Tuesday, January 31, 2023

From the heart of Spain. Attention to detail makes this Verdejo different class.

From the heart of Spain. Attention to detail makes this Verdejo different class.

Protos Verdejo 2021 Rueda (DO) 2021, 13% ABV

€15.30 Heart of Spain

The vast majority of the world's Verdejo grape crop is grown in the sandy soils of Rueda, one of Spain’s top DOs for white wines. Exotic aromatics and crisp acidity help make this full-bodied wine a terrific companion at the table, especially if fish or chicken is on the menu. Sometimes it is blended but this Protos is 100% Verdejo.

Straw yellow colour with greenish hues, very clean and bright. Aromas are of tropical (pineapple, lime) and closer-to-home fruits (pear, melon and citrus). Thanks to the melange of fruits and the grape’s typical natural acidity, the palate is absolutely pleasing. The light ageing on fine lees provides roundness, body and good structure. And then you have a refreshing and flavourful finish.

Before they get to the winery,  the grapes for this wine are mechanically harvested at night in order to obtain the fruit in the best possible state of health. There’s a cold maceration of 4/5 hours. The ageing on fine lees goes on for about 3 months, “depending on daily tastings”.

It is recommended to serve between 7 and 10 ºC. Food pairings suggested: White fish, tuna, sushi, seafood rice dishes, paella, pasta, Asian food, chicken, fresh or blue cheeses.

Very Highly Recommended.

For the past four or five years, Heart of Spain have been selling wines, cheese and charcuterie from Castilla Y Leon, Tierra de Sabor (Land of Flavour), in the Fota Retail Park near Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork. The wines come mostly from Toro DO, Biers DO, Ribera DO, and Rueda DO.

Heart of Spain 




Powers Irish Whiskey is breaking boundaries, unveiling the world’s first 100% Irish rye whiskey. Proudly honouring the pioneering spirit of Powers Irish Whiskey, this ground-breaking release uses 100% Irish rye for the first time ever. The result is Powers Irish Rye, a complex and flavourful Irish whiskey that is set to shake up the increasingly popular rye whiskey category.

Born from trials at Irish Distillers’ renowned Midleton Distillery in Cork, Ireland, Powers Irish Rye balances the trademark earthy, peppery character of rye with the sweet flavour profile imparted from maturation in a full repertoire of American oak – with virgin oak, first fill and refills in the cask mix. The result is a wonderful taste explosion of maraschino cherry, orange peel and toffee banana combining with the earthy taste of candied ginger and spicy character of clove, burned orange and peppermint. The flavours culminate in a satisfyingly long finish, alongside a distinctive prickle of chilli oil that lingers for a time in the company of honey glazed fruits.
image.pngThe launch of Powers Irish Rye is grounded in the heritage of the whiskey brand, as Carol Quinn, Archivist at Irish Distillers, uncovered. Old mash bills and recipes reveal that Powers experimented with rye over their history, while as the scientific knowledge of distilling expanded throughout the 19th century, they continually strove to innovate with new techniques and processes.  Carol explains further: “Throughout the history of the famous Powers John’s Lane Distillery there was a willingness to challenge the old ways of doing things and experiment with new ideas, from urban farming on the distillery roof in the 1940s, to bottling in-house and the introduction of the world’s first miniature Irish whiskey, the ‘baby Power’. This has fed very much into the DNA of Powers Irish Rye today, both in the use of rye and in the method of distillation.”
Although finding an Irish supplier was a challenge, since commercial rye farming in Ireland had all but disappeared, Powers persevered and commissioned the planting of rye crops exclusively for this Irish whiskey. With a commitment to sustainable farming, the Cooney Furlong Farm in Co. Wexford supply 100% of the rye used in Powers Irish Rye. Located just a short distance from Edermine House, the ancestral home of the Powers family, the farm guarantees ongoing Irish rye supply for this world first release.

Celebrating the launch of Powers Irish Rye, Eric Ryan, Powers Distiller comments: “We attribute the success of this whiskey firstly to the extended team at Midleton Distillery, yet also to the generations of Powers distillers who considered rye grain to be a unique component of their craft. From our commitment to farming a difficult crop, to reduced brewhouse throughput, to longer fermentation times, and considering the exceptional cask profile; if it was only about efficiency, we would never have used rye! But it proved a worthy endeavour. In an interview conducted by Royal Commission on whiskey back in 1908, the Powers ethos was best described by James Talbot Power, ‘At Powers, we are producers of flavours, not of spirits`, and we are proud to continue this Powers legacy in 2023.”

