed through into a warm smooth snug of flavours in the mouth – very reminiscent of a good bourbon – which is hardly surprising as it is made from a high corn mash with some charred virgin oak cask maturation – albeit Spanish oak. There was a slight delay to savour these beautiful notes before a lovely warming, slightly spicy finish coated the palate and enveloped it like a cosy fireside hug.
There is no madness to this whiskey – it’s simply pushing the method of distilling & maturing the spirit to a higher level.
And in the words of Mr Belt & Wezol – I’m happy for Irish Distillers to Take Me Higher.
The single grain category bar has just been raised!
My quest to sample as wide a variety of whiskies from as many different countries as possible took me to Whisky Birmingham.
Now in it’s 5th year – the show is organised by The Birmingham Whisky Club – and despite only being a short 45 minute flight from Dublin, there is a different array of whisky brands,styles & ranges on offer on the UK market in contrast to Ireland – which made the journey worthwhile for me.
I wasn’t disappointed!
From the first stall to the last – there were simply so many new expressions for me to sample – I just couldn’t get round them all.
There were a couple of stalls from importers & distributors who had very fine arrays of not-your-usual-whiskies which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Jon & Mike put together a display of some of their favourite whiskies for sampling & sharing along with other fellow enthusiasts. Fantastic.
Several Scottish blenders & bottlers had wonderful displays. A sprinkling of American brands graced the floor together with some familiar Irish faces too!
Held in the wonderfully historic setting of The Bond in Digbeth on the Grand Union Canal & only a short walk from the transport hub of Birmingham’s Bullring. It’s a marvelous venue for such a friendly and relaxed show.
A very welcome feature was the VIP Lounge staffed by the helpful & informative Andy. It was like a little oasis of calm to sit down & relax, chat or take in the aromas & flavours of a choice selection of whiskies.
There comes a point in the proceedings however when you know you are getting close to the edge!
Thankfully there were water coolers dotted around the venue to keep you hydrated – and a couple of street food vendors in the outside area where I enjoyed a tasty pizza.
Masterclasses are another way to slow down the pace as well as gaining some whisky knowledge from experts in the field. If I’d done my homework better the Cheese & Whisky Pairing class would have been my choice. As it was I contented myself with a selection box of satisfyingly rich tasting cheese & crackers from the stall to twin my whiskies with.
Talking of favourites.
I always like to to come away with my dram of the day!
National Heritage Week in Ireland for 2016 runs from the 20th to 28th August.
It’s a celebration of the rich cultural, natural, creative, architectural and industrial heritage of the island of Ireland which takes the form of a range of events organised locally throughout the country.
My contribution to Heritage Week was to lead a Tullamore Town Whiskey Walk.
But what’s whiskey got to do with heritage? you may ask.
Well – in The Annuls of Clonmacnoise from 1405 there is a reference to a certain chieftain who imbibed a bit too much “aqua vitae” and subsequently died.
Quite clearly Ireland’s relationship to aqua vitae or uisce beatha or whiskey as we now know it has – for better or worse – a long cultural heritage.
Tullamore’s connection with whiskey dates back to at least the 1700’s.
An unfortunate collision with a chimney – believed to be a distillery chimney – led to the world’s first air disaster when a hot air balloon set fire to the town in 1785!
There are still Phoenix emblems on lamp posts on Colmcille St to remember the rebirth of the town after this catastrophe – along with a Tullamore DEW expression of the same name which can either be taken to note the fire – or the beginning of whiskey distilling in Tullamore after a 50 year hiatus when William Grant & Sons opened the new Tullamore Distillery on the outskirts of the town in 2014.
St Patrick St in the centre of town was largely destroyed in the fire. There were a few buildings that survived. One of these buildings is the Tullamore DEW managers office which still proudly displays the name of it’s most famous manager – Daniel E Williams who coined the “Give Everyman His DEW” advertising tag.
Directly opposite are the original distillery entrance gates which bear the name B Daly Company Ltd Tullamore Distillery – Bernard Daly being a previous manager to Daniel Williams.
