Showing posts with label Midleton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Midleton. Show all posts

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Whiskeys of Ireland by Peter Mulryan.

Review: The Whiskeys of Ireland
by Peter Mulryan
Midleton
“Whiskey. Irish for droplets of pure pleasure.” WB Yeats.

You’ll find tour guides in the many new Irish distilleries telling you that whiskey is a corruption of the Gaelic Uisce Beatha (water of life). No need to believe those novices! Yeats got it right and his interpretation is quoted on the back cover of the Whiskeys of Ireland by Peter Mulryan. 

Whenever I get my hands on a new Irish food or drink book, I usually flick through the opening pages to see where it was printed and am invariably disappointed. This, printed in the Czech Republic, is no exception. If we are expected to support the Irish food and drinks industry, then our food and drink writers should do all they can to support Irish printers. But that's about the only gripe  (one more - there is no index), I have against this excellent book.



The new Connacht Distillery in Ballina
Because, for a long time, there were spirits galore but no definition of whiskey, Mulryan says it is difficult to trace its evolution. But distilling was alive and well, if not up to FSAI standards, in the 15th century and the Crown passed a law in 1556, in vain, to put a stop to it. Eventually, after the collapse of the Gaelic order, a licensing system was imposed.

The first Irish patent was granted in 1608 but cronyism and corruption led to the collapse of the system. Taxation reared its head in 1661 and that reinforced the illegal side of the trade. And the same happened when a stiff tax regime was imposed in 1779. The underground operators sold their poitín and that became “the drink of the people”.


A more benign tax regime led to a booming whiskey industry in the 1820s and onwards. But that led to widespread alcohol problems and in stepped Fr Matthew. Distilleries closed by the dozen. 

On display in Teelings, Newmarket, Dublin
The respectable side of the business examined the newly invented Aeneas Coffey column still and he had some initial success here before turning to a warmer welcome in Scotland. Ireland, pants down in Mulryan’s phrase, missed the revolution and would pay dearly.

Close to the end of the century though, the big players in Irish whiskey, including Allman’s in Bandon, were flying high again. Phylloxera dealt the French distillers a hammer blow and that too helped the Irish in what Mulryan terms “the Golden Years”.


Scotland too was on the rise but the bubble would burst as the century turned, fraudulent trading, recession, wars, and increased taxes all contributing.

With the author (left) in his Blackwater Distillery
Ireland now had its own problems: wars and then partition. We were behind internationally and now the domestic market collapsed. And, in the US, prohibition was looming. Closure followed closure.

There were back doors to the US market. The Scots didn't hesitate, the Irish did. Then we Irish had the “Economic War” with England and next came WW2. After they were over, in the US, the Scots were in and, except for Irish Coffee, the Irish were out.

It was a long tailspin, halted only in 1966 when the three (yes, 3!) remaining distilleries amalgamated. Eventually a new outlook led to a new distillery in Midleton (1975). John Jameson was the brand that led to the current revival, the brand that eventual and current owners Pernod Ricard used as a wedge to once more open the international market to Irish Whiskey.

Cyril (left) and Barry of St Patrick's in Cork
Meanwhile, Mulryan relates that an opportunity was spotted by John Teeling at Cooley and, thanks to the eagle-eyed entrepreneur, the Irish industry acquired a new and vibrant arm, an arm that is still reaching out. Now virtually every county has a distillery, many of them micro. The consumer, home and abroad, has never had it so good. Cheers to John Jameson (5 million cases in 2015) and the French marketeers.

Those marketeers include a salesman selling Jameson in a Vendeé supermarket sometime in the 90s. He was an insistent guy and I bought a bottle (the price was good too!) and I still have the free cassette tapes that came with it!


Mulryan's fascinating book covers the history, the rises and the falls and the stunning re-birth, in a lively manner, great for the experienced and novice alike. It is well worth seeking out for the history alone. But he also casts his keen and experienced eye (he founded and runs the Blackwater Distillery) over the current scene (sending out a warning to mid-sized operators).

