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

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Warm Welcome to the Spit Jack

Warm Welcome to the Spit Jack
Just off the rotisserie
There is something special about going into a restaurant for the first time, meeting people you've never met before and feeling right at home within a few seconds. That was the feeling I got at The Spit Jack, the new Washington Street (Cork) restaurant. And that was before the beautiful food began to appear. Big credit here to owners Richard Gavin and Laura Sureda and their wonderful staff.

Chicken Croquettes
The owners have spent a lot of time and effort, not to mention money, in getting this place looking perfect, a place where once a medieval lane ran through. Lots of exposed brick in both downstairs and up. The highlight is perhaps the skylight, or at least, the area under it. The ground floor bar is lit by this light and its shelves extend upwards to the roof. You can see it at its best as you go to the upstairs dining room (or the lovely semi-private room, for 8/10, just off it).

Both the medium sized dining rooms are lit by light from the south and are bright and airy and busy and buzzy, even if they are still in soft opening mode (that may change this week). I’ll let Richard and Laura introduce their place: The SpitJack is a rotisserie concept and the first of its kind, offering only the highest quality Irish produce. All of our menus revolve around the rotisserie and we are opened from breakfast to bedtime.

We, and indeed all customers, were taken through the details of the menu and there were helpful suggestions as to what wine or side dishes go best with your order. And service continued in that helpful vein all through the meal. We were guests but could see and hear that all customers were getting the same treatment.
Goat Cheese Salad
There is a full bar so a great choice of spirits, including Dingle Gin and Vodka, Gunpowder Gin, lots of Irish (and international) whiskey, also tasting boards, local beer (including 8 Degrees) and the lovely Johnny Fall Down cider (my choice on the night). 

Didn't get to try any of the many cocktails - they have their own mixologist. Here’s an intriguing one: the Barrel Aged Midleton Hip Flask (Jameson Black Barrel, sour malt and Chard reduction-recycled mash from our friends in Midleton, Lillet blanc and orange bitters. Just one of many.

Nothing gets wasted here; they are always conscious of sustainability, using surplus ingredients to make their own garnishes, infusions, purées, cordials and shrubs. “No ingredient gets left behind.” And they support local. Their meat, for instance, comes from O’Mahony's Butchers in the nearby market.

Scotch Egg
Down to business with Rotisserie Chicken Croquettes with a lemon and thyme aioli. Laura is from Barcelona and her influence was evident here in their tapas style opener. A delicious sign of things to come.

My starter was their Scotch Egg (soft egg wrapped in English Market Italian Sausage with a crisp crumb). Fifteen minutes is the cooking time but it is well worth the wait. Gorgeous and it comes with a beautiful salad as well.
Pork-belly
 CL went for a salad: the honey baked Goat Cheese Salad. It comes in two sizes! They use Ardsallagh cheese on crostini, carrot ribbons, cherry tomato, local mixed leaves and tarragon dressing, more or less the same salad that came with the egg. Another delicious combination.


My cider came into its own with my main course: Porchetta of pork-belly, stuffed with garlic and market herbs (sage mainly). And a tasty rim of crackling. Have had lots of excellent pork-belly since it came into fashion a few years ago but hard to beat this beautifully cooked effort. Great match with the cider!

You get one side (you may order more) with your mains and I was advised to take the classic potato and gruyere gratin. It was spot-on, a rich and cheesy delight. CL’s side - we did share - was another gem. The Rotisserie Roast Potatoes is a rather underrated description. The spuds, with little bacon bits, were roasted under the chicken, the juices falling down and working their magic.
Sides


The West Cork Rotisserie Chicken, by the way, spent 24 hours bring brined with Rosemary, Thyme and Lemon. And you get a breast and leg to enjoy at your leisure! Cooked to perfection and absolutely delectable. They’ve certainly mastered their roasting machine in the few weeks of the soft opening! 

And, of course, there was a sweet finish, a shared one. The dessert list is short but excellent. I noticed the rotisserie had come into play in one: the Coconut Panna Cotta (with Rotisserie Pineapple and a rum and raisin shortbread). As with the previous plates, there was nothing not playing a part on this one. The Panna Cotta itself was excellent while the shortbread made the taste buds sit up and notice even at the end of a magnificent meal.