The gates abut a public house by the name of Bob Smyths. This was formerly a mill house owned by Michael Molloy who happened to be the founder of Tullamore Distillery in 1829. It should come as no surprise the mill was incorporated into the distillery whose main works were just behind. We decided to raise a glass to Tullamore Distillery at this juncture of the walk.
Much of Tullamore’s wealth was generated on the back of the drinks industry. In the early 1800’s there happened to be 2 distilleries, 2 breweries and extensive malting houses in the town. The 3 biggest employers during this period were Tullamore DEW itself, P&H Egans general merchants wine & spirit bonders and Tarleton maltsters.
The heritage of the past shapes the present.
Tullamore DEW is still a world recognised whiskey brand and the original 1897 Old Bonded Warehouse attracts many visitors now it’s a very enjoyable whiskey tourist attraction.
P&H Egans – who originally built the fine Bridge House which still stands today – have a recently released 10 year old single malt bearing the Bridge House on the front of the label. Descendants of the original family are behind the new revived brand and artwork from their forefathers can be seen in The Brewery Tap pub – which happens to be the site of one of the former breweries.
Tarleton seem to be gone but the fertile soils of the Midlands still produce barley for the malting industry to this day. Many of the shops and apartments at the bottom of Harbour St are housed in the old warehouses and malting floors of that former malting industry giant.
Whiskey is still a presence in Tullamore today. It may not employ as many people as in the past but the legacy lives on.
One of several whiskey bars in town – as arbitrarily defined by a previous blog here – has it’s own bottling! We enjoyed a glass of the yet to be launched Hugh Lynch’s Irish Whiskey in the pub that commissioned it. What better way to end the walk.
So why don’t you give Tullamore a visit?
The combination of the old original buildings with their rich history – the new whiskey expressions with their exciting flavours – an exciting re-birth of whiskey distilling quietly maturing in oak barrels at the modern Tullamore Distillery – neatly encapsulates the past – present and yet to be written whiskey heritage of Tullamore.
The journey began last year when I first became aware of World Whisky Day and thought – ‘Now I should do something for that day’. This led to me scrambling around finding a printer open on Friday night to laminate my hastily prepared posters – writing out a basic script for the day and posting some last minute social media posts.
My choice of venue happened during the course of the year. Doing blogs on Whiskey Bars meant I eventually found some much closer to home than I had previously known. Couple this with an award winning whiskey visitors attraction in the shape of Tullarmore DEW Visitors Centre – some whiskey art – architecture and history and the die was set.
2pm on World Whisky Day found me at Bury Quay anxiously waiting for people to turn up.
We were greeted warmly by Shane who invited us in to a complimentary showing of the Tullamore DEW introductory video in the auditorium along with a glass of Tullamore DEW Original to get the day started!
Suitably warmed up despite the rather showery weather outside we made the short walk along the Grand Canal – which reached Tullamore in 1798 and aided the economic success of the brewing and distilling industry of the town – to our first whiskey bar of the day – Hugh Lynch’s.
A hard to find discontinued expression was chosen as drink of choice in this bar to demonstrate the fact good whiskey bars operate almost as whiskey libraries in that they stock many a bottle both old – new and potentially exclusive.
Tullamore DEW’s Black 43 went down well with the gathered clan of whiskey friends. It also demonstrated what an additional 11 months in sherry cask can add to a whiskey.
Onwards into town we went. Pausing to view the remnants of the original B. Daly 1829 distillery along with the wonderfully restored gates and Master Distillers Offices across the road.
Bob Smyths pub sits handily beside the Tullamore Distillery gates. It was once owned by Michael Molloy – who established the distillery – so despite not being a whiskey bar – we popped in for a glass of Paddy to acknowledge the brands sale to Sazerac.
Our next stop proved rather more contentious. Back in 1910 the large brewing, malting, bottling and general wholesellers of P&H Egan built what is now The Bridge House Hotel. Descendants of that family released Egan’s Irish Whiskey a few years ago but sadly it isn’t yet stocked at the bar.
We handed a short plea to the management of the hotel to please remedy this situation so Egan’s Irish Whiskey can be enjoyed in it’s true home. By a democratic vote the whiskey walk participants unanimously agreed to bypass this venue in favour of somewhere that did serve Egan’s.