Whiskey by Hyde's
The closing chapters take us, in plain and engaging English, through the making and blending and, most importantly, the tasting of our beloved Uisce Beatha, sorry droplets of pure pleasure. Slainte!

The Whiskeys of Ireland is published by the O’Brien Press and is widely available. I spotted it in Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork  selling for €19.95.
Hands on research in Dingle recently


Friday, June 24, 2016

The Granary Foodstore Celebrates 20 Years! Popular Cafe in centre of Midleton town.

Granary Foodstore Celebrates 20 Years!
Popular Cafe in centre of Midleton town
“It was nice to mark the 20th anniversary”, said Jack O’Sullivan of Midleton’s Granary when I met him in the restaurant earlier this week. “The Kids Bake-off was a highlight but there was more. We had music, face painting as well, and there was a lovely atmosphere.” The beginnings were small but The Granary has developed into a fine family business, a much loved one, and Jack’s goal is to improve it but “still using the home style of cooking”.

It was his mother Eleanor who started the business. When she opened the door for the first time twenty years ago, the punters started coming. But there was an opening day drama, a little one. The cash till had not arrived as scheduled! But it soon appeared and they were up and running.
Laura (Manager), Jack, his mum Eleanor,
Alison (Head Chef) and Magda
That was in the original premises, nearer the distillery. It was in an old grain store, and that’s where the name came from. Eleanor, who still works in the cafe, had gained her experience in the town’s Farm Gate and one of her jobs was to make fresh pasta and that may well have been the first fresh pasta in Ireland.

She started off in her Granary making ready-made meals and baking, all done in the kitchen. It went very well indeed but, nonethless, ten years later, it was a bold move to the new development on the square, taking on a much bigger premises, the aim being to keep on doing the same, still more of a food shop than a sit-down cafe.
Bit by bit though, the ready-made sales started to slip and so the decision was made to make the restaurant, serving simple meals, the main focus. Jack, with limited opportunities in his chosen profession of quantity surveyor, was now on board.

“We were the first to do breakfast in the town. It took off well and is still busy. We offer it up to 3.30 and that suits customers. For lunch and brunch, we have some very regular customers, the same faces. It is great to look after them, they are fantastic. Loyalty is important and it works both ways. Honesty is another quality here, another important factor for us.”
We asked him if there was anything on the menu that the customers must have. “Oh yes there is. Our Crispy Chicken Wrap. We tried taking that off the menu but it provoked quite a reaction. So many customers come just for that wrap. And the Lamb Stew is another dish that we’ve been doing from day one.” By the way, we were sitting at a table that had been kept from the original Granary.

Founder Eleanor with Therese
O 'Donovan (Pastry Chef) 
His own favourite is a salad. “Yes, I look forward to them. We have a great variety and all are made here in the kitchen. And they are also very popular as a takeout. There is a trend now towards healthy food and that is going well for us. Still though, our cake display is another big draw for us.” The cakes, again all made on the premises, are unmissable; you see a table laden with tempting choices as you come in.

We asked Jack if many tourists visit. “We don't rely on tourists but this year, for some reason, quite a few more have come to us. There is good cooperation between the restaurants and cafes in the town. For instance if we are about to close or getting near to that time, we’d recommend another nearby venue.”

The Granary supports local producers including O’Farrell Butchers, Ballycotton Seafood, Pana Breads, Jack Cuthbert breads, East Ferry, and Leamlara Micro Greens.

Salad lunch
 Aside from Jack and his mother, there are 13 staff employed, “a great team”. “Our head chef is Allison, our pastry chef is Therese. People come from far and wide to work for us and that is encouraging. We have and need a very organised team here. Everything is freshly made.”


On our visit, we tried out a couple of those salads. I loved mine, based on Gubbeen salami. And, another tip, do try their Tunisian Orange Cake, gorgeous aroma, texture and flavour. And if you wish to find out more, check their website http://granary-foodstore.com where you’ll find the menu and even a few of their recipes!


