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!
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.
A high pressure weather system had been sitting over Ireland for a few days bringing with it a welcome dose of sunshine after months of wet, dank, grey days.
My first thought was to ‘Run To The Hills’. More in a hiking boots and compass kind off way rather than a leather and studs Iron Maiden rock out!
But herself had other plans. A weekend of gardening was the order of the day.
By Sunday afternoon the lawn had been cut. Hedges had been trimmed and all the mess tidied up so lunch out was proposed.
A suggestion of a meal at the Tullamore DEW Visitors Centre was accepted. Despite herself having worked in Tullamore for a few years – she had never visited the Old Bonded Warehouse by the Grand Canal and I thought it would be a great place to show her.
The sun was still shining a half hour later when we arrived and the solid wooden benches on the boardwalk outside the centre were very attractive – just a shame there was still a spring chill in the air. We decided to head indoors.
The warmly wooded interior complete with whiskey barrels adorning the walls together with Tullamore DEW mirrors and old photographs was very impressive. We both took a few pictures before the friendly and helpful staff greeted us .
The tempting food menu soon appeared and we ordered up a few tasty treats.
This gave me an opportunity to check out the gift shop where the entire range of Tullamore DEW whiskeys were on show.
Pride of place was given to the relatively new 14 Year Old Single Malt. A triple distilled offering finished in Bourbon – Oloroso – Madiera and Port barrels.
As I was the designated driver I didn’t indulge but did get the sales talk from the crew.
Also on show were;
The flagship Tullamore DEW Original. Triple distilled – triple blended using 3 types of grain – and triple cask matured too.
Tullamore Dew Trilogy 15 Year Old. A blend additionally finished in rum casks.
All of these were available at the bar too where a selection of wines – craft beers and ciders – plus a sprinkling of Scottish whiskies from the parent group William Grant & Sons included Glenfiddich – Grants – Monkey Shoulder and a Balvenie 12.
A shout from my wife alerted me to our meal. I enjoyed my beef steak with whiskey sauce whilst herself had a pulled pork bap and chips. Decent pub grub to enjoy a glass or two of the hard stuff if only I wasn’t driving!
Despite not adhering to my Whiskey Bar criteria of an earlier blog – I do think the visitors centre is eligible for honorary membership of that club by virtue of it’s historic and picturesque location. Serving the in-house range of whiskeys plus parents selection too. And the general buzz of the place as visitors – who are generally all whiskey fans of one sort or another – congenially come and go before and after their guided tours.
You don’t have to go on the tour to enjoy the delights of the restaurant – bar or outside seating area. Just get there before the closing time of 5pm on Sundays and 6pm otherwise.
A final touch to our day was the tie-in with a local chocolate producer in nearby Ferbane who has infused their dark chocolate with Tullamore DEW whiskey to create a wonderfully rich sweet treat to finish off our enjoyable stay.
Do yourself a favour.
Choose a day when the sun is shining.
Sit outside by the banks of the tranquil Grand Canal where once the barges busily loaded the whiskey to transport it around the world in the early 1900’s.
Work your way through the tasty Tullamore Dew expressions fortified by a hearty meal and savour the sights – smells – aromas and experiences of Tullamore both past and present.