Thankfully we didn’t have to walk far as one bar that does have Egan’s Irish Whiskey is the lovely Brewery Tap on Bridge Street where landlord Paul offered us a discount on the day to enjoy a glass of the lovely rich 10 year old single malt and toast to the future success of the Egan family.
One inquisitive member of the party suggested Egan’s was just a similar bottling to Tyrconnell – also a single malt – so a glass duly arrived for a taste comparison.
Another unanimous decision was reached. Tyrconnell is a smoother slightly more tasty whiskey than Egan’s. It must be stated however that both these expressions were far superiour to the blends we’d been having up to this point.
Back out on the streets our numbers began to diminish due to time constraints. A visit to the whiskey sculpture Pot Stills in Market Square was abandoned. Commissioned by Tullamore Town Council in recognition of the role the distilling trade had in prospering the town. The 3 pots were sculptor Eileen MacDonagh’s interpretation of the gleaming copper stills that currently produce the distillate which goes on to make whiskey in the new Tullamore Distillery on the outskirts of town as well as those at Kilbeggan Distillery only a 10 minute drive from here.
Market Square is also the site of a short-lived distillery built by Mr Manley which closed early in the 1800’s. However there are many fine building which previously housed the large malting trade Tullamore was famous for. Malt left Tullamore by barge to supply many a famous brewery and distillery in Dublin. These malt stores are now apartments’ shops and offices but you can imagine the hive of industry that once frequented the canal harbour in times gone.
Our last port of call was Kelly’s Bar just down the road from the Visitors Centre where we began. Kelly’s have a wide and varied range of fine whiskeys on offer so various expressions were tasted by several fellow whiskey walkers and opinions exchanged as to the merits – or lack off depending to individual taste – of the drams tried.
Our sole Scotch of the day – in recognition that Tullamore DEW is now owned by a Scottish firm – came via a 16 year old Lagavulin. Very tasty it was too.
Eugene the landlord had actually got this whisky in for one of his regular customers. Now that’s an example of a fine whiskey bar!
My thanks go out to all the fellow whiskey walkers who joined me in celebrating World Whisky Day. The publicans, bar staff and the Tullamore DEW Visitors Centre crew who made today a reality in giving generously of their time – and some whiskey too!
Thanks also to the Tullamore Tribune who publicised the event and sent down a reporter to take pictures and report on the days proceedings.
Unlike The Brewery Tap – I’ve actually visited Kelly’s before for a few drinks – but as it was in my pre-whiskey days – I can’t remember what I was on.
The ‘piece de resistance’ in Kelly’s Bar is the wall of whiskey – well all 2 of them really!
The first is a very impressive wooden shelf display behind the bar showcasing a fine range of whiskeys for sale – whilst the other is a room divider proudly emblazoned Uisce Beata with barrel tops highlighting various Irish Distilleries both past and present.
I’m afraid to say that despite the wide choice on offer – I partook of nothing stronger than a hot cup of tea during my visit to this welcoming and homely establishment as I was on driving duty. But I did scan my photos later and spotted a few tasty drams I wouldn’t mind trying out!
As is almost a default position – and my cue for a musical interlude –
Any self respecting bar in Tullamore cannot get by without a large selection of DEW expressions. Kelly’s certainly doesn’t disappoint in that department. The obligatory Egan’s also featured along with Kilbeggan from the nearby distillery of the same name. Just a short trip up the N52 if you want to visit. Midleton – Bushmill and Irishman releases were available too along with a decent array of Scotch and bourbon – although I didn’t spot any rye – my preferred option from the USA
All this was wrapped up in a friendly bar adorned with whiskey paraphernalia – old photographs, mirrors, empty cartons and bottles in the public bar – as well as hundreds of beer tankards attached to the ceiling beams in the lounge area.
Talking about beer – I was pleased to see a trio of craft beers from the Boyne Valley Brewery on show. Aine O’Hara is not only the head brewer at this new facility – she is also the master distiller too! I’ll look forward to tasting some Boann Distillery Whiskey in the next few years!