Bottled at 43.2% ABV, Powers Irish Rye will be released from 20th February in the US, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Dublin Airport and online at PowersWhiskey.com, and via The Whisky Exchange in the UK in the coming months at RRP €40.

Serve neat or try a Classic Manhattan cocktail
Manhattan cocktail
Ingredients: 50ml Powers Irish Rye, 25ml sweet vermouth, 1 dash aromatic bitters, 1 dash orange bitters
Method: Add all ingredients to a mixing glass; Add ice and stir to mix and chill; Strain into a chilled coupe glass; Express orange oils from an orange zest and discard the zest; Garnish with 3 skewered maraschino cherries.

Tasting notes:
Aroma: Burnt orange, maraschino cherries, and toffee banana with rich warming notes of freshly baked rye bread, buttered croissants and charred oak. Robust spices of clove, white pepper and ginger are met with sweet vanilla and earthy sugar cane aromas.

Taste: Candied ginger with orange peel, clove spice and peppermint. Caramelized apples with brown sugar, sweet cereal and red liquorice notes build while the vanilla and charred oak influences work in balance with the rye signature spices.

Finish: Satisfyingly long, with a prickle of chili oil that continues to linger for a time in the company of honey glazed fruits and hardy cereal undertones.

Press release

Monday, January 30, 2023

Quinlan’s Triple AAA Grade Specials

Quinlan’s Triple AAA Grade Specials 

Quinlan’s Fish Cork are serving up superb specials these days, enhancing an already excellent offering of fresh fish from their Kerry boats. Many of you will have enjoyed their treasures from the sea in the shape of John Dory, Cod, Hake, Halibut and more and seafood such as squid, crab, mussels, prawns, and scallops. Everything from delicious black sole to humble but satisfying fish (choices) and chips.

New chef Fred Desormeaux has upped the specials ante though with about four new ones every day. And I made it my mission to try them out when we called in last week. We got our info first hand, had our cards marked so to speak, as we sipped a Three Wooly Sheep New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with its forward tropical aromas, delightful citrus and passion fruit flavours and crisp finish, perfect for the fish!

That Triple AAA Grade Pan-fried Tuna Steak, on Spanish Style Potatoes & Homemade Salsa (the chef’s own salsa), was a huge temptation, irresistible! Triple AAA is the grade for the very best of Tuna and makes it is suitable for sushi. It is an amazing dish with an equally amazing salsa, one of the very best. Go for the medium-rare. It's perfect. CL enjoyed that, every little bit. Well, not every bit as there was no shortage of help from my side of the table.

My pick was something of a classic: Duo of Seared Scallops, Crab & Dublin Bay Prawns With Cream Cheese, Spinach & Black Sole Paupiette, Celeriac Puree, Confit Duck Croquette Potatoes, Saffron & Beurre Blanc.  Another high class offering and those Confit Duck Croquettes had me a little puzzled in advance but they fitted in perfectly. The scallops could well have been rated Triple A and you’d have to go even higher to put a grade on the Paupiettes, softly delicious with the cheese, the spinach and the crab and prawns.

Other specials on the night included Fresh Rigatoni Pasta (With Prawns, Gubbeen Chorizo, Cherry Sun Blush Tomato, Baby Spinach, Cream, Parmesan & Garlic Bread) and also Fred's Red Thai Curry (Monkfish, Peppers, Red Onion, Curry Leaves, Lemongrass, Lime Juice, Tomato, Coco Milk served with Coriander Basmati Rice). And another recent Fred’s Special was the Land & Sea dish of Pan-fried John Dory with Slow cooked beef cheeks served with Pea & Smoked Bacon Risotto Rice with red wine jus.

While the ingredients and make-up of the specials change often you can rest assured, they will be special, the perfect treat! 

On the starter list, there’s soup and chowder and shellfish figure prominently - the Portmagee Crab Bake is a favourite of mine. We wanted to concentrate on the main courses and so decided to share a starter of Sizzling Portmagee Crab Claws (tossed in Garlic Butter & served with Sourdough Bread). Excellent!

And the dessert was shared too. We took the recommendation of the Bailey’s Crême Brûlée and that too was spot-on perfect, a soft and delicious finalé to one of the best meals in recent months. Very comfortable venue indeed and excellent friendly staff too who’ll help you make your choices.

Quinlan's Seafood Bar

14 Princes Street Cork, Ireland T12 K2HWOpening Hours12:00 PM - 9:00 PM Sun-Thu;12:00 PM - 10:00 PM Fri-Sat.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

CorkBillyBeers #9. Craft journey with Belgian Abbey Beers and similar strong ales, Mescan, Orval, St Bernardus and Duvel

CorkBillyBeers #9

Craft journey with Belgian Abbey Beers and similar, Mescan, Orval, St Bernardus and Duvel


Not all strong Blonde and Tripel Belgian ales are Trappist, mostly because that label can only be attached only to beers produced in Trappist abbeys (not all of which are in Belgium!). But most of the beers will have high carbonation and powerful aromas from the yeast. 

