Showing posts with label Mayo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mayo. Show all posts

Sunday, September 4, 2016

On Whiskey Trail in Mayo. Visit to the Connacht Distillery

On Whiskey Trail in Mayo
Visit to the new Connacht Distillery
Connacht Distillery
Last weekend, after a drive from Donegal, we made it just  in time to take the 12.30pm tour of the new Connacht Distillery in Ballina, County Mayo. What else would you be doing on a Sunday morning!

Aside from a spanking new distillery, you need water, barley and yeast to make whiskey. Connacht get their water, clean water, from Lough Conn and Lough Cullen. Lots of iron and calcium in the water so it has to be demineralised before being used in the distilling process.

The malted barley, having come through the milling stage, meets up with the warmed water in the boiler tank. This liquid-y mix is called the mash and is put into the mash tun, another tank.  The sugar, from the barley, dissolves and is drawn off through the bottom of the mash tun. The resulting liquid is called 'wort'. Lautering is the next process, in the third tank (the Lauter tun), and here the mash is separated into the clear liquid wort and the residual grain.
Now we are on to the three wash vats, all stainless steel. Here, the yeast is added and begins to act on the sugar in the wort, turning it into alcohol over a period of two to four days. This wash is low in alcohol, much the same as that of wine.

Our guide now enthusiastically points to their three gleaming stills, which were made in Victoria, Canada. They have different necks which influence character and texture etc. The first tank is called Wash; the alcohol evaporates up the neck and leaves this tank at about 20% abv.

On then to the Feint tank where the process is repeated and the alcohol increases, this time to about 35%. The final, the third, tank is called the Spirit. Irish whiskeys are traditionally triple distilled. When the Spirit has done its work, the liquid, still clear (no colour) has an abv of about 70%!
Ballina last Sunday (28.08.16)
You’ve heard of flying winemakers. Well Connacht’s distiller Rob runs two distilleries in Pennsylvania and flies over regularly to Ballina. He also sources the oak casks which are charred and impart flavour and colour and in which the Connacht whiskey will be matured. The casks are made in Kentucky and are ex-Bourbon. All bottling is done here, all by hand.

Like many new distilleries, Connacht makes some white spirits to get the cash flow going while waiting the mandatory three years (and a day) for the whiskey. They are planning their gin and there will be some interesting botanicals included! The Poitin was due to be bottled the day after our visit but we did get a taste of their smooth Straw Boys Vodka. This wheat based drink is good and smooth, with a hint of  pepper in the aftertaste. The Straw Boys are a Mayo tradition, a sign of luck if they turn up at your wedding. “They are all about fun and getting the party going!”.

You will have to wait until 2019 to taste their own whiskey but in the meantime, they have been putting their own finish to a bought-in whiskey. It is called Spade and Bushel (after the tools of the trade) and is light amber in colour, smooth and sweet, hints of caramel and a “great after dinner drink”. No bother agreeing with that. Be careful with it though. One thing that sets this apart is that it is a cask strength whisky with an abv of 57.5%! It comes in a 37.5cl bottle.
The Straw Boys love a party
 When their own whiskey comes on the market, it will feature a rather special logo, a Celtic Dragon with a bunch of corn stalks in his claw.

There is another distillery starting up in Mayo, the Nephin, named after the county’s famous mountain. This is different. They are creating peated single malts made in a small Mayo village using locally grown barley, locally cut turf and triple distilled in traditional copper pot stills, then matured in unique casks handcrafted in their own cooperage. Must call there the next time!

My base for the night was the Grand National Hotel Ballina. They have a rather large bar and I was disappointed, considering the amount of breweries around the county, that they had no craft beer. Luckily, I spotted a Jameson Whiskey menu on the counter and spent an enjoyable hour or two sampling.

The new Connacht distillery. A new Greenway, from Ballina to Killala, starts alongside it.
The favourite was the Powers John's Lane Release at €9.00 a glass. The drop of water, the only other thing needed, was free! There is an abundance of aromas - don't stick your nose into the glass - just hover above it; it is full bodied, spicy and sweet and has a lingering finish. Think this is my new number one!

And if I can't get it, I’ll go for the Yellow Spot 12 Years Old, another single pot still whiskey, another smooth sweet customer at €9.50 a glass. It is complete from start to long finish with a distinctive sweetness at all stages. Sophisticated and complex they say. And it sure is. Reckon the Mayo distillery, indeed all new distilleries, have a fight on their hands. Perhaps, the best way to go about it is to avoid the direct collision and find your own niche.