Very Highly Recommended!
Sweet

Friday, January 6, 2017

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Whiskey and Sherry. Patience and Time

Whiskey and Sherry
Patience and Time
Time, patience

These are two of the best drinks. Two of the best birthday presents also, one I gave myself, the other from a good friend of mine. There is a strong relationship between the distillery in Midleton where the John’s Lane is produced and Jerez area in Spain where the Neo comes from.

Powers John’s Lane Release, Single Pot Still Whiskey

I’ve been enjoying this rather special whiskey recently. Started with a glass (€9.00) in the Grand National Hotel in Ballina. Next up, it was part of a tasting trio in the Midleton distillery. I loved it there and had another glass (7.50) in the Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder in Killarney. The affair was fully cemented when I treated myself to a birthday bottle at Bradley’s (69.00).


Let’s start with the bare bones. This is a Single Pot Still whiskey. The ABV is 46% and it has been produced at the distillery in Midleton where it has been matured for not less than 12 years in first fill Bourbon casks.

What first attracted me, still does, are the outstanding flavours. It is nicely spiced from the still. Raised in US (mainly) and Spanish casks, there is vanilla on the nose, also a light apricot.

Twelve years (at least) of maturation is rewarded with outstanding flavour and complexity, vanilla, chocolate, caramel, spices, all there together to a long long finish. It is 46% so the advice is to add a few drops of water. Nothing else is needed to get the best from this Very Highly Recommended beauty.

* When you buy a bottle, you’ll also get Alfred Barnard’s detailed account of John Lane’s Distillery in the Dublin of 1886. Wonder what’s his Twitter handle?

Gonzalez Byass Noe Old Pedro Ximenez Sherry, 15.5%, RRP €39.50 (on offer at €31.60 here at Wines of the World).

If you like sweet wines, as I do, then this sherry, aged 30 years, is irresistible.

The Pedro Ximenez, and this is one hundred per cent PX, is a usual grape for sweet sherry. Here, the PX has been enriched by the age old “soleo” sun-drying method, then matured in oak for thirty years.

And the result is incredible, one of the best wines you’ll ever come across. The colour is a deep ebony. The warm aromas are rich with sweet succulent raisins, figs, spices too. 

It is complex and intense on the palate, rich and dense, very sweet, smooth, luscious and silky, concentration is very high yet it is fresh and clean. And the finish, with notes of coffee, caramel, toffee, and liquorice, goes on and on.

It is the perfect dessert wine, even on its own. But you’ll find it excels over vanilla ice-cream or with dark chocolate. The advice is to serve it slightly chilled or indeed at room temperature. 

You’ll long remember the superb fragrance and intense bouquet acquired in the silence and shade of the cellars. Very Highly Recommended.

* Noe has been ranked in the Top 100 wines in the US and is distributed by Barry & Fitzwilliam.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Munster Wine & Dine in Midleton. Outstanding Trip To Sage and Irish Distillers

Munster Wine & Dine in Midleton. Outstanding Trip To Sage and Irish Distillers
The big one!
 Last week’s Munster Wine & Dine mid-week trip to Midleton was packed with highlights, both at Irish Distillers and later at Sage Restaurant.

There was a generous welcome from the team at the Distillery. For me, the tutored tasting by Brian Ledwidge was the outstanding part, as we got to sample three of the very best produced here.

Cooper's corner. Tools & staves
We started with the Redbreast 12, a single pot still whiskey. The single by the way refers to a single distillery, not a single pot. Pick up your glass - no need to swish it around as you would with wine - just give it a gentle turn and that will allow the aromas rise. The Redbreast has been matured in Oloroso casks and so it is quite aromatic, reminiscent of a Christmas cake being taken out of the oven, according to Brian.

In the mouth, there is a significant “creaminess (from the unmalted barley), fruit (from the cask), and spice (from the pot still), a nice balance of all three”. Brian also told us about the latest Redbreast which has been raised in Lustau casks.

The cottage
 Power’s were one of the three companies that merged to form Irish Distillers in the mid 60s and their line was represented here by John’s Lane Release. John’s Lane (in Dublin) was where the original would have been produced. 

It is nicely spiced from the still. Raised in US (mainly) and Spanish casks, Brian pointed out the vanilla on the nose, also a light apricot.Twelve years (at least) of maturation is rewarded with outstanding flavour and complexity, vanilla, chocolate, caramel, spices, all there together in a long long finish.

Peter: "the next guy that contradicts the guide......"
 And then we were on to an outstanding premium whiskey, the Midleton Very Rare, made from whiskey that has been matured in US casks only. The casks (no more then 250) to be used are hand-picked by Master Distiller Brian Nation and are between 12 and 22 years old. The resulting blend is nicely balanced with “50 to 60 per cent of the flavour coming from the wood”. Unlike the previous two, this is a blended whiskey.

Micro
This truly magnificent and much celebrated whiskey is amazingly smooth (after that long maturation), light of fruit, with hints of sweetness and spice, an absolutely outstanding mouthful.

There was an earlier tasting also, this coming as we toured the massive warehouse complex, with Daniel as our guide. You have to know your way around here - they build a new one every two months! And these are huge; each warehouse holds 16,800 casks. And the overall “population” is no less than 1.4 million casks. All needed, with more than five million cases of Jameson alone being sold annually.

The old millwheel still turning
New!
 Hard to take in those kind of numbers. The going got a whole lot easier though when Daniel invited Beverly, a MWD member, to open a bourbon cask. She extracted the bung like a veteran and we all enjoyed the whiskey that had been inside since 1991. Still time for another sample, this from a 2001 Sherry cask (much bigger) and probably destined for a Redbreast bottle, another lovely sip.

On arrival at Midleton, we were welcomed by Kevin O'Gorman, Master of Maturation (one of the four 'Midleton Masters', and responsible for all of the whiskey once it goes into barrel) and Carol Quinn, Archivist at Midleton Distillery. Kevin told us how Midleton have been making whiskey here since 1825. He’s excited by much that is going on now in Irish whiskey. “So many new things going on. I love the innovation.”


The Jameson Perfect Serve
 We would see some of that right here on our first walkabout, through the old distillery, the history explained in a lively manner by our guide Peter Corr (also a member of the Munster Wine & Dine, so there was some gentle slagging going on).


The old buildings, which have seen duty as a flour mill and as a military barracks, were vacated for the “new” distillery in 1975. They are full of history and memorabilia, enough to explain the production process to newbies!

And its not all old. Irish Distillers now have their very own micro-distillery here, three sparkling new copper stills all ready for action. And no doubt, the firm’s distillers - there are eight of them - will be taking full advantage of the possibility of making new and exciting spirits, something that couldn't happen in the huge new distillery with its massive stills always busy.

Three of the best
 After Peter’s tour, which also included the cooperage, we made our first visit to the Whiskey Academy where we met Brian, David McCabe and Maura Coffey and had our first drink of the afternoon, a very welcome Jameson Sour Old fashioned. The bitters by the way are a new product: Jameson Sloe Berry Bitters (foraged in the west of Ireland).

And it was the Academy that also saw our last drink of the informative tour, the Jameson Perfect Serve. Brian told us that Jameson was well known for “its mixability and is also very popular when mixed with Ginger Ale”.

Add caption
His recipe, more or less, is to use a tumbler with loads of ice. Add a standard measure of Jameson, lime ( “a nice big piece squeezed in”), and top it all up with chilled Ginger Ale. Cheers

Roast beets
 After that, it was time to take the short walk out the lane and up the main street and then another warm welcome from chef/owner Kevin Aherne and his team at Sage. We had ordered a meal based on his famous #12 Mile Menu and it was absolutely top notch.

After an lovely amuse bouche and a sampling of his tasty potato bread, we had a choice of starters:
Salt Baked beets, candied outs, apples;
Smoked scallop, wild hedgehog mushroom, sea beet;
Beef filet carpaccio, black onion aioli, purple potato, celeriac.
I enjoyed my scallop dish, soft and delicious in a lovely "broth". And I also managed a sample of the beets, a lovely mix of textures and flavours.

Cod
The fish course had two options:
Butter poached cod, barley, broccoli, smoked cheese;
John Dory, gnocchi, shiitake, mushroom butter.
The John Dory was another soft and delicate dish but thoroughly delicious while the Cod was so well matched with the barley and the broccoli. The fish, in each case, looked invitingly fresh, top class.