My lunch at the Granary

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sky’s The Limit At Sage

Sky’s The Limit At Sage
Rhubarb, buckwheat and buttermilk
Sage in Midleton is the home of the 12 Mile Menu, brought to your table by chef Kevin Aherne and his band of local suppliers (whose photos you may see on the restaurant walls).

I remember many years ago a senior cleric from West Cork admitting to jealousy as he drove through the rich fields of East Cork, full of thriving crops and “contented cattle”. And it is bang in the middle of those fields and farms that Kevin established his 12 mile menu.
Potato bread
“He was the first chef to come out to our farm to see how we were treating the animals,” one of the original suppliers told me a few years ago. He was impressed and so too was Kevin as that supplier is still on the short list.

Kevin's attention to detail saw him build up his supplier base. And he pushed them onwards and upwards from time to time. But he soon found that the pushing wasn't all one way. The suppliers too had their pride and keen to see how the chef was handling their precious produce.

Delicious Squid
Momentum built. Ideas in fermentation. In Marination. In cooking. And over the past few years, the menu, a tweet here, a refinement there, has taken off. And has local been a limiting factor? No, not at all. On the contrary. It has concentrated the minds of the farmers, the fishermen, the foragers and the chef of course! In the fields, on the ocean, at the shore and in the kitchen. Now, the sky’s the limit. Twelve miles high. Maybe that’s what Kevin had in mind from day one!

One of my treats growing up in East Cork came when everyone else was finishing dinner, during the time of the new potatoes. Then I’d take whatever two or three were left, mix in butter, a sprinkle of salt and a cup of whole milk. Poppy paradise! That was how I started the Swinging 60s!
Beets & Rhubarb

In Sage on Friday last, I was treated to the 12 Mile variation. The bread, and delicious bread it was, was Fermented potato and cultured Jersey milk bread served with Organic rape seed and fennel oil. The amuse bouche was a little delight: Apple jam, goat cheese, Sage biscuit, with beetroot dust.


The momentum of the 12 mile menu saw the kitchen at full stretch and so they pulled back a little, simplified things a bit. The pace is better now and gives the chefs a chance to get out and meet the customers and so it was Kevin himself who served us our starters, both magnificent.
Sirloin
The description for mine was deceptively simple: Squid, sea spaghetti, parsley. Never had squid like this before. It came two ways, one cooked slowly in that milk, the other crisply done. Each had a different shade but each a delight on its own but put some of each in your mouth and the delight was more than doubled. And the sea spaghetti. Well that came from foraging down on Inch beach, just a few miles away. Meanwhile, CL was singing the praises of her beets and rhubarb. The  beetroot  was done in three variations, including raw, and the rhubarb’s texture was almost like that of a toffee.


CL is an experienced Hake eater at this stage but her mains was rather special: Hake, Oyster Mushroom, Spinach and sea vegetable. Quantity and quality were spot on, the fish was just perfect with exceptional company including celeriac puree, those Ballyhoura mushrooms and the sea veg (again from Inch). Here there are no big heavy sauces. The fish is the main event in this case and is given its chance to shine.
Hake
Must admit my choice of mains was influenced more by the dripping chips than the Sirloin; also on the plate were bone marrow and wild onion. I wasn't disappointed on any count. Everything came together so well, enjoyed the meat, the chips, and the accompanying flavours of the marrow and the wild onion. A perfect combination. We also had a side dish of mashed potato. As with the first course, clean plates went back.

And the trend would continue with dessert - you order dessert here at the start. I picked: chocolate, honey, salt. Sounds a bare description but the staff do fill you in on all the details. The chocolate, by local bean to bar maker Shana Wilkie, came in three variations, her 75%, 50% and a spoon or two of crumbled, and a dash of honey. Great stuff! What a pleasure to dispatch.
Choc-oh-la-la
CL was tasting rhubarb for the second time: Rhubarb, buckwheat and buttermilk. A high class crumble really with a buttermilk ice-cream to crown it.  And another lovely finish.

