Friday, September 29, 2023

This Kinsale Barrel Aged Mead is a lively, attractive drink with a decadent richness.

This Kinsale Barrel Aged Mead is a lively, attractive drink with a decadent richness. 

Kinsale Merlot Barrel Aged Wild Red Mead (Limited Edition) 2022, 70 cl bottle, 12% ABV 

RRP: €31.75. Stockists throughout Ireland, also in GB and NI, in Europe and beyond. Full list here.  

Mead (Miodh in Irish) is the world’s oldest alcoholic drink, unique in that its primary ingredient is honey but also incredibly diverse – it can range from dry to very sweet, which may surprise you when you think of honey as its primary ingredient. It is the world’s oldest alcoholic drink, fermented from honey and fruit and sometimes with herbs or spices added. 

Kate and Denis Dempsey are the couple behind the Kinsale Mead Company venture. In 2016, they went to work to rediscover the ancient art of mead-making and to create a world-class range of light and refreshing drinks. 

Much has been achieved since then. They have certainly opened many eyes (and palates), both here and abroad, to the flavours and possibilities of the ancient drink. Some meads have no fruit included but when it is (as is the case here), the drink is called a Melomel Mead.

Colour of this barrel-aged mead is a dark ruby with flashes of a lighter red coming through, depending on the light. Aromas are fruity, that mix of blackcurrants and cherries and a hint of the Merlot Barrel in which it spent the last year of its 3-year maturation. 

Smoothness is the initial impression on the palate, then the fruits, the cherry and the tartness of those Wexford blackcurrants well balanced with attractive forest honey notes and caramel from the Bordeaux oak barrels, a harmony that continues through to the dry finalé.

They say: it is a gorgeous 3-year-old berry mead fermented off dry and silky smooth and matured for the last 12 months in French Merlot wine barrels to add intriguing structure and depth. “An exceptional, unique mead, a lively, attractive drink with a decadent richness. ….We were over the moon when this mead won the Drink of the Year from the Irish Food Writers’ Guild in 2021…..”

It was also awarded Drink of the Year from the Irish Food Writers’ Guild.

Denis and Kate suggest it is delicious served at room temperature on its own or with fine food. Other suggestions include pairing it with cheese boards or quality chocolate, with roast duck, grilled ribs or sausages and rich tomato-based Italian dishes.

The beautiful label was inspired by the story of the “Wild Geese” Irish who emigrated in waves from Ireland to the continent at the end of the Jacobite wars and settled in France. Many of them began to start trading and making wine. Today, in Bordeaux, you can find the names of those resilient Irish emigrants on the streets and vineyards of the region – Lynch, Barton, Boyd, Phelan – alongside other trading connections to the wine ports of Ireland.

Photo from the Kinsale Wine Museum in Desmond Castle.
The museum has since closed down.

Kinsale Mead: “In a sense, we are completing the circle, bringing those precious barrels back to Ireland. Kinsale in the 18th century was a thriving port, one of several in Ireland licensed to import wines from France, Spain and Portugal. The harbour and warehouses were full of barrels of the finest wines, ports and sherries.”

Much easier in those far-off days to get your hands on an empty cask.

Click on link for all the info on the full range of their meads at Kinsale Mead Company.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Redbreast Tawny Port Edition, One for my short list!

One for my short list!

Redbreast Tawny Port Edition 46% ABV

This eagerly awaited Redbreast Tawny Port Edition was recently launched and glad to say I got my hands on a wee sample. I haven't seen any independent reviews, but I was delighted with it; it may well be my Whiskey of the Year. 

Midleton's finest Single Pot Still Whiskey infused with the rich flavours of port wine makes for a truly unforgettable experience. I have a birthday coming up and Christmas won't be too far behind; my list will be brief, just the one item each time. Now you know!