Trappist ales may share a common style of home but the beers can differ. Our Orval for instance is an “oddball” according to the Beer Bible, “with wild yeast and fragrant dry-hopping, which seems to bear no resemblance to the other abbey ales”. Hard to be sure but picking beers with the designation “Recognised Belgium Abbey Beers” should help you on the abbey road!


Beer vobiscum. Killian O'Morain Mescan co-founder.

Mescan Westport Extra 8.5% ABV, 330 ml bottle, No. 21

Mescan may not have had an abbey but he was St Patrick’s right hand man and personal brewer so may well have brewed up a potion that forced the snakes to hightail it out of Ireland. This one from the brewery on the slopes of Croagh Patrick is more likely to keep people here!

It is golden, of course, a slightly hazy gold, with a soft white head that is long on retention. Just stuck my finger into that head and found those fruity esters and spicy yeast notes that the brewers speak about. The hop bitterness promised is also confirmed and becomes even more pronounced as the first sip flows fully and gently across the mouth on the way to a long lingering finish. A superbly balanced beer, the highly alcohol smoothly controlled.

Carbonation is high too and you notice that immediately on the palate along with concentrated fruit and yeast, the merest hint of caramel also. Wave after wave of flavour all the way to the finish. Belgian style and Irish finesse earn a Formidable

It is more or less a head to head between the Mescan and Duval (neither a Trappist) in this quartet. The Belgian beer has many admirers including Mark Dredge who, in his Beer: A Tasting Course, declares that this Duvel, is “the world’s finest Strong Blonde Ale”. Just wonder if he has ever tasted the Westport Extra!

A lot of work and time goes into the production of this beauty. It takes almost a year from when it brewed before this strong, well-carbonated golden ale will be ready for punters to sip and savour. 

“Enjoy with white meats or seafood,  and fruity,  nutty desserts.” This robust beer is a real treat, and its warming alcohol is the perfect antidote to a bad weather day!

This Belgian style beer is extra in many respects, the label tells us: extra malt, hops and time to condition. So extra had to come into the name of this Strong Golden Ale and do give it the extra care it deserves. All Mescan beers are bottle conditioned and note too that the recommended serving temperature is a cold 3 - 6 C.

The brewery is situated on the slopes of Croagh Patrick and is owned and operated by Bart Adons and Cillian Ó Móráin, two Westport vets (veterinarians, not veterans!), who have been friends and colleagues for nearly 20 years. The pair spent four years perfecting their original recipes inspired by the beers of Belgium, Bart's homeland, before starting to brew commercially in 2013.

Very Highly Recommended.


Orval Trappist Ale, 6.2% ABV, 330 ml bottle, The Cru

Dark amber/orange is the colour, hazy in the chalice with quite a foamy and long-lasting head. Aromas are complex, yeast and hops plus orange notes and herb-y hints also. 

Complex too on the palate but all’s in harmony as the fruity and hoppy elements smoothly amalgamate, a creamy feel in the mouth, sip it slowly and savour the complexity before the long and dry finish reaches a slightly bitter finalé. 

This amazing beer has been quite a while in the making, so take your time and contemplate its many pleasant qualities. Not too many like this around! By the way, the recommended serving temperature is unusually high: between 12 and 14 degrees.

The Brasserie d'Orval, located inside the Abbey, was created in 1931 to finance the huge construction site for the reconstruction of Orval. From the start, it hired labor, including the first master brewer, Pappenheimer and his assistant John Valheule.

Between the time the monks first arrived in 1070 and today, there are many tales. Jeff Alworth devotes a chapter to the abbey and the beer in The Beer Bible. Even more detail on both the abbey and beer here

The Guardian Angel (À l’Ange Gardien) restaurant/bar, with its  superb view of the still functioning abbey, is a quiet and welcoming place where time seems to have stood still. This tranquility is shared by visitors who come with family or friends to taste the two flagship products of Orval: cheese and Trappist beer. The cheese story started long before the beer. 

The website by the way is well worth looking up and includes recipes made with the beer or designed to be eaten with it, like this Fish Soup. A fascinating story and a fascinating beer.  According to the Brew Dog book, Craft Beer for the Geeks, it should be "in the top five on any beer list".