Kelly’s Bar is situated beside the Grand Canal only a short walk from the Tullamore DEW Visitors Centre. The canal aided the whiskey distilling trade in 1820’s Tullamore when barley, peat and coal was shipped in to the 2 working distilleries – with the whiskey produced going out to Dublin or Limerick for onward distribution.
The canal makes a very pleasant walk in fine weather. Perhaps best undertook before you indulge a little in Kelly’s!
A short 2 minute walk from the impressive Old Bonded Warehouse of the Tullamore DEW Visitors Centre brings you to the rather unassuming windowless facade of Hugh Lynch’s Bar.
On entering – it’s a different story.
A busy public area bustles with regulars watching the sport on TV whilst a quieter lounge area is gently warmed by a glowing stove pumping out it’s welcome heat giving a warm tranquil cosy feel to the otherwise large space.
The main attraction for me however lay in the impressive display of whiskeys both behind the bar as well as tastefully shown in glass cabinets too.
A very large bottle of Tullamore DEW Original dominates the bar mainly due to it’s size! Fellow Tullamore DEW releases were obviously in no short supply either – including a few that are now discontinued like the Black 43.
What took my eye though was another whiskey claiming to hail from Tullamore – Egan’s Irish Whiskey.
Egan’s is a 10 year old single malt and like Tullamore DEW isn’t actually made in the town of Tullamore. Both whiskeys are produced at one or more (in the case of blends) of the 3 large distilleries that currently have stock matured for long enough to be labelled as whiskey. They are Bushmills, Cooley and Midleton.
The new distillery opened in Tullamore by William Grant & Sons in 2014 won’t be able to release it’s first expression until 2017.
P&H Egan’s were a famous grocers in Tullamore who bottled and sold whiskey in times gone by and the name has now been revived by this new release.
As I missed out on tasting it on my Galway Whiskey Trail adventure I couldn’t refuse the opportunity again!
A rich golden coloured dram soon stood before me and despite being a 46% non-chill filtered release a surprisingly smooth rich nose warmed me to the drink.
The taste pleased me very much. I found it full-bodied and fruity with a lovely warm mouthfeel followed through by a long lingering finish.
Very nice indeed!
It didn’t surprise me to hear the whiskey has already won awards and Pat the bartender informed me it’s a popular seller both in the bar and the off-licence which is also part of the premises.
Lynch’s also features a cafe where decent pub grub can be enjoyed – a large hall at the back for private functions – as well as a regular music nights with a varied selection of bands or comedians hosted upstairs. It’s certainly a busy spot!
I’ll certainly be back to sample some more of the varied whiskeys on offer from countries both near and far. Millars and Shanahans from Ireland I’ve yet to try . Scapa from Scotland and a sprinkling of bourbons from America too.
Being only a half hour train journey from my home in Athlone – I don’t think that visit will be long in the making either!
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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 Distillery – Ruby Blue or Muldoon stands showcasing their vodka – gin and liqueur products.
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.
An invitation to a 25th Wedding Anniversary helped to extend the New Year celebrations for herself and me.
The first port of call was our local distillery in Kilbeggan for a personalised bottle to the happy couple. Despite the swollen River Brosna and extensive flooding throughout the Midlands, the distillery had escaped any damage and was opening for the 2016 season when we visited. There were already plenty of visitors in the bar area when we arrived but being the driver I made do with tea and scone from the lovely Pantry Restaurant.
Gift in the bag – it was down the N52 to Tullamore then onto the N80 to Carlow. Interestingly both these towns have whiskey distilleries either open – Tullamore DEW – or being built – Walsh Distillery.
Our destination was Ballykealy Manor Hotel just south of Carlow to meet up with old friends – new acquaintances – a celebratory meal and a few new whiskeys!
At any new venue I generally scan the bar for expressions I’ve not tried before. In this department Ballykealy did not disappoint. Along with the usual entry blends – Jameson, Paddy and Powers – there were some mid-range offerings – Bushmills 10, 16, Jameson & Powers 12 – as well as a Midleton VR from 2006.