Great for us customers though to have the choice!
Beers from the local Reel Deal
Aside from pulling a blank in the Ballina Hotel, craft beers, especially in bottle, were easy enough to find during this quick trip to Donegal Town and Ballina. Kinnegar Brewing and Donegal Brewing were available in The Harbour Restaurant in Quay Street in Donegal. And beers from the same two breweries were enjoyed over in the Village Tavern in Mountcharles. Last call in Donegal was the Olde Castle where the restaurant were offering their own beer called, appropriately, Red Hugh, and brewed in the county.

Ballina had started well enough with a couple of decent beers, the Irish Blonde amber ale and the General Humber French fusion ale, both by Mayo’s Reel Deel and both available in bottle in the upstairs restaurant of the lively Bar Square in Garden Street. And then came the blank in the hotel. The joys of researching. Still the whiskeys were a considerable consolation!
Killala, known to M. Humbert

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dine by the Water!

Dine by the Water
Superb food and superb views
Ostan Gweedore at Bunbeg, Donegal
I’ve been very lucky this past few months to have dined in some well placed restaurants, restaurants from Cork to Donegal that have a dining room with a view over water. Sometimes over a river, maybe over an estuary, and then sometimes over the ocean. I was lucky too to have brilliant weather in most of the places.

Let me start with river views. One of the best is from the newly opened Fish Bar inElectric. From the first floor of the South Mall building, you have fine views of the southern channel of Lee to the west and to the east. But have you been to Indigo Brasserie on Washington Street? Here too you have a fine view of a bend in the same river. 

Bunnyconnellan's Myrtilville (Cork)

And another excellent river view is to be found at the Market Kitchen restaurant, above the Murphy Brothers bar in Ballina. It wasn't quite warm enough to dine outside on the balcony but the Moy looked very well from the inside.

Time to move on now, nearer to the ocean, to the bays and estuaries and places such as the Rising Tide and Marlogue Inn in East Cork and further east you have the WalterRaleigh Hotel. You have no shortage in Cobh where you’ll find The Quays and The Titanic Bar. The Boathouse at Dromquinna, near Kenmare, is also well situated, right on the northern flank of the bay.
The Boathouse, Kenmare Bay

No shortage of seaside restaurants in Donegal. One of the best is the Seaview Tavern in Malin Head village but the view to the sea is somewhat interrupted by the cars parking across the road. No such problems at the Rosapenna Golf Hotel, whose dining room overlooks Sheephaven Bay and the beach at Downies. Further west along the same bay, the bar at the Cove at Portnablagh, another top restaurant, overlooks a different part of the same bay.

Back to Cork and to Baltimore and Le Jolie Brise where I’ve sometime enjoyed a dish of mussels as the day drew to a close with the island of Sherkin out in front. Locally, perhaps the best ocean view is that enjoyed from your table in Bunnyconnellan’s, a very pleasant view and very enjoyable food here. Hard to top that. One view that comes close, maybe level, maybe even better, is from the restaurant of Ostan Gweedore where there is the most fantastic view over the beaches and the waters of the Atlantic.
Rosapenna Hotel, Downies (Donegal)
Views are pleasing but you need good food too,
like this platter at the Seaview Tavern in Malin.

Have you a personal favourite view over water while dining? If you'd like to share, please use the Comment facility below.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mayo Stop-over

Mayo Stop-over
I enjoyed my recent one night in Ballina (County Mayo), especially the meal in the Market Kitchen and the overnight stay at the nearby Quignalegan House. The Irish don’t seem to have discovered Quignalegan yet as most of the guests come from the continent!
Amuse Bouche
Met up with my Mayo relations during the day and then checked in with Breege Padden at her Quignalegan House just about a mile out the Sligo Road from the well known Ice Hotel. Breege runs a four star guesthouse here and had the kettle on even before we thought of a cuppa. We enjoyed the tea in her well equipped lounge which has comfortable chairs, a TV and plenty of books.
Crab claws
The bedroom too was comfortable and spacious and had all the mod cons, including a flat screen TV. All rooms are ensuite and you’ll also find information here on what to see and do in the area. There is a breakfast menu. Cereals and fruits and yoghurts are on side tables and you might need to give Breege your cooked breakfast preferences in advance – otherwise it is the full Irish!
Had heard only good things about the Market Kitchen, the restaurant that is on the floor above the Murphy Brothers Bar in Clare Street in the town. The kitchen is a big supporter of local producers and they are listed on the menu.
It comfortably seats 80 and it was busy on the Saturday night. We really enjoyed our dinner there. The local produce stood out in the starters, both top class. CL went for the Seared Scallops (pan-fried, with asparagus, chorizo, béarnaise, and Kelly’s black pudding crumbled). Mine was one of their signature dishes: the Achill Island crab claws (baked, with roast baby potatoes, garlic, chilli and lime cream).
The main courses were also local, also superb. Mine was the Roast Breast of Silver hill Duck while CL went for the Grilled Fillet of Clare Island Salmon. The restaurant, as I said, was busy, but the bar was positively abuzz as we walked down the stairs and most of the punters seemed to be eating. Highly recommended!
River Moy, Ballina