Orval is an “oddball” according to the Beer Bible, “with wild yeast and fragrant dry-hopping, which seems to bear no resemblance to the other abbey ales”. But it does have the coveted “Authentic Trappist Product” badge. You’ll have to look hard to spot it on the narrow band neck label. Unlike many other abbeys, the monks at Orval never brewed but the 1930s brewery (Orval was first brew in 1931) was always under their control.


St Bernardus Pater 6 Abbey Ale, 6.7 % ABV, 330 ml bottle Bradleys

St. Bernardus Pater 6, a Trappist ale, is brewed according to the classic dubbel style with a recipe that dates back to 1946. It is, like all dubbels, a dark beer (dark red to brown), while tripels are golden. The #6 at 6.7% ABV is within the style’s range of 6 to 8 per cent. 

Other similar Belgian examples that you may be able to get your hands on are Westmalle Dubbel Trappist Ale and Chimay Red and do also keep an eye out for the stronger St. Bernardus Pater 8 (the most characterful and interesting, according to the Beer Bible by Jeff Alworth).

The #6 has a dark brown colour, not quite the chestnut they say on the website, and the rich colour is an indication of quality. The foamy head is tan and it soon contracts to a very thin disc. A touch of hazelnut and coffee in the apple and pear aromas. And coffee hints too amidst the fruit on the palate, all wrapped up nicely in a duvet of malt. 

Time and again in these high abv Belgian beers - and this is far from the highest - you find a delicious harmony between flavours of specialty malt and the lively fruitiness, and that harmony here extends to the satisfactory slightly bitter dry finish.

They say: St. Bernardus Pater 6 is brewed according to the classic dubbel style with a recipe that dates back to 1946. The name of this beer has become a reference for its style, and it is commonly referred to as ‘een Paterke’.

As ever the Belgians recommend a food pairing: St.Bernardus Pater 6 is a great choice to complement pork recipes or contrast against zesty cheeses. It is bottle fermented and best to serve it at 8-12 degrees. More recipes

If you come across the Pater 6, and if you see The Bernardus Abt 12 on the same shelf, then don’t hesitate. The Abt 12 (10%) is a quadrupel, full of complex flavours, great fruit and with a superb finish. It is regarded as one of the best beers in the world. In this context, quadrupel means it is stronger than a tripel which is stronger than a duppel like Pater 6!


Duvel Strong Blond, 8.5% ABV, 330 ml bottle Bradleys

Duvel is a natural beer with a subtle bitterness, a refined flavour and a distinctive hop character. Mark Dredge, in his Beer: A Tasting Course, declares that this Duvel,  is “the world’s finest Strong Blonde Ale”. 

The colour of the Duvel in your glass is a misty gold, a central spout of bubbles flying upwards towards the tight white head that stays around. Aromas are on the modest side. On the palate, it is silky smooth,  is immediately refreshing, fine-flavoured balance of fruity and hoppy, and the refreshment continues through a moderately bitter finalé.

They say and I’m not arguing: The refermentation in the bottle and a long maturation, guarantees a pure character, delicate effervescence and a pleasant sweet taste of alcohol….Each Duvel ripens for no less than 2 months in our fermentation and refermentation cellars and is perfectly balanced as a result…

The original yeast strain, which Albert Moortgat himself selected in the 1920’s, originates from Scotland. After maturing in storage tanks in which the beer is cooled down to -2°C, the drink is ready for bottling. Thanks to the addition of extra sugars and yeast, the beer ferments again in the bottle. This occurs in warm cellars (24°C) and takes two weeks. Then the beer is moved to cold cellars, where it continues to mature and stabilise for a further six weeks.

The hops used are Saaz and Styrian Golding. They recommended serving it at 5 degrees in the Duvel glass. I like the beer for sure but not a big lover of the “devil” glass!


Saturday, January 28, 2023

Blarney Castle Gardens

Blarney Castle Gardens

Walk through the artworks. Thursday 26.01.2023 

Juliet by Eamonn Ceannt

Locking Horns by Ester Barrett

Survival by Ester Barrett

Meadow Hare by Ester Barrett

Conical View with Twist by Ken Drew 

Picture Frame by Blessing Sanyanga 

Racebound by Ester Barrett

Ramasses by Nigel Connell Bass

St Hupert's Stag by Ester Barrett

Daffodil Road



Video of daffodils on roadside

Hive in trees

View of castle from Poison Garden

Horses grazing

Seat. Mushrooms.

Friday 13.01.2023

Robin (same bird also below)

Boxed In

Castle and tower

Look closely - green shoots in the box

In Poison Garden

Not quite prim

Ferns get a rise on branch of Castinea Sativa



9th January 2023