Due to a tragic unforeseen event a series of cross Irish Sea flights were unfortunately taken at short notice lately.
Normally I’d relish the opportunity to try out some new expressions offered at airside retail premises but on this occasion a good stiff drink was certainly required.
Dublin’s Terminal 2 didn’t disappoint in this instance with a choice of 3 separate whiskey stalls all touting their wares.
The newly commissioned Walsh Whiskey Distillery proudly showed off their core range of the 3 Irishman releases – Founders Reserve – Single Malt and 12 Year Old Single Malt – together with the Writers Tears blend. All are very agreeable whiskeys. It will be a few years yet though before we can taste the spirit currently being laid down in Co Carlow as actual matured whiskey.
Teeling had a rather fine display all to themselves showcasing the Small Batch and rather tasty Single Grain releases. The Aviators Whiskey Society Single Cask exclusive bottling was on display too. This Cabernet Sauvignon finished release is sure to taste fantastic but what drew my eye was the last stand.
Bushmills new Steamship release commanded attention next to the Whiskey Collection at the duty free shop. As Bushmills haven’t exactly been profuse with their offerings of late – this hotly anticipated release is one not to miss.
Steamship is an oloroso finished single malt bottled at 40% and can be summed up in 2 words – sherry bomb – which is no bad thing in my book as I’m partial to that style of whiskey.
The rich smooth mouth feel and sweet sherry notes left the 10 year old rather a dull comparison when I tried it.
I was sorely tempted to buy a bottle – but having recently finished my Amrut fusion a suitable replacement in the shape of the Amrut Oak Barrel Single Malt won out on the day.
The return journey came via Gatwick which understandably didn’t feature as much Irish whiskey.
We reacquainted ourselves with our former habit of a wholesome meal at a Wetherspoons care of their Flying Horse airside establishment. Despite having an extensive array of craft beers on offer – the whisky menu was rather limited. A Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select did the honours of washing down my Bangers ‘n’ mash and as bourbons go – this had a smooth delivery coupled with a slightly spicy finish which I found very nice indeed.
I’m not a fan of the layout at World Duty Free airports whereby all passengers have to wind in and out of the shopping area before gaining open space. I’ve found it frustrating having been both a non-shopping late traveller rushing to catch my flight as well as a timely flyer looking for a relaxed retail experience being bumped into by by my former self.
I much prefer the layout at Dublin which has a large central aisle with shops either side the customer can chose to go in to – or not as the case may be.
No choice is no good in my book.
Whatever option is in play – I usually scan the whiskey area to see what is being promoteted or if any special offers are available. Heading through to Wetherspoons I did spot 2 Bruichladdich expression to tempt me and in this instance I chose to go back after my meal.
Mark Reynier – the former CEO at Bruichladdich is currently laying down distillate for maturation at his new distillery in Waterford – Ireland. I was therefore curious to find out what his previous tenure on Islay had produced as a pointer of things to come.
The Laddie Eight is a non-peated single malt matured in american and European oak casks – non-chill filtered and bottled at 50%. It’s sister travel retail exclusive Port Charlotte CC 01 is heavily pleated – matured in Cognac casks for a few more years and bottled at 57.8%.
I sampled both neat and was blown away by how smooth they were. I could easily drink these straight which can be dangerous at high strength!
Despite the moniker ‘Heavily Pleated ‘ on the Port Charlotte bottle I found this a very well balanced whisky. There was peat present – but it did not dominate the taste and much more complexity shone through in both the palate and finish. The Laddie didn’t disappoint either with a rich wholesome array of flavours coating the mouth.
Based on the delights of this duo of beauties – any new release from Waterford will be highly sought after.
Bruichladdich are also involved in the transparency issue with the Scottish Whisky Association as highlighted by Compass Box so I felt a desire to buy a bottle to acknowledge that stand. However – my finances have taken a bit of a beating with all this last minute travel – so despite Port Charlotte CC OI being the better malt – The Laddie Eight made it back to my drinks cabinet. I also like doing the unexpected – a non-peated Islay anyone?
My 2nd trip over the water was the usual red-eye-express so too early for whiskey. With finances low I did pick up a small bottle of Johnnie Walkers Spice Road with my last sterling note in Gatwick. It’s a step up from the Red or Black – but nothing fancy – which at the price point is just fine.
Whenever you fly – it’s always a treat to try out some new ‘exclusive’ – and invariably they are – whiskeys at the airport.
You’re already on the premises with usually a little time to spare – so why not give something new and potentially outside you’re normal range a whirl?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a few tastings that I wouldn’t have gone for otherwise unless I’d taken the opportunity airside.
I usually stock up at the airport too. The staff are generally well informed and very helpful. It’s often the only specialist whiskey shop I manage to get into without going out of my way for months at a time.
Just go easy on the return journey – especially if you’re driving home after landing.
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.