What caught my eye however was the Craggenmore 12 year old Speyside single malt I’d not tasted. This I duly ordered as a pre-meal appetiser which proved to be a lovely smooth unpeated Scotch and helped ease my way into the evenings craic that ensued.
After a sumptuous 3 course meal in the splendid dining room – the bar and it’s resident whiskeys beckoned and I must have worked my way through a fair amount of the expressions on offer including the very fine Midleton VR.
The next day dawned bright and sunny – a welcome reprieve from the constant rain we’ve been having. A hearty breakfast – more chat and then long goodbyes rounded off the morning before we departed for Kilkenny – The Marble City.
My wife had chosen the destination – but I’d done a quick internet search and found a suitable watering hole in Dylan‘s Whiskey Bar which fortuitously happened to be across the road from our hotel!
Outside it’s an inviting red decor – inside it’s a lovely mix of wooden snugs – dim lighting – whiskey mirrors and memorabilia as well as an entire wall of whiskey to wonder at!
The friendly and informative staff guided my non-whiskey drinking wife through some tasty gins – ending up with a lovely Hendricks with added cucumber, tonic and ice. This satisfied her no end. I opted for a Knappogue Castle 12 year old. A decent dram indeed. Meanwhile a taster of Jack Ryan’s 12 was sampled and matched my flavour bias much better. A blind taster was proffered as a sort of test which I must admit I failed miserably as I couldn’t identify the dram as the Amrut Fusion from India – and I even have a bottle of it back home!
Ah well – this place is whiskey heaven. I could sit here all night going through the expressions on display – but a feed was in order so off to the Italian we went.
Not any old Italian however – my wife has fine tastes – the award winning Ristorante Rinuccini just down from the castle was her chosen spot. The staff were very friendly and efficient. The food was delightful and flavoursome and to top it all there was an extensive whiskey list to choose from. Certainly the largest selection I’ve encountered in a restaurant before (maybe I just don’t get out enough).
The Singleton of Duffton rounded off the evening meal. A satisfyingly rich and complex Speyside single malt. Sadly I didn’t catch the actual expression tasted – and there are a few judging from the website – but it was enjoyable.
Rinuccini also have an extensive range of Italian wines and grappa. An enquiry was made if they had the new Italian whisky Puni but as it’s only just been released they didn’t – as yet – but perhaps sometime?
Suitably stuffed a leisurely amble through the medieval town centre afforded us views of trendy shops and plenty of pubs – most of which displayed a varied range of whiskeys to taste. Kilkenny seems to have a lot to offer on the dark spirit front!
We repaired back to Dylan’s for another drink. Despite being a Sunday night there was live music playing with a good crowd of revellers enjoying themselves. Herself went for the Hendricks whilst myself went for the Tyrconnell Port Finish.
Dylan’s is the first pub I’ve come across to have the entire Tyrconnell range of finishes and a tasting tray of all 4 would be a real treat – as well as a display of the influences various cask finishes have on the resulting tipple. For my purposes this would be better appreciated at the start of the evening rather than at the end – so I made do and savoured the richer, bolder flavours of the port finish over the more light and clear single malt Tryrconnell.
We had a sing-a-long and a few laughs to the music before heading back to the hotel.
I fancied a nightcap and headed to the bar. There were the usual array of whiskeys on offer and I originally went for a Crested Ten – but an unknown name caught my eye – Mulligan Whiskey Liqueur. An Irish Distillers Group offering – now discontinued I later found out – was duly ordered.
On tasting the Mulligan a reassuring whiskey hit was immediately drowned out by a thick sweet dose of honey. Not quite to my taste at all – but nonetheless yet another flavour experience encountered in the name of whiskey exploration!
Kilkenny has a lot to offer the whiskey drinker.
I’d certainly like to call back again in the near future – but in the meantime I’ll leave you with a song encountered at The Dylan Whiskey Bar.
An impulse buy at my local supermarket of a whisky I hadn’t yet tried before – nor new anything about – led me to a rather pleasing drink as well as very entertaining advertising.
