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Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Christmas Prezziesfrom three euro to 3.5k euro!
Want to know a little bit more about wine? In a hurry? Then download Grape Personalities - a guide to grape varietals and the wines they make. The APP retails for €3.99 in both iOS and Android and is available at http://grape-personalities.appstor.io
Christmas Day Survival Kit
Wines Direct make Christmas Day easier for you with their Survival Kit. Along with two classic French whites and two classic French reds, you’ll get a bottle of sparkling wine (Cremant de Loire by Alain Marcadet) and, for afterwards, a bottle of Port (Quinta do Crasto LBV 2011). It is available online at Wines Direct and the six bottles will cost you €115.00 (over 30 euro off and free delivery).
Eight Degrees Festival Beers
You can never mention wine within 25 miles of Mitchelstown without Caroline Hennessy shouting beer! She tells me Eight Degrees have some very special ones to offer. “The Three Dukes of Burgundy is our 2016 Barrel Aged Project. From that series, The Fearless Farmhouse Ale and The Bold Imperial Stout were just released last week. In January, we will be releasing The Good Barleywine.”
All of these limited edition beers are bottled into 750ml amber champagne-style bottles and are available either individually or in 2 x 750ml bottle gift packs (RRP €19.95).
Fearless Farmhouse Ale is your perfect Christmas table beer. It won’t shout too loudly over the turkey, will happily hang out with ham and doesn’t balk in the face of any cranberry relish-type shenanigans.
Save The Bold Imperial Stout for the end of a meal and pair it with something sweet like Christmas pudding, a rich cranberry cheesecake or some quality vanilla ice cream. RRP €10.95
The Whiskeys of Ireland
Want to read up on your whiskey? Then get Peter Mulryan’s Whiskeys of Ireland. The very experienced Peter (the man behind the Blackwater Distillery in Waterford) knows his whiskey as well as his gin and the book charts the history and the current state of Irish whiskey. A very intertesting read indeed. 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.
Teeling’s Top Drops
While you’re reading, why not sip from either The Teeling 24 or 33 Year Old Single Malt, available initially in the Teeling Whiskey Distillery, Celtic Whiskey Shop and Dublin Airport in Ireland and retailing for €300 per 70cl for the 24 Year Old and €3,500 per 70cl for the 33 Year Old.
Too expensive? Well you can get a perfectly good bottle of Jameson for thirty euro or less! Another favourite around here at the moment is Writer’s Tears, also in Bradley’s at €45.99.
Have you a wine lover in your life? But don’t know which wine to buy for him or her. Why not make a present of some suitable glasses instead. Tipperary Crystal have just produced a new range for white and red wine, for bubbles, and also for whiskey and brandy. Prices are mainly twenty euro for a gift box containing a pair of the glasses. All the details here.
The Oxford Companion to Cheese
Wine and cheese go together of course and so too do beer and cheese. You can get all the best pairings and so much more in this massive just published (December 1st) book on cheese. Lots of Irish interest too with Cashel Blue, County Cork and pioneer cheesemaker Veronica Steele covered in this landmark encyclopaedia, the most wide-ranging, comprehensive, and reliable reference work on cheese available, suitable for both novices and industry insiders alike. See more here. Published by the Oxford University Press, the impressive volume costs forty pounds sterling.
The producers are so happy with the complexity and smoothness of this milk based gin that they really enjoy sipping it with a “splash of water”. But they add “she works very well with a good quality tonic”. And she performs well also in a martini. Bertha, shaken with ice and a suggestion of vermouth, poured into a chilled glass with a simple zest garnish delivers “a gloriously smooth and precise cocktail experience”. Try it for yourself - stockists here - about 50 euro per bottle.
Friday, October 7, 2016
Review: The Whiskeys of Ireland
by Peter Mulryan
“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|