Whiskey tasting notes can be even more convoluted than those of wine so I’ll give you the shortcut version. It is smooth from aroma to finalé. Croisannt and almond on the nose and a wee squeeze of honey also. On the palate, it is again smooth even if there is a tiny little hint of burn (a tiny drop of water cures that); it is rich (think ripe figs) with a streak of smooth limoncello. Spices linger at the smooth finish, vanilla, the fruit still prominent. Great to be back in Porto!

This Port Edition has been expertly created by esteemed Master Blender Billy Leighton and Blender Dave McCabe and is another expression from the Redbreast Iberian Series. RRP: €100.00

It is a single pot still Irish whiskey, initially matured in a combination of bourbon and oloroso sherry casks. To add a new dimension to the flavour profile, a portion of these maturing whiskeys were re-casked into tawny port casks for a number of years. All of the whiskeys were then skilfully blended and completed their maturation journey by marrying in freshly seasoned tawny port hogsheads for a final maturation period of 14-25 months.

The Iberian series is inspired by Redbreast’s long-standing connection to some of the Iberian Peninsula’s most celebrated cooperages and winemakers, combining the craft and rich heritage of the region with the excellence of Midleton Distillery’s single pot still whiskeys to create expressions that are truly extraordinary. Redbreast Tawny Port Cask Edition is the second limited edition to join the series, following the 2021 release of Redbreast Pedro Ximénez Edition, and permanent expression and series anchor, Redbreast Lustau Edition.

Redbreast Tawny Port Cask Edition is bottled at 46% and is now available in the USA, Ireland, UK, China, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Global Travel and online at the RRP of €100, £79, $100.

IG: @RedbreastIrishWhiskey   #RedbreastTawnyPort    #PassItOn


Wednesday, September 27, 2023

CorkBillyBeers #46. Craft with Ballykilcavan, Brehon and Boyne Brewhouse

CorkBillyBeers #46

Craft with Stout, Red Ale, and Pils, featuring Ballykilcavan, Brehon and Boyne Brewhouse .


Ballykilcavan Blackwell Stout, 4.4% ABV, 440 ml can Pettitt’s SV Athy

The Walsh family have been farming here since 1639. This stout is brewed with barley and water from the farm.

The Blackwell is black (surprise, surprise). And there’s a soft fluffy milky-coffee coloured head of the slow sinking variety. Coffee and chocolate in the aromas plus toasty stuff as well. And it’s pretty traditional on the creamy palate also, with coffee and caramel and toasted notes plus hints of smoke and spice in the background. Good dry finish in this pretty faultless stout, redolent of ages past - remember those old-time threshings and bottles in generous supply - but well capable of holding its own in the current climate.

Good dry finish here, not as creamy as some. Very Highly Recommended.

The Griffin is the symbol of the Walsh family, who have been farming at Ballykilcavan for 13 generations. “We have lived and worked here since 1639, and diversification has always been important to keep our farm viable for future generations. When I took over Ballykilcavan from my father in 2004, my motivation was to try to sustain it so that someone else would be able to take it over from me,” says current owner-operator David. And the brewery is one way of doing that. Already, they are exporting.

The brewery is installed in the original stone grain store for the farm, which was built around 1780. In previous centuries, the building was used to store barley and oats after harvest, and then to mill them for bread making, feeding animals and maybe even making beer. Like most of the buildings in the 240-year-old farmyard, it is too small for modern farm equipment, but it is the perfect size to fit a small craft brewery.

Since David and wife Lisa set up the brewery business in 2017 - the brewery itself followed a year later - the Ballykilcavan beers have earned quite a reputation in the craft world. We had an online chat with David - a busy man - and you can read about his drive and hard work, the pride in his area and county, a drive and pride shared by Lisa and the younger members of the family. You’ll find the January 2023 article here .