By the way, we picked from the Early Evening Menu, a very reasonable thirty euro for three courses of immaculate quality (there was a 3 euro supplement for the sirloin). Next time, we’ll go for the A La Carte!
The counter
There is a great choice of drinks here, including an excellent wine list and indeed quite a selection of craft beers. I was on the beer. I’m told the American Amber by the Wicklow Brewing Company is very popular here and I could taste why! The wine was amazing, full of flavour and vivacity, a lovely Biohof Pratsch (2014) organic Gruner Veltliner. And speaking of drink… you must have a close look at the front of the bar. It is made with staves from casks of the local Midleton Distillery. That 12 mile philosophy!


And just to say too that the place, celebrating its 8th birthday, is lovely and becoming more so with an outdoor improvement due to finish next weekend. Will be great venue for the summer. And great staff outfront too, led by Kevin's wife Reidin. It just all seems to come together in a calm and friendly way - you can tell from the happy buzz!

Sage
The Courtyard
8 Main Street
Midleton
Co. Cork
00353 21 4639682
info@sagerestaurant.ie 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SAGE-Restaurant-63970514966/timeline 
Twitter: @Sagemidleton 
51°54'56.9"N 8°10'25.8"W
Opening Hours:
Tue-Thu:
12:00 pm - 3:00 pm
5:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Fri-Sat:
12:00 pm - 3:00 pm
5:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Sun:
12:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Thursday, August 20, 2015

New Stalls at Midleton Farmers Market. Getting Better all the time

New Stalls at Midleton Farmers Market
Getting Better all the time
Gorgeous Chanterelles from Ballyhoura Mushrooms at last Saturday's Market

Midleton Farmers Market, the original farmers market, was founded fifteen ago by Darina Allen and local farmers and has gone from strength to strength. Hard to get a stall there now but there were some newcomers last Saturday when I visited.

Space is limited but vacancies occur from time to time, particularly when a successful producer (Cobh’s Just Food, for example) outgrows the stall.

So now you may buy BBQ Jerk Chicken from Le Kiosk, vegetarian from Buddha Bites, coffee from Doppio, also doughnuts and ice cream from another stall. Check out the list of stallholders here, even if it is a little out of date!
Loving Salads, just one corner of their huge selection
Originals such as Woodside Farm, Frank Hedderman, and Ballymaloe are still very active here, side by side with more recent arrivals such as Jason Carroll’s Loving Salads and the Lobster Man. The Lobster Man has live lobsters and crabs, and sometimes brings a giant example. Do watch out for him. And watch out too for Jason who is due to open a cafe in Academy Street.

By the way, Hederman and Arbutus Breads are in the running for the Irish Times Best Market Stall. Best of luck folks.
Like all farmers markets, the atmosphere here is relaxed. Do your shopping, have a chat with stall-holders such as Barry Tyner (he sells fantastic patés) and Deirdre (she'll tell you all about the Arbutus range). Jane from Ardsallagh Goat Cheese always has something interesting to chat about, especially in the food line. Indeed, what you find is all the producers have time to talk to their customers and are very enthusiastic about the market in general and keen to spread the word.

Then take a break, have a cup of coffee and listen to the music. It is a terrific way to spend a Saturday morning and you’ll have excellent produce in your bags and enough of it to keep you going over the weekend.

Other local markets on Saturday include Douglas, Coal Quay, Skibbereen, Bandon and Crosshaven. See countrywide list, compiled by Bord Bia, here .
Newcomers (above and below)


Midleton celebrated its 15th anniversary last May and here’s what stall holder Ballymaloe Cookery School wrote then:  It has been an outlet not only for the many artisan producers of the area, but also for high profile food producers that have had stalls at Midleton Farmers Market, including Clodagh McKenna, Darina Allen, Arun Kapil of Green Saffron Masaalchi and Frank Hederman of Belvelly Smokehouse. The market has also been featured in many TV shows, including the Ear to the Ground, Nationwide (Irish TV series), Rick Stein's Ireland and @Clodagh's Food Trails which has seen by viewers across the States and Australia as well as the UK and mainland Europe, helping position Ireland, and indeed Cork, as a major food destination.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Taste of the Week. Redbreast Mano a Lámh

Taste of the Week

Redbreast Mano a Lámh
Some were worried that this limited edition Redbreast Mano a Lámh would be dominated by the sherry, the whiskey having been matured exclusively in first fill Spanish Oloroso sherry casks.