William Lawson’s Blended Scotch Whisky is one of those rather plain bottles of whisky that adorn drinks shelves all over the place and I had avoided it – up until now – but as it was on offer – and I’m always on the lookout for a new taste experience – I thought I’d give it a go.
Now I believe behind every bottle of whiskey is a story waiting to be told – and this bottle certainly didn’t disappoint!
To start the whole show off I poured myself a glass – left it to breathe – and consulted my rather old edition of the Mitchell Beazley Pocket Guides to Scotch Whisky compiled by none other than the esteemed Charles MacLean. It’s an encyclopedic source of information on all things related to Scotch whisky – the distilleries, their single malt releases, the blended scotch expressions, owners and bottlers as well as some associated data on sales and distribution pertaining to the year of publication – the most recent edition on amazon was 2006.
From this publication I gleaned that a bottler and blender by the name of William Lawson first created this blend in 1849. Over the years it’s base moved around a bit before settling in Coatbridge near Glasgow. To secure malt for blending the Macduff Distillery was purchased and the whole operation is under ownership of Bacardi. So far this history resembles that of many of the other classic scotch blends which originated in the mid 19th century and are still around today – via many changes of home base and ownership.
Charles gave no tasting notes so I consulted the computer and garnished many positive remarks for William Lawson’s. At this point I gave in to temptation and had a sip. I was rather surprised by the fresh light fruity taste with no peat element at all. Very unexpected to the slightly harsh grainy/peaty flavour profile I’m accustomed to with entry level blended scotch. Mmmmmm, not bad – really rather good indeed!
Further investigation led me to a very enjoyable discovery.
Fun – frivolous – full of cliches, stereotypes and innuendo – but laugh out loud funny. Drinking this whisky was a good experience – but watching their adverts takes it to another level!
Ever wondered what was under a Scotsman’s kilt? Let William Lawson show you.
There are even different expressions of the standard blend available – sadly not at my local store – but the adverts sure are hilarious and so refreshing.
I was hooked and kept searching for more whilst tasting more of this lovely little blend.
William Lawson’s advertising department certainly don’t hold back – even to the extent of using flash mobs of finely buffed Brazilians in kilts riding horses parading down Recife dispensing whisky shots to stunned passers by. The music track used was also pretty cool – Louis XIV with their eponymous song Louis XIV.
This led me down another path – that of cool music used in whiskey promotion. Teeling used Kid Karate‘s track Louder about a minute in on their video of the pot stills arriving at Dublin for the new distillery – Teeling’s whiskey certainly tastes louder to me!
Johnnie Walker also entered the cool music charts with their Plastic Bertrand backing track hailing from Belgium whose Belgian Owl Single Malt is a very cool whisky. Johnnie Walker Black Label is a descent example of a lightly peated blend from Scotland.
In contrast – Tullamore DEW from only down the road to where I’m based have taken a more traditional theme to their ads.
Whilst Jameson from Cork have also gone down the comic route with a series funny sketches in their promotional videos.
We then get into the realm of slightly odd with this one from Canadian Club.
Whilst the videos from Japan dispense with the sexualisation for a more minimalist approach.
Very refreshing, and even a mythical approach?
It seems as if there is no end to the permutations the ad folks can come up with to promote your drink of choice.
To round up my peek at the wonderful and wacky world of whiskey advertising I’ll finish with a seemingly sombre and severe ad for Whyte And Mackay – another fine scottish blend if you haven’t already tried it.
So there you go.
You’ll notice all of the ads are for blends. It’s not surprising. 90% of all whiskey sold is in the form of a blend. Simply chasing the money.
You’ll also notice that most of the ads imply that drinking whiskey improves your “manliness”. Apart from the Japanese, the only other brand to show a female tasting whisky was my new friend William Lawson’s. Ironically – they also showed the male of the species as the sexualised object.
Read into them what you want – but I for one;
greatly enjoyed my glass of William Lawson’s’
found their videos absolutely hilarious and,
loved the cool music they chose as backing tracks.
Whisky dosen’t come better than that. A true smorgasbord of a sensory feast – taste – smell – mouth feel – visual delight – auditory pleasure.
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.