Brehon Brewhouse Killanny Red, 4.5% ABV, 440 ml can Bradleys

This red ale from Brehon is quite a dark red indeed, with a “deep, russet ruby hue”. The head is light coffee coloured. The aromas of the malt are evident, biscuity and caramel.  It is malt, with deliciously nutty notes, that also features on the palate. Pretty well balanced too to be fair, with flavours of toasted hazelnut and a tart berry touch playing a role towards the end. Really stands up for itself in the mouth and makes you take notice. Excellent balance and overall not bad at all!

Very Highly Recommended

They consider it as “A traditional Irish ale … Described by many as “The perfect example of an Irish Red.” And also tell us it is hopped with Magnum and Willamette. Food recommendations are “…. great on its own and just perfect with BBQ red meats, lamb, stew, roast beef, black pudding or mature cheddar”.


Geek Bits

Alcohol: 4.50%
Ingredients: Water, Malted Barley, Hops, Yeast
Allergens: Malted Barley

Hops: Magnum and Willamette.

“The McMahons have lived on our farm for 10 generations (but who’s counting?) We’ve had our ups and downs throughout the years, but we always loved a good pint — except for my mother and father who never touched a drop. We keep family close and raise a glass every day to those who came before, surrounded by photographs of generations of McMahons. Sláinte!

 Seamus McMahon: Brewer, Farmer, Drinker


Boyne Brewhouse Oatmeal Stout, 6.2% ABV, 500 ml bottle Pettitt’s SV Athy

The 'Cauldron of Plenty' belonged to The Dagda, leader of the Tuatha dé Danann. It is said that this magical pot bestowed endless gifts on his army in battle. Drink to the mighty God with this smooth (roasty) and robust oatmeal stout.

The brewery is inspired by the myths and legends of the Boyne Valley and beyond. “We craft all our brews using original recipes, natural ingredients and a generous dash of Irish intrigue.”

Lots of promise here but, as the song goes, “Don’t mean a thing if it ain't got that swing”. So what has this Boyne Oatmeal Stout, with a highish IBU 61 number, got?

Certainly, it has the inky black colour with the more or less usual light off-white head (of short to medium duration). And it has those unmistakable intense roasty aromas. And that supple roast comes through strongly on the creamy-feeling palate, slightly fruity (raisin and dried fruits) and sweet towards the finale.

An excellent example of the type and Highly Recommended.

And speaking of recommendations, Boyne Brewery suggests food pairings of roasted or braised meats; seafood, especially oysters; rich stews; chocolate desserts; and blue or aged cheddar cheese.

By the way, Boyne Brewhouse is (since 2020) a subsidiary of Carlow Brewing of Carlow where the beers (and myths presumably) are now produced.


Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Learn, Eat and Enjoy A Taste of Italy in West Cork.

 Learn, Eat and Enjoy A Taste of Italy in West Cork

Donowen's Kela Hodgens (left) and Chef Atilllio from Burlamacchi.
Pic: Michelle Coughlan

 The beautiful Dunowen House in Clonakilty will host an Italian cooking series this Winter with midweek and residential weekend cookery classes

If you dream about being able to rustle up velvety pasta, slow-cooked Italian sauces and delicate Italian desserts at home, then this is the cooking experience for you. 

The team from Burlamacchi Villa in Lucca will be travelling to Dunowen House in West Cork to co-host two weekends, the 24th to 26th of November and the 1st to 3rd of December, plus day courses on the 28th and 29th of November of Italian food. Guests can expect to be fully immersed in Italian culture without facing an airport.


You can expect to learn the skills of creating ravioli, perfecting panna cotta and making your own homemade pasta plus much more and a lot of fun along the way. 

Kela is looking forward to welcoming guests to Dunowen, she says “Ever since perfecting my own pasta-making skills in Tuscany earlier this year, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to bring this authentic experience to West Cork. The team from our friends, Burlamacchi Villa near Lucca, will be coming to Dunowen for the series to ensure participants learn from the masters! ”

The weekend residential course includes two nights' accommodation in Dunowen House, three demonstrations and hands-on classes plus all meals while staying. The price for the weekend experience is €950 per person sharing. 

The price for each mid-week day course without accommodation is €190 per person, which includes a welcome cake and coffee, two demonstrations and hands-on classes plus lunch. 

All participants will receive a bound copy of the recipes to take home.

To book your place email or call (023) 8869099

Keep up to date with the latest news by following Dunowen House on social at @dunowen_house

press release 

A golden Encruzado just after the hurricane-driven flames that came close to obliterating Portugal's Casa De Mouraz in 2017

A golden Encruzado just after the hurricane-driven flames 

that came close to obliterating Portugal's Casa De Mouraz in 2017

Casa De Mouraz Encruzado Vinho Branco Dão (DOC) 2018, 13% 

€21-22. The Vintry Dublin. Mary Pawle Wines. 

The colour is a gorgeous and inviting golden straw with tints of green. The feel-good factor continues with the expressive aromas, a magnificent melange of citrus (lemon and orange zest), apricot, and peach, fresh and free. And the second it seeps across the palate you surrender your senses, ignoring all outside distractions, to make the most of the vibrant fruit, its minerality structure and balance. And you’re not ready to reengage with your surroundings for another few sensual seconds as your Encruzado lingers.

Do I hear Highly Recommended? Very Highly Recommended actually!

And to think we almost lost it all in October 2017. Late at night, their phone rang: Your warehouse is on fire! According to the excellent Foot Trodden, “savage forest fires.. had reached Dāo, thanks to Hurricane Ophelia…” Not only was the warehouse almost totally destroyed but the equipment around the yard and more than half of their 20 hectares of vines were also burned. A local news outlet put the cost at not less than €700,000.

Antonio and Sara were down. But not out. Helped by crowdfunding (from December 2017) they got back up and running and produced this marvellous wine, a wine that embodies the excellence of the Encruzado grape variety, the noblest white variety of the Dão.

Winemaker Antonio just loves Encruzado: “It grows in complexity as it ages, is great for oak ageing. It has a wonderful gastronomic ability to cut through fatty foods. It is an autumn wine, a fireplace wine. It may not be in fashion but it is a wonderful variety, wonderful to work with.”


Check my growing list of top wines for 2023


Check out my Good Value Wine List here


On food, they recommend pairing it with oven-baked fish (such as codfish, salmon or tuna). “Also very good with white meat and some vegetarian dishes like pasta with pesto or cheese sauces. Aside from handling full-flavoured fish dishes (including the Portuguese favourite bacalao), it is excellent on its own. very versatile indeed. Serve at a temperature of 11-12ºC.”

The label is packed with info: “Mouraz is a little village in the heart of the Dāo, where Antonio’s family have farmed vineyards in a holistic and ecological way for many generations. This wine was made from the indigenous grape Encrruzado, the most important white variety from the Dão. This authentic wine was fermented naturally with controlled temperature and remained on the lees for 12 months (with bâtonnage).”

* The first thing you’ll note is that the cork is covered with wax. Just remove that with the blade on your corkscrew. It is fairly soft but be careful! Alternatively, warm the top by rubbing it with the palm of your hand. Then plunge in the corkscrew as usual and it should all come away. If you get it right, just a little disc of the wax will come away with the cork. Video demo here. 

Monday, September 25, 2023

Youthful Léa’s already making a name for itself and creating a buzz in the Glucksman at UCC

Youthful Léa’s already making a name for itself and creating a buzz in the Glucksman at UCC.


Léa's, a new daytime restaurant in Cork's Glucksman Art Gallery, is being brought to you by three youthful friends: Colm Liston, Joe Dowling, and Cyprien Jouve. 

The trio, who already have two successful cafes in the city under the Joe's+Bros title, are aiming to create a high-energy hub for people to hang out, drink good coffee, eat better food, and listen to great music (not too much need for music if this level of buzz continues!).

And that buzzy atmosphere, the happy noise of people of many ages enjoying their food and drink, has been there from the August (2023) start. The place was packed when we visited last week and one of the staff told me it is like that every day, seven days a week. So do book here before you go.