Two main courses to pick from:
Pork shoulder, swede, pear;
Beef fillet, cheek, bone marrow, lovage.
The pork was from Woodside Farm, so I wasn't going to ignore that. And I wasn't disappointed. It was superb, full of flavour. And there was only praise too from CL who enjoyed the fillet, also full of flavour. Two quite perfect dishes really, each well accompanied.

White chocolate
Something sweet to finish:
Apple parfait, apple arlette, and spiced bread;
White chocolate cheesecake, blackberry;
Bo Rua Farmhouse cheddar, chutney, nuts.
I know the Bo Rua is lovely but my sweet tooth demanded the chocolate, soft, sweet and soon gone. And much the same could be said by CL about her Apple combination.

* The next Munster Wine & Dine event is a distillery tour (Bertha's Revenge) and lunch at Ballyvolane House - details here.


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.




Monday, December 1, 2014

Fish & Wine on the Double. Recipes from the Lettercollum Cookbook

Fish & Wine on the Double

Recipes from the Lettercollum Cookbook
Grilled Cod

Dipped into the fish section of the newly published Lettercollum Cookbook  twice over the weekend and came up with two beauties! And matched them with two lovely white wines from Supervalu.

Enjoyed the Moncrieff Show from the Midleton Distillery on Friday afternoon; no shortage of whiskey and tasty canapes, even wine. Still, ever mindful of the next meal, our first call on the way out was to the Ballycotton Seafood shop on main street and here we bought some scallops and cod.

The scallops, an impulse purchase,  were done this time, not with bacon, but with black pudding. The black pudding was really good but a bit on the strong side for the shell fish and I think the Truly Irish bacon is a better match! 

The cod was deliberately bought for the Lettercollum Recipe: Grilled Cod with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Basil. It is the kind of dish we've made lots of times on holidays (easy to get the basic ingredients). Indeed, Karen Austin’s book says “this recipe is great in summer and very quick to make”. But the result, with the super fresh cod, was also excellent on the last Friday of November.

The wine:
Portico da Ria Albarino 2013, Rias Baixas (Spain), 12.5%, €10.00 SuperValu.
With its light gold colour and fresh aromas, you get to like this one immediately. Fresh and fruity, it is quite intense on the palate, lively and lovely, and with an ample finish. It is the perfect match for simple fish dishes, including this one and the one below. Very Highly Recommended. Lovely label too! Rias Baixas is an area in North West Spain, around the Atlantic city of Vigo. Albarino is its dominant grape, also the easiest to pronounce!
Suquet de Peix. Tasty in any language!
Fish Two
We were soon back in Midleton, this time for the Saturday Farmers Market and joined the queue at O’Driscoll’s Fish stall, again shopping for a Lettercollum recipe, this time the Suquet de Peix, better known around here as Catalan Fish Stew!

We got a bag of fish bones from O’Driscoll’s to make the fish stock and also Monkfish (you may also use Hake) and mussels, the other main ingredients. Onions, red peppers, garlic, waxy potatoes and tomatoes, even a drop of brandy, also feature in this very tasty dish.

Karen says they first came across it in Cadaques on the Costa Brava, the town where Salvador Dali lived for most of his adult life. “Essentially, it’s a one pot dinner but a great dish for entertaining as the basic stew can be made and then left aside until the guests arrive when you can reheat the stew and pop the fish in. It is served with a parsley and almond picada - a sauce similar to a pesto”.

It turned out very well, thanks to the chef de cuisine here.


The wine
Macon Lugny Les Coteaux des Anges 2013 (Burgundy), 13.0%, €10.00 Supervalu.


This is an excellent Chardonnay from the home of the variety. There is even a village called Chardonnay, not too far from Lugny. Like Rias Baixas, most production here, in the Mâconnais part of Burgundy, is on a small scale. Again, the match was a good one and the wine is highly recommended, especially at the discounted Christmas price.


Colour is a light honey, really bright, and the white fruit aromas hint at peaches, nectarines, apples, a little citrus too. No shortage of inviting flavour on the palate, concentrated fruit, crisp but with a good weight and a long finish.

The Book
The Lettercollum Cookbook, by Karen Austin, is widely available in bookshops nationwide (including Waterstones and Bradley's) and in the UK . Great too that it is printed in Ireland by KPS Colour Print. It is published by Onstream in Cork and available online here.