What with setting up ‘The Whisky Exchange & Friends’ Facebook group (use the button in the sidebar or click here to join), I haven’t had time to do much with the blog this week, but I’m just about caught up now, so here goes:
I haven’t talked much, if at all, about Irish Whiskey on the blog yet. This is more by accident than design: I’m from Ireland myself and I love Irish whiskey (although I never drank it while I was growing up there). I just haven’t got around to talking about it here, so I’m putting that right today. Look out next week for a few tasting notes on some of my favourite Irish drams.
Whisk(e)y-lovers who find themselves on the sofa at Chez F will always have the option of Irish – two of my permanently-available house drams are Power’s Gold Label, which is sent over by the litre from back home by my folks (Cheers, Folks!) and the ever-excellent Redbreast 12 - and if I’m not in the mood for something peaty or a cask-strength dram (I can hear your gasps, but it happens more often than you might think), it’s most often one of those two that I’ll turn to.
So it was with great pleasure that I recently whiled away an hour or two on the Ireland Whiskey Trail website. What’s so impressive about this site is that it isn’t just focused on brand or distillery facts, but also functions as a practical guide for the whiskey-loving tourist contemplating a trip to the land of Pure Potstill.
It’s a brilliant introduction to the joys of not only Irish whiskey but also Ireland itself, and offers plenty of insight into the relationships between the history and geography of this special country and its national spirit - as well as a comprehensive guide on where to stay and what to do once you get there. Here’s a few excerpts and photos from the manifesto:
“This Whiskey Trail includes the distilleries and whiskey museums of Ireland, and also the best whiskey pubs and bars in the country. It also includes Ireland’s best whiskey shops and the website additionally provides a comprehensive guide to Irish whiskey brands and the lost distilleries of Ireland.
The Ireland Whiskey Trail is the brainchild of Heidi Donelon, Ireland’s best known independent whiskey expert. For many years, she has conducted Irish whiskey tastings, seminars, masterclasses and shows throughout Ireland and Europe.
The Ireland Whiskey Trail includes the four whiskey distilleries and whiskey museums in the Republic of Ireland. These distilleries are the perfect place to learn about the history and heritage of whiskey, as well as the ancient skills of distilling, maturing and blending. They are open to the public throughout the year, offering guided tours and whiskey tastings in the splendid buildings and surroundings of Ireland’s best known former whiskey distilleries.
Ireland is, however, as famous for its many pubs as it is for its fine whiskey, and no Irish Whiskey Trail would have been complete without including the best whiskey pubs and bars in the country. This particular whiskey journey took Heidi to every corner of Ireland and she has unearthed many interesting and unusual pubs, full of history, character, characters and great whiskeys!
Every pub and bar is unique and has been selected because it offers either an excellent range of different Irish whiskeys, or because it has a historical link to one of Ireland’s old whiskey distilleries. Some pubs are small, rural establishments, off the normal beaten tourist tracks, while others are better known and popular landmarks within their locality.
The Trail also includes some of the best hotels and golf clubs in Ireland, each with a bar specialising in Irish whiskey and offering their guests excellent food, accommodation and golf facilities. Inevitably, having sampled Irish whiskey, many people want to buy a bottle or two to bring home, so the Whiskey Trail also includes the best stocked whiskey shops in Ireland.”
There’s plenty more of this on the site, so if you’re in the mood for something different, pour yourself a nice drop of pure potstill and check out Heidi’s site – it really is brilliant. If there’s one criticism to be made, it’s that there’s not enough material on Northern Ireland, but Heidi has this in hand and will be updating that side of things in the near future. Those of you wanting some more nerdy/in-depth facts or discussion should check out the new Irish Whiskey links section I’ve put in the sidebar.
ps Notice how I got through this entire post about Ireland and drinking without using any of the following words or phrases: “craic”, “Guinness”, “Black Stuff”, “Emerald Isle”, “leprechaun”, “shamrock”, or “O’Neill’s horrible faux-Irish pubs”. So it is possible after all: I’m hoping to start a trend here.