Showing posts with label distillery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label distillery. Show all posts

Monday, January 21, 2019

Pearse Lyons Whiskey Lifts Liberties. More than a distillery


Pearse Lyons Whiskey Lifts Liberties
More than a distillery

We begin our tour in the graveyard of the former church of St. James, now home to the Pearse Lyons Distillery. Here in the Golden Triangle in the heart of The Liberties we end with a sip of the golden Pearse Five-Year-Old Single Malt, the design and packaging inspired by the former church, now restored and with a unique blue glass spire. In addition, there is also a genuine old pub, McCann’s, on site and some of the tours end there for a drink. 

The late Pearse Lyons on video frame
When you have finished the tour, having heard how Deirdre and Pearse Lyons took over the rump of the old church and the overgrown graveyard (where up to 100,000 had been buried over the centuries) and transformed it, you realise that this is much more than just a business venture, more than a distillery.

We are here for the whiskey of course and our tour allows us quite a tasting, beginning with The Original. This has been raised in US barrels (from the Lyons Town Branch distillery in Lexington) and the vanilla shows. It is a lovely whiskey, citrus and smoke on the nose, sweet, light and a little smoky as you sip.

Our patient guide at this stage is James and he has all the answers telling us that our next whiskey, the Distiller’s Choice is a 3 to 9 year old blend of no less than seven Irish whiskies, 6 sourced by Mr Lyons plus their own malt whiskey (ex ale barrel, Lyons also have a brewery Alltech). 

The Lyons distillery is quite new (though they had set up their equipment in Carlow for a few years before opening here in St Jame’s), hence the sourcing. The blend is perfect, again a touch of fruit (including citrus) on the nose, smooth and sweet and very satisfying indeed.

James was quite enthusiastic about the third whiskey, the Founder’s Choice, a 12 year old single malt. Again fruity on the nose with herbal notes too, sweet, oaky, herbal and spicy on the silky palate and finish. No wonder it is James’s favourite!

Number four is the Cooper’s Select, 42% like all the previous drinks. This a blend of 80% Single Malt and 20% Grain and has spent four years in Sherry cask. Dried fruit and coffee on the nose and that rich combination continues on the palate. This is an after-dinner drink and a very nice one too! But if you fancy it, you’d better act quickly as they won’t be producing this exact drink again.  James: “When it’s gone, it’s gone”.

Yeast at work
The future is represented in more ways than one in our final Pearse tasting, the Single Malt. Its bottle shape is different to the previous four and will be standard for Pearse whiskey in the future. The standard within is exceptional. This by the way is all their own malt, raised in first and second fill Bourbon casks. 

“It is the first five-year age statement Irish whiskey to appear from a new distillery in the whole of Ireland in more than 25 years. Presented in 4,000 individually numbered bottles, this limited release 5-Year-Old Single Malt was produced on two small-batch copper pot stills, and aged in bourbon casks.”

It is sweet, oaky, peppery. Still  young, yet full of promise, all very encouraging indeed. And it was also a bottle that I bought before I left!
James, with the Single Malt

Had an enjoyable taste of their Ha’penny Dublin Dry Gin, a small-batch, pot distilled gin featuring 13 expertly selected botanicals including Geranium, Dandelion, Lavender and Blackberry – all of which would have been growing in the nearby Phoenix Park in Victorian times when the bridge was built. The Ha’penny series also features a whiskey.

The counter where we tasted is set up in the church under a stained glass representation of a cooper at work. The stained glass windows are amazing; one commemorates the area’s connection with the Camino to Santiago di Compostela, another depicts how Irish Whiskey is made; the fourth shows the natural ingredients grown for “uisce beatha”. Amazing how the warm amber light from the windows fills up the distillery interior, reflecting on the copper stills and the Caen stone pillars. 

Outside though, the work is continuing and will continue for a long while to come, as our excellent tour guide Bernard told us. Many a story has emerged from the graveyard and no doubt more to come, all exciting much interest locally and further afield.

The headstones shed light on the trades that The Liberties welcomed in the past. Tradesmen and women who worked as coopers, distillers, linen merchants, shoemakers, bakers, bishops and soldiers have all found a resting place here at St. James’ Church alongside many members of the Lyons family. 

The graveyard is next door to Guinness property and one of the more prominent graves, right up by the wall of the church, belongs to Sir Haldane Porter, an assistant managing director of Guinness at his death in 1944.

The oldest person buried here is Florence Walltropp, 105 years old at her death. They also found five leaded coffins, always a sign of a contagious disease; these five are of one family believed to have decimated by the 1832 cholera outbreak in Dublin.

And the Golden Triangle? At one time, close to 40 distilleries were in operation in Dublin, nestled in a one mile radius around here, better known as the “Golden Triangle.”
Cooper at work
The four big distillery players at the time were George Roe and Company, John Power and Son, William Jameson and Company and John Jameson and Son. Today, the Pearse Lyons Distillery is playing a leading role as the Golden Triangle in the heart of The Liberties makes a remarkable revival.

A visit here is Very Highly Recommended. For the whiskey yes but it is, after all, much more than a distillery. Read more here

* Pearse Lyons greets all visitors during an introductory video to the tour but sadly the great man died last year. He will be missed for a long time and will be remembered whenever a person from the Liberties, or indeed a visitor on his or her way to the distillery, spots the distinctive blue spire.
also on this Dublin trip:
The Little Museum of Dublin
Café en Seine

Friday, May 29, 2015

Highbank Organic Orchards. Hundreds of Apple Trees. Billions of Microbes

Highbank Organic Orchards

Hundreds of Apple Trees. Billions of Microbes
I’m walking through long rows of apple trees, all in blossom, pink and white abound. The grass between is ankle height, lush and liberally populated with white daisies. Lush, but recently topped. Had I been there a week earlier, I would have seen battalions of dandelions.

I am in Kilkenny, in the healthy heart of Highbank Orchards, an organic farm owned and managed by Rod and Julie Calder-Potts.  This is excellent land for farming, recognised as such for many centuries - even the Normans had their eyes on it.  The farm-yard is 17th century, the house is 19th, and the distillery (which I've come to see) is 21st.  

Rod in the new distillery
Now though, on a lovely May evening, all is calm as Rod takes us through the orchard, though not through all its twenty acres. Fourteen of these are mature, planted with quite a few varieties, including Dabinett, Blusher, Bramley and, scattered in among the others, that lovely juicy Katy. Katy is an early apple and has lost its blossoms.

Nothing has been sprayed here for twenty years. It is not that nothing ever threatens the apple trees but they are essentially healthy and can look after themselves. And Rod reckons much of that is down to the microbes in the soil, billions of them, all "working", not necessarily together - some eat one another - but combining to preserve the habitat. They are not disturbed, not traumatized by chemicals, and so the orchards live on and thrive. “Soil health depends on a thriving population of organisms”, says Dan Barber in The Third Plate.
Orchard spirit!
The next big occasion for the orchard is, of course, the harvest. The Calder-Potts keep the apples on the trees for as long as possible, indeed they allow them fall off naturally when fully ripe. Then they are swept up and taken to the nearby yard.

They are transferred then to the apple press, an expensive piece of kit, and the juice is extracted to be used in the delicious products that Highbank now produces: Apple Juice, Apple Juice with Organic Mulled Spices, their famous Orchard Syrup (Ireland's answer to maple syrup and launched in 2010), Highbank Drivers Cider (a delicious, sparkling refreshing non-alcoholic drink), Highbank Proper Cider, and a honeyed Medieval Cider.
Proper cider!
Recently they have moved up the ABV scale with the installation of their little distillery and are making Gins, Pink Flamingo Gin and the premium Crystal Gin. And there’ll be more! We enjoyed the tour of the bright new distillery. It is small. The operation is small-scale, bottling is done by hand. Small yes, but these are top class products.


Highbank is the setting for many events but most notably, from a food point of view, they have hosted the Keith Bohanna Bia Beag series with subjects such as artisan bread, locally roasted coffee, bean to bar chocolate. And, of course, there is the Highbank Christmas Food and Craft Fair.
They are a busy couple and you’ll see them at markets and food festivals all over the country, including most recently, Sheridan’s and Ballymaloe LitFest. Besides, they are involved in promoting good food generally. Kilkenny too is naturally close to their hearts and so we couldn't have had a better guide on a quick Saturday morning run through the marble city than Julie.

She showed us, with pride, restaurants such as Zuni and the Salt Yard, Slice of Heaven and its newly opened cookery school, the food hall at the Kilkenny Design Centre. Then you need something to serve your food in so off we went to Nicholas Mosse in Bennettsbridge, you need some nice lighting while dining and we got that at nearby Moth to a Flame (Larry Kinsella’s hand-made candles) and you also need something nice to look at on your walls and shelves and we found plenty of that at the Bridge Pottery.
Needless to say, the credit card took a bit of a hammering. On the previous afternoon, left to my own devices, I was on the drinks trail! Called to Billy Byrne’s Pub (the Bula Bus and its excellent onboard restaurant is parked in the back) and sipped some nice local beer by Ger Costello and a pale ale from 12 acres.

Of course, I couldn't leave Kilkenny without calling to Le Caveau. Pascal himself was busy on the road but we did take advantage of the reductions for Real Wine Month and went off happy with a couple of his organic wines.

And it was the drink that brought us to Kilkenny in the first place! In Highbank's internet competition earlier in the year, I won a meal at The Strawberry Tree and, in addition, I also won a bottle of Highbank's new Crystal Gin and that was in the car with us as we said au revoir to the Marble City and to two of its outstanding citizens, the Calder-Potts.
Le Caveau (left) and Bennettsbridge (from the Nicholas Mosse pottery)