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Seaweed ingredient in Mayo Pudding

Kelly’s Greenway Pudding
Pictured at the launch of Kelly’s Greenway Pudding yesterday (Monday 30th July) at Mulranny Park Hotel were Anna Connor (Walking Development Officer, Mayo County Council), Sean Kelly (Kelly’s Butchers, Newport) and Dermot Madigan (Manager, Mulranny Park Hotel).

Here’s a clever response to the highly successful Greenway walking and cycling trail. Kelly’s Butchers, Newport, Co. Mayo have introduced Kelly’s Greenway Pudding sporting a map of the Greenway trail on the label. The new pudding, which contains Atlantic seaweed, was launched at Mulranny Park Hotel by Anna Connor (Walking Development Officer, Mayo County Council) and Dermot Madigan (Manager, Mulranny Park Hotel). The Greenway goes through Newport and walkers and cyclists pass by Kelly’s door when they are on it.

“We’re part of the Gourmet Greenway food trail”, says Sean Kelly of Kelly’s Butchers, “We have a lot of cycling and walking tourists coming into the shop and we wanted to create something specially for them. That was the inspiration for Kelly’s Greenway Pudding. We find the tourists are fascinated by the label, they love a souvenir that shows the Greenway itself. It’s our modern twist on the old stick of rock.”

Seaweed from the wild Atlantic shore is the special ingredient in the Greenway Pudding which is available as both a black and a white pudding. The taste is distinct, with a delicate hint of the ocean, but still has the unique Kelly’s flavour and texture. As with all Kelly’s puddings it holds its shape very well when cooked, which chefs love.

Kelly’s have also introduced a brand new seaweed flavoured sausage to their range, bringing the total of speciality sausages to an impressive 15.

At just €6 a pop Kelly’s Greenway Pudding  is proving an irresistible draw for Greenway users and locals as well. It is exclusively available in Kelly’s Butchers Shop, Newport and at Knock Airport. You have to come to Mayo to get Kelly’s Greenway Pudding .

Friday, October 7, 2011



Taoiseach Enda Kenny led the congratulations for Cuinneog Ltd., Balla, Co. Mayo, who are celebrating twenty one years in business. The birthday party took place at Rua, Castlebar and included celebration of their two gold stars presented at the 2011 Great Taste Awards earlier this year. Cuinneog also launched their new branding and packaging which will make the butter and buttermilk more visible on supermarket shelves countrywide. Cuinneog’s award winning products are Cuinneog Irish Farmhouse Country Butter and Cuinneog Buttermilk.

The Taoiseach a particular fan of  Cuinneog Buttermilk and took the opportunity to toast the celebrations with a glass full of creamy buttermilk. He said, “It really is the taste that makes the difference. I was at the State Banquet for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in May and had the pleasure of seeing Cuinneog products there. You can’t get on a stage like that without having excellence as a hallmark”.

The Taoiseach also spoke about the importance of small business to the economy, saying, “Despite our economic difficulties, we must look at every new job we create as being a step in the right direction. It is SMEs and micro enterprises which are the areas of real growth for this country. That’s businesses like Cuinneog”.

Speaking at the event, Seamus Mulligan, Business Development Manager, Cuinneog said, “All of us at Cuinneog would like to thank our many thousands of customers for their loyal support as well as all the stores that stock our products. We are also very grateful to our skilled and dedicated staff and quality suppliers. We could not have reached this business milestone of 21 years without them.”

21 years in business
Tom and Sheila Butler set up Cuinneog Ltd. in 1990 in Shraheens, Balla. They drew on their family history of butter production, using traditional recipes and methods. Today, although the business has expanded and changed, they remain loyal to the traditional processes. The production cycle takes four days and Cuinneog is the only company producing fermented butter in Ireland. Cuinneog is a valuable employer in the Shraheens area.

New branding
To celebrate their 21 years in business, Cuinneog have launched new packaging. Both Cuinneog Butter and Cuinneog Buttermilk now come in attractive burnt orange packaging bearing the slogan ‘Cuinneog ... for the flavour’. The instantly recognisable Great Taste Award logo is also featured.

Cuinneog products came to the attention of the nation during Queen Elizabeth II’s visit last May when both Cuinneog Butter and Cuinneog Buttermilk were used during the State Banquet.