We arrived about 12:30 pm and were soon at our table with both the brunch and lunch menus to choose from.


As it happened, we picked one from each. My choice from the Brunch menu was the Chimichurri Steak:  Open Rosscarbery steak served on Pana toast with chimichurri, fried egg, crispy onions, hollandaise and dressed leaves. Packed with flavours, on well-oiled bread (a good quality olive oil ensuring the toast wouldn’t break my “old” teeth!). This satisfactory plateful could well be your dinner for the day. Just add a side to be sure!

CL chose the Léa’s Sambo: Grilled chicken or Pulled ham, garlic mayo, crispy shoestring fries and piccalilli (a favourite of hers) served on pana bread with Monterey Jack cheese. The chicken choice was taken and the sambo was superb, again adding a side will make quite a plateful and you have some 11 sides to choose from.

Open from 8.30 am, Léa's offers a breakfast menu of contemporary dishes, such as Chocolate porridge, Cacao granola, and Peanut butter toast. For brunch (from 10.00 am), there's a wider selection to choose from, including Ham hock benedict, Chimichurri steak, and Hong Kong French toast (not too sure about this variation but bound to suit someone!).

Léa's, pictured from the west. That wall is a necessary flood defence
but also acts as a wind barrier to the outside dining area.

The lunch menu, which runs alongside the brunch menu, features a variety of sandwiches, burgers, and bowls. Some of the highlights include the Jalapeño smash burger, Korean fried chicken bun, and Fritter Smuggler. There's also a good selection of sides (no less than eleven) and sweet treats available.

Those sweet treats consist mostly of cake slices though brownies and cookies are also available. We enjoyed the Orange and Almond Tart, nice and moist with excellent Badger & Dodo coffee. 

Léa's has been open for just four weeks, but it's already proving to be a popular spot with students, college staff and visitors. The restaurant is already known for its friendly atmosphere, efficient and friendly service, delicious food, and reasonable prices. If you're looking for a new place to go for breakfast, brunch, or lunch, Léa's is definitely worth a try.

* The menus are based on the best of local produce and this is well handled in the kitchen. There is a list of suppliers on the wall here and they include the likes of Rosscarbery beef and pork, K. O’Connell Fish, Pana Bread, Toonsbridge Dairy, Stonewell Cider and Barry’s Tea.

The Glucksman

* The Glucksman Gallery is a renowned cultural institution, and its unique setting makes it a perfect partner for Léa's. The gallery, with its cantilevered and wood-clad structure, is listed internationally as one of the “1001 buildings you must see before you die”. Léa's plans to offer extended hours to accommodate gallery and university functions.

* Unless you are permitted to use the college lots, parking may be a problem but both the 208 and 205 buses service the area and their stops are just a few steps from the college gates and Léa’s is just a few minutes inside.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Music and Food and Good Humour Abound as Culture Night takes over in the city.

 Music and Food and Good Humour abound 

as Culture Night takes over in the City.

L'Atitude Beverley and Simone in the open-air kitchen. Their burger,
from the best of local ingredients, was amazing, out of this world! 

The Goldie Angel, in the evening, (from the walls of Elizabeth Fort)
Spic and span modern buildings, the northside in the distance,
from a viewpoint on the walls of the 17th-century fort.

Shandon, with its Goldie Fish, and the tower of the North Cathedral (left)

Ukranians (part of a large choir) sing Danny Boy (and much more) at City Hall.

Mayfield Men's Shed Choir at Cork City Library, Grand Parade.

Mayfield men in full voice!

Lots going on in the English Market with quite a few traders pulling out all the stops, food and entertainment in all the aisles. Found it hard though to get past the Roughty Foodie stall where a varied menu and singer Amanda Neary proved a major draw. While Margo Ann welcomed the visitors out front, Gerry stayed cool, calm and collected in the background.

Heading home after a superb evening in the city.