Certainly, you get sherry aromas, especially early on, and indeed some flavours too but, no mistake about it, this is very much a whiskey, very much a Redbreast, enhanced by its encounter with the Spanish wood and is my Taste of the Week.

If you join the Stillhouse (no fee), you’ll get special offers from time to time. Not sure though if they have any of the original 2000 bottles of this one left. Must say, aside from the odd offer, there is a wealth of information on the site and it is well worth a look.

The Single Pot Still site: Redbreast Mano a Lámh is being released exclusively to members of The Stillhouse. While the core Redbreast range is matured in a combination of American bourbon and Spanish oloroso butts, Redbreast Mano a Lámh luxuriates in this signature sherry style by bringing together whiskeys which have been matured exclusively in first fill Spanish oloroso sherry casks, imparting distinct, rich, fruity flavours and a full body.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Midleton Distillery Tour. Happy Angels Hover Over 1.2m Casks

Midleton Distillery Tour
Happy Angels Hover Over 1.2m Casks

In Warehouse 39B
“This is the biggest Pot Still in the world,” said David McCabe, our guide on a tour of Midleton Distillery. The copper giant that he showed us in the old distillery has a capacity 143,872 litres and is no longer in use. Copper has some key properties that make it highly suitable for the task: it is easy to shape, has good conductivity and removes impurities.

In the new distillery, Midleton has the biggest operating stills in the world. And the three copper giants that we saw are due to be joined by another three later in the year. It is amazing to see these three in action, their contribution coming after the milling, the mashing and the fermenting.

And when they have their work done, the triple distillation (most Scotch whisky is distilled twice), the infant whiskey is piped out to holding tanks before being moved again to mature in casks, 1.2 million of them at last count! The giant warehouses make quite a “town”. For more details on how whiskey is made, and we are talking Irish here, the one with the “e”, see here.
The old distillery
Then anothering mind-boggling figure as we sipped from 24 year old and 17 year old whiskeys in one of the warehouses. The evaporation of the alcohol into the air, known in many cultures as the “angels share”,  amounts to some 24,500 bottles of Jameson per annum! Happy angels but there's some harmless pollution, a dark dust that settles on the warehouses. I have also seen it at the Remy Martin distillery in Cognac; hard to miss it there, as the buildings are white.

The difference between our tastings was not just the age factor. The 24 year old had been matured in bourbon casks while the 17 year was from a sherry cask so there was a colour and flavour difference as well.

The colour difference is easily seen at the Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard Whiskey Academy, the pride and joy of David, our Whiskey Ambassador. It is based in a restored building in the old distillery. Back to figures briefly. The old distillery take up about 12 acres while the new one is ten times larger.
The Academy class-room is state of the art, though David also uses the old chalk from time to time too to illustrate a point. Pupils are taken through the process, step by step, and get the opportunity to blend their own whiskey which they can take home with them.

But the theory lessons are short and you won't be bogged down with detail. In between, you are taken out and about on the site to see the practical side of the whisky making business. Check out those Pot Stills. Hands on. See and taste. Lots to see. You’ll notice the Americans and Spaniards put their bungs on the side of the cask, the Irish on the top because the casks are stored in an upright position here.

Since opening its doors in February 2013, the Irish Whiskey Academy has become the dedicated whiskey institute of Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard, hosting courses that focus on the production and heritage of Irish whiskey produced at Midleton. It started off to train the distillery sales force but now there are courses to suit everyone and many students come from abroad. Check it out here  and give yourself a present!

Guess which came from the sherry cask!
One type of whiskey, the Single Pot Still, is the real Irish. This spirit almost died a death, for many reasons, but is now on the up and up.  Check the story of this premium product out here where you’ll read that Jameson is not a Single Pot Still but Redbreast is. 

If you join the Stillhouse (no fee), you’ll get special offers from time to time. I just ordered one bottle of a limited edition of Mano a Lámh, a Redbreast made in special sherry casks. But you’d better act quickly as I believe there are not very many left! Must say though, aside from the odd offer, there is a wealth of information on the site and it is well worth a look.


After that, why not take a trip to Midleton to take the distillery tour. Details here.

Cheers. David and Yours Truly,
after breaking in to the 24 year old!
Evidence is evident!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Raising Uisce Beatha. Irish Whiskey Renaissance.

Irish Whiskey Renaissance
Raising Uisce Beatha*


A tasty introduction to the Single Pot Still whiskeys of Midleton.

Irish Whiskey, the one with the “e”, is on the rise again.

“There is a huge renaissance in Irish Whiskey...25 years of solid growth,” declared Midleton Distillery’s Production Director Peter Morehead during a recent radio progamme.  

And that reality is reinforced by the amount of new distilleries (including West Cork, Dingle, Blackwater and Tullamore) newly in production or about to go into production - you do have to wait three years and a day for your spirit to qualify as whiskey.

It is a stunning comeback by an industry that was on its knees in the 1960’s. But, starting in 1966, amalgamations and foreign takeovers led to the revival with Jameson leading the rise. You can read all about the history of whiskey in this country on the Single Pot Still website.

Here, you'll see how Irish Whiskey makers’ belief in the quality of their Single Pot Still product inadvertently handed an advantage to their Scottish rivals. Of course, there were other factors as Irish slid to the bottom. But that quality is now a key part of the revival, especially in Midleton.

While other whiskey, and whisky, are made from a mash of malted barley, the Pot Still is made from a mash of malted and unmalted barley, an uniquely Irish approach to whiskey distillation. I, despite many a drop of Paddy and, more lately Jameson, am not an whiskey expert, but this is my take on four of these representatives of “the quintessential style of Irish whiskey” recently.

Started off with the familiar Redbreast 12 (and, yes, it is named after the robin). Twelve years, by the way, is the age of the youngest whiskey in the bottle. It has quite rich aromas, partly because it has been matured in Sherry casks. Indeed, all casks from fortified wines areas - Sherry, Port, Madeira, Marsala - can be used by whiskey makers.
Dave Quinn, Master of Whiskey Science
at Jameson Distillery, Midleton

The Redbreast is harmonious on the palate with a good flavoursome finish. While the alcohol is not at all prominent on the 12, the Redbreast 21, as you might expect, is even smoother - got a sample of that during the radio show.
Back to my own line-up now and the Green Spot. This is fresher and spicier, both on the nose and on the palate, a little bit sweeter too, the spicy notes lingering on the finish. Both the first two have an ABV of 40%.

The Power’s John Lane weighs in at 46% and has a darker nose “an abundance of earthy aromas”. There is a spicy introduction to the palate and then hints of sweetness and these continue through to the lingering finish, a finish that I really enjoyed.

The final tasting in the classy quartet was the Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy, another beauty. The nose picks up aromas of vanilla (prominent for me) and toasted oak and the tasting notes also hint “at a touch of lime, succulent green berries, pears and green sweet pepper”.

On the palate it is sweet and spicy but so well balanced and the finish is also superb. Perhaps my favourite of the four. It too has an ABV of 46%.

I was drinking the Single Pot Stills neat, the better to taste the diversity of the flavour spectrum. But most people prefer some kind of mixer - a current favourite seems to be Jameson (not a Single Pot Still!), Ginger and Lime. You can check that, and many more suggestions, here.

The Single Pot Still Irish whiskey was once the most popular in the world. Full of complex flavours and with a creamy mouthfeel, it is a drink we can be proud of. And great to see it on the up again. Slainte!


  • To delve deeper into the story of this type of whiskey, please check out this Single Pot Still site . 

    *Uisce Beatha is Irish for Whiskey, means water of life.