Both Cuinneog butter and buttermilk are widely used in the restaurant and catering trade. Cuinneog Buttermilk comes in a 4 litre catering pack and Cuinneog Butter is supplied in a convenient cylindrical form, suitable for slicing into portion sizes in restaurants and hotels.

Cuinneog products are available in all major retail groups including Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Superquinn/Musgraves, Supervalu, Costcutters, Euro Spar and independent stores. Artisan shops throughout the country carry Cuinneog products. Cuinneog products are also available in the UK.

Friday, July 29, 2011


Cuinneog Ltd. (Balla, Co. Mayo), are celebrating after winning coveted gold stars for both Cuinneog Irish Farmhouse Country Butter and Cuinneog Buttermilk at the 2011 Great Taste Awards. This prestigious award scheme is run by the Guild of Fine Foods in the UK and a grand total of 7481 entries were received this year.

“Cuinneog Ltd. are really pleased with this result”, said Seamus Mulligan, Business Development Manager, Cuinneog, “We’ve received a Great Taste Award for our butter on three occasions before, but never for both our products. Cuinneog is the only buttermilk to achieve this award. It’s a real endorsement for Cuinneog and for genuine traditional Irish food”.

Bob Farrand, Chairman for The Great Taste Awards, said: “Winning Gold in the country’s largest and most respected independent food accreditation scheme is a massive pat on the back for any producer - independent proof their products are of the highest quality.

The Judges comments are made available to entrants and it was no surprise to Cuinneog that the flavour was specifically mentioned. “For the flavour” is the tagline used on Cuinneog butter and buttermilk and it’s good to know that the Judges at the Great Taste Awards agree with the sentiment.

Cuinneog can be found in all major retail groups including Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Superquinn/Musgraves, Supervalu, Costcutters and Euro Spar. Artisan shops throughout the country carry Cuinneog products. Both Cuinneog butter and buttermilk are widely used in the restaurant and catering trade.

The Great Taste Awards, organised by the Guild of Fine Food, are now in their 18th year and going from strength to strength. 7481 products were entered from 1600 companies for the 2011 Great Taste Awards. It took 350 experts 34 days to blind taste all the entries and decide which entries would achieve the coveted awards. The Great Taste Awards judging standards, devised by the Guild of Fine Food, are the most rigorous in the UK.

Friday, September 18, 2009


For more on Mayo trip see:

Ballina - Eating & Drinking - Pubs & Bars - Pubs


“Situated in the heart of Ballina this extensive pub is really warm, welcoming and cosy. Providing the very best in food and drink, their carvery lunches are superb. A haven for the tourist or the weary shopper the Broken Jug is also very popular with the younger age group. The friendly and efficient staff will make your visit here truly memorable.”

The opening paragraph comes courtesy of the Broken Jug itself, a pub cum eatery in the Co. Mayo town. It is warm and friendly but the bare timber furniture and backless seating is more for the “younger age group”!

The restaurant section is a shade more comfortable and the food is very good, the service friendly and efficient and the prices reasonable.

The other night, I started with a magnificent chowder, very very tasty (indeed one of the best I've come across) and not suffocated with cream as happened in a Cork venue recently.

Main course was a lasagne. It was almost top class, and would have been but for it being a little overdone in the heating which made some of the edges too hard. Overall though – the cheese and mincemeat were excellent – it was a fine dish, served with chips and an undressed well mixed salad.

Dessert, there were about five choices, was homemade apple tart with cream and, yes, the apple was real chunky stuff, just the way I like it.

I have given it four stars but three and half would be more like it - if you're over forty!

Check out my review of The Broken Jug - I am cork - on Qype
For more on Mayo trip see:



The Downhill House Hotel, on the Sligo Road, was our Ballina base for a recent trip to County Mayo.

The Hotel, in a wooded riverside location quite close to the town centre, is well up to its 3 star rating.

All the staff are friendly and efficient; the rooms and public areas are comfortable, the leisure centre is popular and the Hotel also boasts well kept gardens where you can sit and stroll.

We enjoyed an excellent evening meal there: braised shank of lamb with an exceptional red wine sauce. A bottle of red from one of the Bordeaux chateaux cost just €20.00.

Service here is also friendly though sometimes a bit over attentive – you don't need your glass of water topped up each time you take a sup!

The breakfast was also very good and the full Irish was perhaps the best that I’ve come across.

If dinner is not included in your package, the restaurant prices can be very stiff and this is where the bar comes to the rescue.

Prices are reasonable here and the chef’s special often includes two or three items from the restaurant menu. We had a mild chicken curry one evening and it was a superb example of the type.

Check out my review of Downhill House Hotel - I am cork - on Qype

For more on Mayo trip see: